Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Schools

By Megan Mann, NAIS Legal Counsel

Last updated: September 1, 2020
 

Important Reminder

This situation is evolving by the hour. Every school is struggling with what decisions are the “right” ones to make and, in many instances, we may not know what is “right” until we have the benefit of hindsight. Even then, we may not know. With that in mind, the “right” decision is one that considers public health guidance, the law, your school’s mission and culture, and your community’s safety. What is “right” for one school may not be right for another. Please keep this in mind as you review feedback about what other schools are doing.

About this Document

NAIS is working daily to bring the independent school community together to exchange ideas and resources, provide additional guidance, and respond to the many thoughtful inquiries posed by schools across the country. We are updating this document regularly with select news and federal guidance, resources, and independent school strategies and trends. Additionally, we are updating our coronavirus resource page regularly: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources for Independent Schools

Please note: The following information does not constitute legal advice, medical advice, financial advice, or an endorsement of any service or product referenced herein. 

Rather, this resource reflects current school practices and concerns we’ve gleaned from the field, along with general guidance and ideas for consideration. As always, applicable law and government mandates, school policies and contracts, the advice of the school’s lawyer, and your school’s mission, culture, and community needs should ultimately guide your process and decisions—and, of course, the safety of the community, which we know is and should be your paramount concern. 

With that foundation laid, this document provides guidance on the following topics.  

Please note: We will continually update this document as the situation evolves. While changes may be made throughout the sections to reflect new issues, trends, etc., we will endeavor to mark new sections and particular updates in this table of contents, as well as in the sections themselves.  

FAQs and Trends

In no particular order, here are some trends and trending FAQs. To make your review more convenient, watch for new additions at the top of the relevant section. These answers are intended to be brief summaries and are not exhaustive responses.

Online School

  1. Healthy Relationships Online
    • Now is not the time to relax our awareness and education about healthy boundaries, harassment, abuse, and bullying. In fact, with authorities reporting an uptick in online abuse, schools should be hypervigilant about online grooming behaviors, cyberbullying, and other forms of inappropriate engagement with and among students (and employees). Please make sure your school continues to educate employees, students, and families on healthy relationships, what unhealthy behaviors might look (or feel) like, and how community members can come forward if they think they or someone they know might be suffering from inappropriate conduct by another. Educators should also be aware that NPR reports “[o]nline child sexual abuse is rising as countries close schools and impose various levels of lockdown to contain the new coronavirus pandemic.”
  2. “Zoombombing”
    • Classes and meetings are moving online and the bad actors are moving in. Interruptions and—what’s worse—graphic content are ruining online learning experiences. There have been so many reports of outsiders posting pornographic and/or racist images, that the FBI is now involved and issued this warning. Read more here and please stay hypervigilant for the students. The FBI’s warning includes steps to provide a more secure learning environment, as does this Zoom blog entry. Nevertheless, several public school districts have reported moving away from the platform. While many of our independent schools have reported sticking with Zoom, a few shared with us that they prefer other platforms (for this and other reasons).
  3. Are we allowed to record classes and meetings?
    • Generally, yes, but you may need to get permission from parents (and perhaps even students). Even if you do not have to get permission under the law, you may want to do so. It’s always good to be above-board about these things. Communicate to parents any limitations of use of the recordings. For more information see COVID-19 Considerations: Recording Classes and Meetings section.
  4. Should we have 1:1 meetings with students?

    • Short Take: Each school needs to make a decision about what learning programs and services will work best for its community. We understand that certain professionals, including attorneys, have advocated strongly either for or against 1:1 meetings. It is our position at NAIS that it is extremely important to maintain connections and support for our students in this stressful time, so long as the school feels it can do so in a meaningful and safe way.
  5. Parent Surveys
    • NAIS continues to hear about myriad ways to support parents and promote engagement. One trending approach is to send a simple survey to parents to assess the success of online learning programs (from the parents’ perspective) and to get parent feedback on evolving issues. We have also heard about parent Zoom calls and other smart strategies. This gives the parents a voice—a chance to participate in the process. It also garners key feedback for schools about what is—and what is not—working. Additionally, if your school is interested in conducting a parent survey, NAIS has a survey with three main sections: the digital learning experience, COVID-19 impact on families, and plans for enrolling/re-enrolling. Email surveycenterhelp@nais.org for your school’s unique survey link.
  6. Why do your vendor contracts require you to obtain parental consent for students under age 13 to use school-approved websites and other online services?
    • While our nonprofit schools are not subject to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), many of the vendors you work with are subject to it. While compliance is their responsibility (not yours!) and schools can provide consent on behalf of parents in most situations, some vendors are also requiring schools through the vendor contract to get parents’ consent. It would be wise to review this issue and consult with your legal counsel (preferably one with COPPA experience). For more information on this topic, read COVID-19 Considerations: Copyright & COPPA.
  7. Do we need online learning policies?
    • Ideally, yes, but we all know this is “survival mode” time, so let’s focus on what you need in order to set your school and families up for some basic successes during remote learning times. For more information, please visit the Online Learning Policies and Protocols section.
  8. A focus on educating and caring for the “whole child” during a remote learning period.
  9. An interest in “getting creative” with online learning to avoid rote video lectures that lack student engagement. 
    • We are so impressed with the focus on innovation, even in a time of crisis. In addition to online yoga, art, and music classes, we are also hearing that some schools are injecting more student choice and voice into their online programming. We’ve heard from schools that have staff post lessons as “electives” that students can weave into their day (e.g., a business officer records a lesson on sports statistics; the maker-space teacher designs lessons using common household items). Student voice and autonomy can be a great way to enhance engagement!

Student and Employee Issues

  1. Mini school run for the children of school employees.
    • We are learning that some schools are preparing to run or house a mini or “tiny” school to accommodate employees who have children in other schools, which may be closed when the independent school is open. We are learning that these mini schools will provide high-speed internet access for the students to complete online learning, along with space for the learning and supervision. Some of the schools are contemplating creating a center for young children as well. The goal is to ensure that when the physical school is open, employees are able to attend, without being hindered by childcare responsibilities that may prevent them from working. However, this will require extra peoplepower, or a creative reworking of existing peoplepower, plus space. We look forward to learning more about this interesting trend!
  2. Do we need to worry about HIPAA? 
    • Probably not. Very few of our schools are actually “covered entities” under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and going online and engaging in telecounseling does not alter that. For more information, we are reposting information from our September 3, Legal News You Can Use post. If you think your school may be subject to HIPAA, please contact your legal counsel to review the implications.
  3. Prepare for unavailability.
    • Schools continue to prepare for employees (including leadership) to be unavailable due to COVID-19-related reasons, including illness or death.

