With the vaccination efforts in full swing, the return to normal life is already within reach. And soon everything may go back to normal, including regular onsite classes. Even as pharmaceutical companies are still working on a vaccine for school-age children, studies have shown that their risk for complications due to the virus is low.
Despite this, it’s still important for schools to prepare for onsite classes given that new variations of the virus have emerged recently and are slowly becoming the dominant strain in the United States. Here are the safety measures schools can implement.
Implement Health Protocols
The first thing that schools should do is to implement health protocols to reduce if not eliminate the risk of viral transmission. This means all adults along with children who are two years old and above should wear a mask. The mask should also cover the mouth and the nose. Additionally, they should also wear the mask consistently to ensure its effectiveness. Most children can wear the mask safely, even those who have medical conditions. The adults should model mask-wearing and demonstrate its importance to the children.
The school should also implement physical distancing measures in the classroom. For younger students, a distance of three feet from each other will do. On the other hand, middle school and high school students should have a distance of at least six feet from each other. This is particularly true in areas where the infection rates are high. Aside from the students, the teachers should also observe physical distancing with the classroom and the staff lounges.
If it’s possible, the school can also use unused outdoor spaces for meals and instruction to facilitate physical distancing. The classes that require exercising and singing should be conducted outdoors. For laboratory work, the schools can follow similar standards as pharmaceutical companies when keeping the area room safe. This means it should ensure the flooring on the laboratory is sterile to prevent the virus from staying and thriving in the enclosed space.
School Routines and Procedures
To prevent the students from converging along the hallways, the school can consider letting the teachers move from classroom to classroom instead of the students. The school can also implement block schedules to limit the number of students in the school at any given time of the day.
The school can also allow the students to eat lunch in the classroom at their desks. They can also eat outdoors in small groups while still following physical distancing guidelines. Consuming food is not associated with the spread of the disease. But since the virus spreads through droplets, it is important to have a six-foot space between students since they take off their masks while eating and may end up talking with each other.
To reduce instances of spreading the virus through high-touch surfaces, like the doorknobs, the school can keep the classroom doors open. Additionally, the school should open the classroom windows if the air quality and weather allow it. This enhances air circulation inside the classroom. Putting fans in strategic positions in the classroom also promotes air circulation.
The school should work with the parents or guardians of the students to monitor their health. In case the student is showing symptoms at home, they should not let the student attend classes. The parents should also check the temperature of the children every day and if they contract a fever of at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the parents should let the child stay home.
Even if children who are less than 10 years old have a lower risk of infection, the school should still have a plan in place in case of exposure. Anyone who can into close contact with a known Covid-19 patient quarantine themselves unless they are already fully vaccinated.
The school nurse should handle anyone who feels sick while inside the school. This means the nurse should take the temperature and put the person in a separate area, especially if they do not feel well. The nurse should also wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling these patients.
Disinfection and Cleaning
The school should implement the proper disinfection and sanitation guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means it should clean high-touch surfaces, develop a cleaning schedule, limit the sharing of items like pencils or pens, and immediately cleaning visibly soiled objects and surfaces.
The school should also use sanitation and disinfecting products approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The teachers should also promote a culture of handwashing and model for the students how they can wash their hands properly.
Even as the end of the pandemic is nearly here, it’s still important for schools to ensure the health and safety of the students once onsite classes start.