Is it Safe to Send Children Back to School During The Coronavirus Pandemic?
There are no clear answers to this question, but there are a whole host of variables that need to be taken into consideration, as well as some strategies that can mitigate the risks that exist. One of the most important factors to consider is interaction.
Of course, the lower the level of interaction between people, including teachers and the children they’re teaching, the lower the risk of infection is. That’s why some schools are still offering virtual classes that take place remotely; those kinds of classes pose no risk in terms of interaction in an educational environment.
Classes being held in traditional classroom settings is something that’s beginning to return, but there are methods that can be used to reduce the risk. The first is to enforce social distancing measures, spread out pupils as much as possible and reduce class sizes.
Where possible, it also makes sense for teachers to remain with one group in order to reduce mixing and expose people to as few other people as possible while at school. Again, this is about reducing social interactions.
There are clear risks associated with reopening schools and sending children back, and it’s something that should be done on a case by case basis. If the number of cases in the community and the infection rate is low enough, and there are also safety and distancing measures in place, it can be safe to send children back to school.
It’s something that should be done with care and careful planning. Next, we’ll talk about how hygiene measures in schools can mitigate the risk posed by the virus.
How Teachers and Pupils Can Stay Hygienic with the Virus in Mind
1. Educate Your Children on the Virus
Start the Conversation.
The first thing you need to do is start the conversation regarding what the virus is all about and what it means for your children. This will be the parents task, but it’s something teachers will probably need to do as well. There’s no way of carrying on before without approaching the topic because life in schools simply isn’t going to be the same for a while.
It’s important that when having these conversations, the children aren’t made to feel even more frightened than they might already feel. The situation is difficult enough for them, so try to focus on things that impact their day to day experiences and let them know what will change and what will happen. That way, they can anticipate and understand the things that will be different before experiencing them first-hand.
Take an Age Appropriate Approach.
When educating your children on the virus and what it means for them, it’s important to also take an age appropriate approach. You don’t want to fire a ton of information at them if they’re not really at an age where understanding those things is going to be realistic for them. Instead, you should try to make them feel at ease and only give them relevant information.
With everything that’s going on, it’s very easy to unintentionally overwhelm your children and make them worry about things that are beyond their control and that they can do nothing at all about. When it comes down to it, doing that can only be unhelpful and make them even more stressed if they’re not yet at an age where they can process those things.
Discuss What They Should Do to Stay Hygienic.
One of the most important topics that parents and teachers can discuss with children is the need to stay hygienic. They need to have an understanding of the practical steps they can take to stay safe and protect against the virus on a day to day basis, and for many children, that will focus on things like social distancing and keeping themselves clean.
Things like hand washing and good general hygiene remain vitally important when it comes to slowing and stopping the spread of the virus. If the virus is circulating, it can still be stopped from passing from person to person if people are being careful to wash their hands, surfaces and not touch their faces too much when they’re at school and in other public settings.
Show Them How.
As well as talking to them about what it takes to stay hygienic, you also need to take practical steps to show them what they should be doing. They might not be old enough to have a full understanding of what you mean just be talking about these things. So instead you should show them. They can then just copy your actions and apply them to their daily routines.
Show them the process of hand washing. They might know what washing their hands looks like, but under Covid-19 guidelines, hand washing should take place using warm water, soap and should last for at least 20 seconds. Show them what they look like so they can be sure that they’re doing it right each time.
2. Adhere to Government Guidelines
Don’t Act as If the End of Lockdown Means the End of the Threat.
We all know that lockdown is easing in many places around the world, but an end to the strict lockdown does not mean that we no longer have to adhere to guidelines and alter our day to day lives. The end of the lockdown certainly does not mean the end to the threat posed by the virus. There’s still a risk out there and we’re not at the end of this journey yet.
That means continuing to socially distance, keep spaces clean and pay closer attention to high hygiene standards are issues that remain as important as ever. It’s easy to think that coming out of lockdown means we can finally all get back to normal. And although we all wish that was the case, that’s not currently where things stand, so it’s vital to remain careful and vigilant.
Keep Listening to Government Guidance.