Miscellaneous

  1. Mini school run for the children of school employees.
    • If you read through the Student and Employee Issues section, this is old news to you. For those looking for general trends, we want to call your attention here. We are learning that some schools are preparing to run or house a mini or “tiny” school to accommodate employees who have children in other schools, which may be closed when the independent school is open. We are learning that these mini schools will provide high-speed internet access for the students to complete online learning, along with space for the learning and supervision. Some of the schools are contemplating creating a center for young children as well. The goal is to ensure that when the physical school is open, employees are able to attend, without being hindered by childcare responsibilities that may prevent them from working. However, this will require extra peoplepower, or a creative reworking of existing peoplepower, plus space. We look forward to learning more about this interesting trend!
  2. During this time, schools are looking to their communities of practice. Are there any things we should keep in mind regarding antitrust laws?
    • We may be in the middle of a pandemic, but the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) want employers to know that they continue to be alert for illegal anticompetitive behavior in the areas of compensation, benefits, hours worked, hiring, retention of workers, and other terms of employment. In the wake of various DOJ investigations and the NACAC settlement, independent schools should remember that educational institutions are not immune and be aware of these issues as we all work through these unprecedented times.
  3. Keep in contact with the health department.
    • Remember, this pandemic is far from over. Even if we get back on campus in the fall—which we sincerely hope we do— this virus or another one will still be present. Please maintain your relationships in the local health department. Keep names, numbers, and after-hours contact information handy.
  4. Grieving. Preparing for Grief.
  5. Sharing supplies with health-care workers.
    • Many schools have reserves of emergency supplies, including masks (even N95!), hand sanitizer, bleach, toilet paper, and water.  While you may need to provide some of these supplies to the employees and students remaining on campus (especially in light of the CDC’s guidance to wear masks to stem the spread of the virus), please consider donating extras to hospitals and other health-care or first-responder organizations.
  6. What are schools saying about hiring?
    • A variety of things, from hiring freezes to “business as usual” (but online). Remote recruitment is definitely trending. Please review the Hiring and Contract Renewal Season section for more information.
  7. Google says my school is closed! It’s not—it’s running remotely! What do I do?
    • Check your status online by doing a Google search and checking for a red status banner (often located in a box on the right side of the screen). If it lists “Closed” or “Temporarily Closed,” we recommend you follow the steps listed here. Ensure that hours are reflected accurately and push for a more accurate representation of the situation, especially during this critical enrollment time.
  8. How are other schools handling the payment of employees who cannot work when the school is closed, or who work in a diminished capacity?
    • Most schools we’ve spoken to are doing their level best to make and keep employees “whole” as long as possible. We’ve heard about a variety of plans here, many of which are being worked out at the moment. Please visit the Employee Considerations section for more information.
  9. How are other schools handling tuition in light of these changes?
    • Currently most of the schools reporting to us are still collecting full tuition. However, a number of factors impact this decision, which will likely vary among schools. We discuss this in slightly more detail in the Financial Considerations section. 
  10. What are other schools doing about fundraising?
    • As with most of these topics, the answer seems to vary greatly. Some of our schools are proceeding with a “business as usual” mentality for advancement efforts, while others are temporarily shutting down all fundraising communications. Of course, there are a variety of “in between” positions. For example, a few schools reported taking the temperature of their donor community and making a responsive plan; others are conducting targeted outreach to key donors to assist in this time of crisis; while still others are moving as many efforts online as possible (online galas!). One association executive suggested now could be the time to focus on grant writing to support technological infrastructures, thinking current conditions provide a chance to explore whether there are corporations interested in supporting continuous learning. This may also be an opportunity to focus fundraising efforts toward emergency (and longer-term) support for students and families who are struggling. For example, one higher ed institution recently posted on social media that if the community is looking to help at this time, they could support the school’s student emergency aid and assistance fund. 
  11. Leadership information overload. 
    • We hear you. There are more articles, webinars, and random information sources than anyone can count. Plus, you have your actual job to conduct in a time of total and complete chaos. Have you considered retooling one of your currently underutilized staff members to track webinars and other items to help you decide what to attend? Could you use a team member to assist with news analysis?
We love hearing your stories! NAIS has launched Sharing Solutions, a new site for schools to share stories, strategies, documents, lesson plans, and other resources to support one another through these challenging times. Submit your solutions and learn from your independent school colleagues at share.nais.org. Also, remember that NAIS Connect is a powerful place to support one another through in-depth conversations. 

Federal Legislative and Regulatory Resources

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Other Proposals

For an overview and analysis of the CARES Act, Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, and other COVID-19 legislative and regulatory proposals covering topics such as education funding, unemployment, tax credits, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), liability protections and more, read the NAIS legal advisory COVID-19 Relief: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Other Proposals.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

For an overview and analysis of the federal paid leave requirements and accompanying tax credits associated with the FFCRA and COVID-19, read the NAIS legal advisory Families First Coronavirus Response Act: What You Need to Know.

Physical Plant 

Access to Campus (Including Restrictions During Shelter-in-Place)

Through summer and into the 2020-21 school year, access to campus issues remain relevant to our schools, depending on the phase of reopening your state or locality is in at the moment.

