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The Strategic Summer

A framework for school district leaders’ COVID response strategy and resource use decisions and two initial focal points

School system leaders face unprecedented challenges during this pandemic summer. Normally, you would be thinking about how to implement the strategy and budget you created this spring. Instead, you are looking ahead to hundreds of decisions needed to craft a new strategy and realign resources to reopen schools in the fall. Worse, the information with which to make these decisions is incomplete at best.

At ERS, we’ve been scrambling to learn along with you -- listening to our networks of system leaders and partnering deeply with district leadership teams to map out plans -- and we are committed to sharing as we go. This piece represents the approach and support we are providing to our district partners this summer.

Our Strategic Summer Framework attempts to lay out seven categories of work that encompass the full set of strategy and resource use decisions that school system leaders will need to make between now and school opening. We also provide two initial focal points linked to the “integrated planning” and “assessing student and family needs” categories to make sure you’re taking right away, along with examples from peers and tools to make the path a bit clearer. 

We know that you are swamped with various exhortations and “to do” lists. We’ve tried to make this one complete and concrete. As we continue to learn more, we will build out all of the pieces of the framework and release more resources, focusing on school design (schedules, staffing and teaming models, and student/teacher groupings) as well as budget and talent strategies, with an eye toward overall budget implications given expected revenue reductions. While we will focus on these areas in which ERS has particular expertise, we do plan to share examples from the field across all the areas of the Strategic Summer Framework.



Focal Point One: Move Towards an Integrated Decision-Making Process

To make any of the other summer strategies work, school district leadership teams must first design and carry out an integrated decision-making process that aligns strategy and resources to address increased student and family needs in the context of likely budget reductions and physical distancing requirements. This integrated process is critical to developing effective school reopening models because every decision is so interconnected and must be continually iterated on as we learn more and facts change. For example, if family surveys reveal that older children are taking on childcare responsibilities for younger children in their family, then school models that differentiate for elementary and secondary school schedules will need to be coordinated and shifted over time to accommodate changing family situations.

So what does an integrated decision-making process look like? Check to make sure you are taking these first steps:

  • Designate leadership and define responsibilities for a cross-functional team that connects academics, finance, operations and talent leaders.

  • Develop a vision and a set of design principles to guide reopening planning and help prioritize choices. Click here to explore ERS’ sample design principles.

  • Create a work plan linked to timing of key decision and implementation points.

  • Create a process for engaging teachers, families and students.

Focal Point Two: Assess Student and Family Reentry & Recovery Needs

Some of our school district partners are already reaching out to their communities to hear about their remote learning experiences and needs before they disconnect for the summer. This information is critical to making plans for reconnection with students and academic and social-emotional supports in the fall.

Here are some student, family and teacher survey examples from districts across the country: 

  1. Example surveys from Cleveland Metropolitan School District

  2. Example surveys from Broward County Public Schools

  3. Survey template from TNTP

  4. Example survey from Tulsa Public Schools
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