Safety Tips for Going Back to School During COVID-19
Going back to school has never been like it is in the age of the Coronavirus pandemic. As schools begin to reopen and classes resume this fall, institutions must balance the social, emotional, and educational needs of students in addition to the health and safety of teachers and staff as the pandemic continues to affect our everyday lives.
Determinations on what the school year brings are consistently being made by school boards and administrative officials. If your school has decided to instruct classes with students in the classroom, there are a number of things to consider as the fall months present themselves.
Take a look at some of the things to keep in mind as the school year begins and classes resume:
Practice Safe Social Distancing and Washing Hands
This is one of the most common practices tied to COVID-19 as many cases are linked to transmission from interacting at distances at six feet or less. By remaining six feet apart, especially sitting in the classroom, students are at a significantly less risk of coming into contact with those who might be ill. What’s more is that institutions with in-class learning are required to space desks and workspaces apart so that no student is within six feet of each other.
In addition to desk and workspace, there are other areas of the school that might pose similar risk to transmission. Here are some of the other precautions that schools are required to consider before students report to their first classes this fall.
- Spacing out lockers or placing locker assignments into designated groups
- Dividing students up into designated groups to reduce additional interaction
- Creating one-way traffic in school hallways
- Utilizing outdoor areas where feasible for class, lunch, and breaks or recess
- Reducing bus stops and the number of students on buses
- Plexiglass shields to separate desks or certain areas of classrooms
As all these options are being practiced and ultimately decided upon, weighing the benefits and risks of in-person instruction this fall could potentially call for a different set of requirements of social distancing based on grade level and a child’s developmental stage. Students and staff alike are also strongly encouraged to regularly wash their hands multiple times per day. This is especially when those might leave an area, touch a separate surface, and need to return to their original location. Schools are required to maintain a regular cleaning and disinfecting protocol of desks, workspaces, doorknobs, faucets, keyboards, phones, and other surfaces.
Wearing a Mask and Staying Home if Sick
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) strongly encourage all to wear cloth face coverings in public locations or where it is challenging to continue to remain distant from others. Schools are no exception and if your school is instructing in-person, it might be helpful to check out the following suggestions.
- Ensure your child has multiple new or freshly cleaned masks stowed in their backpacks.
- Label your child’s face masks so they are not confused with another child’s.
- Discuss the importance of never sharing or trading masks with friends or other students.
- Practice putting the masks on while trying to avoid touching the cloth.
- Model wearing a mask as a family so your child knows how important it is to follow suit.
- Remind your child to continue to wash their hands before or after touching their mask.
Most importantly, masks can only do their job to better prevent us all from transmitting diseases more so than just COVID-19. If you or your child have recently fell ill, or have noticed symptoms of COVID-19, children should stay home from school and other activities that could potentially cause the risk of transmission. Some schools are requiring daily temperature readings to help monitor COVID-19 symptoms of staff and students in the building.
What Happens if Your Child is Exposed to COVID-19?
If your child will be attending in-person instruction, these are some of the steps to be better prepared for possible transmission to COVID-19 and the varying scenarios of the disease.
- Protect household members who are at an elevated risk, such as those with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions.
- Ensure that emergency contact information and pickup and drop-off information is up-to-date on file at your child’s school. If you have previously included someone who might currently be at risk, consider an alternative contact.
- Find out from school administration how information will be distributed about a test-positive for COVID-19 and how they will remain respectful of the person’s privacy.
- Make sure to have a game plan for another spike in cases. Schools may need to close if the virus spreads progressively either in your community or within the school itself.
Walking through these steps can help parents and school staff alike to be assured that their child is as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. To continue to acquire the latest information about what your school is doing to monitor transmission, continue contacting the district or check on the school website in case of any sudden developments.
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