Fully Functional Campus
  • Consider implications in light of federal and state guidance, including physical distancing and large gatherings. 
  • Maintain contacts with the local public health department
  • Consider collecting and disseminating information about COVID-19 cases. 
  • Communicate regularly about good hygiene.
  • Be prepared to isolate individuals who exhibit symptoms. 
    • Have an exit or continued-isolation strategy.
  • Be prepared to close off areas/entire campus for a minimum of 24 hours and then engage in cleaning and disinfecting per CDC Guidance.
Campus Accessible to Employees Only
  • The Basics
    • Consider implications in light of federal and state guidance, including physical distancing and large gatherings. 
    • Maintain contacts with the local public health department.
    • Consider collecting and disseminating information about COVID-19 cases. 
    • Communicate regularly about good hygiene.
    • Be prepared to isolate individuals who exhibit symptoms. 
      • Have an exit or continued-isolation strategy.
    • Be prepared to close off areas/entire campus for a minimum of 24 hours and then engage in cleaning and disinfecting per CDC Guidance.
  • Employee Considerations 
    • Are you able to implement a system of rotating shifts, reduced staff, or other measures to promote or ensure physical distancing (and to limit overall traffic on grounds)?
    • Consider in-building signage about physical distancing and hygiene guidance in bathrooms/kitchens.
    • Think in advance about whether exceptions will be made for older employees or those with underlying health conditions. Will you require a doctor’s note? Will you make a blanket policy? Consider working with legal counsel. 
  • Parent/Community Communications
    • Clearly communicate the “campus off limits” restriction to families, in writing. Indicate whether this restriction is limited to buildings or includes all of campus (including playgrounds).
      • Communicate by emails and signage on gates/buildings. 
    • Close gates as necessary, but include contact information for families/personnel (on gates, in emails, as appropriate).
    • Design a system for retrieval of items (personnel and families)—preferably one that does not include multiple people traipsing through buildings. If someone is carrying the virus unknowingly, we want to limit their contact with our areas. Perhaps someone can be the point person for items and designate a pickup point. Consider a pickup schedule (times/timeframes) where parents and employees can retrieve items outside or in one designated room that can then be closed and disinfected if needed.
Campus Limited to “Essential” Personnel
  • The Basics
    • Consider implications in light of federal and state guidance, including state shelter-in-place orders. 
      • Consult with legal counsel.
    • Maintain contacts with the local public health department.
    • Consider collecting and disseminating information about COVID-19 cases for essential personnel.  
    • Communicate regularly about good hygiene.
    • Be prepared to isolate individuals who exhibit symptoms. 
      • Have an exit or continued-isolation strategy.
    • Be prepared to close off areas/entire campus for a minimum of 24 hours and then engage in cleaning and disinfecting per CDC Guidance.
  • Essential Personnel
    • Clearly outline who is “essential,” but reserve the right for flexibility.
      • Schools should consider whether these employees need an employer letter. Several states have implemented fines for breaking shelter-in-place orders and we have heard that police are enforcing the orders. Consider working with your school counsel to determine if a letter printed on school letterhead explaining the employee’s status (and therefore why the employee is out and about) would be helpful under the state’s order.
    • Know who has keys/keycards to all facilities. If there are limited keys, make a plan in advance for retrieving keys or having copies if the person in possession of the keys falls ill. 
    • We are learning that some employees are giving pushback, and we even received one report of employees calling the state attorney general’s office (ultimately it was concluded that the school was operating appropriately). It is wise to at least prepare for this, especially with boarding schools that will need certain staff on grounds to remain functional for remaining students.
    • Think in advance about whether exceptions will be made for older employees or those with underlying health conditions. Will you require a doctor’s note? Will you make a blanket policy? Consider working with legal counsel. 
    • Consider the optics of decisions to ensure they are in line with your mission and culture. While several schools (especially boarding schools) need to have employees on campus, some wonder if allowing teachers on grounds sends the wrong message to students and families sheltering at home. On the flip side, it may be the best way to keep essential school functions running, provide employment, and support teachers who may share living spaces with families or friends and do not have a place to teach remotely. Each school must assess the various factors (public health, employment, school needs, optics and messaging, state and federal guidance, etc.) when navigating these decisions.
  • Completely Closed 
    • Are you able to conduct periodic surveillance/security measures (remotely or with limited in-person staff)?
    • Are you maintaining any physical upkeep necessary while complying with government mandates?
    • Be prepared to close off areas/entire campus for a minimum of 24 hours and then engage in cleaning and disinfecting per CDC Guidance if you learn that a recent visitor to campus (whether employee, student, or otherwise) has the virus. 
Find more information in the Employee Considerations section.

Close-and-Clean Response to Sickness on Campus

Schools holding summer camps may consider this guidance in light of these programs.

Several schools with suspected or known exposure to the virus are shuttering their doors to engage in intensive cleaning. For those schools remaining open, or for schools
when they reopen, this will still be an important consideration.  For schools who have moved online, but permit any staff on grounds, this is still applicable advice.

We have seen school “close and clean” measures being taken in the following instances:
  • A suspected or known case of the virus in the school community (someone who was physically present on school grounds has the virus); and
  • A suspected or known case in the household of a community member (e.g., a student’s sibling).
In these instances, the school shuts down for a few days to a week to permit a 24-hour pre-cleaning window, followed by a full cleaning and disinfection by professionals or the school’s team, in accordance with CDC guidance. We have just learned that one local public health official recommended a multi-week closure of the physical plant. Schools are unclear whether these measures will be sustainable as cases grow, but the close-and-clean practice is meant to protect against further spread within the school community and the larger community. 

For our boarding schools, shutting down to clean may not be an option. If it is possible to close off areas of exposure and follow CDC cleaning guidance, please do so. Where students or employees who have contracted COVID-19 are housed in isolation, the CDC recommends following the same steps used to clean a household infected with the virus. They further encourage boarding schools to follow the guidance for higher ed institutions with regard to preventing and containing the spread of the virus. While the guidance is generally geared toward those schools housing an older population (18+), there are helpful guideposts for our independent boarding schools.

While several schools reported that they are no longer calling their local public health official upon receiving news of a COVID-19 case (due to the growing number of cases), we still encourage schools to partner with public health where possible. Additionally, certain jurisdictions may have additional requirements or guidance regarding both cleaning and closure.

For more information about handling a case of the virus on campus, please refer to Sickness on Campus/Individuals Connected to the Virus on Campus and Boarding Schools and Quarantine/Isolation.

Financial Considerations (Tuition, Fees, Endowments, Gifts)

Tuition and Fees 

Many of our schools are grappling with how tuition and fees will be impacted by the move to remote learning
and the uncertainty of the future. We can all agree that tuition supports an entire ecosystem, including many economically vulnerable employees. Further, this ecosystem must be maintained as schools move to provide robust online learning while maintaining campuses.

For more on this topic, please review:

Tuition Plans and TILA

In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency and the resulting uncertainty and financial impact being felt by many families, some independent schools are considering changes to their tuition payment plans for the 2020-21 school year. Offering alternate payment schedules and increased flexibility can be an important way to support your families and, ultimately, your school. However, schools must pay close attention to the types of tuition payment plans under consideration. In certain circumstances, independent schools are considered creditors and must therefore comply with the federal Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and any corresponding state laws. For more on this topic, please read COVID-19 Considerations: Extending Tuition Payment Options? Keep TILA in Mind.

Endowments and Fundraising 

The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect the economy long after this disrupted school year ends. For many independent schools, the economic situation will require careful analysis of the school’s finances and difficult decisions about spending. To make these decisions, the board of directors needs to understand its ability to spend the various funds the school holds. 

At a fundamental level, there are two questions to ask in connection with every separate fund:
  • How can we spend this money?
  • When can we spend this money?
For a closer look at these two fundamental inquiries, please read COVID-19 Considerations: Understanding Your Assets: Endowments and Restricted Gifts.

