The COVID-19 pandemic has left administrators at K–12 schools, colleges and universities across the nation with many unanswered questions as they head into the 2021–2022 academic year. School leaders are facing difficulties as they plan for the possibility of in-person, hybrid or online learning. Due to the number of uncertainties, communicating efficiently and ensuring safety have become top priorities.
Meanwhile, students across the United States made major adjustments to learning. While they were previously sitting in classrooms, surrounded by peers, and participating in hands-on activities, students had to adapt to learning through a computer screen, stay socially distant in class, or a combination of both. Students also experienced the loss of sports and other recreational activities. The cancellation of these extracurriculars was an added lack of social interaction that has left students feeling even more isolated.
Though school leaders everywhere are continuing to combat this drastic alteration to the education landscape, challenges and uncertainties remain going into the upcoming academic year.
Rave Mobile Safety’s 2021 Crisis Communication and Safety in Education Survey (Education Survey) recently revealed some of the top challenges that administrators and educators will contend with as they plan for the 2021–2022 school year.
Rave conducted the survey by asking over 300 staff each in K–12 schools and higher education institutions, including in administration, emergency management, and safety and security, about their top safety concerns, how these concerns would be addressed, and the types of communication methods these employees would use.
The Education Survey’s findings indicate that even with vaccination efforts ramping up, COVID-19 remains a major concern for K–12 schools, colleges and universities. However, safety concerns that were priorities before pre-COVID-19, such as student mental health and physical health, are still major concerns.
K–12 School Leaders: COVID, Student Mental Health Among Top Challenges
Most K–12 school leaders (42%) have reported that they will be implementing a hybrid learning model for the upcoming school year. Even with the combination of online and in-person learning, 71% of K–12 respondents reported that COVID-related safety measures are their top safety concern for the 2021–2022 school year.
Not only are school leaders concerned about COVID-19, but the effect that the virus is having on their students’ mental and physical health. According to a recent Reuters study, 74% of school districts nationwide reported multiple indicators of increased mental health stresses among students.
How to Stay on Top of Safety Concerns for K–12 Institutions
School leaders are looking to maximize safety in the upcoming year. Some schools are turning to many different options to help overcome these crisis communication challenges. According to the Education Survey, 42% reported they will be evaluating their current system.
The Rave critical communication and collaboration platform allows school leaders and staff to increase the efficiency of the flow of information and keep operations running smoothly. The platform includes:
- Recurring and automated health checks that enable administrators to check in with parents about their child’s health and wellness. Administrators can also check in with their staff about wellness checks.
- A one-click mobile panic button application provides an instant connection to 9-1-1, first responders and necessary personnel simultaneously. When the app is activated, 9-1-1 teams receive critical response data to help them gain more understanding of what’s happening at the scene. The app automatically triggers mass notification, digital signage, sirens and more.
- Internal staff communication allows authorized staff members to inform the necessary personnel about minor medical incidents, administrative updates and other issues to specific groups without calling 9-1-1.
Higher Education School Leaders: COVID and Mental Health Among Top Challenges
Higher education officials have found themselves navigating the same issues as their K–12 respondents. However, they have the added pressure of keeping their students safe on campus and in campus housing. An overwhelming majority (82%) of higher education respondents reported COVID-related safety measures as their top safety concern for the 2021–2022 academic year.
Questions remain for the upcoming year. The Education Survey said 54% of higher education institutions are planning for a combination of online and in-person learning.
Like K–12 respondents, another top safety concern for higher education officials is the mental and physical health of their students. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report discussed the pandemic’s effect on mental health, identifying suicide had been “seriously considered” by 25.5% of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed.
How to Stay on Top of Safety Concerns for Higher Education Institutions
Some colleges and universities are looking for ways to overcome crisis communication challenges. According to the Education Survey, 41% of higher education respondents say they are evaluating their current communication systems.
Administrators and security personnel need modes of communication they can use to reach campus community quickly and easily. It is equally important that students, faculty, and staff can share information. According to the Education Survey, 18% of higher education respondents reported issues reaching and notifying students and/or parents.
The Rave critical communication and collaboration platform enables higher education institutions connect and engage with their communities. Its features includes:
- Targeted messaging sends out geo-targeted push notifications to specific members of your campus community based on their real-time locations, even if they do not have a cell signal.
- Two-way texting allows higher education personnel and students to report suspicious activity and other concerns. If a student witnesses an individual struggling with mental health, they can anonymously send a text message to report the issue. Designated authorities can respond to any texts submitted in real time to collect additional information and details, and communicate with personnel and students.
- A personal safety app that directly connects to 9–1–1 or security through an emergency call button. If a situation is unsafe for students to speak, they can send a text message and a picture, and share or stream their location real time. The app also houses a centralized content directory, such as with emergency procedures, schedules, and campus maps. It also includes a call directory of important numbers or hotlines, and a virtual safety timer.