NAESP Releases Guidance to Help Stakeholders Leverage Principals during Planning For School Reopenings

Document focuses on four key ways state and district leaders can engage principals to help ensure safe and successful school reopenings.

Alexandria, VA—July 22, 2020—The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) has released a guidance document for state and local leaders, principals, and other stakeholders working on school reopening plans. The document, “Leveraging Principals to Ensure Safe and Successful School Reopenings,” provides concrete recommendations on ways principals should be engaged throughout the planning and implementation process of reopening schools. When principals—the individuals whose core job it will be to implement reopening plans—are given a seat at the table they can help leaders answer difficult questions about how reopening plans can be done safely, which instructional models should be used, how parents should be engaged, and how funding can be allocated to best address individual school needs.  Despite significant uncertainty surrounding reopening schools, it is clear that it will take an all-hands-on-deck approach with strong buy-in from a wide range of stakeholders, including those who will be implementing the plans.

“We know the critical role that principals play in leading successful schools, so it’s paramount that their voice is heard during school reopening planning and implementation discussions,” says NAESP Executive Director L. Earl Franks, Ed.D., CAE. “The success of reopening plans hinges on whether those implementing the plan believe in it, had a hand in shaping it, and feel empowered to carry it out. This guidance document will help education leaders at all levels engage principals, leverage their expertise, and work together to safely reopen schools when the time is right in their community.”

The document includes four key recommendations:

  1. Provide Principals With Ample Resources to Implement School Reopening Plans
    In the coming weeks, Congress is expected to provide tens of billions of dollars in additional federal funding to districts and schools to support school reopenings. Allocation of such funds should focus on ensuring schools have ample funding to address the array of staffing, sanitization, and instructional needs to reopen safely.A newly released NAESP survey of its members confirmed that most principals believe their schools are ill-equipped to handle needed safety measures. Priorities included ensuring enhanced cleaning protocols, personal protective equipment, providing additional school buses and drivers, and hiring additional staff to implement safety protocols.
  2. Ensure Principal Representation on School Reopening Teams
    With decisions being made about everything from reorienting instructional spaces in schools and how best to protect students and staff to which instructional models will best serve student needs, principals must be engaged in these conversations. When principals are part of these discussions, they gain insights into the decision-making process, which can help them educate their staff with the rationale as to why certain policies are being pursued.According to the NAESP survey, more outreach and engagement with principals is needed. While 62 percent of respondents said their school districts had a reopening plan for the fall, only 35 percent said they had been consulted “a lot” by their school districts during the decision-making process and 17 percent indicated they were not consulted “at all.”
  3. Boost Principals as Instructional and Emotional Support Leaders
    Research is clear that principals are critical to advancing successful teaching and learning. With deep concerns about student learning loss during the pandemic, especially among the most vulnerable students, now more than ever, boosting principals as instructional leaders takes on new urgency.According to the NAESP survey, 64 percent of respondents indicated they were “very concerned” about learning loss, with 60 percent saying they’ve developed a plan to address it but an overwhelming 90 percent saying they need additional funding to efficiently execute their plans.
  4. Leverage Principals’ Relationships with Parents, Families, and Community Members to Improve the School Reopening Process
    According to the Pew Research Center, Americans trust K-12 principals more than other authority figures to be caring, provide fair and accurate information, and handle resources responsibly. This trust and goodwill will be extraordinarily valuable in the coming months. Districts can leverage principals in “ambassador” type roles to engage directly with parents, families, and community members. The coronavirus pandemic has forever changed the principalship, but a principal’s role as the nexus for various stakeholders in the K-12 ecosystem will endure.


Principals are the primary catalysts for creating lasting foundations for learning. Since 1921, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) has been the leading advocate for elementary and middle-level principals in the United States and worldwide. NAESP advances the profession by developing policy, advancing advocacy, and providing professional learning and resources for instructional leadership, including specialized support and mentoring for early career principals. Key focus areas include pre-K–3 education, school safety, technology and digital learning, and effective educator evaluation. NAESP administers the National Principals Resource Center, the American Student Council Association, and the President’s Education Awards & American Citizenship Awards Programs. For more information about NAESP, please visit