As we continue to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, some states are preparing for re-opening schools. As such, new strategies will need to be applied to accommodate social distancing. With so many children and teachers in one place, ensuring that all precautions are in place before opening is critical. Here are some tips with help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to adapt your classroom layout to maximize social distancing.
Coordinate with Local Health Officials Before Re-opening Your School
First and foremost, school administrators should be working together with their local health departments to plan and prepare to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 within schools. That includes reviewing, updating, and implementing emergency operations plans.
Moving and Spacing Desks
To best promote social distancing, teachers should space desks as far apart as possible. Also, desks should all be positioned to face the same direction to prevent face-to-face contact between students. This helps reduce transmission caused by virus-containing droplets. Per the CDC, administrators should be encouraged to think creatively about all opportunities to increase the physical space between students. There are products such as safety shields, which can create a safe barrier between teachers and students. Also, social distancing and hygiene mats are available to clearly mark how far students should stand apart from each other, for example if they have to line up.
Cloth Face Coverings and Other PPE
One way to help protect students and staff is to require and provide face coverings. The CDC has helpful resources on how to wear and make cloth face coverings. This could be an opportunity for volunteers and teachers to make face masks to accommodate their students. Any face mask should be worn over the nose and mouth.
Hang Posters in the Classroom
Another solid idea to keep awareness and visibility of safe practices in the classroom is to hang posters. The CDC website has a fantastic resource area for posters that are free to download and use. These posters include tips for washing your hands, preventative actions to help stop the spread of the virus, covering coughs, and more. For cafeteria staff, Central has a downloadable checklist for acceptable handwashing practices.
Limit Use of Shared Materials
If your classroom has shared supplies, such as pencils, pens, erasers, etc., you should limit the sharing of those tools to prevent cross-contamination among students. You could eliminate sharing altogether and ask students to bring their materials from home. If that is not possible, another way to do this would be to create a clean and dirty pile for materials.
For example, with pens, if a student needs to borrow a pen, the teacher can hand them one from the clean pile. Once the student is finished, that pen is moved to the dirty pile. Either at the end of each class or the end of the day (depending on supply and demand), the teacher can sanitize the dirty pens and move them back to the clean pile.
For single–use items such as a sheet of paper, only the teacher should be handing those out. Don’t allow students to come up and grab them off the teacher’s desk.
Limit Non–essential Visitors
For the time being, the classroom should be limited to the teacher and their students. Volunteers for classroom activities should be limited if their participation is non-essential. Teacher’s aides for students with special needs would be considered essential and should not be limited.
Keeping Sanitizer in the Classroom
Finally, you should always keep a steady supply of hand sanitizer within the classroom. The teacher should have the option of making sure each student arriving at their class receives a portion of hand sanitizer before class begins. Touchless dispensers and stands are even better options for limiting contact between students.
When looking for hand sanitizer, be sure that it is alcohol-based, and contains at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol. Even if using sanitizer, encourage your students to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water when possible.
Additional Reopening Resources
For more information and helpful products for reopening your school, read our COVID-19 Guide Series, our resource center has the following articles to keep yourself and others safe by incorporating these best practices.