As COVID-19 conditions continue to change and cases increase across the U.S., it’s important to communicate frequently with families, whether your center is open, in the process of reopening, or even facing a future closure.
Frequent communication can help ease the concerns that families naturally have for their children’s safety. By keeping families up to date, you can give them peace of mind and assure them that their children’s safety is your top priority! Luckily, this doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming. In fact, proactive communication can save you time down the road by minimizing back-and-forth questions and misunderstandings.
These tips will help you organize your center’s updates and communicate clearly and professionally with your families.
Document all updates and save them somewhere families can access them easily
Many centers like to keep a living document that can be updated at any time, such as a Google Doc. This makes it easier to adapt quickly during turbulent times, without having to wonder whether you’re looking at the most up-to-date version. If you use a Google Doc, make sure that families have access to view the document—but not edit it—via your Share settings.
For some centers, it makes sense to keep all updates in a single document. If you use a single document, make sure to include a table of contents or bookmarks so that it’s easy for parents to find the information they’re looking for.
Other centers choose to create separate documents for different topics, such as their Illness Policy, Drop-Off & Pickup Process, and Frequently Asked Questions. If you use multiple documents, keep them in a shared folder or link between them so that families can quickly find them when they need them.
If you use brightwheel, you can easily collect your most important updates, including links to any additional documents, into a professional-looking newsletter.
Whenever you need to update your policies and procedures, make sure families know about your recent updates. You can use brightwheel messaging to let families know when you’ve updated documents and ask them to reply to confirm that they understand the changes.
What to include in your communications
This may go without saying, but it’s crucial to make sure families all understand any changes to their standard daily processes. Having all staff and families on the same page will help you avoid confusion in your center, and it will help you stay in compliance with safety regulations.
Be sure to communicate any changes to daily procedures parents need to follow, such as:
- Drop-off and pick-up times and locations
- Who is allowed in the building
- Who is expected to wear a mask
- The sign-in process (including using a touchless check-in tool like brightwheel or answering standard health screening questions)
- Your illness policy, including the conditions under which students will be required to stay home and when they may return to school
- Updated hours or schedules
Additionally, give clear instructions on anything you expect families to do at home or before arriving at school. This could include:
- Packing lunch at home
- Washing and sanitizing lunchboxes and water bottles
- Leaving certain items at home, such as backpacks and toys
- Giving extra hugs and physical touch at home
It’s also helpful to share what you and your staff are doing during the day to maintain safety, such as your standard cleaning procedures, wearing masks and gloves, and monitoring student health. You may also choose to include your emergency plan in case of a COVID-19 flare-up. While this may not seem necessary, it can go a long way toward building trust and helping parents feel comfortable.
Keep your messaging positive and helpful
This is a stressful time for many families. Whether you’re currently open or preparing to reopen, it’s important to consider the tone and the format of your health and safety communications. The more you can show that your teachers are keeping a positive attitude while prioritizing safety, the more at ease your families will feel.
Even when you’re sending out lists of rules and regulations, you can still have a little fun and show families you care. Some centers like to send cheerful video messages showing teachers wearing masks, cleaning the toys and equipment, and practicing social distancing in the classroom. These video messages can convey emotion and tone of voice in a way that emails and text messages cannot.
Be sure to explain why you’re making updates
Families naturally want to know what you’re doing to keep their children safe, but too many new rules without enough context can become overwhelming.
Even if it feels obvious, share that you’re updating your health and safety procedures in accordance with CDC recommendations and local regulations. Showing that you have done your due diligence, read up on health and safety requirements, and are following recommendations will help establish trust!
This is especially important during uncertain times when COVID-19 conditions change frequently. Parents may become confused or frustrated if new guidelines seem to conflict with previous instructions (such as requiring all adults to wear masks in July if you didn’t require this in June). Giving context will help families understand where you’re coming from—and it will help you avoid being asked the same questions over and over.
Some examples to inspire you
Safety Measures and Frequently Asked Questions from MightyKidz Child Care in Seattle
Health Protocols from Small Wonders School in Portland
Welcome Back video from Small Wonders School in Portland
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at www.mybrightwheel.com.