3 ways real-time communication tools help schools navigate COVID

Schools can use technologies such as real-time communication tools to manage risks posed by COVID-19

Like many schools last spring, the Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic Schools went fully remote as the pandemic took hold, creating many challenges for staff and administrators, as well as students and their families. Our teachers and students ran into the same problems schools experienced across the country: technical difficulties with Zoom, getting kids connected with laptops and Wi-Fi, making sure students were paying attention, and more.

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However, on top of these challenges, we also realized that many of our old methods of communicating with parents and guardians would have to be updated. Some of our schools were still sending printed notices home with kids every Monday – a process that was impossible to continue during the pandemic.

Luckily, we already had technology in place to help overcome this real-time communication gap – we just hadn’t realized it yet. And like us, many school systems also have tools in place that can help curb the spread of the virus and share new information quickly with parents, staff, and students.

School safety tech can help with COVID-19

To solve for our new communications challenges, we turned to our existing mass notification system: Rave Mobile Safety’s K-12 solutions. Previously, we only used this method of communication to share critical emergency updates with parents – such as if we were in a lockdown.

However, with the ups and downs of remote learning, we realized we would quickly have to make this our new mode of communication, especially since the situation evolved so rapidly. These messages were crucial to letting parents know whether the school was going to reopen for in-person learning come the fall, and kept them up to date on changing processes, what protocols were being taken and what we expected from both them and their children as we returned to classrooms.

Upon reopening, we’ve also been able to use this tool for another important aspect of our COVID-19 precautions: conducting daily health checks. Every morning, we use the K-12 solution to send parents a survey about their child’s health and how they are feeling. The parent must fill out the survey or the child is not able to attend classes in person. This step has allowed the school system to better curb the spread of the virus by quickly letting parents know whether their child should stay home if they are exhibiting symptoms.

Lessons learned

As we continue to navigate the virus into the winter, we’ve realized the value of these tools and best practices that will ultimately help us operate in-person classes and keep our students and staff members safe. Here are a few lessons we’d like to pass on to others, based on our experience:

1. Real-time communication is critical to navigating the coronavirus threat, as it is with all school safety threats. Communications tools allow schools to coordinate the appropriate response, resolve the emergency quickly and ensure the best outcomes. With the coronavirus, real-time communication has been critical to keep both staff and parents informed about evolving protocols and any cases of the virus in a school, along with basic information about other important happenings, like when grades will be released.

2. Make sure there are two-way communication options available. While one-way messages have been so important in sharing information, our healthcare surveys would not have been possible without the ability to get responses from parents. This has been an important aspect of our reopening protocol and essential to slowing and stopping the spread of the virus.

3. Get creative and roll with the punches. No one in any school district was prepared for a pandemic. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box to come up with solutions and navigate ever-changing guidelines. Things will not be perfect, but keep trying new things and keep going – doing everything we can to promote both safety and consistency for our students is worth it.

At least for the rest of this school year, the coronavirus is going to be a part of every students’, staff members’ and parents’ lives. Having the right tools and best practices in place is critical to keeping schools open while also managing the virus and can keep administrators and teachers focused on what matters most – providing students the chance to learn to their greatest ability.

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