It was a nightmare scenario for administrators and parents on the first day of a high school in Georgia. Students walked down packed hallways, where most people weren’t wearing masks or social distancing. A few days later, several students came down with COVID-19, and the school had to move to temporary all-virtual instruction. There are many ways that schools can work on proactively protecting students from illness. Here, we’ll go over six effective strategies for preventing the impact that a sick student could have on campus.
Create new procedures for disinfecting common spaces.
If a student touches a surface infected with COVID-19 and then touches their face, they’re likely to become infected with the virus. Because students must use shared spaces like classrooms, bathrooms, and the cafeteria, it’s vital to have your cleaning crew work overtime during the day.
Whenever a group of students leaves a shared space, the cleaning team should disinfect common-touch surfaces, like sinks, handrails, and doorknobs. This way, a sick student has the potential to infect fewer of their peers.
Encourage teachers and staff to model healthy habits for students.
Students may grow weary of helpful practices like social distancing and wearing masks. That’s why it’s so important for teachers and staff to show students that it’s never appropriate to break these guidelines.
For instance, teachers should always wear their masks and remind students to keep theirs on. Furthermore, teachers should offer pointers for students to keep themselves safe, like not sharing objects and cleaning their hands with hand sanitizer.
Implement technology that helps create students’ staggered schedules.
Creating staggered schedules for students drops your campus’ COVID-19 risk from high to moderate. What does a staggered schedule entail? Most campuses don’t have enough room for large groups of students to learn in classrooms while also maintaining social-distancing regulations.
So, a staggered schedule involves students coming to campus for only part of the school day, while spending the rest of the day at home online. Students still receive the benefits of face-to-face interaction without the risk.
How can you develop staggered schedules for your students?
ScholarChip’s One Card and Secure Door Access card readers simplify this process. After each student is assigned a One Card, they can use these cards on the card readers next to the classrooms where they’ve been assigned. Students without assignments to this classroom can’t enter it. Furthermore, students can’t open doors to rooms that they’re not supposed to enter.
Ultimately, this technology ensures that students are in the classrooms that they’re supposed to enter only when they’re supposed to be there.
Develop socially distanced classrooms and hallways.
Staggered scheduling ensures that students don’t come into the same level of contact as they would have in traditional classroom setups. However, some of the work of staggered scheduling can be undone if students connect with each other in the hallways as they leave or enter the building. Make enough space in your scheduling for one group of students to leave campus before another enters.
Create a contact tracing team.
A sick student will probably come to your campus at some point. Even with strict procedures in place, this sick student may infect others, who should then self-quarantine so they don’t spread the disease to other students and staff.
How can students and staff be informed of their increased likelihood of contracting COVID-19?
Your school should develop a contact tracing team. These teams connect with students and staff who may have shared a space with a COVID-infected person for an extended period. These individuals are then told to quarantine at home.
ScholarChip’s tools can also be used for simplifying contact tracing. Contact tracing teams can follow an infected student’s One Card usage to see exactly where they have traveled on campus. Then, they can compare this sick student’s route around campus to other students’ routes.
Plan to switch to virtual instruction if an outbreak happens on your campus or area.
Most health organizations recommend that campuses close if the COVID-19 outbreak becomes more severe in your area. Shifting from in-person to online temporarily doesn’t mean the interruption of student learning, however. ScholarChip’s Behavior Management helps teachers check in with students, even if they’re at home. If students aren’t completing their online work or attending virtual meetings, for instance, teachers can connect with these students and suggest activities to improve their completion rates.
There are many ways for proactively protecting students from illness. Not only can you design a campus that prevents the spread of the disease, but students can also be proactive in protecting their classmates by practicing disease-prevention habits like washing their hands and wearing masks.
The best way to prepare a safe school is to assume that a sick student will come onto campus at some point. What strategies can you implement for proactively protecting students from illness?
The ScholarChip team is dedicated to helping school leaders maximize the safety and well-being of students and the entire school community.
Now sure what you should do to be able to identify and manage the spread of a viral outbreak in your school or school district? Feel free to chat with one of our school crisis communication specialists today!