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IL school reopening preparations: facilitating virtual engagement and planning

Illinois, USA
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HueLife, LLC
Contact Partner

Goverment Champion

Superintendent

Cost

Zero upfront cost to local government

Project Status

In Progress/Under Construction since 2020

Keywords

planning
schools
citizen engagement
community engagement
Online Engagement

Challenges Addressed

Citizen Engagement
Digital Divide
Workforce & Education

Motivation

Equitable city

Funding / Financing

State and local grants

Project Type

Project

At a Glance

School Districts across the country are facing a return to school dilemma. To prepare for reopening, several schools in District 28 and District 1 in the state of Illinois have focused on gathering feedback from all stakeholders through virtual planning teams focused on key issues.

Problem Addressed

School leaders and administrators are dealing with an array of community and parent expectations, demands for answers from district staff, teacher fears and stress over their ability to continue to teach from home, and above all student trauma from social isolation, falling behind, or simply losing the support system that school provide to those in need.

The goal of the school leadership now is to be proactive in establishing a transition plan that will ensure the health and safety of students, prioritize student needs, and set everyone in the district up for success as they transition back to school in the fall, whatever that looks like.

In order to prepare for reopening in the fall, the administration needed to:

1) gather feedback from the community regarding what the district has done well and areas of improvement in handling the move to remote learning

2) understand issues, concerns and potential needs of the students as they return to school in the fall

3) understand what the academic focus should be for the next school year and gain perspective on what type of setting school should be offered in the fall

District 28 Schools used/is using experienced engagement consultants and facilitators to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

The Hue Team worked with the community members, teachers, parents, students and administration to solicit feedback and identify key issues to address in the planning process for reopening.

Administration convened virtual listening and planning sessions with various stakeholders: teachers, students, parents, community partners, etc. These sessions produced a deeper understanding of the needs and anxieties associated with returning to school in the fall. It also allowed the teachers and students reflect on their losses and learn from their experience, so everyone can take more active role in making the return to school a success.

Virtual sessions were 2 hours long, but accomplished more than any survey could ever do...they built community, strengthened the bond, and improved relationship between the administration and staff, school and families.

Planning teams were filled with volunteers from the community and school employees who are eager to make the return to school a success, have the human resources to support the planning efforts and are taking the time this summer to bring the best plans forward for reopening.

Outcomes

  1. Community and staff felt heard, understood, acknowledged and empowered.
  2. Shared responsibility and ownership for making any necessary changes that set staff and students up for success in the fall.
  3. Achieved clarity about what needs to be done in preparation for the fall
  4. Collaborative and dynamic planning process that engages all in creative problem solving and leads to support for implementation in the fall

Lessons Learned

  1. It is more efficient to convene community stakeholder groups online, provided good process and facilitation skills
  2. Every voice finds its way in the virtual environment, the key is breakout rooms!
  3. Rapid change requires rapid response, waiting for an answer is not an option for those who lead systems and communities
  4. Stakeholder engagement and employee participation is more critical in the environment when no one has the right answer, everyone holds a piece of the puzzle

Something Unique

Federal CARES funding covers the cost of this service, so it is free to schools!

Who Should Consider?

Local government leaders who are looking for help facilitating authentic virtual engagement with key stakeholders.

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