Remote Learning and Related Alternatives

Within the world of “remote” or “distance” learning plans, our schools are emerging in three camps, which we may see in the fall as well (in the event of a second wave):
  1. Online learning (a.k.a. distance/remote/virtual/remote)
  2. Non-internet-based remote learning (a.k.a. distance learning) 
  3. A combination of online and non-online learning plans
These “plans” will inevitably vary greatly across the universe of our schools, and will be impacted by factors such as student ages and learning needs, school resources, and community culture. We know that many of our schools are in poor broadband areas or support communities without the resources necessary for continued online learning. We have learned that some of these schools are considering whether they can provide robust remote learning, limited supplemental learning, or whether they will actually close the school temporarily. 

Any remote services will vary by school and may evolve over time. While some schools are attempting to provide an equivalent education to students via distance-learning measures, others are preparing to provide a few hours of continued learning or time for connection and socialization. As schools plan for the remainder of the school year (and possibly beyond), consider the following:
  • Devices and Internet. Are the requests you are making reasonable in your community? What can you do to support employee and family needs?
    • We have learned that some schools are telling families that if they do not have internet, the school will come to the family’s home and install it for them. 
    • The Comcast Internet Essentials program is offering two months of free service for households that qualify and is increasing available internet speed. The organization EveryoneOn also helps connect families to low-cost computer and internet offers.
    • The education community (including the organizations in the EdLiNC coalition) is pushing for additional funding to close the “homework gap” and support students who are struggling with digital learning at this time. If you are interested, please fill out this survey from Digital Wish, so we can gauge how many students are missing devices and connectivity.
    • Schools looking for support on technology related needs can join weekly town halls from ATLIS.
  • Learning Differences and Support. How will you support those in your community who have a variety of special educational needs? The U.S. Department of Education issued this Q&A document on providing services to children with disabilities during this time and a short webinar focused on online learning and website accessibility. Though these resources (and laws cited) are focused toward public schools, other similar laws may apply to private schools and the resources still include useful tips. The Center for Online Learning and Students with Disabilities has general resources and is working on developing new tips and strategies to support people during this COVID-19 crisis.
  • Oversight and Consistency. How will your school work with faculty and provide oversight to ensure a quality level and consistency that the school determines is reasonable? For example, if the goal is to provide a few hours of continued learning, are we scaling the learning across the board, so that two different faculty are applying the standard equally to two different courses?
  • How will your plan impact tuition, grading, and graduation?
  • Communication: Are you prepared to communicate any of these goals or plans to families in a way that provides useful information while reserving flexibility for the school in the face of unknown future variables?

Online Learning/Meeting Policies and Protocols 

You are all doing amazing work! We do not mean to add to it, but it is time to consider what you can do in the way of policies, protocols, or at least education regarding online schooling. We’ve included a list of considerations as you move forward:
  • Oversharing: What are you communicating to employees and families about video “backdrops”? What are they inadvertently sharing that could compromise the relationship or confidentiality, or distract from learning? What other challenges are presented by turning the bed/living-room into the classroom? You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) about the “oversharing” stories we’ve heard! Remember, this is happening with our employees and our families—we should be educating, supporting, and reminding both communities.
    • Please also note that during “screen sharing” others can see your browser tabs—be mindful of all angles! 
    • It is also important to remind teachers and families to control the “mute” feature.
  • Boundaries and Support
    • Are 1:1 meetings permitted? Are you recording them and periodically monitoring them? Are you discussing appropriate boundaries? Beware of educators who want to overshare or over-save-the-day. We never want our teachers playing therapist, especially not online.
    • Now is not the time to relax our awareness and education about healthy boundaries, harassment, abuse, and bullying. In fact, with authorities reporting an uptick in online abuse, schools should be hypervigilant about online grooming behaviors, cyberbullying, and other forms of inappropriate engagement with and among students (and employees). Please make sure your school continues to educate employees, students, and families on healthy relationships, what unhealthy behaviors might look (or feel) like, and how community members can come forward if they think they or someone they know might be suffering from inappropriate conduct by another.
    • Do you permit use of the direct chat feature between educators and students? Have you communicated your position to both employees and families?
    • How are we educating and supporting our parents as they navigate this challenging new terrain? How are we emphasizing the importance of parent partnership without creating helicopter parents? Again, the family room is now the classroom, which means we face new challenges in this relationship.
    • What other practical tips can you give employees and families about using these platforms? Whether it be muting, sharing, communicating, or reminders to remove nonessential devices and close browser screens to maximize internet speed—every little tip could help!
  • Recording Classes/Meetings: If you are recording classes or meetings, do you have appropriate permissions under applicable law? We encourage you to consult with your attorney on this matter. Please read COVID-19 Considerations: Recording Classes and Meetings for additional guidance. 
  • Policies and Authorizations
    • What do your existing “acceptable use policies” say? Are they sufficient and should you redistribute them or call attention to them for employees and families? Do they need updating or a brief addendum?
    • Have you assessed any consents or disclosures necessary to coordinate online counseling, including communications between school counselors and external mental health professionals? We encourage you to consult with your attorney to assess any needs on this front.
    • Do you require additional consent from families under your vendor contracts for students under the age of 13? For more on this, please visit  COVID Considerations: Copyright & COPPA.
  • Understanding COPPA and Copyright: Read COVID Considerations: Copyright & COPPA.
  • This article discusses privacy and security during videoconferences.
  • In addition, NAIS has compiled a list of online and distance learning resources.

Student Attendance and Grading

Attendance/Length of School Year

As several schools prepare to be online or engage in other distance learning measures for the remainder of the school year, administrations are starting to worry: What does this mean for attendance regulations? As these vary by state, we strongly encourage schools to contact their state associations, state departments of education, and local attorneys to understand the shifting landscape of compliance. Please also be mindful of SEVP regulations regarding international students’ attendance.

We have learned that certain states are implementing flexible rules, even waiving requirements regarding the length/number of days of/in a school year. However, some of these measures are unclear, leaving schools to wonder if online hours will count as attendance hours or if online learning will be considered substantially equivalent to in-person learning. Even more worrisome, in this regard, are the distance learning measures that are not online.

Our best advice right now is to document, document, document! Yes, this document was drafted by a lawyer—and we love documentation—but it is your ally here. The only way to demonstrate the time spent preparing, teaching, and working with the children will be to document it. We have learned that several of the online platforms currently utilized will track logins and other usage metrics. Please encourage your faculty to supplement this with their own notes. While this will require extra effort, even attempts at gauging asynchronous learning time is advised.

