Operating schools during COVID-19: Steps and strategies from the CDC (Updated for 2021/2022 school year)

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In 2020, reopening schools was top of mind for our nation’s parents and teachers. Now, in 2021, most schools are back to in-person learning. However, with the Delta variant surging, the risks of COVID-19 continue to create classroom challenges.

It’s not easy to find the right balance between the enormous benefits of in-person learning and the powerful risks posed by COVID-19. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have developed guidelines for safer schools.

At the start of the 2021/2022 school year, the CDC released several new short videos. You can view them here (audio), here (no audio) and here (no audio). The points they emphasized include:

  • Students must wear face masks on school buses and other forms of public transportation. It’s required by federal regulation.
  • Keep students home if they are showing any symptoms of illness, including fever and/or coughing.
  • Students should practice social distancing at schools. A minimum of 3 feet is encouraged, so long as masks are being worn.
  • When eating, where masks can’t be worn, students should sit at least six feet apart.
  • Students should practice good hand washing, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Students should cover their sneezes and coughs.
  • If a student tests positive for COVID-19, immediately notify their school. Keep the student home from all school and extracurricular activities.
  • Playground and shared equipment should be cleaned daily.

The CDC’s Recommended Prevention Strategies to Reduce Transmission of COVID-19 in Schools

This page outlines how every school must consider the unique factors of their community and facilities when developing layered prevention strategies. It’s a detailed guide that gives educators, administrators and parents a more complete picture of what safe school operation looks like. Here are a couple of the subjects it covers.

Health Equity Considerations

[H]ealth equity considerations related to the K-12 setting are a critical part of decision-making and have been considered in CDC’s updated guidance for schools..”

-CDC

Schools need to consider whether their communities are at increased risk due to historic inequity or other vulnerabilities. Using comprehensive prevention strategies for in-person learning is essential to ensuring a safe and supportive educational environment. Communicating these strategies is also vital as a means to reassure families, teachers, and staff.

The CDC advises that “School administrators can promote health equity by ensuring all students, teachers, and staff have resources to support physical and mental health. School administrators can offer modified job responsibilities for staff at higher risk for severe illness who have not been fully vaccinated while protecting individual privacy. Federal and state disability laws may require an individualized approach for working with children and youth with disabilities consistent with the child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), Individualized Education Program (IEP), or Section 504 plan. Administrators should consider adaptations and alternatives to prevention strategies when serving people with disabilities, while maintaining efforts to protect all children and staff from COVID-19.”

Which Prevention Strategies are Most Important

Together with local public health officials, school administrators should consider multiple factors when they make decisions about implementing layered prevention strategies against COVID-19.

-CDC

The CDC has highlighted several top priorities for the prevention of COVID-19 outbreaks in schools. These priorities include:

  • All teachers, staff and eligible students should receive a vaccination as soon as possible.
  • Require universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces daily to remove potential virus.
  • Practice physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and sneeze/cough etiquette.
  • Teachers, staff and students should stay home if they exhibit any sign of infectious illness.

We strongly encourage you to give the entire page a read. Its level of detail is a boon to educators, administrators and parents alike. This page and other publicly available resources will continue to be monitored and updated by the CDC as more data becomes available.

It’s a tremendous source of hope to know our country is steadily moving toward a return to normal. Yet caution remains vital. EnviroPro Solutions is proud to work with schools, and to help keep our children, teachers and staff safe. For more information on how our products keep your facilities safe and sanitary, reach out to us at 763-296-4449 or by email at [email protected].