LIVE BLOG: Resources for Community Ed and Child Care During COVID-19
Updated May 5, 2020
As your programs continue to weather the storm of COVID-19, Eleyo strives to be a resource. To help, we’re introducing Live Blog: Resources for Community Ed and Child Care During COVID-19. Updated regularly, we’ll use this blog to develop and share from districts across the country, the most pertinent information you need to move forward in this crisis, including communication, team management, staffing and community engagement.
At the bottom of the live blog we have a moderated comments section. Please share any of your program's best practices or feel free to ask a question to learn what other program's are doing.
- Family Communication
- Team Management
- Community Engagement
- Panel Discussion Recap
- New Course Ideas
- Scenario Planning
- Additional Resources
Across the country, state stay-at-home orders remain in place as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches to summer. With reactionary communications, new operational systems or commerce platforms now established, industries are focusing on what reopening might look like for them.
Decisions loom large for community education and child care programs as the ever-important summer season is rapidly approaching. However, despite many unknowns, it’s important to look to the future. Programs everywhere are mapping out various situations regarding what reopening could look like to them with scenario planning.
When properly executed, scenario planning can prove to be a useful tool for your program in the coming months. For the community education and child care industries, scenario planning examines a certain set of realities as to what your programs could look like in the near future upon reopening.
Importance of Scenario Planning
Based on certain assumptions, scenario planning is one of the most beneficial ways programs can use this time to prepare for the future. Not preparing for realistic situations can potentially expose your program to increased risk and errors and unprepared staff once your community is allowed to return.
How your district eventually reopens can leave a lasting impression on your community members. Being prepared will help your community come out of this stronger than ever.
At its core, scenario planning allows you the luxury of truly thinking beyond the now. And it exercises your brain in ways that you don’t often indulge. If you base your scenarios on information you have and surmise, you help prepare your program for when your situation changes.
Where to Start
Start at your core values. Each scenario you plan for, and how you plan for it, should speak to the purpose of your programs. Scenario plans that tie to your core values are honest and realistic but are also creative and bold. Bring in your core leaders to begin, then add a couple rising stars, if applicable, to learn and provide a fresh perspective.
A good place to start is conducting a community scan. What’s the current situation? What’s changed? What’s your part in all of this?
Pull your team together and think about your options. If you can resume programming, what could it look like? For example, you could plan for delivering more online programming to your community, but it’s important to examine if that is what your community needs from you. Or, can you begin planning other initiatives that tie in to your values.
After reinforcing your core values, it’s important to consider all of the driving forces that will go into your scenarios. Related to COVID-19, some of these forces will be federal or state mandates, along with economic and societal issues. Each situation you plan for should take these forces and how they will affect your program, into consideration.
At a higher level than the previous considerations, affirm your core values and who you serve. Your community is currently missing connections and belonging, so keep them at the front of your mind when developing plans.
What is Out of Your Control?
It’s just as important to plan for uncertainties when developing scenario plans. Similar to your driving factors, your uncertainties will likely focus on when you can reopen and under what parameters, and also public perception of safety when it comes to facets of everyday life.
After considering driving forces and elements beyond your control, it’s time to develop two or three scenarios using the best information at your disposal. Some scenarios will follow more conservative plans, while others should push the envelope a little more.
While developing these outcomes, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a wrong or right way to implement scenario planning. It’s a forward-thinking exercise. What’s important is that your plans tie back to your core values and you take the time to consider factors, outcomes and implications.
Once your plans are fully formed, you might also find yourself taking elements of certain plans and putting them together. This is a good thing. These plans are meant to be fluid and adapt to current circumstances.
Space and social distancing are significant elements to scenario plans for most industries in addition to community education and child care moving forward. Beyond these factors, consider the needs of the families in your district to drive your scenarios. Because what’s good for your community is good for you as a community education and child care provider.
Contributions to his post provided by Edina Community Education.
In the face of COVID-19, community education and child care programs are showing resilience and creativity in the ways they remain connected to their communities. Whether creating new courses entirely, or adapting existing programs to online models, districts are showing their families that they are here for them, now more than ever.
Despite how quickly many programs adapted to this new normal, creating new courses, or migrating them to new platforms is not an easy task. To help inspire and spark new ideas for your program, we created a list of some of the innovative courses we’ve seen nationwide. Peruse the list and see if any of these ideas can be a fit for your program. If you’ve seen additional course ideas, please post them in the comments below.
