The opening of schools is a hotly debated topic, fraught with uncertainty over how best to do so safely. Most would agree is that the in-school experience is best for children’s well being.
COVID-19 has introduced a cautious and thorough process to everything we do, and the opening of schools is no different. When opening, and while open, schools need to be organized, systematic, and they need to have plans and procedures in place to cover every eventuality. On top of this, they also need to be transparent with their reopening process so as to give teachers, students, parents, and their community the peace of mind that things are as safe as they can be.
What are some of the factors that schools need to consider for re-opening and staying open? And how can they monitor and control them?
What Regulations and Guidelines Are There?
The CDC has laid out national guidelines, not regulations, for the reopening of schools. These cover not only the reopening of schools but also how to stay open once everyone is back. States and districts will often follow the above CDC guidelines closely when setting their own regulations. These regulations can be grouped into six different categories:
- Physical Distancing
- Protective Equipment
- Hygiene, Cleaning, and Disinfecting
- Screening, Ingress, and Egress
Before the school year can begin there’s a lot of preparation that needs to be undertaken to ensure that schools are ready for when everyone returns. There’s a regular cleaning every place goes through to get schools ready to return, but this year that has many added components for compliance. Such things as spacing, walking routes, identifying high contact and high traffic areas for cleaning, ensuring the HVAC system meets COVID standards, PPE guidelines and stockpile, and so on and so forth. There is also requirements in place for students, teachers, and staff to follow in order for them to return with the least possible risk to themselves and anyone else.
Ensuring Everyone Follows the Guidelines
Communication and compliance with guidelines are the important to stopping the spread of COVID-19. The additional challenge for schools is that children can be difficult to grasp all the new changes. The younger the children are the more difficult it is to have them maintain these new (and to them – strange and confusing) guidelines. Every age group is different and will take to the message in a different way, for this reason the CDC have released a range of colorful and direct talking posters which children can easily understand and relate to.
Control Outside Influences
A school now needs to be a strictly controlled environment. This means that no one who doesn’t need to be there should be on the premises. This is the easy part, there’re some other factors which will make compliance harder for some schools. For example, having shared community sport facilities on site is an excellent way for both the school and the community to effectively utilize their time and funds but this is now a gateway for the virus to get into the school. Anyone using these facilities needs to be familiarized with the guidelines and rules set forth by the school and abide by them. This can take a lot of time, training, and resources.
Positive Test Planning
It is essential that everyone, workplace, school, or otherwise, have a plan in place for if someone tests positive for the virus. This plan should involve isolation of the positive individual and the space they were in, as well as deep cleaning of said space. The individual then needs to be sent home until they’re no longer symptomatic. There then also needs to be a contact tracing plan in place in order to prevent the spread of the virus as much as possible.
Communication is a big part of positive test planning, not only through contact tracing but it is also important to teach children not to stigmatize those who contract or have symptoms of COVID-19. Proper communication around positive cases and what happens when someone is ok to return is crucial to ensuring that the COVID-19 virus disrupts the social lives of children as little as possible.
Compliance & Transparency
A school might know they’re being compliant and they might get regular checks but how do parents and those in the community feel at ease by just being told that everything is being done? The truth is that people, not just authorities, are going to want some type of proof that regulations are being followed and that good practices remain in place.
How Technology Can Help School Reopening
The TrustPlace application helps schools gather and organize all of the necessary elements for a COVID-19 reopening as well as a sustained opening. TrustPlace has a library of resources for schools to tap into, cleaning schedules, compliance check notifications, positive test planning, as well as many other functions which can help any school be confident that they’re doing all they can to protect the teachers, students, staff, and, ultimately, their community.
TrustPlace also provides each school with an interactive portal page, where the compliance for the different categories of regulations can be viewed at any time by anyone. This can give parents, teachers, the community and even the children in your school the peace of mind that that they are as safe as can be.
TrustPlace is an all-in one, minimum effort application for managing the new and confusing world of school and workplace compliance with government, state, and local regulations and guidelines. With TrustPlace’s comprehensive on-boarding program and a team of people always ready to assist you, you and your community can have the peace of mind that you’re always on top of the ever-evolving world of COVID-19 compliance.