Spring break plans are imploding, essential supplies are disappearing, and even major events and attractions are closing up shop because of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
This is an anxious time for districts, students and families all over the world. With so many unknowns about the virus, it can be difficult to make predictions for even the near feature.
Here is what we do know:
- COVID-19 is contagious and can be serious if contracted.
- The health and safety of students and school staff is the most important priority. It is always, always better to be safe than sorry.
- That it’s extremely important that our population stay calm.
What can you do to keep your district safe and ensure that their best interests are at the top of your mind?
In this post, we tell you exactly what you can do and point you towards reliable resources that are constantly being updated so you are always in the know on all things COVID-19.
Watch for Symptoms
K-12 school staff, students and families should be cognizant of what COVID-19 is, what symptoms to watch for, and how it differs from the flu or a cold.
The main differences are incubation period, symptoms, how they spread, and the average duration. This chart from the CDC depicts a comparison of COVID-19 vs. other common sicknesses.
Cold and flu viruses can survive for 15 to 20 minutes on skin and a couple hours on hard surfaces. COVID-19 is estimated to survive on surfaces for a few days. This is why it is so important to take all known measures to prevent spreading during this time:
- Mandate a strict policy: anyone who is sick or who has traveled to an affected area needs to stay home.
- Teach students to cough and sneeze into their elbows and properly wash their hands for 20 seconds or more.
- Cancel large gatherings such as assemblies or field trips.
- Limit all physical contact.
- Regularly sanitize all surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops and toys.
- Add sanitizing stations anywhere it makes sense.
- Require mandatory handwashing after visiting different areas like the lunchroom or the hallway.
Constantly Communicate with Parents and Families
Have a communications plan and update families non-stop. Updates should include information about outbreaks in your area, closure and attendance policies, and notifications to watch for.
Use your website, mobile app (if you have one), email newsletters, and social media profiles to regularly communicate and be clear when they can expect future updates. It can also be helpful to work up a resource like this Parent Guide from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Your goal is to keep everyone calm and reassure families and students that the district is heavily monitoring the virus and is taking every possible measure to keep them safe and healthy.
Have a Contingency Plan
At this point, a few statewide school closures have been made official. Many other states and districts are taking a watch-and-see approach. Whatever you decide, create a plan in the event you do need to close schools. It should include:
- School meal availability now and during the closure
- Attendance expectations and makeup days in the event of a closure
- How to conduct classes or conferences remotely
- Kindergarten and school registration timing
- The impact of a closure on testing and assessments
- If applicable, information and instructions for online learning
- Childcare options if they apply
Again, communication is key. Once you’ve drafted a plan, include it in your Parent Guide, other notification channels and get it to teachers — then, do it again any time there is a change.
Read, Follow and Share These Reliable Resources
From the CDC
Educating on symptoms to watch for and enforcing every preventative measure in the book are great ways to keep your district healthy.
Most importantly, stay calm and in the know. Watch for the latest updates like new school meals flexibility, keep in touch with your local health officials, and communicate all new findings to staff and families.
Be cautious, but know that you have support and resources to keep your district safe and sound.