- Virtual Family Challenge (Minnetonka, MN)
- “Storytime 360” Virtual Library (Santa Ana, CA)
- Free Museum Visits (Edina, MN)
- Complimentary Tax Tutorials (Albert Lea, MN)
- Smartphone Photography (Farmington MI)
- B.O.L.T.S. Building Our Leaders Through Science (Kyrene AZ)
- Free online parenting classes (Watertown Mayer, MN)
- Food For Thought: Online Nutrition Campaign (Brooklyn Center MN)
- Cosmic Kids Online Yoga Classes
- Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead by MIT - Weekly free online learning packages
- Origami & 3D Paper Sculpting (Minneapolis, MN)
- Young Rembrandts ONLINE (Dysart, AZ)
- Virtual Field Trips from Pasadena Unified School District (Pasadena, CA)
- Golf Squad Online (St. Louis Park, MN)
- Online: Podcasting (St. Louis Park, MN)
- Nature Journaling Parkway-Rockwood Community Ed (Ellisville, MO)
- Online Instagram for Business (St. Louis Park, MN)
Additional Online Resources
- Where Learning and Fun Meet Online from Parkway-Rockwood Community Ed (Ellisville, MO)
- Center for Effective Parenting Digital Resource Library
- Parent Instructional Resource Guide from Conroe ISD (Conroe, TX)
These lists are just a fraction of the imaginative courses programs around the country are quickly forming to engage their communities. We hope it helps inspire your course offerings in the coming weeks.
Have other resources you’d like to share with the llluminate Community? Comment with them below!
Last week, we hosted Position Your Programs to Elevate Your Community — a panel discussion for community education and child care leaders. The discussion served as a platform for more than 100 districts from across 22 states to virtually gather and discuss their programs during COVID-19.
For over one hour, Jill Korsok from Orange Community Education (OH), Valerie Burke and Rachel Hicks from Edina Community Education (MN) and Mike Seppi of Parkway-Rockwood Community Education (MO) discussed their program’s approach to community communications, staff engagement and forward-thinking operations.
“It’s all about emphasizing that we’re a partner for our community.” — Valerie Burke, Edina Community Education.
Click Below to Watch On Demand
Audience Insights: Focusing on the Future
During the panel discussion, we polled our audience to gain some insight into where their programs are currently in a variety of initiatives. Mainly, we focused on what was the largest priority for community ed and child care programs, and are they thinking more heavily on focusing on today or preparing for the future?
When asked “What is your largest priority today?” 55 percent of districts answered planning for summer and fall. Not surprisingly, when asked, “Is a majority of your time being spent focusing on today or planning for the future?” 63 percent of our audience answered planning for the future.
When asked what information our audience wanted to learn more about in the coming weeks, the 41 percent are curious about new projects and innovations. Following our discussion, it’s clear that many programs around the country are now moving to a proactive mindset during COVID-19. While reacting to situational updates always takes high priority, districts are focusing on seizing the unorthodox opportunity presented to them.
“We’ve elected to spend a majority of our time focusing on our return and looking ahead.” — Mike Seppi, Parkway-Rockwood Community Education.
Child care and community ed programs around the country remain in unfamiliar territory at the hands of COVID-19. A constant theme throughout this time is that COVID-19 is impacting us all in a unique way. Districts in select states are busy providing emergency child care services for healthcare and emergency service personnel, while a significant number of programs have reached a point of wondering what comes next. However, there is no playbook for this.
After initial shock, reaction and communication, districts are moving into the next phase of their current situation. While it’s critical to maintain important communication with their community, programs are forming plans to move forward.
The Current State of Things
Because there is no playbook for this, we surveyed a handful of districts across the country to discover what this new phase of COVID-19 looks like for community ed and child care programs. We found that 65 percent have continued working but have transitioned to fully remote, adding another degree of unfamiliarity. What are they undertaking to engage their communities and remain top-of-mind during COVID-19?
Communication — 80 percent of districts we surveyed mentioned still regularly communicating with families regarding cancelations, vouchers, future program schedules and more. When thinking about future initiatives for your program, it’s important not to experience a dropoff in communication to your community.
E-Learning — 60 percent of programs we spoke to referenced online learning as their next initiative. Whether teaching classes through Zoom or creating YouTube activity videos, programs are adapting and shifting what courses they can online.
Emergency Meal Services — While many are providing emergency child care services – as required by some states like Minnesota, Kentucky and Vermont, another way districts are assisting their communities is with emergency meal services through delivery or pick up locations.
Getting Started: Elevate Your Community
Just because your program cannot physically bring people together, doesn’t mean you can’t engage and drive progress. Even though they’re apart, your community needs to be brought together, and no one does that quite as well as community education. These initiatives, along with internal projects that we will touch on later, will help position your program to begin rebuilding your community when it’s safe to do so.