Grading

We have been hearing about a range of approaches regarding grading during remote learning periods. Some of our heads have implemented a temporary pass/fail period, for the whole school (ostensibly as it ramps up its remote learning plan) or for certain grade levels. While this has increased anxiety for some parents, schools have reported it’s intended to decrease anxiety in students during this difficult time. Some schools are concerned that turning to a pass/fail or “no grade” method for any substantial length of time may signal to families that the education is not the same quality as in-person learning. This does not mean this move is off the table; on the contrary, we are hearing of many schools implementing it. However, consider whether it is right for your school and, if so, how best to communicate it to families. Communication is key.

Each school must determine which approach is best for its program, recognizing that approach may shift. Despite the highly individualized nature of this decision, this is a great topic to explore with peer schools in NAIS Connect or to raise with your state associations.

Educating and Supporting the Whole Child

As our schools implement their remote learning plans, the question on many minds is “how do we care for the whole child … remotely?” Obviously, the importance of parental partnership is underscored now more than ever. However, our schools are communicating their eagerness to do their part and, in their minds, that means more than rote, unengaging video lectures. Many of our schools are considering how to engage in a holistic approach to online learning—attending to their students’ mental and physical health during this challenging time. They are thinking about how they can maintain school services, such as counseling support, and extracurriculars, such as sports or clubs. In short, how can schools create and nurture a community of isolated students?

We wanted to share some of the ideas we’ve heard:
  • Online yoga instruction and other physical activities for elementary students 
  • Short physical education videos for students of all ages 
  • Brief educational modules such as those offered by BrainPOP
  • Social/club virtual “hangouts”
  • Using strategies to establish “normalcy,” such as encouraging teachers to use students’ names (which can sometimes be difficult or not top-of-mind when they are not in the same physical space, interacting in person), to make students feel connected and seen
  • Online school counseling

Learning Support, Counseling Services, and College Admissions

For those of you with counseling services and learning support, now is not the time to pull away from these crucial services. In fact, as we physically distance, these connections are more important than ever. We strongly encourage schools to consider how to focus on learning support, counseling, and other student support services. It is our understanding that various consultants have advised against certain support or 1:1 services during this time. As always, each community needs to make decisions that best align with its mission, applicable law, resources, and culture. However, where supportive auxiliary services and 1:1 outreach can be safely supported, we encourage them.

We know that many of our schools are actively working to maintain counseling and support services for students to provide social and emotional support as well as college counseling. Consider empowering counseling programs, learning specialists, and other “support groups” in the school to think about how they can best serve the community.  Help them set up a “virtual office” with virtual office hours during campus closure. We at NAIS remain concerned about the mounting anxiety in our students, and we fear that virus concerns and isolation may amplify this problem. Further, a move to virtual learning should not prohibit counselors from communicating with students’ external mental health care providers, as they would in the ordinary course of business. Just please be sure to have signed* consent forms on hand! Counselors could continue to meet with and support students remotely,but should also be looped into the school’s overall remote learning plan. They could be a valuable resource to provide programming or activities that address mental health. The American School Counselor Association has this resource for planning for virtual/distance school counseling during an emergency shutdown.

Additionally, we encourage schools to consider how school closures or student illness may impact college counseling and support during the higher education application process. Take time to think about how this element of school can be conducted remotely, so that we do our best to ensure that students’ long-term education goals are not unduly impacted by this virus (or at least that we are doing what we reasonably can to minimize that impact). We are all aware that there are heightened sensitivities and anxieties around college applications, which will be further exacerbated by this evolving situation.

As a related sidenote, this article discusses changes and cancellations for mandatory state standardized testing and the ACT/SAT. The April 4 administration of the ACT is being rescheduled for June 13, and the May 2 administration of the SAT has been canceled. The College Board has remote support for Advanced Placement (AP) students and teachers and is currently formulating a plan to allow students to take their upcoming AP exams online. The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is cancelling its May 2020 schedule as well. Many states are also pursuing postponement or cancellation of required statewide tests and the U.S. Department of Education announced it will grant such waiver requests. This website is tracking state-by-state developments in this area.

*This is not to suggest that we should make parents travel to a closed campus to submit these.

Planning for Summer and Fall

Reopening Campus and Risk Management

According to public health experts, the earliest a vaccine will be available to provide protection from the virus that causes COVID-19 will be sometime in 2021. This means that if schools reopen their physical campuses for the 2020–21 school year, students will be at risk of infection from the virus. Schools that reopen will, of course, take steps to try to safeguard everyone in the school. Nonetheless, there is no way to guarantee that returning students will be protected and in all likelihood some students will contract the virus. Consequently, independent schools are understandably concerned about their legal risk if they reopen their campuses prior to the widespread availability of a vaccine. Independent schools are more vulnerable to lawsuits by families of students who contract the virus at school than public schools because public school systems may have statutory immunity or other legal protections based on their particular state laws.  

For more information about reopening and the legal standard of care, please read the advisory COVID-19 Considerations: Key Steps for Mitigating the Risk of Lawsuits When Initially Reopening Independent Schools.

For an overview of current guidance and rules from federal, state, and local officials, public health authorities, and employment law considerations involved in reopening, please read the advisory COVID-19 Considerations: Reopening Your School Campus: The New Normal Will Be Anything but Normal. This advisory discusses current White House guidelines, cleaning and disinfection guidelines from the CDC and other public health officials, and information from the EEOC. The CDC has also issued evolving guidance on reopening schools, which now includes this flowchart as well as guidance for various steps of reopening among other documents.

For more information about employment concerns related to reopening, read the Employee Considerations section.

Sickness on Campus/Individuals Connected to the Virus on Campus 

Please note that the CDC recommends “isolation” of sick individuals, which is a step further than “quarantine.” Isolated individuals should avoid contact, as much as possible, with all people and animals, even within the same home/building.  

Schools, both day and boarding, should be prepared to handle illness on campus. Be aware of coronavirus symptoms as well as influenza (flu) symptoms, and make sure that your school nurse and other staff are aware as well. In school communications, emphasize your general illness or communicable disease policies, and urge students, staff, and visitors to refrain from coming to school if they are ill. 

Be prepared to  isolate someone who is at school and exhibiting coronavirus symptoms. Many schools are designating an internal isolation space where the person (usually a student) can stay until transportation arrives or other arrangements can be made. If the affected individual is an employee, be prepared to pivot with a substitute, combined classes, or other alternate means. 

