As schools across the country are working out plans to safely reopen to protect students and staff against the looming threat of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, certain precautions must be implemented. These include ensuring new procedures are put in place and expectations clearly communicated, as well as ensuring the building is thoroughly inspected prior to reopening after a prolonged shutdown.

Our series on reopening schools assists in answering common questions and offers suggestions and solutions to guide you through this new frontier of education.

Resources to Safely Reopen Schools

Our collection of resources provide insight to new demands and solutions to ensure students continue their education in a safe environment.

Update Cleaning & Disinfectant Procedures

The COVID-19 Coronavirus can linger on surfaces for varying degrees of time, depending on the type of surface. This guide outlines how long the virus can live on surfaces commonly observed in the classroom environment, emphasizing the need for regular, and thorough, cleaning and disinfecting, as well as reviews proper technique to effectively kill the virus before it spreads.

Protecting Students & Staff at Higher Risk of Severe Illness

The COVID-19 Coronavirus can linger on surfaces for varying degrees of time, depending on the type of surface. This guide outlines how long the virus can live on surfaces commonly observed in the classroom environment, emphasizing the need for regular, and thorough, cleaning and disinfecting, as well as reviews proper technique to effectively kill the virus before it spreads.

Adapting the Classroom Layout to Accommodate Social Distancing

Limiting the classroom capacity and rearranging its layout to promote social distancing is one of the best ways to protect students and teachers against the spread of COVID-19. Learn how to promote social distancing in the classroom without prohibiting face to face interactions.

Top Coronavirus Safety Products

Before reopening, ensure you’re fully stocked on all the essentials to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include the right face masks and personal protection supplies, cleaners and disinfectants, hand sanitizer and dispensers, safety barriers and crowd control solutions, and more.

Should Your School Reopen?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have designed a handy decision tree for K-12 schools to guide administrations in making the safest decisions possible. Of course, varying state and local ordinances will play a heavy role in whether schools can reopen, and what mandated restrictions will need to be accommodated. Once local orders are met, schools must then set up proactive measures to ensure the safety and well being of those at a higher risk of severe illness, as well as processes for screening students and employees upon arrival. These can include taking temperature and preliminary questioning about symptoms. If any student or staff has experienced symptoms of illness in recent weeks, instruct them to remain at home and participate virtually if possible.

Promote regular and thorough hygiene practices, such as frequent hand washing and sanitizing, and encourage everyone to wear a cloth face covering. Frequent hand washing is critical as it removes all germs and viruses from the hands, thus limiting the potential spread of COVID-19 onto common classroom surfaces. Set up sanitizing stations in classrooms and all common areas to make it easy for everyone to keep their hands clean. Ensure you’re using a sanitizer formulated with at least 70% alcohol as this has been shown to effectively kill viruses on hands.

Keep everything as hands-free as possible. Install touchless solutions such as hands-free sinks and faucets, touchless soap and sanitizer dispensers, hands-free door openers, step-on trash cans, and more. It is also recommended to put up hygiene signs in all common areas to keep the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene constantly on the mind.

Intensify cleaning and disinfecting procedures, ensuring common areas are thoroughly disinfected several times a day. Communicate out these new expectations to all employees, and make sure they are trained on how to effectively kill the virus.

Encourage social distancing within the classroom environment. This can be achieved by limiting the number of students in the classroom at a single time, increase spacing between desks and separating with clear partitions, keep groups small and prohibit mixing between other groups. If feasible, make use of technology to implement a bit of virtual learning in addition to the classroom environment. Social distancing signage, such as floor mats, promotes its importance and makes these new expectations easier for students to adhere to.

Constant vigilance and monitoring of these new precautions is a must, and make updates to procedures as needed. Develop new processes to check for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in the school and encourage anyone feeling sick to stay at home. Have a plan already in place should any employee or student contract this illness and carry it out swiftly once it’s confirmed. Keep students, staff, and families informed on the new practices being implemented.

Reopening After a Prolonged Shutdown

If the building is reopening after a prolonged shutdown or reduced operations, it’s important to inspect thoroughly for mold beforehand. Mold can grow on various building materials and surfaces where moisture is present. This includes ceiling tiles, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, and fabric. This further puts at risk those with asthma or respiratory conditions.

The CDC outlines 5 steps to take to minimize the risk of mold after a prolonged shutdown.

  1. Maintain indoor humidity as low as possible. Humidity should not exceed 50% when measured by a humidity meter.
  2. Have the building inspected and assessed for mold and excess moisture prior to occupants returning. Industrial hygienists are trained to recognize dampness or mold by sight and odor. If either is detected, first see to the source of water entry and begin clean-up.
  3. Should the assessment confirm there is no mold or moisture, or after completing the necessary clean-up and remediation, operate the building’s HVAC system and let it run at least 48 to 72 hours. This is known as the “flush-out” period prior to staff and students returning.
  4. After reopening, made routine checkups on the HVAC system to ensure efficiency. Inspect and replace filters as needed.
  5. Should an HVAC maintenance program not already be in place, develop and implement one. During which, inspect and maintain HVAC components, calibrate the system controls, and test to ensure it continues to function as needed.

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