Share Your Story — We know that over the past few weeks, community education and child care programs have done amazing things to support their districts. Share this important story with your community members. Sharing these types of stories in today’s world is great for community morale. In addition, it will keep your program top-of-mind and lead to your community members supporting you when social distancing is no longer. A quick, two-minute video sent out or hosted on your YouTube channel or a mention in your newsletter are great platforms to accomplish this.
E-Learning Continued — As mentioned, programs are quickly adapting to our new remote environments by offering a variety of virtual and online learning options for youth and adults. Live enrichment courses, like yoga classes, second-language courses and more, are moving to tools like Zoom where attendees can answer questions and receive feedback in real time.Digitally-focused courses like “Mastering Excel”, “Graphic Design Essentials”, “Certificate in Web Design” and “Google Analytics 101” can seamlessly be moved to digital formats. And many courses are being turned into YouTube activity videos. Additionally, we’ve seen programs turn to online course providers like ed2Go or LERN’s UGotClass offerings.
“Currently I am trying to run two classes through Zoom to see how it goes. We are figuring out some marketing campaigns, fun ones, to stay connected.”
Moving your curriculums digitally may seem like a daunting task, so take it one step at a time. Start with your spring and summer (if combined) catalogs. Go through each course to determine if the subject can be taught online. Then, determine the best format and resources needed. Can the course be pre-recorded and sent out to attendees? Or is live instruction still the best format? Answering these questions helps you narrow down the tools you need.
As your communities shift to online education and socialization, you will find that many have the technology and at-home set ups in place to participate in your online courses.
Empowering Activity at Home — When speaking with districts, it became clear that one avenue to engage with families is to empower and invigorate their learning and activity at home.“We’re sharing resources on art, music, physical engagement, and STEM activities to do at home. Creating take home activity packs to be distributed at the food and supplies pick up.”
“We’re sending home ideas for crafts/activities while promoting online courses with our partner program.”
If moving your curriculum online is not an option for your program, creating take-home activity kits is a great alternative to engage families. Your programs are a resource for fun and activity outside of the day-to-day. Providing your families with fun, innovative ways to spend time together ensures them that this resource is still there.
Additionally, researching and sharing online resources is a great way to achieve this with less investment. Create a dedicated place on your website and use your social media channels to share fun activities and learning resources families can utilize at home.
Think Outside the Box — Host regular brainstorming sessions with your staff and encourage them to think outside the box. Already, we have seen organizations plan virtual day-long scavenger hunts or host isolation bingo. Do you normally host a community barbeque or yoga-in-the-park? Think about hosting it on Instagram Live. Were you planning to host any running or bike races? Many organizations are moving to virtual options.
Your program has significantly changed for the time being, but that shouldn’t limit what you’re capable of. You may not be able to control outside circumstances, but you can control the fun, engaging activities your program offers during this time. Doing so sends a message to your community that you’re here and you’re ready to connect.
From Team Management Guidelines: Projects to Position Your Program
In our discussion on team management, we highlighted a few initiatives programs can tackle to keep momentum and move forward, despite these uncertain times.
Here are some potential projects you can tackle now to make your next registration period the best one yet.
Coming Soon: Panelist Discussion — Elevating Communities During COVID-19
Join us for a one-hour webinar on how community ed and child care programs can engage their communities in this unprecedented time. Hear from some leading districts around the country on how their programs are charting a path forward and connecting their communities.
Remote work is our new normal. Overnight, COVID-19 has changed the way you run your programs, putting obstacles in front of communication, structure, overall process and procedure and more. At a time when you need to work closely with families and make critical decisions about your programs, you’re in a work environment that is largely unfamiliar.
Previously, we discussed the importance of effective and thoughtful communication to families in this trying time. Now, we’re focusing on how we can help you and your teams get the most out of your remote working situations.
Below, we outline best practices to enhance communication, structure and productivity so you can keep your programs in the best shape possible during COVID-19.
Be Flexible — We all have a unique situation going on at home. Kids, pets, spouses or individuals also working from home and even technology restrictions can now create interruptions in our work day. Structure is very important, but you must allow some flexibility for your team to address other areas of their lives throughout the day. Also, define working hours for your team. Balance is key.
Separate Spaces — When working remote, you and your employees can fall into the trap of working, hanging out, eating and even sleeping in the same space. Encourage your employees to define spaces for work and outside of work in their home. Also, encourage your team to get outside when they can. Take conference calls while walking around the neighborhood, take the dog for a walk at lunch.
