Chances are if people are confused, upset and complaining that they’re getting incomplete and incorrect information from you, you’ve probably done a poor job communicating with them.
With all the stress being placed on parents and students as they adjust to the new reality of education in the covid era, the last thing school officials need to be doing is not being as forthcoming and clear as they can with the people directly affected by this awful situation.
Some parents in the Schenectady school district say they’re upset with district officials over the availability and distribution of computers their children need to participate in classes remotely.
As of Tuesday, more than 1,500 students in the district were without computer devices, as district officials tried to deal with a last-minute arrival of hundreds of new Android tablets and an existing inventory of hundreds of Chromebook laptops.
With classes having already started remotely, some students are operating at a disadvantage because they don’t have the equipment they need to participate.
That’s got some parents rightly upset that their children might be falling behind in instruction and could be punished academically in some way.
Some students without computers have resorted to trying to participate in class with their personal phones. (You ever try to type a term paper on your phone?)
For their part, district officials are trying to manage hundreds of requests for computer equipment, while tech staff is trying to prepare the new computers for student use and the district is trying to figure out how best to get the devices into the students’ hands.
We know school officials are under a lot of stress. The whole situation is just as new and confusing and frustrating to them as it is to the students and parents.
But if everyone is going to get through this situation without losing their minds or their tempers, school officials must make communication a top priority.
Be honest and open with parents about when computers will arrive in the students’ hands.
Provide them with alternatives for how their children can participate in class without falling behind.
Provide reassurances to parents that their children’s grades will not suffer due to a situation that’s beyond their control.
Parents and students should be willing to accept that with this unique new situation, there are going to be bumps in the road.
But they shouldn’t have to put up with roadblocks to their children’s education.
The district doesn’t have to manage the situation perfectly.
But it does have to make parents and students better aware of the challenges the district faces, and do a better job offering timely information on when and how problems will be resolved.