National Public Radio had a comprehensive article for parents on evaluating the risk of sending their children back to school “How Safe Is Your School’s Reopening Plan? Here’s What To Look For.” It also helped clarify and prioritize my thinking on our mitigation of risks if we return to campus.
- Stay At Home If You Are Sick. We need to encourage students and employees to stay at home if they have any symptoms of Covid-19. The CDC does not recommend schools to screen people coming onto campus because it should be the job of the parents to do this. The article also reminds us if the parents are sick, the children should stay home as well. We also need to be more generous with our sick leave for employees. We are building new, air-conditioned entries with temperature-measuring cameras. I believe this is a good reminder for people to stay at home if you have symptoms.
- Masks These must be mandatory for both adults and children. Adults disperse air particles greater than children and studies show adults transmit more to children than vice-versa. CDC does not recommend face shields instead of masks, but does say they can be combined. Schools should schedule “mask-breaks” outside during the day.
- Physical Distancing Schools need to adapt their spaces to maintain a 6-foot (1.8 meters) and it is recommended to hold classes outside and keep cohorts small and in bubbles, isolated from other groups of students. Plexiglass barriers as recommended for reception and high-traffic areas. Their efficacy in the classroom is in doubt because of air flow around them.
- When a student or employee becomes ill. Schools need detailed protocols that include immediate isolation and testing if possible. With or without testing, people need to stay isolated for 10 days from the onset of symptoms. If someone does test positive, contact tracing needs to be done as soon as possible. Establishing stable cohorts or pods is vital to prevent a whole-school shutdown.
- Testing It would be ideal for weekly testing for everyone, but at the moment that is not possible. We can arrange for relatively big numbers of foreigners to be tested at the Tashkent International Clinic with results ready is about 24 hours.
- Air Circulation – Getting fresh air indoors is the solution here, or holding classes outdoors.
- Cafeteria – Staggered lunch times or in-classroom dining are the best practices.
- Outdoors is best. Frequent mask breaks and recess outdoors is the best practice. Non-contact and outdoor sports like cross-country running are advised, contact team sports are not recommended. It is OK to take off masks if athletes are breathing hard, as long as they are distanced and outdoors.
- Disinfecting Surfaces Hand hygiene is the key here, so lots of alcohol-disinfectant dispensers and sinks will be important. The benefit of harsh disinfectants over soap and water is up for debate.
“Schools should focus cleaning efforts on high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, bathroom doors and sink areas multiple times a day. And some opportunities for touching surfaces could be eliminated. “Classroom doors can be left open until class starts so that each student does not need to open the door,” Tan says. Cleaning desks is less of a worry, Miller says, because students don’t touch one another’s desks that often.
It’s important to thoroughly clean bathrooms that children routinely use, says Hewlett. These are high-touch areas and can get crowded. Miller says, “Bathrooms must have strong exhaust fans,” as airflow dilutes virus that may accumulate in the air.”