The Ultimate Back-to-School Checklist During COVID-19
Unlike most back-to-school seasons, this year involves a lot of uncertainty as childcare and educational facilities must grapple with whether they can safely reopen their doors. To help, we’ve connected without customers to learn what tools they are employing to ensure health and safety and enable themselves to resume operations this Fall.
We’re sharing these tips here as a checklist across five different categories:
- How to determine whether you can reopen.
- How to update your policies and procedures for health and safety.
- How to keep classrooms clean.
- How to promote health in shared spaces.
- How to effectively communicate with parents and staff.
How to Determine Whether You Can Reopen
First and foremost, you must consider whether you have the capacity to resume operations. To do this, here are some questions you need to answer.
- Will reopening be consistent with applicable state and local orders?
- Is the school ready to protect children and employees at higher risk for severe illness?
- Are you able to screen students and employees upon arrival for symptoms and history of exposure?
Are recommended health and safety actions in place?
- Promote healthy hygiene practices such as handwashing and employees wearing a cloth face covering, as feasible.
- Intensify cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation.
- Encourage social distancing through increased spacing, small groups, and limited mixing between groups, if feasible.
- Train all employees on health and safety protocols.
Is ongoing monitoring in place?
- Develop and implement procedures to check for signs and symptoms of students and employees daily upon arrival, as feasible.
- Encourage anyone who is sick to stay home.
- Plan for if students or employees get sick.
- Regularly communicate and monitor developments with local authorities, employees, and families regarding cases, exposures, and updates to policies and procedures.
- Monitor student and employee absences and have flexible leave policies and practices.
- Be ready to consult with the local health authorities if there are cases in the facility or an increase in cases in the local area.
How to Update Your Policies and Procedures for Healthy and Safety
Once you’ve determined you have the capacity to reopen, here is a list of steps to establish the necessary plans and procedures required for resuming operations.
- Have a contingency plan in place to ensure adequate staffing ratios if a staff member begins to exhibit symptoms during their shift.
- Identify new routines, registration, and/or environmental set up to reduce group sizes and/or increase physical space within the classroom.
- Identify and prepare a space to isolate staff with a child in the event that symptoms arise during the day.
- Have health check forms/documentation or another procedure for parents to complete each day.
- Put up posters for handwashing and no entrance with symptoms.
- Post your Worksafe COVID-19 plan in your facility.
- Post NO VISITOR signs at entry and exit.
How to Keep Classrooms Clean
We know that students aren’t the most hygienic, and classrooms have the potential to spread germs. Here are the cleaning steps to undertake, which will help you manage this risk.
- Have adequate cleaning and sanitization supplies on hand.
- Remove materials from the classroom(s) that can not be sanitized and/or provide strict procedures for their limited use.
- Remove all soft items, including dress-up clothing.
- Remove shared sensory items such as play dough, finger paint, etc.
- Cease use of all group water/sensory tables.
- Prepare Soiled Toys bucket for mouthed and high-contact toys to be disinfected.
- Disinfect toys/materials twice daily to ensure effective germ removal.
- Place cribs, cots, and mats at least three feet apart wherever possible. Place children head to foot instead of head to head.
- Remove area rugs and, if possible, cover carpeting with vinyl matting.
- Store children’s bedding in individually-labeled bins, cubbies, or bags.
- Create a deep cleaning schedule to focus on a particular classroom on a different day.
- Regularly clean and disinfect:
- Tables before and after each use.
- Hard surfaces three times per day.
- Door knobs, light switches, countertops, and frequently touched areas.
- Restrooms after each use.
- Keyboards and electronics twice daily.
How to Promote Health in Shared Spaces
Outside the classroom, there are still opportunities for people to contract illnesses. This list covers steps you can undertake to reduce the risk of spread in these areas.
- Screen daily at the entry for COVID 19 symptoms:
- Take the temperature of all persons upon arrival each day.
- Ask about any symptoms (cough, fever) at home.
- Require frequent hand washing by all children and staff and upon entering, before/after each activity, and before/after meals.
- Implement social distancing strategies:
- Children remain in the same group and staff each day.
- Do not combine groups in the mornings or afternoon.
- Remind children and staff not to touch their faces.
- Stop family-style meal service. Instead, opt for catered meals or food from home.
- Use disposable plates, cups, and utensils.
How to Effectively Communicate with Parents and Staff
Finally, communication is essential, especially in uncertain times. Parents and staff need to be kept informed to both feel supported and stay aware of expectations on them. To achieve this, follow these steps to streamline communication.
- Meet with the staff team and review all procedural changes.
- Maintain transparency with staff so that they remain informed.
- Conduct frequent staff meetings and information sessions to ensure all policies and procedures are correctly followed.
- Conduct daily wellness checks on staff to monitor physiological, psychological, and emotional health.
- Educate staff and families about signs/symptoms of COVID19 and the importance of hand hygiene.
- Post signs for adults regarding covering a cough and frequent hand washing.
- Stay in regular communication with parents regarding updates and policy changes.
- Establish alternative means of communication with families.
- Provide clear and concise written COVID-19 health policy shared with parents.
- Identify policies around parent access to the facility and share it with parents.
- Set up clear space and boundaries for parent drop off/pick up times, including any physical distancing markers.
- Establish step-by-step procedures regarding drop off and pick up shared with parents.
- Compose and share COVID-19 staff health policy with staff.
Safely reopening starts with considering whether you have the capacity to manage the health and safety challenges at this time. From there, reopening this season will require careful planning and procedural development to institutionalize health and safety protocols. Beyond this, it’s essential to implement regular cleaning schedules in classrooms and policies to promote hygiene in shared spaces. At the core of this work is communication and equipping your students, staff, and families with the information they need to abide by these policies and work with your school to support a safe environment for all.
We know that schools are critical to childhood development, and by implementing these changes and policies, we can collectively work together to make sure schools are safe spaces for all students, especially as they return after an uncertain year.