Control What You Can Control — It’s difficult, but important to keep focus on what you can control during this time. As there are a lot of unknowns around your programs, you can control you and your team’s output. Make the most of the time you have.
Form a Plan — Whether one, two or four weeks, form a plan of the specific initiatives and projects you and your team can complete during this time. Set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely (SMART) goals and hold regular check-ins and status updates. With specific projects to work on and complete, you and your team can remain focused outside of your normal work environment.
Keep Momentum — Understandably, a majority of your work halted or shifted during COVID-19. Keep momentum where you can to set yourself up best you can later in the year. Further down, we’ll outline some projects you can address during this time.
Communicate With Context — Communication, and especially context, is key when working remote. Follow the two-sentence rule — if you’re typing up an email that’s longer than two sentences, you’re better served picking up the phone or starting a chat or video call.
Goals, Roles & Responsibilities
To achieve the tips highlighted above, it’s important to put an increased emphasis on many facets of your work. Specifically, you need to form SMART goals for what you want to achieve working remotely. According to Forbes, you can establish and achieve goals through remote work by:
- Identifying goals that can be measured
- Breaking your goals down into smaller tasks
- Scheduling ample time for goal completion
- Regularly reviewing goals and adjusting as needed
While goal setting, reinforce your team’s roles and responsibilities in the coming weeks. These should already be in place, but defining and emphasizing everyone’s role in the coming weeks will help them focus and will guide productivity.
Structure is always crucial to productive teams, but you need to place a higher importance on it for remote work. The concept of daily structure is skewed when employees are thrown out of their routine.
Routine — Form a schedule for your team. If they’re not in place already, establish quick daily team syncs, one-on-ones and weekly update meetings with everyone. These meetings assure projects remain on track, and they help create daily workflows for your team. Everyone knows what the team is working on and no transparency is lost.
Determine format (Slack, Zoom, etc.), agenda, the necessary team members involved, and you’ll be surprised about how quickly and efficiently these meetings run. In most cases, 15-30 minutes is more than enough. Make time for casual conversation as well, as these interactions are decreased during remote work but remain important for morale and inclusivity.
Scheduling — For the time being, gone are the days of popping by someone’s desk or into their office for quick updates. Working remotely means even casual updates should be scheduled. Again, forming routines and establishing structure is key in remote work, so it’s important that calendars are always frequent. It is also important to put blocks on your calendar. While team collaboration is important, it is also imperative that you have time to work on your own projects free of interruption.
Managing a remote team can seem overwhelming on its surface, but fortunately there are many, many tools you can use to effectively manage remote work. Project management, video conferencing, document and file management and sharing, and chat are all now aided by technology.
Project Management — One of the most important aspects of working remotely, your project management can be greatly improved with some digital tools. Trello, Monday.com and Asana are just a few of the digital team to-do lists out there. Trello, for example, empowers your team to manage everything from small tasks to large projects and includes chat, file sharing, checklists and takes just minutes to learn how to use.
Communication — It’s even more important to communicate when you can’t just walk down the hall. Slack, Zoom and Google Hangouts provide both chat and video communication options for your team. Hold your daily syncs, weekly meetings and one-on-ones seamlessly with any one of these options. Slack allows you to have private chat and group channels, making it easy to keep everyone informed in real-time.I
Managing Files — Just because your team is remote doesn’t mean that documents, meeting notes, files and more don’t need to be stored, updated and shared. Luckily, Google Drive provides an excellent platform for your team to create, update, store and share documents, grids and many other file types. Create and edit documents in real time while on a Zoom or Slack call or a Google Hangout. Dropbox also provides a useful platform to store and share files of all types.
Once you establish schedules, routines, workflows and tools for your remote team, it’s time to focus on what you and your team can be working on in an unusual time for your program. After speaking with some districts, we put together a list of thought starters for your team:
Program Materials — Many programs are using this time as an opportunity to review and update materials such as employee handbooks, brochures and catalogs. Is your messaging updated? Are your program details (courses, dates, pricing) accurate? Use this time to place a close on eye on all materials to make sure they’re current.
Website — Along with their materials, give your website some attention during this time. Does its functionality and design match your program’s offering? How can it be improved to provide a better experience to your families? This is a great time to double-check that all of your site’s links route accurately, especially if you just launched summer or fall programs.
New Tech — Technology is quickly shaping how families can register and pay for programs. Today’s 24/7 parent relies on technology to create efficiencies in their day-to-day. How can your programs innovate with new technology to meet the needs of your community? Now can be a time to explore as you may have more time for discovery, demos, and even trying things out.
