How To Keep Schools Safe For Children During This Pandemic
(Photo : How To Keep Schools Safe For Children During This Pandemic)

COVID-19 changed the world overnight. We went from living our everyday lives to being inundated with headlines, conflict, and strange data. But regardless of how much confusing news flashes on our screens, we must do our part to protect the community. While we do our best to not add to the communal load by doing our part, it is undeniable that life must go on one way or another. It is a slow process, but ultimately necessary. 

A huge part of this process is having kids go back to school. If you are part of a school system that's decided to open back up for the next semester, certain precautions have to be taken. Here, we will explore the various hazards, solutions, and goals of a proper school protocol in the time of COVID-19. 

Proper Training

Teachers and faculty have enough to deal with. This virus, on top of all the other things they have to worry about, seems like an uphill battle. We expect so much from our teachers already. Because of this, we must make health certifications as simple as humanly possible, while still being complete and thorough. Standards and certifications around airborne pathogen training, Bloodborne Pathogens Certification, and basic life support certification are a good start. With these certifications, teachers can be prepared without having to sacrifice countless hours trying to fit an encyclopedia worth of knowledge into their busy schedules.

Filters and Temperature 

The next step is to create a suitable indoor environment. This is where things start to get a bit regimented. Classrooms have to be modified and tailored to new specifications, as detailed by local health officials. This doesn't mean a total overhaul, per se. It just means that some changes in distancing and movement have to be enforced. The biggest hurdle with this is when it comes to younger students. 

When it comes to how students behave in the classroom, teachers have the most experience and should have a seat at the decision-making table. They will, more than anyone, know how their students act and react to these kinds of guidelines. Some of the suggestions coming down the pipeline are HEPA filters, proper ventilation, and keeping the temperature slightly above 25 Degrees Celsius.

Maximizing Space

Many schools have outdoor areas for play. Ideally, this would be a good place to hold a class. It might be difficult during the warmer months, especially in traditionally hotter areas. If adequate shade can be provided, and cooling mechanisms are available, teaching outside may be the absolute best option to date. Because everybody is socially distanced, maximizing space is second only to personal hygiene and precaution. This is not advised if your area has a high incidence of heatstroke. But if you live in a temperate region where it doesn't fluctuate too badly, some outdoor classes may be a good idea. 

Rotating System

To maintain said distancing protocols, it's a good idea for your school to have a limited number of students actually on campus, and the rest at home learning online. This set of groupings can be rotated out throughout the week so that every student gets a certain amount of days a month physically being on campus. With that said, In-person classes should not be mandated unless your local government imposes such. If not, the choice should be given to the parents and/or guardians. If there is enough approval to justify in school classes, then that kind of rotating system can be properly put in place. 

Personal Hygiene 

Kids will be kids. Because of this, introducing strict personal hygiene protocols early is a good idea. This is especially true if we are dealing with grade school children. Frequent hand washing should be normalized. If it is at all possible, washing stations should be set up at the entrances. If hand washing stations are not feasible, rubbing alcohol may be substituted. 

Remember, bacteria can be killed with rubbing alcohol, yet they still may be immunologically reactive if not wiped off. Also, alcohol does not kill viruses. Because of this, it is encouraged that handwashing stations be a priority and rubbing alcohol a secondary defense. 

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Masks

There is a great debate in the United States on whether masks should be enforced in public schools or not. Private schools have the power to implement their standards. Public schools, on the other hand, are subject to the department of education's guidelines. Due to the nature of this pandemic, wearing a mask is highly recommended. The mask is a great way to prevent the spread of any respiratory disease.

When it comes to the older students, one might run into the issue of political views surrounding masks. As much as possible, reason out the necessity. Grade School kids, on the other hand, are a lot easier to convince. Imagine being able to wear a fun ninja mask while learning to spell? Imagine being able to protect yourself while in character as Batman. The "fun" aspect can be pushed a lot more successfully with younger children. 

School Healthcare 

More so than ever, the school's healthcare provisions have to be more robust than ever. Most of us are familiar with the school nurse and the services that they provide. Because of the nature of COVID-19, the school nurses have to be actively trained and given the tools to operate. Proper referral systems, preliminary testing, and isolation quarters must be a new staple in the school health program. No, the school should not be converted into a full-scale COVID facility. But there must be, at the very least, the ability to contact local health centers, isolate potential positives, and give a clear guide and message to the guardians of a potential COVID patient.

When it comes to COVID-19, we've got to have all of our bases covered. If students are supposed to go back to school, we have to make sure that we minimize the pandemic threat within that school. It may be hard, but it is not impossible. It just needs some good training, some technical know-how, and a lot of patience. We'll eventually get through this. But until then, it's time to prepare. Stay safe out there, people!

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