Giving Compass' Take:

• Arun K. Ramanathan shares best practices for school districts facing coronavirus based on experience with the swine flu (H1N1).

• How can funders help school districts prepare for coronavirus? Are families in your community equipped to keep children home from school? 

• Read about discerning fact from fiction when it comes to coronavirus

Start planning now. We established a pandemic response team that met weekly (sometimes more) and included representatives from nursing and medical services, special education and elementary and secondary schools, and operations, transportation and finance.

Make sure the effort is the top priority of the superintendent. We opened every superintendent cabinet meeting with a detailed presentation on our planning, the most current medical information on the pandemic, and expectations for each member of the leadership team if we had to close schools. We made sure that teachers had classwork they could send home with students and identified virtual learning options. We also made sure that our school board and unions and contractors were fully informed about the current situation and our plans.

Expect to close schools on short notice and cancel planned activities, and set expectations accordingly with students’ families. We received very little notice from the CDC on school closures — typically just a day in advance. If an infected student had a sibling at another school, then we had to close that one too. Our principals and educators knew that closures could happen but we didn’t know for how long. The same was true for school activities, such as sporting events.

Don’t expect certainty from the health professionals. It was very clear that the CDC was doing its best, but agency leaders couldn’t know what would happen next. They had limited tools (such as school closures) to stall the pandemic spread. Ultimately, district leaders will need to stand ready to make judgment calls based on the best available information.

Read the full article about school districts preparing for coronavirus by Arun K. Ramanathan at EdSource.