For boarding schools, this measure will be particularly important. For more information for boarding schools, please see the Boarding Schools and Quarantine/Isolation section.

Additionally, schools that have international students living with homestay families should be in contact with their third-party operating vendor (if they have one), as well as the families themselves, regarding COVID-19 protocol, including what to do and whom to contact if the student or others in the household suspect or confirm exposure. Schools should review their homestay agreements and make sure they have a firm understanding of what must be done (and by whom) if a student is displaced from the homestay arrangement. 

Schools should also consider what communications should be sent to families about these plans and whether preemptive coordination with families makes sense. 

Have a plan for contacting your school’s local public health official if there is a concern about the virus on campus or a known incident on campus or in the school’s community. This information may not arise during normal business hours; be sure to secure the after-hours contact information for your local public health office. And, of course, be prepared to thoroughly clean any potentially contaminated areas. For more information, please review the Close-and-Clean Response to Sickness on Campus section.

At this point, it’s important to mention school policies. We recommend that schools develop and implement a communicable disease policy in their handbooks, reserving the right to exclude individuals from the school.

As always, please make decisions based on facts and not on suspicions or assumptions about known or perceived national origin.

We are aware that many of our readers are considering school-based contact tracing. For more information on contact tracing, we’ve included links to two helpful articles:

Boarding Schools and Quarantine/Isolation

In the event of a COVID-19 case or outbreak on campus, our boarding schools are in a particularly challenging position. Schools have been preparing to follow CDC guidance for the quarantine or isolation of ill students and employees. We encourage all of our boarding schools to think through the plans for multiple simultaneous COVID-19 cases.

Many schools are communicating with families that it will be the family’s responsibility to come and care for the child. Parents/guardians of sick students are being told that they must immediately come and remove the child from campus. Some schools are considering partnering with long-distance parents to find local housing or accommodations where a parent/guardian may care for a sick student in isolation. In the case of international students, some schools are notifying families that the student will need to reside with the domestic guardian.

We have learned that some of our schools have the space to designate multiple sickrooms—or even a floor of a building—for isolation of the ill. Others are prepared to pivot and turn a guest house or other building into a “sick house,” while others still are exploring Airbnb and VRBO options. The challenge will be whether to secure a place now to have available long-term or to book once a school has one or more cases. There may also be some resistance on the part of the renter, and schools should be willing to commit to CDC-level cleaning of the residence. Undoubtedly, this will require research and thought on behalf of the schools.

For more information on CDC recommendations for cleaning, please refer to the and Close-and-Clean Response to Sickness on Campus section.

Food Service 

 Schools with food-service vendors should consider the following:
  • What does the vendor contract say about cancellation, suspension, or force majeure? Who has the right to make this decision and what are the consequences (legally and financially)? 
  • Review the contract and speak to your vendor about the possible scenario where the contract is not canceled, but workers are out sick and being replaced by substitutes. How are these subs being trained and background-checked before they engage with our students?
  • What training or assurances is your food-service provider making regarding health training for food-service staff? 
For schools that handle food service internally, health and safety training will be crucial, as will the consideration of substitute workers, as referenced above. Schools may consider temporarily limiting certain foods or food-services processes they think may lead to enhanced germ distribution.

Employee Considerations 

In addition to the challenge of educating students remotely, our schools are now navigating a variety of employment challenges in this new phase of the COVID-19 response. In addition to the information provided herein, there are a plethora of good resources available to employers during this trying and confusing time: 

Preparing for the Return of Faculty and Staff

Many employers are making plans to reopen now that governors and local officials are loosening pandemic-related restrictions. In some ways schools are no different; most independent school administrators, like leaders of other businesses, are looking forward to “getting back to normal.” But “normal” may not necessarily mean what it has always meant, and schools, by their very nature, can be more cautious in order to ensure the safety and security of students and faculty.

The timetable for reopening will be different depending on the state. Some states, like Texas, have approved summer camps this year, while others are still debating whether on-campus classes will be permitted in the fall. Nevertheless, now is the time to consider return-to-work issues for faculty and staff. For a review of some of the challenging issues facing school administrators, read the NAIS legal advisory COVID-19 Considerations: Welcome Back! Preparing for the Return of Faculty and Staff.

For information regarding contact tracing in the workplace, read These 3 Numbers Offer A Simple Way To Understand Contact Tracing In The Workplace.

Paying Employees Who Work Less or Not at All

One of the challenges many schools are facing is whether, and if so, how, to pay employees who are no longer working due to a campus closure or who are working in a diminished capacity. Please be mindful that, in all instances, schools should consider the following: 
  • Applicable federal, stage, and local wage and hour laws (including, but not limited to, minimum wage)
  • The exempt or nonexempt status of the employee
  • Applicable federal, state, and local family and medical leave laws, as well as disability laws
  • Contractual obligations set forth in any employment agreements 
  • The school’s mission and culture 
  • The school’s economic reality for short- and long-term planning 
  • The status and applicability of emergency legislation from the federal or state government (i.e. the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which is currently under consideration by Congress). 
The overwhelming majority of schools that have reached out to NAIS to share their intentions do plan to pay employees some or all of their salary/wages in the short term while longer-term plans are made. This is a generalization, and the nuances of this feedback are discussed in greater detail below. We understand that some of our schools may have to invest money in online learning while losing money in prospective enrollment. Every school is different, with different demands, needs, and resources. There is no one “right” path here, and we understand that every school is doing its level best in this challenging time. 

No Work or Diminished Work Due to Closure 

We’ve received feedback from our schools regarding their plans for utilizing and paying employees. Many of these plans are either temporary or in draft form. As the landscape of this situation changes, so do the plans. We have learned that some of our schools are implementing or considering the following with respect to the work employees will do and how they will be paid:
  • Reassigning the employee to a new position or engaging employees in new projects
    • As schools move to online learning, new challenges arise. Many schools are thinking of how they can utilize employees in new, innovative ways remotely.
    • Certain grounds staff are being trained to professionally clean per CDC recommendations, and will contribute to campus cleaning.  
  • Paying the employees their standard salary or wages, as if normal hours were worked
    • Many of these schools have been careful not to make promises about the future, but have limited this window to the short term while they evaluate resources and plans. 
  • Paying the employees a reduced amount or a lump sum (i.e., a “stipend,” as several have informed us)
    • It is important that applicable laws and contracts be considered.
  • Requiring or permitting employees to utilize accrued paid leave 
    • We have heard that some of our schools are expanding paid leave to apply to additional or all employee groups that were not previously covered under the school’s policy, on a prorated basis.
  • Placing all non-working employees on paid leave 
    • As per the prior scenario, this has meant expanding paid leave policies in many instances. 
  • Placing all non-working employees on unpaid leave 
    • Unless the law, employment contract, or school policy dictates otherwise 
      • In this instance, we do not recommend unilaterally altering the school’s paid leave policy. We’ve seen schools alter these in response to COVID-19 to be more generous, but not less. 
Please note that reducing an employee’s work hours or placing that employee on leave may affect the employee’s eligibility for benefits under the terms of the school’s benefit plans (e.g., medical). As schools work on their employee planning, they should consult with their broker, insurance provider, or a benefits attorney to assess this potential impact on employees. 

