3 min read

Positioning Your School for a Successful Summer and Fall

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It’s planning season, and as we enter the third year of managing Covid, planning for the coming school year remains a constant challenge. Fortunately, after two years of navigating various Covid curveballs, most communities have reached some level of stability and can plan ahead with more understanding of what this year may bring, and what contingencies to plan for.

Supporting schools across the country with their health and safety planning means we’re in the unique position of being able to see where schools are facing common challenges, and what’s working well to address them. 

Here’s what we’re seeing emerging as particularly effective practices among schools when it comes to health and safety planning for the summer and fall:

Maintaining Covid investments through March 2023

The beginning of the pandemic was abrupt and highly disruptive. Our exit from it should be calculated, patient, and measured. That means in the coming year, we must be thoughtful and deliberate in how we allocate resources for health and safety. As case counts have declined some schools have considered - or even started - disbanding their Covid teams. We’re coaching schools against this - maintaining these investments for at least the next year will provide the infrastructure needed to continue protecting your community and stay flexible. At the very least, for schools whose Covid needs are downsizing, contemplate keeping your team in place but broadening their title and body of work to be all-encompassing of health and safety - including Covid, but also addressing things like emergency planning and threat assessments. This would have the benefit of helping manage ongoing Covid risk, while also helping to rebuild and revise the larger safety systems and practices needed to keep campuses safe.

 

Continuing regular communication about health and safety

As Covid becomes less of a centerpoint, we’re seeing some schools discontinuing their regular updates to families and staff about health and safety issues. This has sometimes left a hole in community members’ understanding of the school’s approach and decision-making. We’ve seen that schools that have maintained regular updates have been better able to keep trust and confidence high. For schools that have decreased or even dropped their communication about health and safety, we’re coaching schools to maintain it for at least the spring and fall to ensure you’re continuing to reinforce that these are top of mind and still a priority for your school.

Planning safe ways to reinstate in-person events and activities

Many schools that have foregone on-campus events, field trips, and even extracurricular activities over the past two years have been considering safe ways to continue them this spring and fall. From full in-person graduation ceremonies to trips to local museums, these activities can be important and valuable ways to build community, provide enrichment, and reinforce your school’s values. But in-person, and particularly indoor activities and events do raise your Covid risk. Whether you’re planning to leverage mitigation measures during events to maximize safety, or plan to go back to pre-Covid norms for activities in the coming months, careful planning is critical. Spend time now discussing these activities with your Covid planning team, and create some clear guidelines to ensure your return to in-person events is both successful and safe.

Encouraging Covid vaccination

Even as many cities are ramping down their vaccination pushes, many of our schools are ramping up, recognizing that there’s still great vulnerability among students. In about half of US counties, less than 10% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, so we have a long way to go to get to a place where we can feel confident in the safety of all of our students. We recommend continuing this push, and encouraging everyone in your community over 5 years old to get vaccinated, and those 12 and older to get boosted. For those 50 years and older (or immunocompromised), you can also make sure they’re aware that second boosters are now available. The higher your vaccination rate, the better protected your community will be in the coming year.

Revisiting emergency plans and supplies

With Covid having been such a dominant force over the past two years, many schools have de-prioritized planning for other emergencies, like wildfires, earthquakes, and lockdowns. Over the past month, we’ve seen schools begin to meaningfully re-prioritize these and think about how to revamp and rebuild their emergency plans. Many are beginning to dust off their emergency manuals to make updates and revisions. Others are planning for summer PD sessions dedicated to safety, health, emergency management, and communication. And others are blocking summertime to audit on-campus emergency supplies and replace outdated items. All of these are important steps to take to ensure the safety of your school in the coming year. Pro-tip: If you want Joffe to run these sessions with / for you, please reach out now. It looks like the next surge is for our consultant’s time this summer and we’re hoping to support as many schools as we can, but we can’t support all (yet).

These are just a few of many planning priorities that can contribute to your school’s overall health and safety in 2022-23. If you need support or have questions as you build your plan, reach out to us. We’re here to help!

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