This past year, school leaders such as yourselves faced challenges never before imagined. You came together alongside your teachers, students, families, and communities to rapidly design new learning methods, environments, and tools to meet your students’ needs while dealing with the evolving circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. You were often faced with limited or conflicting information, and you had to make significant decisions where the right answers were anything but clear. We are now seeing the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, and hopefully we will never again see circumstances as dire as those faced this last year. Though we may not yet be back to “normal,” we can begin to reflect on what we have learned and to think creatively and intentionally about our paths forward.

The idea behind this Guide is to capitalize on the skills and experience you and your team have gained through necessity while coping with the adversity of the pandemic. You accomplished change at a scale and pace never thought possible. To be sure, many of these changes are not something we seek to preserve; we have all yearned for pre-pandemic learning to return. Still, nearly all of us have uncovered new insights or surprising connections that we envision applying and integrating into our traditional approaches post-pandemic.

This Guide is intended to inspire and spark ideas. Some may fit your school’s goals and culture, while others may not. Some are relatively easy to implement, while others require long-term facility planning or significant capital expenditures. Nearly all touch on some aspect of your school beyond facilities – from curriculum to community out-reach to scheduling and much more.

Full community engagement and ownership is the key to success moving forward; the ideas that are right for your school are as unique as your community. You likely have staff, parents, and perhaps even board members with very different opinions on the changes that occurred this last year. After providing examples to spark ideas, we shift our focus to a template of a proven strategies for structuring these conversations in your community for positive, lasting impact.