No Work or Diminished Work Due to Illness 

Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). Please refer to Other Federal Guidance, News, and Resources for additional information. The emergency paid sick leave and paid family medical leave provisions apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees. The bill also provides a payroll tax credit for employers to help offset these costs.
Schools are already seeing COVID-19 cases in their communities, and have had employees unable to work as a result. In addition to the aforementioned legislation, schools are applying their standard sick leave policies. In other words, many schools are proceeding with “business as usual,” in that they are treating COVID-19 absences/illnesses as they would any other illness.  Other schools are expanding these employer paid sick leave policies, temporarily, to include additional categories of employees who would otherwise not be covered.  

Any changes in policy or application should be consistent with applicable federal, state, and local wage and hour laws, leave laws, and disability accommodation laws, including the many paid sick and family leave laws in various jurisdictions around the country. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a Q&A regarding public health emergencies and the Fair Labor Standards Act and a Q&A on the Family Medical Leave Act. As noted above, the federal government is currently working on emergency paid family and medical and sick leave plan, and some states are beginning to take similar action. Therefore, the aforementioned guidance from the DOL may change as more emergency legislation and rules are passed. Due to the constantly changing legal environment and developing practical considerations on the ground, we advise schools to consult with legal counsel prior to implementing any sick leave plan or policy changes and to communicate any changes to employees. To the latter point, we cannot overstate how crucial ongoing community communication is during this time.

Hiring and Contract Renewal Season

Spring is usually the time to focus on workforce retention, growth, and turnover. Needless to say, the pandemic has completely upended many schools’ hiring and retention plans. As with any topic, we are seeing a broad range of plans and responses.

Hiring Freezes and RIFs. Understandably, several schools have put a freeze on hiring. Some are having to go further and consider reductions in force (RIFs). 

Holding or Amending Contracts. It is our understanding that some schools are considering holding renewal language for existing employees. While several schools have transitioned faculty to a more standard corporate “at will” model, others have a deep history of reinforcing faculty (and, in some instances, all employee) terms every spring. Even in standard times, the absence of a faculty renewal letter or contract induces anxiety in certain communities. However, schools are starting to wonder what they can really promise right now. We are certainly expecting to see increased scrutiny of employee agreements (on both sides). Both schools and employees will be reading the fine print to see what—if anything—has been promised. We do recommend that schools revisit the language of any existing or pending contracts. Where contracts have been issued, signed, and returned, assess language to see if there is an urgent need for change. If so, please work with your legal counsel. It may be that the school has the right to revoke or amend the agreement, or it may be that the school must offer something to the employee in exchange for signing an addendum or updated agreement. Potential revisions include: the right to reduce wages/salary, the right to assign new duties/transfer the employee to another position, the right to implement distance learning measures, a requirement that certain employees have high-speed internet and equipment necessary for remote work/learning, and force majeure clauses that include specific pandemic language.   

With so much uncertainty, we wonder whether schools will focus more on at-will language, to preserve flexibility in employment. Alternately, top talent may demand secure employment terms to ameliorate fears.

Remote Recruitment. Schools desirous of a “normal” hiring season should certainly proceed—online! For years, several schools have engaged in remote recruitment and hiring, relying on video conferencing and virtual tours. For obvious reasons, more schools are jumping on board. Interviews (1:1, group), tours, testing, and other assessments can all be conducted virtually. If you find you require more time online than you otherwise would in person, please listen to that instinct and set up multiple interviews or extended interviews. The move to online hiring does not need to be an exact replica of practices. 

The following does not constitute an endorsement of any entity or product. 
  • Carney, Sandoe & Associates. The faculty recruitment and consulting firm has created a site for its Virtual Hiring Resources.
References/Background Checks. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Now is NOT the time to forget or decrease any background check procedures, including reference checks. We fear that some schools may find abuse, maltreatment, or other harmful activities are less likely to happen online. At the risk of being alarmist, we want to assure you that maltreatment of students and fellow employees can happen over any medium (hello, cyberbullying). Stay vigilant and refer to the NAIS advisories on reference checks and backgrounds checks for more information. 

Thank you to Claire Wescott, NAIS director of project management, for her meaningful contributions to this resource. 

Stay Informed and Communicate

As mentioned in our special session, it’s important for school leaders to stay on top of the facts as they evolve. This will be a daily or even hourly endeavor. Consider assigning a staff member to monitor and synthesize relevant news each day. 

When communicating with employees and families, calmly communicate facts; do not speculate. Communicating in a calm and measured way instills confidence and can reduce stress.

Explain that the school is doing to address the issue. Consider including a brief explanation of the information (such as guidance from the CDC or public health authorities) that led to your decision. 

If someone in your community contracts coronavirus, it is important to balance the broader community’s desire for information with the need to protect the privacy of the affected individual. 

People often feel helpless in a crisis, so providing concrete actions that people can take (e.g., hand hygiene and cough etiquette tips, discouraging children from sharing food or touching their faces) can empower them.

As the coronavirus situation is changing rapidly, there may be decisions that you cannot yet make. Uncertainty about the future may cause stress among faculty, staff, and parents. To ease anxiety, acknowledge that you are not certain of every detail at the moment, but that you will communicate more information as soon as you are able. It can be helpful to let people know when they can next expect an update from you.

As schools close temporarily or go online, it will be important not to make promises that you cannot keep. With so much unknown, certain plans may need to be aspirational, and it will be important to communicate that. Schools have been and will want to continue to build flexibility into their communications, plans, and policies, reserving the right to pivot at any moment. One school decided to create a short video to walk their students and families through their remote learning plan. It can be viewed here

In all messages, it’s important to empathize with the people who are most affected by the situation. Use the school’s mission and core values to shape your response. Reflecting those values in your messaging also reinforces the ties the audience has to the school.

COVID-19 Websites

Our schools have been doing an amazing job of communicating with parents. They have been communicating in a calm and confident fashion, stating facts and intentions—not assumptions and promises. They are doing their best to mitigate, rather than provoke, fear.

