Back to School: Prevention measures for covid-19.
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has caused an adverse effect on the education system all over the world. Schools closed abruptly and the students had to attend their classes online, in a completely virtual environment. But since the active number of COVID cases has fallen considerably, the government has decided to reopen the schools gradually.
However, parents are still concerned about sending their children back to school. They worry a lot about their child’s health. So, as the school re-opens, parents will rely on the school authorities and teachers to ensure a safe & healthy environment that helps to continue their children’s education in a better way.
Like all adults, children are also susceptible to the coronavirus. So, all schools must adopt basic safety measures and strict guidelines to prevent the spread.
An educational institution is required to take all the necessary precautions, both inside and outside the classroom. The key is to balance all the needs of their students and staff along with implementing the essential health and safety measures.
So, how can a school prevent the pandemic from spreading inside the institution?
Understanding how the pandemic spread is the first step that an institution can take to stop the spreading of this deadly virus. Being prepared for various schooling environments and student activities will reduce the anxiety of both parents and school authorities.
The school community should try listening to the student’s concepts, ideas, and questions and address them age-appropriate. Apart from the general safety measures, all the school members are required to protect themselves from the pandemic. While teachers, staff and school authorities can keep themselves protected, students might need proper guidance and instructions.
Apart from educating the students about preventing the spread, the school community members can also become a great example in following all necessary precautions. With proper safety measures, schools can easily limit the spread of the virus.
Here are a few tips that can be adopted in schools to prevent the spread:
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Schools should be promoting regular hand washing and the use of sanitisers. All the members of the school community should practice basic respiratory etiquettes such as covering coughs and sneezes. Schools can guide the students in maintaining cleanliness and following good hygiene practices. It is also important to disinfect all the possible surfaces regularly and maintain essential items such as sanitiser, soap, water etc., wherever possible. And also, it is the responsibility of the school authorities to monitor the student behaviour and provide all the necessary cleaning supplies.
Getting vaccinated against the covid-19 is the best strategy to end the pandemic. People who have taken vaccines are less likely to get sick. So, it is best advisable for all people who are eligible to get the vaccine (including the students) to take vaccines on time. Schools can take the required actions to promote vaccinations among students, teachers, staff and families. Fully vaccinated people can still become infected, so they should be following all the necessary precautions to prevent severe illness.
Wearing face masks
Face masks are a proven tool that helps to limit the spread of the virus. Wearing the mask correctly by covering the nose and mouth should be followed, both indoors and outdoors. Members of a school can carry extra masks and a personal sanitizer with them. Teachers can educate the students on wearing the mask correctly and how to dispose of the used masks (only the students above two years of age are recommended to wear masks). They should regularly monitor the students to check if the students are wearing the masks properly. Some exceptions can be made in the case of people who have some medical condition or disability that would limit the mask use.
The schools need to establish physical distancing and maintain it wherever and whenever possible. Preventing measures such as maintaining a minimum distance between everyone, increasing the desk spacing, limiting the mixing of classes, advising against crowding during school & after school activities, encouraging students not to gather in big groups etc., can be easily implemented by all schools. School authorities should take care not to conduct events like assemblies, sports and other social gatherings. Students can be instructed to avoid shaking hands, sharing food and exchanging their properties with their classmates.
Getting tested and staying home when necessary
Screening tests help to identify infected people who may or may not have any symptoms. By conducting such tests, required actions can be taken by the institution to prevent further transmission. The tests help promptly identify those exposed to the coronavirus, so that home quarantine can be recommended. If someone has the symptoms of covid 19 or suspected exposure to the virus, then covid diagnostic testing is recommended. Getting tested helps to take the necessary actions to stop the spread as early as possible.
The school needs to plan contact tracing in the entire school community. People who come in close contact with someone known to be infected can be advised to go quarantine. Schools can collaborate with local health departments to trace contacts and identify who was in close contact with an infected person.
Schools can introduce section-wise learning in which almost half of the total students attend the classes while others learn remotely. Operating on a roster basis with fifty per cent capacity working on certain days and another fifty per cent on different days can be an important safety measure in preventing the spread.
Other actions that can be taken inside a school:
Schools should always be prepared with all the precautionary measures that would help face an emergency. It is also important to get prepared to support a wide range of mental health needs.
Always monitor the student and staff attendance and check if any of them are consistently absent. If someone is taking sick leaves due to respiratory illness, the local health care department can be informed about the same.
The institution shall focus on providing accurate information about COVID- 19 to its staff and students. All children must be thoroughly educated on this topic and made to practice the preventive measures. Teachers can encourage the students to ask their doubts and concerns related to the pandemic. In the case of people with disabilities, work with them and their families to better understand their individual needs.