We know that when staff and students return to school they will have been through an unprecedented mental health chal-
lenge and will have ongoing concerns about their physical and psychological safety. It is important for school administrators,

teachers, and support staff to create and communicate the school’s plan for dealing with the COVID-19 crisis now and in the
future. Schools should partner with staff, families, and older students to create this plan, and should hold ongoing meetings
and discussions around what the new normal will look like when students return to school. While it is difficult to know for
sure how students will respond to the many stressors they are experiencing, we can anticipate and prepare for a myriad of
potential losses including: (1) grief and loss related to death of a loved one as a result of COVID-19; (2) grief and loss related
to staff and/or students changing schools for a variety of reasons; and (3) grief and loss over the suspension of many smaller
yet important rituals, routines, markers and milestones in their daily lives. We can create a much-needed sense of security
and safety for everyone in the school community by: following a well-constructed and clearly communicated plan for returning
to school; dealing with ongoing challenges; ensuring that all students have opportunities to learn; and communicating how
future crises and needs for closure will be handled.

Educators and school staff

Educators and school staff can consider the following strategies during this time, to help prepare students and families to
return to school in the fall:

  • Know what healthy grief looks like and find ways to support your students’ feelings.
  • Give your students permission to feel their feelings and provide safe opportunities for them to share their feelings and
    loss experiences related to their COVID-19 experience.
  • Create and enhance ways to foster community among students and between you and your students.
  • Plan for ways to celebrate accomplishments both while you are meeting virtually and when you come together again in
    the future.
  • Communicate the school’s emergency response plan to students and families in developmentally appropriate language.
  • Ensure that they understand the plan for reopening, how students’ physical and psychological health will be maintained,
    and how any future needs for closures and remote learning will be handled.


Administrators can consider the following strategies during this time, to help prepare students and families to return to school
in the fall:

  • Reinforce confidence in your staff by reminding them that they are valued, and that they have the strength, knowledge
    and skills to get through this.
  • Create a plan for reopening schools that incorporates necessary adjustments to accommodate both physical and psy-
    chological safety of the school community.
  • Ensure that the school’s response plan:
    • Includes educational opportunities for all students during this time, by considering accommodations for students
      with Individualized Education Plans and/or 504 plans. Those plans may include providing services over the summer.
    • Considers ways to celebrate the end of one academic year before starting the next, especially if the transition to
      remote learning was sudden. 
    • Allows for students to spend at least a day in their former classrooms, so that they may celebrate accomplish-
      ments, honor the work they have done in this new way, and more smoothly transition to their next grade level. 
    • Addresses how to maintain alternate educational programming if returning in the fall isn’t possible or if some stu-
      dents have to remain at home due to compromised immune systems or other risk factors. 
    • Adjusts leave policies to allow staff to stay at home due to sick family members, and supports staff who may have
      been exposed at work and now have to stay at home.
  • Provide clear, concise, accurate and timely communication to the entire school community; this increases predictability,
    a sense of control and feelings of safety for others. 
  • Give staff timely updates on reopening campuses, and alternatively, what policies are being put into place if it is nec-
    essary to continue working from home.