You should take care to continue listening to government guidance and make sure that you’re up to date with it at all times. That way, as a teacher you can ensure you get things right in your classroom and keep all the kids in your care as safe as they can be while they’re at school. It’s just as important for everyone else to stay up to date as well.
The guidelines are now changing quite regularly, but the fundamentals of social distancing where possible and retaining high hygiene standards will remain in place. However, be sure to keep listening to what government advice is and continuing adhering to the advice that’s already in place and that’s been in place for a long time.
Pay Attention to Local Guidelines Too.
As well as listening to what the central government is saying, you should also stay up to date with the situation in your local area. Things are not always the same in each and every area, and you should retain a good understanding of how the virus is spreading in your area. There remains the possibility for localised guidelines and local lockdowns if and when the need arises.
If your local government authorities change the advice in your area, you should follow that advice, especially if the advice becomes stricter than the national advice. With a virus pandemic, things aren’t the same in each area and there will be a high chance of localised outbreaks in different locations until the virus is dealt with fully and put to an end.
Communicate Rule Changes to Your Kids in a Way They’ll Understand.
As well as understanding these rules and any changes that are implemented, if you’re a parent, you’ll also need to effectively communicate these rule changes to your kids. It’s important that you try to do this in a way that they’ll understand, which can be tough because these concepts can sometimes be complex for young children.
It’s up to you to interpret the changes in a way that’ll make them most likely to understand and be able to come to terms with. Think about how they’re likely to be affected and how their behaviours are likely going to have to change. Give them the information they need and don’t feel the need to overburden them with information that they don’t really need to understand.
3. Whether You’re a Teacher, Parent or Pupil, If You Feel at Risk Don’t Take Unnecessary Chances
Seek Clarification and Guidance When Unsure.
If there’s anything at all that you’re not sure about, you should get clarification from someone who knows better. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make sure and wanting to gain a better understanding of the situation. You never know what’s going to change and how changes will be communicated. And when there’s confusion present, it’s vital you address it.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to dealing with a pandemic and ensuring the situation is dealt with in the safest way possible, especially when you’re a parent or teacher. If you’re a teacher, ask your superiors. And you can even contact local government advice agencies if you require further advice or clarification on anything.
If Symptoms Are Present, Stay Home.
The advice remains to stay at home and to isolate yourself from other people if you have symptoms of the virus. Staying at home and not taking the risk of spreading the virus when there’s a chance you may have it is vitally important and something everyone should do. When it comes to something like this, it’s not alright to take chances.
Kids should be kept at home and away from the school if they have flu symptoms or any of the other symptoms associated with the virus. That way, they won’t be able to spread it through the school and risk causing a local outbreak that could have devastating effects. This applies to parents, teachers, pupils and everybody else too.
Don’t Let Convenience Stop You Following the Guidelines.
If you feel like you want to stop paying attention to the rules and stop following the guidelines because it’s no longer convenient for you to do so, you should think again. Just because the guidelines and advice are not convenient, even in a school setting that’s already stressful, that certainly doesn’t mean that those guidelines can simply be ignored because they can’t.
For teachers, it’s vital that they take on the responsibility of doing things safely and setting the right example for the pupils they’re guiding and teaching. It’s impossible to achieve the best possible outcomes for everyone unless each person is doing their part to follow the guidelines and keep schools clean and hygienic.
If You Feel the Risks Are Too High, Make Your Own Decisions.
There are some situations in which you might have to take decisions into your own hands regarding the spread of the virus and your exposure to it, as well as what your children are exposed to. If you feel that the risks are too high and you don’t want to put yourself or others at risk, you might want to decide to stay at home a little longer.
This is something that’s especially important for people who have health issues that put them in a risk group with a high chance of complications if they were to get the virus. If you feel that the risks are too high, it’s up to you to do something about that and take your own decision. After all, your health is your concern and no one can blame you for wanting to protect it.
4. Understand the Importance of PPE in Any Public Setting
Face coverings are among the most important examples of PPE and people are being encouraged to use them. If you or your kids are using public transport in order to get to and from school, it’s important that face coverings are used. It’s part of government advice because the confined nature of public transit means that the spread of the virus might be more likely there.
