The Centers for Disease Control have recently published updated guidelines that could help school leaders when making their decision to reopen schools. According to the CDC, this is not a push to reopen schools but rather a strategic resource that can help keep students, teachers, and school staff safe in the event of a school reopening.
In line with this update, we compiled a list of mitigation strategies to help protect all those involved, and slow the spread of COVID-19. This list is by no means exhaustive and some of these tips you may have heard before, but it’s always good to have gentle reminders on the best school safety precautions for COVID-19.
1. Staying Home When Sick
Staff and families both should be aware of when their children of they themselves should stay at home. Policies should be in place to ensure that sick employees or students may stay home without fearing reprisal. Those who are sick or have had close contact with a person who has tested positive should not attend school and should get tested. If possible and applicable, absenteeism should not be assessed, with virtual learning and telework options made available.
2. Hygiene and Etiquette
Teachers should encourage and reinforce the washing of hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. They must also monitor students to ensure this is practiced.
Students and staff should be sneezing and coughing into tissues, which should then be thrown away, and the hands immediately washed. If soap and water are not available at that point in time, hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol may be used.
Teaching and more importantly reinforcing the consistent, correct wearing of masks is key. Masks, while offering the wearer some protection, is highly protective of others as they prevent the transmission of the virus in droplets spread by laughing, talking, sneezing, or coughing.
Wearing masks correctly and consistently while students and staff are indoors is very important as social distancing may be difficult in schools. Both students and staff should be frequently reminded that touching their face is discouraged, and that if they do so, they must wash their hands right after.
4. Sufficient Supplies
Schools should have an adequate number of sinks that are accessible (especially for smaller children), as well as plenty of tissues, soap, a method of drying hands, hand sanitizer, disinfectant products, masks, and no-touch or foot-pedal trashcans.
Signs and messages should be in places that are highly visible, detailing the everyday measures meant to protect staff and students. These signs should contain visuals that children will find easy to read, but should be adjusted to the corresponding reading/literacy levels of students that they are intended for.
Regular messages on protecting oneself and others should be broadcasted over the PA, and language used should always be clear, easy, and concise.
These communications should carry over to emails, websites, and social media accounts, perhaps even in other languages where possible and applicable.
Air must be adequately circulated, with plenty of outdoor air in circulation (care is to be taken in polluted areas), a large amount of clean air delivery, and the dilution of contaminants. Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) professionals may be consulted as to how best to do this.
7. Modifications to Space
Desks should be 6 feet apart when possible. Desks shouldn’t face each other, and any learning stations must be socially distanced where possible. Distance should be created in every instance possible, such as skipping rows on buses, shutting down or staggering the use of communal spaces, etc.
8. Physical Barriers
COVID guards, or COVID barriers are usually plexiglass barriers that act as physical barriers to COVID-19. Sneeze guards are helpful when children forget to cover their mouths as they sneeze.
They are useful in areas where social distancing is tricky, or when children forget certain hygiene practices. It can also provide peace of mind so that children may laugh, raise their voice a little when they get excited, or even sing.
Lumaware ClearGuard produces high-quality plexiglass barriers that reduce the spread of airborne germs (and other contagions) from coughing, sneezing, talking, and singing. Talk to us so we can help you protect the staff and children in your school now.