As the search for a Covid-19 vaccine persists and the global pandemic continues to disrupt the normal education environment, most K-12 public and private schools in the United States have gone fully virtual – or drastically adjusted their normal face-to-face meeting schedules. This varies from state to state; however, the key takeaway today is the much needed investment these schools need to make for content: engaging, timely, and specific content for their website (s) to keep students, parents, and the community up to date with what is going on.
It is shocking to see the lack of useful and specific content on many public-school websites – especially during Covid-19 and the severe disruptions it has caused. Combined with the sharp decrease in face-to-face classes, substantial changes to curriculum, attendance policy, and course availability, schools have a responsibility to invest in content and make it available through as many channels as possible.
Every school deserves to have a reliable online presence that provides important information on consistent basis. The type of content I am referring to is not confidential or personal; therefore, it should be easy to access without having to jump through a couple of different password portals and security walls. It should be clear and concise. It should let parent know what their children are doing and need to do to succeed.
Learning has been shifting online since the advent of email. Most K-12 schools had an online component to their curriculum before the pandemic arrived last Spring. Let’s face it: when that happened, it was a hot, smelly mess. Very few were prepared. The operative phrase became “wing it,” and “fake it ‘til you make it” was the mantra. Many schools just had teachers email assignments to students at home. Students tried their best. Classes hopped on Zoom and Blackboard and Google. Sometimes it worked. A lot of times it didn’t. Most of the time it was impossible to know what was happening because there wasn’t a framework in place for online learning and remote assessments aligned to state standards – on such a massive scale with so little advance notice. As the school year ended, most everyone involved felt relieved but also confused. “What comes next?” They seemed to ask themselves and each other, dusting off the remnants of traditional learning with dazed looks on their faces.
Instead of relaxing vacations at the beach, schools spent the summer months rushing to redesign the approaching Fall 2020 school year with a complete remote framework if necessary. Due to the fluidity of the health crisis, mixed messaging from state and federal governments, and rising and falling Coronavirus cases across varied locations, many schools scrambled to create a more structured online option for the Fall, with the hope of being able to return to the traditional routine. As July turned into August, no vaccine, and rising Covid-19 cases and fatalities across much of the United States, school administrators had to accept the reality that many students and teachers would not be returning to the classroom and schoolyard for an autumn of business as usual.
Currently, the nationwide public-school system is utilizing a varied system of fully virtual and social distanced on-campus learning that required a massive paradigm shift and the lesson of the day is change management.
According data firm Burbio, “More than 60% of US K-12 public school students will be attending school remotely to start the school year, up from an estimated of 52% in early August … Specifically, 62% of students are projected to be learning online to start the year, 37% will be attending in-person either every day or certain days of the week, and just under 1% of students are in school districts that still haven’t finalized plans.” You can check out their public school opening tracker data map here.
The good news is that when (and if) public schools return to a normal that resembles pre-pandemic learning, they will be prepared. A contingency plan will be in place that will allow educators to make rapid decisions in the event students need to return home to learn. The bad news is that snow days probably will not be the same. Instead of sledding down their favorite hills, students will probably need to log into the school’s learning management system to be counted present …that is, if internet is available.
Despite some of the pedagogical chaos over the past 6 months, people mostly got along. Afterall, you can’t really blame the schools for being a bit unprepared anymore than you can the thousands of businesses that had to furlough or lay off employees, shutter their doors, and pray for government assistance to arrive quickly. Nothing like this had happened before.
Public education in America is still in disarray with many districts facing technology challenges, teacher shortages, enrollment problems – not to mention the emotional fallout that could be coming along with a possible recession that could make 2008 seem like a time of relative prosperity.
There just was not a reliable contingency plan in place to abruptly halt face-to face instruction at brick and mortar schools nationwide and pivot all students and teachers to quality distance learning at home without any disruption. The good news is that many schools did have a quality website that was also functional. They also had an online component to their curriculum – sometimes as simple as a Google Classroom or WordPress site with a class syllabus, expectations, major assessments, schedule and, most importantly, a Plan B.
School leadership quickly realized that the little website they took for granted would very soon become the most important tool for keeping their students and parents updated with information about what the next steps were, how the courses would proceed, who to contact with technical and other problems, and a hub to post engaging content on what the school’s plans were regarding continuity of instruction and all that goes along with it.
Content – in the form of blogs, social media posts, email campaigns, brochures, program information, insight and leadership columns – is an excellent way for a school to differentiate itself from other schools. As well as providing info about daily operations and specific course information, content can help define a school’s culture, assure the community of its leadership, and demonstrate what it is doing for its stakeholders.
Many public schools do not have the budget to have a staff of writers on hand to provide professional content for its constituents. Some are lucky enough to have administrators, teachers, and curriculum coaches that are good writers and take the time every week, often unpaid, to create the content that is needed for the important reasons listed above. Some administrators see the inherent value and make sure content creation is in the budget. Teachers and staff are afforded time to make it happen.
Additionally, the federal government has awarded a tremendous amount of funding to help stabilize public primary and secondary schools due to COVID-19:
“Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund). The Department will award these grants to State educational agencies (SEAs) for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools that are LEAs, with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the Nation.”
For more information about these funds and how they can be used, visit:
Let us hope that public schools will now have more resources to be able to provide the quality content that is needed in today’s hyper-connected, digital-first world. This is an unprecedented and scary time in our nation’s history. It is important that school leaders move forward with confidence and poise to set the tone during these uncertain times. Let Paradigm Content Solutions create the focused and targeted messaging you need to manage your stakeholders during this fluid time of immense change. Our products and services may be eligible for purchase with CARES Act funds.
Contact Paradigm today for a free consultation.