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From an early preparedness plan to internal training videos, here’s how Guilford County Schools is working to keep the community safe

“The COVID-19 pandemic pushed us all to take extraordinary measures to prevent illness,” starts one Guilford County Schools internal training video.

When the leadership of the third-largest school district in North Carolina was looking for training videos on procedures during COVID-19 such sanitizing desks, washing hands, seating children on a bus, distributing technology, and more, they couldn’t find what they needed.

A few weeks later, they had created and distributed three training videos covering food delivery, technology, and child care processes and procedures for their staff. These videos are now used as training resources, aimed at helping keep nearly 72,000 students across 125 schools safe.

On March 11, the school district released a comprehensive coronavirus preparedness plan. The “GCS COVID-19 Plan” includes guiding principles, toolkits, communication plans, and multiple phases ranging from preparedness to what would happen if there were multiple confirmed cases in the district. Back in March, no one could have predicted the level of disruption that COVID-19 would cause nationwide and that all levels of this initial plan would be put into action.

An image from one of Guilford County Schools’ internal training videos for COVID-19 procedures. Courtesy of Guilford County Schools

Wanda Edwards, director of communications for the district, credits Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras’ leadership for their forward-thinking planning during the pandemic. Contreras led the initial plan in March, which was a collaboration with the chief of schools, chief of staff, maintenance and transportation departments, communications, academic services, and health services.

“We have a superintendent that is very aware, conscious of the needs of our community and our students. She is passionate about equity and under her leadership it was just, ‘We’ve got to this on behalf of our students,'” Edwards, said.

It was also Contreras that said “we’ll make our own,” when the team didn’t find the appropriate training materials they were looking for, according to Edwards.

Guilford County Schools has it’s own internal video team that creates broadcasts for a 24-hour cable information channel, GCSTV. Currently, the broadcast team is distributing lesson plans and other vital COVID-19 information updates, so their availability for an extra project was limited.

An image from one of Guilford County Schools’ internal training videos for COVID-19 procedures. Courtesy of Guilford County Schools

Instead, the district partnered with an external public relations company to produce the videos, which were planned and written by district leadership using safety guidelines from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The videos have been distributed to Guilford County Schools staff and have been used as training materials for ongoing services including providing lunches, which are available for pick-up and delivery, giving each student a tablet or laptop to use at home, and offering free child care to the children of front-line health care workers at three Guilford County schools.

As the district continues to revise its reopening plan, training is also evolving to meet updated needs.

“We will continue to produce videos that are specific to the work we’re doing in Guilford County Schools,” Edwards said.

According to the most recent school reopening update from July 14 on the district’s website, “the Guilford County Board of Education is considering three scenarios to reopen schools under Plan B.” The board will adopt a plan at the July 28 meeting.

“This is difficult work and there are no perfect answers. We know our parents are anxious, confused, and frustrated. We just want to be able to educate as many students as we can in the time we have because we don’t know what October and November will look like,” Edwards said. “I just appreciate the leadership we have during this pandemic.”

Mary Willson

Mary Willson is the director of engagement at EducationNC.