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Reopening Schools in the Wake of COVID-19

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Summer is winding down to its last few weeks, leaving school administrators and teachers to face the grueling challenge of preparing their buildings, staff and students for a re-imagined education experience.

Internationally, Denmark was the first European country after the initial outbreak to reopen schools on April 15 and staggered students’ reentry dates based on age (younger students had a lower health risk and a higher need for supervision), and limited class sizes to allow physical distancing. Since reopening schools, Denmark saw a decreased infection rate over the next 6 weeks. Though cases have risen recently in the country, Danish schools are still open.

While there is little evidence otherwise to determine the full effect reopening schools has on the spread of COVID-19, there are multiple measures the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking, in addition to consulting with local health officials, to safely resume in-person learning. 

  • Encourage employees and students to stay home when appropriate and develop policies to support this initiative.

  • Teach students and staff to properly wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and increase monitoring to ensure adherence among students and staff. If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer).

  • Support healthy hygiene behaviors by providing adequate supplies including soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, cloth face coverings (as feasible) and no-touch/foot-pedal trash cans.
  • Enforce the proper use of cloth face coverings. While they may be challenging for students to wear all day, they should be worn as much as possible – especially when physical distancing is difficult – and washed appropriately.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, and drinking fountains between uses. Use of shared objects such as art supplies, toys, and games should be limited when possible, or cleaned between each use. School buses and other transport vehicles should also be cleaned and disinfected based on CDC guidelines.

Take these safety precautions one step further with visual aids including signs, posters, decals or floor markers to remind school students, staff and visitors of the new rules in your building.

  • Post signs in highly visible locations that promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of germs, such as properly washing hands and wearing a cloth face covering.

  • Hang posters or wall decals in restrooms and by sinks with instructions on how to properly wash your hands to eliminate germs and reduce the spread of the virus.

  • Install physical barriers or brightly colored floor markers to physically represent distances greater than 6 feet between students in high traffic areas. Use sneeze guards and partitions in areas where it is more difficult to remain 6 feet apart.

For a full list of ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and steps you can take to safely reopen your school campus, see our education checklist here.