What Educators Should Know About COVID-19

Mar 11, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidance to help administrators of public and private childcare programs and K-12 schools prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff.

To prepare for possible community transmission of coronavirus disease 2019, commonly known as COVID-19, the most important thing for schools to do now is plan and prepare. As the global outbreak evolves, schools should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks. Childcare and K-12 school administrators nationwide can take steps to help stop or slow the spread of respiratory infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

Review, update and implement emergency operations plans (EOPs). This should be done in collaboration with local health departments and other relevant partners. Focus on the components, or annexes, of the plans that address infectious disease outbreaks. Ensure the plan includes strategies to reduce the spread of a wide variety of infectious diseases, e.g., seasonal influenza. Effective strategies build on everyday school policies and practices. Ensure the plan emphasizes common-sense preventive actions for students and staff. Ensure handwashing strategies include washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not available.

Develop information-sharing systems with partners. Information-sharing systems can be used for day-to-day reporting—on information such as changes in absenteeism—and disease surveillance efforts to detect and respond to an outbreak. Local health officials should be a key partner in information sharing.

Monitor and plan for absenteeism. Review the usual absenteeism patterns at your school among both students and staff. Alert local health officials about large increases in student and staff absenteeism, particularly if absences appear due to respiratory illnesses like the common cold or the “flu,” which have symptoms similar to symptoms of COVID-19. Review attendance and sick leave policies. Encourage students and staff to stay home when sick. Use flexibility, when possible, to allow staff to stay home to care for sick family members. Discourage the use of perfect attendance awards and incentives. Identify critical job functions and positions, and plan for alternative coverage by cross-training staff. Determine what level of absenteeism will disrupt the continuity of teaching and learning.

Establish procedures for students and staff who are sick at school. Establish procedures to ensure students and staff who become sick at school or arrive at school sick are sent home as soon as possible. Keep sick students and staff separate from well students and staff until they can leave. Remember: Schools are not expected to screen students or staff to identify cases of COVID-19. The majority of respiratory illnesses are not COVID-19. If a community or, more specifically, a school has cases of COVID-19, local health officials will help identify those individuals and will follow up on next steps. Share resources with the school community to help families understand when to keep children home. This guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, not specific to COVID-19, can be helpful for families.

Perform routine environmental cleaning. Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, light switches, countertops) with the cleaners typically used. Use all cleaning products according to the directions on the label. Provide disposable wipes so commonly used surfaces (keyboards, desks, remote controls) can be wiped down by students and staff before each use.

Create communications plans for use with the school community. Include strategies for sharing information with staff, students and their families. Include information about steps being taken by the school or childcare facility to prepare and how additional information will be shared.

Review the CDC guidance for businesses and employers. Review this CDC guidance to identify any additional strategies the school can use, given its role as an employer.

The CDC will update this guidance as needed and as additional information becomes available. Please check this CDC website periodically for updated interim guidance.

Courtesy of Teach & Travel.