Welcome to the MSPRA’s “Hot Topics” Page.
Stuff happens! And, when it does, you may have to communicate about it.
This public page is a repository for hot-topic communication tools/resources. Some are authored by MSPRA, others are taken from publicly-posted sources. Postings here DON’T imply an endorsement or recommendation.
Important Note: These resources highlight some of the ways school districts may choose to communicate about hot topics and sensitive issues. Always consider your school’s policies, codes of conduct, local community needs, and your local climate as you address the information needs of your stakeholders.
If you’d like even more school communication tools and strategies, see our password-protected resources page. Not a member? You may be able to join MSPRA to access our members-only section, to query award-winning MSPRA members, and to network with some of the nation’s best school communicators.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
After receiving the COVID-19 Guidance Memo from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on 02/28/2020, and after several superintendents (and/or members of ISD superintendent associations) asked MSPRA members to generate COVID-19 communication materials, the MSPRA Board decided to produce a Toolkit for Communicating about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
We used the 02/28/2020 MDE and MDHHS Guidance Memo as an information base, coupled it with best practices in communication, lots of health department resources, and the experience of several MSPRA members who have been dealing with this, to carefully craft a toolkit that will help schools inform their stakeholders with consistent and approved messaging. Feel free to use it and share it with others.
This toolkit has been reviewed by representatives from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators (MASA) and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA). All sample materials have been used with permission.
We are indebted to the tireless MSPRA PR professionals who worked many hours on this important effort. We also appreciate our contacts at MDE, MDHHS, MASA and MAISA for their content reviews. And, we thank those who graciously gave us permission to share their communiqués.
We are truly in this together.
Remember, this toolkit is intended to support your communication efforts. But, this is a public health issue. Please direct any questions or inquiries about COVID-19 to your local health department.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis Communication Toolkit
As of September 10, 2020, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been confirmed in 19 horses in nine counties in Michigan – Barry, Clare, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo and Oakland. Additional animal cases are under investigation. This is twice as many animal cases as the same time last year. To date, no human cases have been identified. But, EEE is a potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness that poses a threat not only to horses but to humans. There is an EEE vaccine available for horses, but not for people.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) in a September 11 news release is now strongly advising Michigan residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Please help us spread the word.
To aid in your EEE communication efforts, we are re-posting the Eastern Equine Encephalitis Communication Toolkit developed in 2019 by MSPRA in partnership with the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) and Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP). Feel free to use it or share it as you deem appropriate.
Remember this toolkit is intended to be a support to your communication efforts. If there are questions related to EEE, please seek information from your health department or division. We are thankful to those who offered their expertise to develop this tool, and/or gave permission to share their district communication as part of this toolkit.
Per the September 11, 2020 MDHHS news release:
In 2019, there were 10 human cases of EEE in Michigan, which is equal to the total number of cases in the previous 10 years combined. Last year, Michigan accounted for 25 percent of the EEE cases nationally. It is unknown exactly why some years are more severe than others, although weather, including temperature and rainfall, are thought to play a role.
“As animal cases continue to grow, the risks to people increase as well,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “People get EEE the same way horses do – from the bite of an infected mosquito – so a case in a horse means people in that area are also at risk. Limiting exposure at outdoor activities, especially near dusk when mosquitoes are most active, is the best way to keep you and your family safe from this deadly disease.”
EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, with a 33 percent fatality rate in people who become ill. Persons younger than age 15 and over age 50 are at greatest risk of severe disease following infection.
Signs of EEE infection include the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches, which can progress to severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. Anyone who thinks they may be experiencing these symptoms should contact a medical provider. Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur in some cases.
Residents must continue to protect themselves from mosquito bites by:
- Avoiding being outdoors from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes that carry the EEE virus are most active.
- Applying insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.
- Maintaining window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.
- Emptying water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires, or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs.
- Using nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.
For more information about EEE, visit Michigan.gov/EEE. You can also call the MDHHS hotline, which will now take calls for general questions about both COVID-19 and EEE, at 888-535-6136. The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Read by Grade 3
Supporting Your District in its Read by Grade Three Journey
The Read by Grade Three Communication Guide for Michigan's Public School Leaders is designed to be used in conjunction with Michigan Department of Education (MDE) materials to help schools communicate with staff, families, media and community about the Read by Grade Three Law, the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) letter of possible retention, and the Good Cause Exemption process.
This resource highlights some of the ways school districts may choose to communicate about this important issue. Always consider your school’s policies, codes of conduct, local community needs, and your local climate as you address the information needs of your stakeholders.
All communication samples included in this document have been reproduced with permission. Schools are strongly encouraged to follow MDE guidance when interpreting and implementing the Read by Grade Three Law. Please direct specific questions or inquiries about the law to MDE - Early Literacy - State of Michigan.
Michigan School Public Relations Association (MSPRA)
1001 Centennial Way, Suite 300
Lansing, MI 48917
Phone: (517) 327-5910
Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) and its Public Relations Network
1001 Centennial Way, Suite 300
Lansing, MI 48917
Phone: (517) 327-9263
Michigan Department of Education
Offices of Public and Governmental Affairs and Early Literacy - Read by Grade Three Law
608 W. Allegan Street
P.O. Box 30008
Lansing, MI 48909
Phone: (517) 241-4395
Return to School Communication Toolkit
Helping schools communicate with families, staff, media and the community.
This Return to School Communication Toolkit has been developed by the Michigan School Public Relations Association (MSPRA) to support schools in their communication to students, parents, staff, union leaders, board representatives, community members, the media and others about their individual return to school roadmaps (which includes their official Response Plans).
The document is designed in three parts to coincide with the Opportunity Labs Roadmap and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators’ General Education Leadership Network’s Continuity of Learning -Back to School Guidance timeframes:
- Do First: Communicating with target audiences to highlight work being done over the summer to prepare for various return to school scenarios.
- Do Before Schools Open: Section II of the toolkit will help you communicate with target audiences to help them understand what school will look like in the fall, describe health and safety procedures, outline educational options and explain closure processes, should they be needed.
- When Schools are Open and Operating: Section III of the toolkit provides communication resources to support schools as they share important information and updates relative to school operations as Michigan moves through the six (6) phases of the MI Safe Start Plan.
It has been reviewed by representatives from the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators. All sample materials have been used with permission.
We are grateful to everyone who contributed to its development.
- As your district communicates about this important issue, always consider your school’s policies, codes of conduct, local community needs, and your local climate as you address the information needs of your stakeholders. When in doubt, consult legal counsel.
- This toolkit is designed to be a communication guide. It highlights some of the ways school districts may choose to communicate about this important issue. Samples are intended to serve as examples of what could be tailored to individual district situations and needs.
- It is important to recognize that COVID-19 is a public health issue. Please direct questions or inquiries about health guidelines to your local health department.