Planning To Reopen - Our Schools, How to Prepare for an Outbreak
As it becomes closer to the decision making point for local communities and parents regarding the 20-21 academic year it is important to note that no amount of preparation and mitigation will eliminate the risk of potential transmission of COVID-19 within our school systems. Therefore, it is important for communities to have a response plan in place and for parents to be aware of the plan. The following is CDC's guidance for school administrators and community leaders to follow when developing their response plans.
NOTE: According to the CDC, in lieu of a vaccine or therapeutic drug, mitigation is the greatest weapon communities can wield to slow the spread of a virus with pandemic potential such as COVID-19. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new (and some data suggests evolving) coronavirus.
COVID-19 is highly transmissible. Individuals should follow these universal precautions regardless of the extent of mitigation needed:
- Follow healthy hygiene practices
- Stay at home when sick
- Practice social distancing
- Use a cloth face covering (with some exceptions) in community settings when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
(See our "Planning to Reopen series of blogs for more information regarding CDC, EPA, FDA, Mass EEA and OSHA safety requirements). To review the administration's reopening guidance from the state click here. To view Governor Baker's full report click here).
How to Develop a COVID-19 Response Plan
Schools should be prepared for COVID-19 outbreaks in their local communities and for individual exposure events to occur in their facilities, regardless of the level of community transmission, for example a case associated with recent travel to an area with sustained COVID-19 transmission. The pictured decision tree can be used to help schools determine which set of mitigation strategies may be most appropriate for their current situation.
When a Confirmed Case has Entered a School
Any school in any community might need to implement short-term closure procedures regardless of community spread if an infected person has been in a school building. If this happens, CDC recommends the following procedures regardless of the level of community spread:
Coordinate with Local Health Officials.
Once learning of a COVID-19 case in someone who has been in the school, immediately notify local health officials. These officials will help administrators determine a course of action for their child care programs or schools.
Dismiss Students and Most Staff for 2-5 Days.
This initial short-term dismissal allows time for the local health officials to gain a better understanding of the COVID-19 situation impacting the school and allows the local health officials to help the school determine appropriate next steps, including whether an extended dismissal duration is needed to stop or slow further spread of COVID-19.
- Local health officials’ recommendations for the scope (e.g., a single school, multiple schools, the full district) and duration of school dismissals will be made on a case-by-case basis using the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the specific cases in the community.
- During school dismissals, also cancel extracurricular group activities, school-based afterschool programs, and large events (e.g., assemblies, spirit nights, field trips, and sporting events).
- Discourage staff, students, and their families from gathering or socializing anywhere. This includes group child care arrangements, as well as gathering at places like a friend’s house, a favorite restaurant, or the local shopping mall.
Communicate with Staff, Parents, and Students
Coordinate with local health officials to communicate dismissal decisions and the possible COVID-19 exposure.
- This communication to the school community should align with the communication plan in the school’s emergency operations plan.
- Plan to include messages to counter potential stigma and discrimination.
- In such a circumstance, it is critical to maintain confidentiality of the student or staff member as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
Clean and Disinfect Thoroughly
- Close off areas used by the individuals with COVID-19 and wait as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection to minimize potential for exposure to respiratory droplets. Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area. If possible, wait up to 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfection.
- Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas (e.g., offices, bathrooms, and common areas) used by the ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.
- If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- For disinfection most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
- A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available here. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).
- Additionally, diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date.
- Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.
- Prepare a bleach solution by mixing:
- 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or
- 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
- Additional information on cleaning and disinfection of community facilities such as schools can be found on CDC’s website.
Make Decisions About Extending the School Dismissal.
Temporarily dismissing child care programs and K-12 schools is a strategy to stop or slow the further spread of COVID-19 in communities.
- During school dismissals (after cleaning and disinfection), child care programs and schools may stay open for staff members (unless ill) while students stay home. Keeping facilities open:
- Allows teachers to develop and deliver lessons and materials remotely, thus maintaining continuity of teaching and learning
- Allows other staff members to continue to provide services and help with additional response efforts.
- Decisions on which, if any, staff should be allowed in the school should be made in collaboration with local health officials.
- Child care and school administrators should work in close collaboration and coordination with local health officials to make dismissal and large event cancellation decisions. Schools should not be expected to make decisions about dismissal or canceling events on their own. School dismissals and event cancellations may be extended if advised by local health officials. The nature of these actions (e.g., geographic scope, duration) may change as the local outbreak situation evolves.
- Administrators should seek guidance from local health officials to determine when students and staff should return to schools and what additional steps are needed for the school community. In addition, students and staff who are well but are taking care of or share a home with someone with a case of COVID-19 should follow instructions from local health officials to determine when to return to school.
Implement Strategies to Continue Education and Related Supports for Students
- Ensure continuity of education.
- Review continuity plans, including plans for the continuity of teaching and learning. Implement e-learning plans, including digital and distance learning options as feasible and appropriate.
- Determine, in consultation with school district officials or other relevant state or local partners:
- If a waiver is needed for state requirements of a minimum number of in-person instructional hours or school days (seat time) as a condition for funding
- How to convert face-to-face lessons into online lessons and how to train teachers to do so
- How to triage technical issues if faced with limited IT support and staff
- How to encourage appropriate adult supervision while children are using distance learning approaches
- How to deal with the potential lack of students’ access to computers and the Internet at home.
- Ensure continuity of meal programs.
- Consider ways to distribute food to students.
- If there is community spread of COVID-19, design strategies to avoid distribution in settings where people might gather in a group or crowd. Consider options such as “grab-and-go” bagged lunches or meal delivery.
- Consider alternatives for providing essential medical and social services for students.
- Continue providing necessary services for children with special healthcare needs, or work with the state Title V Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) Program.
While the administration continues to work with communities to implement best practices and protocols for reopening our schools we will continue to share with you guidance from the CDC, EPA, FDA, Mass EEA and OSHA and the Governor's office to follow as we prepare for the new school year.
Also, we at SERVPRO of Framingham know that not every community has access to the resources necessary to meet the strict cleaning guidelines to ensure a safe environment for our children. For those communities, we are here to help!
Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned
The Disaster Remediation Teams at SERVPRO of Framingham are specialists in cleaning services and we adhere to the highest cleaning and sanitation standards. We are prepared to clean and disinfect your schools, according to protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We have years of experience in dealing with biological contaminants, and we will go beyond the scope of work of "normal daily cleaning". Call SERVPRO of Framingham today for a free consultation - (508) 370-4400.
All of us here at SERVPRO of Framingham want you and your loved ones to stay safe and know that we will make it through this together! Rest assured, we will continue to do our best to keep you up-to-date and informed!