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Coronavirus Crisis Communications: Strategies from Schools Around the World
Debbie Eisenach

With the escalating impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), schools around the world are facing unprecedented crisis situations. With schools in China, Hong Kong, and South Korea closed through the better part of April (at best); schools in Italy and Japan now closing; to schools on high alert, we wanted to share with you how Finalsite schools are managing their communications and their online learning.  We believe by sharing and working together we can help our communities and each other during this global health crisis.

In last week's guest blog, Kyle Bueschlen from the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB), shared his school’s story as they deal with this crisis. He shared best practices that schools should follow and elaborated on the importance of online tools. Be sure to read his blog.

Finalsite Client Success Manager Pamela Wallace, based in Hong Kong, shares “It’s been very challenging for our schools as the situation changes almost on a daily basis. I am so impressed with how schools are handling the communications. We have seen extensive website sections go up overnight both on the public-facing site and in their password-protected portals. Schools are using Messages, Portals, social media, and the Finalsite's mobile app for iOS and Android to keep their communities updated.” She continued: “I’m super impressed with the creativity, tenacity and amazing attitudes of our clients who are swiftly overcoming big hurdles to help students with online learning options.”

One thing is very clear, having good online systems in place is critical. Below we highlight several schools that have very clear and up-to-date crisis communications highlighting a plethora of information from school closures to online learning and so much more.

The crisis situation for schools in Asia was compounded by the fact that the virus broke out during the Chinese New Year when people go on holiday. Unable to return to their host countries, many students, teachers, communications managers, and administrators have had to work remotely. Having people spread around the world — but still teaching and learning — adds even more challenges.

click here to download a free webinar about effective crisis communication during the coronavirus outbreak

Changchun American International School

Since the end of January, schools in China were closed and have been instructed to await further instruction from the Ministry of Education before resuming classes. Changchun American International School serves students from PreK through Grade 12 and offers the International Baccalaureate Programs. With the mandated school closure, the communication team was swift in addressing this issue.  On the school’s homepage, visitors are greeted with a pop up clearly stating that learning is still happening.

changchun american international school page pops example

Students and parents are directed to their Online Learning Hub, which first and foremost highlights their Online Learning e-Safety Policy.

cais online learning hub section of website

Their Online Learning Hub is a nicely formatted Composer page which guides users to the appropriate school division and informs users of the various online tools the school is using for communicating and learning including: WeChat, Zoom, ManageBac and Toddle. Equally impressive is that the learning hub is available in Chinese as the entire site is a dual-language site set up in Composer.  

online learning hub showing various online tools

The school has done a great job explaining to their community the difference between asynchronous and synchronous learning. By using accordion elements, they’ve been able to organize and include a lot of information and clearly outline the assignments for each grade level and class.

cais outline of school work using accordions

Shanghai American School

Shanghai American School crafted a page outlining pertinent information for their community. 

covid-19 updates

Like many international schools, Shanghai American School is a PreK through Grade 12 so the learning needs, as well as technical capabilities, vary based on the grade level.  The school administration executed their comprehensive “Distance Learning Plan which allows students from all grade levels to engage in their ongoing education.”  This plan clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of faculty, parents and students as well as the technology to be used to facilitate learning.  This comprehensive plan goes a long way in helping the community move forward with learning while students are unable to attend classes in person.

Singapore American School (SAS)

Although campus is still open and operating, SAS has done an incredible job of educating and keeping their community informed. The Singapore government has issued guidelines and SAS has implemented some additional measures based on consultations with medical professionals at International SOS.

Singapore American Homepage

Singapore American’s Director of Communication Kyle Aldous states: “The COVID-19 situation developed quickly and continues to bring new developments daily. When a situation is rapidly evolving it is important that your message is clear, consistent, and convenient. Convenience doesn't typically make its way onto many of the "tips for crisis communications" lists but it is important that your audience can access the exact information they need when they need it, and in the manner they want to view it. Our web and design team has collated all of the information our community members need into one easy to navigate landing page. This allows us to utilize other channels (email, SMS, WhatsApp, social media, and physical signs around campus) to provide updates and to also direct community members to one centralized location to find anything they may have missed.” 

This landing page is full of information including the current situation:

  • Rules for Entering The Campus  
  • An FAQ Section
  • Other Resources Including Prior Updates

Other Resources

Hong Kong International School

The American School of Milan

  • Social Media Updates - scroll down on homepage

The International School of Luxembourg

Chadwick International School

BeanStalk Education Group

Harrow International School Bangkok

International School Beijing

Shekou International School


Though it first appeared in Asia, coronavirus has quickly become an issue on the minds and in the meeting rooms of school leadership around the world. As members of the Finalsite family, it is our hope that our schools can learn from each other, and that Finalsite can play a role in any way we can be helpful.  Jon Moser, CEO of Finalsite, would like to remind you that our products and services are designed to help your schools during these challenging times. Jon says, "We have planned for the unexpected by investing heavily in our technology and infrastructure in order to provide schools around the world with the best SaaS-based marketing and communications platform built on the latest web application technology." Finalsite's global team is here to help and we encourage our schools to reach out to their client success manager if they need help, or if they can share some of their expertise with other schools who might need it.

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Debbie Eisenach

As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past nine years while living in both Asia and Europe. From conference planning and presentations to association events and client success stories, she helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. As a parent of three children who attended and graduated from IB World Schools, she has keen insights into the marketing and communication operations and needs of international schools.

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