Schools have been an integral part of human communities throughout history, and the role they play in the society has increased from just imparting education, to moulding a student to better adapt to the existing world.
During these dire and unpredictable times, when the world has been brought to a standstill because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, schools were some of the first entities to suspend their physical instruction approach, and move to online alternatives.
After months of research about the virus, and formulating preventive measures, schools are preparing to resume the mode of physical instruction. In view of the same, it is important that we have an idea of what to expect, and how to tackle these issues effectively.
Be Prepared for Covid-19 Cases.
Experiences from around the globe have made it clear that communities are still susceptible to the spread of the virus, in spite of the best preventive efforts. With this in mind, schools have to be prepared to tackle any new cases that may surface, once they reopen.
Coordinate, Plan, And Prepare
School administrations need to work closely with the local bodies like primary health centres and government disease control agencies to study the rate of community spread in their area of service, and understand what level of preventive measures have to be implemented on reopening.
Some steps that can be taken depending on the community transmission:
- If the rate of community transmission is nil or close to it, reinforcing basic preventive and mitigative measures like social distancing, disinfecting, and group separation will remain imperative.
- If the community transmission is at a moderate level, schools should follow the actions listed above, and continue implementing mitigation strategies. The schools should also ensure minimal mixing of groups, ideally kept to zero, and the groups must remain static, so that the efficacy of the measure is maximised.
- If the community transmission is substantial, in addition to the measures mentioned above, the local authorities should make sure that public gathering is reduced, and community spaces where students are probable to visit be closed down, ensuring the members of the community are safe and isolated in their respective homes.
- If the community spread is extremely high, and increasing uncontrollably, schools should take immediate actions like closing down physical operations and move to online medium at a moment’s notice.
CDC has released a comprehensive list of instructions for schools to consider while reopening for physical instruction. They help the school to plan and prepare actions that aim to reduce the spread of the virus, establish healthy nurturing environments and maintain operations with minimum hurdles. These guidelines include information about implementation of mitigation strategies, such as physical distancing within buses, classrooms and other areas of the school, healthy hygiene habits, cleaning and disinfection, use of cloth face coverings, staggering student schedules, and planning for staff and teacher absences (e.g., back-up staffing plans).
One of the main strategies is the option of using pods. A pod will consist of a select number of students and a set of teachers, who stay together throughout the school day, with zero interaction with other pods. The smaller isolated sets will ensure that in case of a student testing positive, only the respective pod needs to be tested and quarantined as necessary. Eliminating the mixing of large group of students through this approach keeps any possible cases of Covid-19 from affecting the rest of the school operations. Schools have to be prepared to provide alternate instruction methods with the help of information technology, for the pods that may identify a positive case among them.
Schools are one of the pillars of our communities, and how they operate during these tough times decide how bright the future of the world will be, and how well the human civilisation heals and grows post the pandemic.
Wishing everyone going back to school in 2020, a happy and safe academic year.