Disaster planning is not easy. Post disaster planning is even harder as emotions and stress runs high. Is there a clear and distinct roadmap for you to turn to? The words of an esteemed colleague – “Each school district is unique, what will work for some may not work for others” hold especially true in a disaster situation. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, School leaders have a very complex situation to deal with as they consider the wide range of impact to students, staff and facilities. For many in our area the “disaster” is not over. Loss of property is compounded by having to deal with the cold while many still do not have power, water or fuel. Simple problem solving strategies can help leaders deal with these complex situations as they identify and clarify the issues, assess what is important and develop an action plan.
Although the question of when and how to re-open schools, for those lucky enough to have buildings, seems quite simple, a successful action plan needs to consider the many issues involved. Using a simple problem solving strategy can help ensure that the reopening does not contribute to the disaster.
- Gather your staff together. “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Different perspectives and brainstorming will increase the probability of success.
- Determine what issues and concerns need to be addressed to safely reopen our schools. For example, these are a few of the issues that arose in a recent informal discussion with school leaders from #NJED regarding reopening schools after Hurricane Sandy:
- Lost days
- Damaged schools
- Recovery time for staff and students
- Bus routes
Of course this is not an exhaustive list, but it is a great place to start!
- Clarify the issues – make sure that you understand each of the concerns by asking “What do you mean by…” It turned out that there were several different issues that needed to be addressed under “damaged schools”:
- Some schools in districts without power, while others are operational
- Checking for damage to school systems (HVAC, electrical, fire, internet) before allowing students in
You can see how important aspects of the issues can be brought out during clarification.
- Assess the issues. What issues are most important to tackle first? Who “owns” or “partially owns” each of these clarified issues? What staff needs to be involved in the planning? Who will be responsible for each action?
- Finally, as you determine the actions that are necessary to address each issue, determine who will be responsible for each action and what time will be allotted for completion.
Following these 5 steps can help take the emotionalism out of a disaster situation by strategically and systematically addressing all of the concerns of your constituents. We, at TregoED, located in the heart of NJ understand the complexity of the recovery from this disaster. Our thoughts are with those affected and we would be happy to answer any question school leaders may have on how to get started.