School Leadership in the Era of COVID-19

In this time of uncertainty and multiple unknowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, cities, towns and rural communities are looking to educational leaders for guidance and a sense of cohesion. Students, staff, teachers and families want to feel informed, unified and safe. As a hub for all of those groups, principals play a critical role in uniting their communities in the face of this unparalleled challenge.

Identify Leadership Resources

In a poll conducted in the summer of 2020 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), just 35% of responding principals indicated they were somewhat confident or extremely confident in the ability of their schools or districts to preserve the health of staff and students as schools physically reopen.

Fortunately, school leaders do not have to face these grave challenges alone. Both the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and NASSP have created resource hubs for principals and other educators seeking guidance. Both organizations offer archives of webinars, presentations and town halls related to school leadership during the coronavirus, which participants can join in real time or retrieve and view later. Topics include:

  • Grade-specific instruction methods
  • Mental health pressures
  • Adaptive technology
  • Maintaining individualized education programs (IEPs)
  • Remote learning strategies
  • School budgets

Think Collectively

NAESP and NASSP also offer methods for principals and school leaders to connect and collectively problem-solve during this crisis.

NASSP regularly publishes a blog on timely topics such as school re-entry and communication of procedures with the school community. The organization also links to a collaborative spreadsheet of user-generated resources and contacts for peer-to-peer help as leaders navigate the details and responsibilities of reopening and other pandemic-related challenges.

In addition, the NAESP website hosts a series of video recordings and slideshows of weekly, informal conversations between principals on topics ranging from making meaningful connections through video calls to engaging parents during the crisis.

Consult the Latest Governmental and Official Resources

At a global level, the World Health Organization has published a number of fact sheets and documents regarding COVID-19 and its effect on schools and children. Its resources include a Q&A on schools and disease transmission and a global guide to school-related public health measures during the pandemic.

At a federal level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides updated guidance on strategies for school reopening that mitigate against community spread of the coronavirus. The agency regularly updates its website with the most recent information, including what is known about viral transmission among school-age children and how administrators can both plan and prepare for in-person instruction as well as minimize the impact of potential closures.

Principals should consider sharing the CDC’s “Considerations – Operating Schools During COVID-19” online guidance with fellow educators and students’ families to inform them about the public health and scientific bases for procedures. With shared understanding comes a more unified school response.
At a more local level, every state has its own association for school leaders that offers state-specific guidelines. Each organizational website lists resources, contacts and procedures for reopening based on state-specific plans.

Communicate Across Barriers

Communicating with all members of a school community is a challenge under normal circumstances; the pandemic has only magnified the obstacles. Families may be adjusting to new work and school schedules. Finances may be tight and gatherings like PTA meetings and back-to-school events are likely to be canceled. Therefore, school leaders must be creative and diligent to ensure all information about school policies, news and updates reaches every family.

Experts recommend designating a communications team to spearhead those efforts. Through multiple formats like texting, calls and newsletters, families can receive current information every one to three days. Centralizing COVID-19 information on the school’s website and actively soliciting feedback and questions from families and the community through surveys or other means will create a trustworthy environment and encourage open communication.

How a Master’s Degree Prepares Principals to Lead

A Master of Education – Educational Leadership, Principal Certification degree from Eastern Washington University prepares experienced educators to rise to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and future local or global emergencies.

Gaining leadership knowledge and practical experience provides both the theoretical and hands-on skills necessary to lead through difficult times. Coursework empowers school leaders to focus and remain confident in planning, decision-making, communication, management and change processes necessary to successfully navigate difficult times.

Learn more about Eastern Washington University’s M.Ed. – Educational Leadership, Principal Certification online program.


National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP): Just One-Third of Principals Express Confidence in Schools’ Ability to Keep Adults and Kids Healthy When Buildings Reopen

NASSP: COVID-19 Resources


World Health Organization: Coronavirus Disease – Schools

World Health Organization: Considerations for School-Related Public Health Measures in the Context of COVID-19

CDC: Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission

CDC: Operating Schools During COVID-19 – Childcare

EAB: Efficient and Effective Communication Strategies for Schools and Districts to Connect with Families During COVID-19

NASSP: Who We Are – State Affiliates

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