How can we effectively communicate with our community?


School systems are complex environments with multiple stakeholders and demands. Leading K-12 schools requires deep relationships and strong communication. In the absence of information from leadership, people will make their own conclusions that often are not based on accurate data and lead to disconnection and frustration. Investing in a thoughtful communication plan will: 

  • Support authentic and collaborative family and educator partnerships;
  • Strengthen family engagement in children’s learning;
  • Reduce stress and confusion; and
  • Improve student outcomes during this next phase of learning.


Create a comprehensive plan for communicating with caregivers, so that you’re ready when you need it. Below are eight steps to ensure a strong system and four tips for crafting useful messages.



8 Steps for a Strong Communication System

  • Review your communication systems: Make sure your communication systems can be deployed quickly to reach staff and families immediately in emergency situations, such as unforeseen school closures during spikes in COVID-19 cases. 
    • Engage Equitably provides sample communication protocols for a number of relevant scenarios.
    • School Resource Hub’s toolkit includes sample communication protocols and templates.
  • Update your website: Make sure your website has your most up-to-date information and links to recommendations from the CDC and other pertinent local authorities. Revise the information frequently.  


Sample letters for families and employees you can adapt and use.
  • Ensure accessibility: Use multiple modalities, languages, and formats to reach caregivers in their native languages. Consider including phone, text, social media, or in-person communication for both staff and families.  
    • This translator tool from Talking Points can help school staff communicate with families in any language.
  • Know who has received the information: Create a system for tracking who has received information. This can include a “read receipt” on emails or robocalls, or a personal phone call from a staff member or volunteer who can document who they’ve spoken to. Reach out again to those who have not responded or whose response merits more connection. 
  • Streamline communication: Compile information in consistent messages sent at the same time and in the same way each week. Ensure consistency within your school (this includes teachers sending messages to families in one agreed-upon way to eliminate additional stress for families with multiple children). 
  • Make it multidirectional: Now more than ever, communication between administrators, teachers, and families needs to be clear, frequent, proactive, and responsive. Communication also needs to be two-way—not just one-directional. Get feedback from stakeholders. 
  • Check for understanding: Solicit feedback to see whether your communications are being received and “heard.” Ask families and staff what is and is not working to leverage the voices and wisdom of diverse stakeholders. Use surveys strategically to gain insights.
LEA COVID-19 Rapid Response Transition Kit


CCEE and WestEd’s Local Education Agency COVID-19 Rapid Response Transition Toolkit includes a section on communicating with stakeholders that discusses effective messaging in more detail.

4 Tips for Crafting Messages 

  • Be clear and concise during times of heightened stress: Offer links to trusted public health resources but focus on information relevant to the operation of your schools and the well-being of children. People are receiving a lot of general communication from different sources—make yours relevant. 
  • Be explicit about what is mandatory and what is optional: When providing resources, prioritize social-emotional health and wellness. Aim to inform, not overwhelm, and to offer places where people can learn more rather than pushing it all out at once.
  • Be open with families and stakeholders: Share what you know, how you made decisions, and what you are still deciding. Honesty will help build trust even if you are telling people things that don’t make them happy. 
  • Seek input and build partnership: Key principles related to family engagement still apply:
    • Caregivers have the capacity to help their children regardless of their backgrounds.
    • Caregivers are their children’s first teachers and are experts on their children.
    • Caregivers have insights that are important for us to understand.

CCEE and WestEd’s Local Education Agency COVID-19 Rapid Response Transition Toolkit includes a section on communicating with stakeholders that discusses effective messaging in more detail.


  • What changes did we make during COVID that had a positive impact and are worth continuing? 
  • How do we know how effective our communication and outreach are?
  • What stakeholders are we not reaching? Why?
  • What communication tools and channels are working well? 
  • What communication channels and tools are missing?
  • What would help us be more prepared when communicating during an emergency?
The Field Guide for California LEAs
The Field Guide for accelerating learning, equity, and well being was developed by the California Collaborative for
Educational Excellence for California LEAs in collaboration with technical assistance partners.