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The changing nature of COVID-19 has meant that expecting the unexpected is still a part of daily school life.

With such an enhanced focus on contact tracing and keeping communities safe, schools may be closed suddenly should a confirmed case, or even the possibility of a confirmed case, arise.

While this is undoubtedly the right way to contain the spread of the virus, it’s the latest in a long line of disruptions that teachers, parents and students have faced. Unfortunately, while COVID-19 remains a part of our daily lives, the stop–start nature of schooling will be here to stay.

But if we’ve learnt anything since the pandemic began, it’s that, with a little planning, patience and resilience, school communities can survive any curveball that’s thrown at them by working together.

Communication is key

School closures typically lead to questions as parents, students and teachers aim to stay across the latest information. Prioritising clear lines of communication is the first step in minimising confusion.

Update socials: Use school social platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – to convey information to parents and students.

Organise digital catchups: Consider using Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp to increase feelings of community. Parents may find it helpful to talk with other parents in the same situation, and teachers should hold digital staff meetings to ensure there is consensus on procedures and protocols so that the school community stays connected and reliably informed from the top down.

Learn more about COVID-19 and the whole school community.

Get busy making plans

The reality is that until we figure out how to best combat and live with COVID-19, school communities have to accept that potential or confirmed cases will continue to impact onsite learning.

Get ahead of the pandemic by coming up with a plan that will help all parties feel a sense of control should your school be temporarily closed.

Create a learning-from-home routine: Having a ready-to-go routine will ensure a smooth transition if students are sent home. Share your plan with students and parents ahead of time so they’re familiar with the steps and expectations when online learning commences.

Spice up the schedule: Students who are sent home may feel frustrated and lack motivation. Keep things interesting by adding a little spice to each school day.

Whether it’s having lunch together as a class, or hosting an impromptu fancy-dress day, in stressful times a little change can lighten the mood. This is also an opportunity to get students talking about how they’re feeling outside of the confines of a classroom.

Learn more about life and learning after COVID-19 and connecting with students in the online classroom.

Ban the business-as-usual approach

While it’s tempting to tell ourselves that things are improving, the push to pretend everything is ‘back to normal’ can actually do more harm than good.

By acknowledging the constant challenge of COVID-19 for schools, we’re more likely to respond in a way that benefits the whole school’s wellbeing.

Don’t let self-care slip: For many parents and students, school shutdowns will feel like one step forward, two steps back, and it may be hard to muster the motivation to stay upbeat. Learn more about teacher wellbeing in a changing environment.

Provide resources: Consider creating a one-page ‘Self-care COVID-19’ response document that can be circulated among staff, students and parents regarding school closures. The document can point people in the direction of resources, as well as suggest tips and strategies to ensure they remain positive during any potential interruptions.

What can I do now?