Process and Procedures — Now may be a good time to take a step back and look at the ins and outs of your program’s day-to-day procedures. From registration, scheduling, payments communication and more, can area’s of your program be improved? Are any processes outdated? Are there any analytics you just never had the time to build out? A great example: before you go live with your fall enrichment programs, run a report to make sure you are not missing any of your previously most successful offerings.
Professional Development — Unfortunately, professional development is something that always falls at the bottom of our to-do lists. If you and your team are limited about the tangible projects you can work on during this time, explore professional development opportunities. Webinars, reports, or online courses are just some of the examples of virtual development opportunities you can find. For some awesome development and learning opportunities, check out the additional resources section below.
Next week, we'll talk about how community ed and child care programs are staying connected with families during this break. And we would love to hear from you! Take this three-question survey to help guide the discussion on what programs are working on to stay top-of-mind during COVID-19.
Here are some tips on how you can effectively and thoughtfully communicate with families in your community.
The shifting world around us places higher importance on the messages you share with your community. By focusing on the basics in your messaging you create genuine communication.
Wish them Well — Health and safety above all else. Take the time to wish the families in your community the best of health. It might feel redundant, but it’s a necessary reminder of what’s most important.
Set the Stage — Address the current situation from both Federal and State standpoints. Reference all necessary government updates. For example… “In accordance with Minnesota Governor Walz’ address on Sunday 3/12, Minnesota is suspending all school aged child care and enrichment programs.”
Align with the District — Many programs are aligning communications with their larger district as the district releases updates. This approach provides a consistent message to your community. Use your communication to reinforce district messaging. It's a clear, unified message during uncertain times.
Be Empathetic — When developing communication to families, it’s important to lead with empathy. Ensure your community that they’re being listened to and understood. This crisis impacts us all in a unique way. We’re going through it, together.
Be Honest and Transparent — COVID-19 is an ever-evolving situation, and it’s OK to let families know that your situation is changing daily, just like there’s. Let them know your program’s current status and where you’re at in your response. Ask for patience and understanding, and as your district knows more, you will keep the community updated, frequently.
Be Resourceful — Regardless of the exact topic of the communication, your families are going to have a variety of questions. Use your communication as a place to list out who the best person to go to with each question is. Also, this approach helps make sure no audiences are being left behind.
As mentioned, it’s important to reassure your community that when you know more, they’ll know more. After your initial outreach to the community, provide updates as they pertain to the status of current and upcoming programs. Updates could include:
- Larger Federal, State or District statements
- Closures, cancelations or postponements
- Virtual program alternatives
By forming a steady stream of communication to your community, you establish trust and reliability.
If possible, divide and triage your communication and response strategy. Establish priorities, then create separate channels (emails, phone numbers, etc.) to address different types of issues your community might need help solving. Some examples:
- Refunds and vouchers
- Course cancelations and suspensions
- Child care
- Enrichment (adult, youth and events)
- Facility rentals
- Recreation (adult and youth)
- General questions
Program sizes vary, but if possible, dividing communication streams helps reduce the load on your staff while shortening response time to parents.
Your social channels are a valuable resource to communicate widely to families. Use them as a vehicle to spread your messages. Once messages are shared, monitor and actively listen to how your community responds. Use comment sections to address feedback and reinforce messaging.
Tracking & Distribution
It’s critical to closely monitor the communication you’re sending and receiving from your community.
Outlook and Gmail allow grouping and tracking messages and responses as conversations, which helps monitor communication streams. If you are not already using an email distribution tool, MailChimp, Constant Contact, MarketVolt, Sendinblue and more allow you to easily scale and track your communications, helping you understand who in your community has received each update.
NAA & Afterschool Alliance Resource Guide
The National AfterSchool Association (NAA), Afterschool Alliance and additional national partners have teamed to create another centralized location for after school-related COVID-19 resources. Access their resource guide here:
World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Website
LERN Online Learning Resources
Learning Resources Network, Inc (LERN) has a robust series of archived and upcoming webinars focusing on online learning and course instruction.
Remote Work Resources
Digital project management tools Trello and Slack provide great resources on how you and your team can, not just cope, but embrace remote work. Additionally, Hubspot compiled and shared their 2019 remote work report, surveying more than 1,200 working professionals in the US, UK, Ireland, Sweden and Australia.
- Trello — How to Embrace Remote Work
- Slack — The Ultimate Guide to Remote Meetings in 2020
- Hubspot — 2019 Remote Work Report
Penn State University Extension — Better Kid Care currently offering four lessons in our On Demand distance education system that can be completed online with no cost for a certificate of completion.