What Will Schools Be Like When They Reopen?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have put out recommendations for how to protect students and school staff from COVID-19 and slow its spread. Even though school is canceled for many students through the rest of the school year, it’s important for school officials to plan for how schools will be different when they reopen.

The CDC guidelines note that the more people interact, and the longer the interactions, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread, they recommend:

  • As much as possible, students should be in small groups that stay together, along with the same teacher if possible.
  • Students should stay at least 6 feet apart and not share materials.
  • Students should sit facing in the same direction instead of turned toward each other.
  • Anyone who has symptoms like a cough, sore throat, or fever, or has recently been close to someone with COVID-19 should stay home.
  • Everyone should be required to wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or at least use hand sanitizer.
  • Everyone should cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, which is thrown out, with hands washed or sanitized immediately afterward.
  • Except for younger students, everyone should use cloth face masks, especially when it’s hard to stay physically apart.
  • Schools should have enough supplies like soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissues, cleansers, cloth masks, and touch-free trash cans.
  • Schools should remind everyone of proper procedures in signs, announcements, and videos.
  • Anything that is touched often should be cleaned often, in schools and on school buses.
  • Children should keep their belongings and supplies separate and not share devices and other learning tools.
  • School spaces should have good air ventilation.
  • Shared spaces like lunch rooms and playgrounds should be closed, or else have only a few people using them at any given time, with the spaces cleaned between uses.
  • Food shouldn’t be served in a way that allows germs to be shared.
  • People who are at greater risk of becoming very sick if they catch COVID-19, for example because of a medical condition like diabetes, should be allowed to study or work from home.
  • Schools should avoid gathering people in big groups or having outside visitors.
  • Technology should continue to be used to gather virtually.
  • School systems should consider having staggered schedules, with classes beginning and ending at different times for different groups, to limit the number of people who are together.
  • Schools should consider doing daily health checks, for example scanning everyone’s temperature as they arrive.

Source: CDC Considerations for Schools

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