Your students and your staff are your biggest assets. Are you doing enough to protect them? Every day we’re faced with an overwhelming amount of new information coming our way from every possible medium.
Sorting through it in an effort to make the best decisions for your school can be difficult, but it is imperative to protect students and staff. To make things a bit easier for you and your school, we’ve compiled the most up-to-date and pertinent information out there to help you make sense of it all.
Preparation is key to preventing COVID-19
A large part of COVID-19 prevention in schools is about communication. It is important for the school to communicate and encourage preventative measures in order to keep the virus under control. Here are some helpful tips to communicate with your students and staff:
- If you are sick, STAY HOME. Consider doing away with any attendance-driven awards. In an effort to achieve perfect attendance, students may feel obligated to come to school even when they are ill.
- Remain socially distanced from others (6 feet apart) and wear a face mask. Keep disposable masks on hand for students who may have forgotten theirs.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue. Dispose of dirty tissues. In the event that you sneeze into your mask, remove and replace it with a clean one. Hands should be washed and/or sanitized directly afterward.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before touching your face. If soap and water are not available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Here is a helpful guide to sanitizing your hands properly. You may also consider putting up posters that encourage positive hygiene behaviors. A study done at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt found that prompting people to sanitize their hands with signage at the entrance to university cafeterias led to twice the number of students using the hand sanitizer.
- Download our Free Educators Toolkit. Check out our toolkit for educators for some great resources to help encourage proper hand hygiene at your school or university.
When it comes to surface disinfection, efficacy is the name of the game. Any products used should be on the EPA’s List N, a list of disinfectants that are effective against the coronavirus. In a school, almost every surface is a frequently-touched surface. From desks and cafeteria tables to keyboards and door handles, all of these surfaces should be disinfected regularly.
Disinfecting on your own can be difficult. You likely have janitorial services in place, but are they doing enough? Traditional spray and wipe-down cleaning methods can miss up to 50% of surfaces. Also, much of what these services do is clean. Sounds like a good thing, right? While cleaning certainly has its place in a school setting, the current climate necessitates disinfection as well. Our all-purpose Disinfection Service utilizes a formula designated on List N to ensure the health and wellness of your students and faculty. As soon as 30 minutes after treatment, you can re-enter the building, knowing your school is protected.
To learn more about the differences between cleaning and disinfecting, check out this article.
The average student in the United States spends about 1,170 hours in school each year, exposed to a range of contaminants, microbes, allergens, and pollutants. Aerosolized coronavirus can remain in the air for up to three hours after being expelled by a cough, sneeze, or even just an exhalation. The CDC recommends implementing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, like those in our units, to increase air filtration as much as possible, removing coronavirus particles.
Scientists say that standard classrooms should have air replaced with clean air 4-6 times an hour in order to dilute any COVID-19 particles, according to the Wall Street Journal. Though many schools in the United States are in need of an HVAC system repair or replacement, that isn’t always the most financially feasible option. But whether or not your HVAC system is functioning at full capacity, portable air filtration systems can work alongside HVAC systems to minimize risk and help you improve long-term health and well-being.
According to the World Health Organization, one of the most important things we can do to prevent COVID-19 is to wash our hands more frequently. In fact, a study from the American Journal of Infection Control found that hand-washing interventions significantly reduced illness-related absences in elementary school students by up to 26%.
Simply placing hand sanitizer dispensers, like those from Ambius, around your school gives a visual cue to any students or staff members that pass by that they should sanitize right now. By making supplies such as hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, disposable facemasks, tissues, soap and paper towels accessible in your facility, you are giving your students and staff the tools they need to protect your school community from COVID-19.
Planning for your staff
Your staff plans their lessons for your students each day; now it’s time for you to start planning for them. Understand that there may be an increased number of absences due to an abundance of caution. Flexible attendance and sick-leave policies will encourage your staff to take the appropriate precautions without fear of retribution. In order to plan for potential absences, encourage your staff to prepare emergency lesson plans in advance. You may also consider cross-training staff to cover for other faculty members when it makes sense to do so. If there are members of your staff that are at an increased risk of contracting the virus, be sure to address their concerns and make the necessary arrangements to ensure their safety.
High-risk populations include:
- Individuals aged 65+
- Pregnant women
- People with weakened immune systems
In the event that a staff member or student receives a positive diagnosis, you should have a plan in place to trace any contact that may have occurred between the infected individual and others in your school.
What to do once coronavirus enters your school
Before any cases of COVID-19 are identified at your school, preventative measures are vital. But once positive cases arise, safety measures must kick into hyperdrive.
The high-touch surfaces discussed earlier in this article should now be disinfected even more frequently. You can get your staff involved to help with this. Office staff can disinfect their workspaces on a regular basis, cafeteria workers can disinfect tables between lunch periods, and teachers can disinfect desks between classes.
Where possible, increase the space between students to at least 6 feet. This may involve leaving empty seats between students, moving desks farther apart, and dividing classes into smaller groups if possible. Weather permitting, you can even hold outdoor classes as an added precaution.
In certain circumstances, sick students or staff may not be able to leave school immediately. Identify a space that can be used to isolate anyone exhibiting symptoms.
Get the facts
Whether or not coronavirus has made its way into your school, it’s important to stay informed with updates from your local public health department about any COVID-19 activity and/or response in your community. You can also work with your public health officials to develop risk-assessment and risk-management processes for your facility.
The CDC also offers a free email subscription service that sends alerts and updates directly to your inbox. Sign up here.
To learn more about Hygiene360, our comprehensive hygiene program that is expertly designed to stop the spread through surface, air, and hand solutions, click on the banner below.