In addition to the email communications we’ve seen to parents, employees, and to the entire community, we have also noticed a trend of COVID-19/coronavirus web pages being built on schools’ websites. We do not suggest that these replace the school’s regular email communications, but this has been a way to collect information about COVID-19 measures, advertise closures, and provide other pertinent information. It is our understanding that some schools have these on their public sites, while others are placing them behind the parent portal. This may be an opportunity to start placing information about remote or online learning in one place, as well as CDC guidance about cleaning and hygiene.

To reiterate, in any communications, please do your best to stick to facts, and consider conferring with your legal counsel and communications team (internal or external). Avoid promises, unless you know you can keep them (e.g., making safety and health a priority is an example of a promise you can keep; providing all lessons online may or may not be).

Especially where schools make this page public, it will be important to ensure that communications teams/authors avoid language that might exacerbate anxiety in students. In fact, such websites might be a good place to house information about how families could speak to students about COVID-19. For example, some of our schools have shared this document from the National Associations of School Nurses and School Psychologists, respectively.

School Policies, Contracts, and Related Documents

As discussed in our special session, many schools are carving out time to revisit applicable policies. More urgently, however, they are revisiting applicable contracts and information disseminated to parents. At the end of the day, school leadership will need to make decisions in line with the law, the school’s culture, and community standards, but always making safety the paramount concern.  

The following list highlights some of the documentation that may be affected by the current situation, along with additional notes for your consideration:
  • Handbooks (Student and Family)
    • Communicable disease language/policy, including the explicit right to exclude from the school 
  • Enrollment Contracts
    • Is your contract legally enforceable in your state? Are the relevant provisions enforceable?
    • Force majeure provisions (outlining the school’s right to suspend school, provide alternate learning, extend the school year, or take other such measures in the face of a pandemic, natural disaster, acts of terror or war, etc.) 
      • Does your contract outline whether the school keeps tuition should it invoke this provision? Most of these provisions make clear that they are not tuition refund provisions. 
        • Even if the provision allows the school to retain full tuition, what will be in line with your culture and community?
    • Tuition provisions in the event the student cannot attend school
      • Does your contract outline whether the school keeps tuition should it invoke this provision?
        • Even if it does, what will be in line with your culture and community?
  • Employment Documentation 
    • Do faculty or staff have employment agreements?
      • Do these have force majeure provisions (see above, under Enrollment Contracts)?
      • Is there any other relevant language about the school year or term timing, promises for payment, flexibility for online or remote learning, etc.?
  • Trip and Travel Documentation 
    • With all parties: What language do you have about cancellation, payment, liability, force majeure
    • Families and chaperones: What and how are you communicating?
      • With risk and liability, it is very important to make sure that the other party is fully informed of risks, consents to those risks, and waives liability after being fully informed and then agreeing, voluntarily, to assume that risk. 
    • Vendors: Who has the right to cancel, and what are the financial and legal implications of that right (or of disregarding that right)?
      • Remember, of course, that this analysis is secondary to safety concerns.
    • What do the relevant provisions of any trip or travel insurance say about cancellation?
  • Event Documentation
    • Vendor agreements: Review cancellation and force majeure provisions.
    • Event insurance: What will trigger coverage?
Potential Resource (NAIS does not endorse any corporation or product listed herein):

Additional Resources Available to Schools

Sharing Resources on NAIS Connect and Sharing Solutions 

  • NAIS Connect Communities. At NAIS, we have been thrilled to see schools sharing resources via NAIS Connect. As we like to reiterate, community learning is essential and we are pleased to help bring independent schools together in this way. While we must always be mindful of antitrust guidance when sharing ideas, we hope you will use NAIS Connect to assist each other in COVID-19 preparedness and response. Listservs may be used to pose questions and share ideas about how to enhance health and safety, while the file share feature may be used to exchange sample community letters and other similar language. As a reminder, these tools may not be used to engage in anticompetitive behavior. Additionally, we caution schools to consider what others in the community have to offer but to refrain from immediate adoption of any practice or policy. There is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach or solution to any problem, and applicable laws, practices, culture, community, and legal guidance must be taken into account.   
  • NAIS Sharing Solutions: NAIS launched Sharing Solutions for schools to post examples of their work as they evolve their practices to support students and staff in this new normal. We hope that other schools will learn from and repurpose what you share as they respond to COVID-19. 

Miscellaneous Resources  

We are fortunate to be a part of this community always but especially in times of crisis. Thank you to all of those who contributed to the resources compiled in this document.  COVID-19 Resource Pages from Law Firms 
This is a non-exhaustive list of all resources available, and we do not endorse any particular counsel. Please consult an attorney directly for advice relating to your specific situation. Locate additional resources on our COVID-19 Resources for Schools page.

Leadership

Global Thinking

Fielding calls throughout the day from our schools, we are hearing leaders broaden the thinking lens from “what is best for my school community?” to “what is best for both my school community and the global community?” Schools are questioning what measures they can take to help limit the spread of the disease and how they can be a part of this global effort. We think this sends an important message to our students as well. We are not just citizens of one school. We are global citizens.

This mirrors the thinking we are doing at NAIS, from our president and throughout the organization.

To be clear, this framework does not automatically generate a “shutdown” or “panic” mentality. On the contrary, we are seeing schools look at the needs of their community in light of these global concerns and make decisions that balance a variety of factors. Our heads and their teams are being extremely thoughtful about next steps—a challenging task in a rapidly evolving landscape with a largely unknown threat. Kudos to you all! We are here to support you and to bring you together to support one another. 

Lead with Kindness and Respect

Do not let fear be an excuse for discrimination, exclusion, and the fueling of hatred or bias. Check in on your community, especially your international students. Ensure that both messaging and practices are inclusive, respectful, and kind. This virus is a global problem. It is everyone’s problem, and everyone needs to be a part of the solution.
***
Thank you to the entire NAIS team for their work on this piece, but especially to our staff attorney Whitney Silverman for her thoughtful contributions, to our Vice President of Media Myra McGovern for penning the section on communications and other helpful guidance, and to our webmaster Dave Marsters for making sure this information reaches our larger community online. And, of course, thank you to the many schools that contributed to this piece through inquiries, stories, and shared resources. 

While NAIS is committed to supporting schools as they prepare and respond to COVID-19 concerns, this document is not intended to, nor does it, provide any legal advice.

If your school has an inquiry that you believe would have broad appeal to aid the larger independent school community, please email legal@nais.org to suggest additional content for this guidance document.