- General Best Practices
At our school (Singapore American School), we thought we had handled it all.
Terrorist attack? Check.
Student death? Check.
Teacher death? Check.
Parent death? Check.
Environmental haze? Check.
Students do something stupid while traveling abroad? Check.
Global pandemic? Uh-oh.
When we learned that COVID-19 (at the time referred to as the Wuhan coronavirus) had made its way to Singapore, I went to check our crisis response documents and found a gaping hole where I was hoping to see a chapter about how to respond when a highly transmissible virus jumps from an animal to a human and then turns into global pandemic.
Imagine riding a rollercoaster for the first time.
In the dark.
Every day brings new twists and turns that are unpredictable and often jarring. And as we continue to do everything we can to deliver extraordinary care and engaging learning opportunities for our students, it feels like the rollercoaster is trying to send us flying off the track.
We’ve been at it now since January and we have the good fortune of being in an incredibly small country with a very high functioning government who has done a phenomenal job of keeping the curve as flat as possible. We have relied on them for guidance in many ways over the past few months. Now, it seems the rest of the world is on the same rollercoaster ride.
I don’t think our communication has been perfect over the past few months but I also know we have resources that other schools may not, which means we have been able to do things that a team of one might not be able to. With that, I want to share the resources we have created in case there is a school somewhere who may want to use them in some way. Every country is different and every school is different so please feel free to change and adjust anything as needed to fit your context.
First, we created a one-stop landing page for our community with everything needed to stay up to date. Click here to see this page. All of the graphics on the site are available for you to download here.
Community Email Examples from Singapore American School
Time is of the essence in a rapidly evolving situation and sometimes it’s great if you can get a little bit of a head start. Below are links to several of our community letters that were delivered at important turning points in our community that you might face in the coming weeks. For access to the entire list of emails visit our COVID-19 site.
You’re probably past this point now, since the virus is in 176 countries as of this writing. But just in case you want to see how we did it, you can check out our letter.
In late January we learned that one of our instructional assistants had been in close contact with individuals who tested positive for COVID-19.
One of the things our high school team did incredibly well was signal to our community the possibility of canceling one of our iconic programs early on. They met with parents, students, and faculty and involved them in the process.
This one was a crucial letter for us because of the nature of the topic. Interim Semester is an iconic part of our high school experience. By meeting in person with groups of students, faculty, and parents face to face it gave everyone a chance to become part of the solution. One of the most comforting comments after the decision was released was, “This sucks—but I understand why you did it.” We cannot change the emotions that come with disappointment but if we are inclusive in the process and clear in the crisis response then we can mitigate some of the potential backlash.
It’s important to stay ahead of the situation when possible. We have not had to move to distance learning yet but it’s important to demonstrate that as an organization you are prepared for all possibilities.
When your country elevates the emergency alert level you better be ready. We linked to government releases, tried to summarize what it means for our community, and grabbed a government graphic to help make things easier to understand.
We included images of our leadership team doing temperature screenings at the gates to highlight how our community was united in tackling the new operating procedures. As much as possible, bring community into your crisis communications.
It was inevitable. The virus is moving so rapidly and our community travels so frequently that someone was going to test positive. This one is loaded to the brim with information. It is long but we have found that our community wants the details. This was the first time the virus impacted a community member directly. We knew our community would want as much detail as possible.
The letter that has not been published yet is, “the virus has necessitated the need to move to distance learning.” In fact, the Singapore government announced that all local government schools would return to campus on Monday at the conclusion of their spring break. However, we also have had our case numbers rising each day over the past week. For now, we’ll prepare for all possibilities and wait to see what the virus brings next. Tomorrow morning we will get up and get back onto the roller coaster for a completely new ride.
Stay safe in the days and weeks ahead. You have a vital role to play in your school right now and your health is crucial.
Join Kyle and other schools around the world to hear insights and perspectives based on various stages, locations and situations on March 25 at 9 AM EDT.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kyle is a communication professional with experience in tech startups, business development, and now education. He is currently working as the Strategic Director of Communication at Singapore American School—where he also happens to be an alum!
- Crisis Communications