Face coverings should be worn in public settings where social distancing is not really possible as well. It’s not yet clear whether that’s something that’s going to be necessary in school classrooms because in most cases social distancing measures will be in place to reduce the risk the virus poses. But it’s something you can talk to your children’s school about if you wish.
Choosing the Right Face Coverings.
When it comes to choosing the right kind of face covering for use in public settings, the advice so far is that any kind of face covering is better than none at all. So if you don’t have the best possible face mask at your disposal, using some other form of covering, even a scarf or bandana is safer than using no face covering, so keep that in mind.
Having said that, the safest form of face covering that’s available is a triple layers, medical-grade face mask. Of course, in some places these are still in short supply so it might not be possible to get hold of them. And when there’s a shortage, it’s important that PPE is first provided to medical works and people on the front line of fighting the virus.
When to Use Them.
Using a face covering is often a case of personal choice, except for the occasions where the use of a face mask or covering is mandatory as decided by the local or national authorities. Try to use them when in public settings and in cases where it’s not really possible to carry out safe social distancing 6 feet apart from other people in your vicinity.
There are some instances when PPE won’t be needed, but this will depend on the situation, the possibilities for social distancing and the level of risk regarding how much the virus is spreading in that particular community. That’s something for you as a parent or teacher to make a decision on.
Gloves and Other PPE.
There are, of course, many other forms of PPE as well, and you might be wondering how you should go about using these. Gloves can be used in settings when objects are being handled and shared with other different people, and that can include schools. Some parents are choosing to wear clothes. But it’s important that they’re safely disposed of and replaced after each use.
5. Stick to a Stringent Cleaning Regime
Cleaning and Disinfection.
Cleaning and disinfection are vital parts of keeping schools safe while the virus is still in circulation. It should be top priority of schools and teachers to ensure a strict and stringent procedure of regular cleaning and disinfecting is in place. When you have a lot of children, talking, coughing and sneezing over tables and other shared resources, cleaning and disinfecting becomes essential.
The simple truth is that cleaning and disinfecting kill the virus, stopping it in its tracks as it attempts to spread from person to person. That’s why these processes should be such vital parts of protecting schools and everyone in them as they start to open back up again
Schedules and Routines.
The cleaning processes you put in place should be placed on a tight schedule with good routines in place. It’s not enough to just do it once every few days or something like that. Good routines mean making sure that tables and objects are disinfected and thoroughly cleaned very often and with real regularity. Each school should create its own cleaning schedule and routines.
There are many cleaning companies that are increasing their workloads and offering even more rigorous cleaning services in order to meet the increased and higher demand now out there because of the virus pandemic. Make the most of professional services and keep everyone safe.
Shared objects should be handled with extra care. In the case of a school, it’s best if teachers and pupils have their own resources that only they can use. That way, they don’t need to share as many objects with one another over the course of a day. But when objects are shared, even if they’re only small and used for a short period of time, they should be fully disinfected after each use.
Things like pens, pencils and even pencil sharpeners are all examples of shared objects that are commonly used in schools. It’s vital to remember that after each and every use the object should be disinfected before it can be used again by another pupil or adult in the school.
Ventilation and Safely Using Cleaning Products.
There are a couple of reasons why good ventilation will matter in schools as they begin to reopen and we emerge out of lockdown. First of all, ventilation can help to keep the air fresh and some believe this may reduce the risk of the virus spreading. But it’s also important to ensure the fumes and chemicals from cleaning supplies don’t become a problem for pupils.
Using cleaning products safely will be important because you’re likely to be using them more than ever. And with that increased level of use, you run the risk of exposing children and teachers to chemical fumes that they shouldn’t be exposed to on a regular basis, and good ventilation can help with that.
The most important point to take away from all this, whether you’re a teacher or the parent of a pupil returning to school soon, is that staying safe and being careful is still important.
Even when classes return, they won’t be returning in a normal way and it remains vitally important to follow the advice outlined by your local and national government authorities.
The end of lockdown doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the virus or the end of the threat it poses. Even when things are moving in a positive direction, outbreaks can still happen, at least until a vaccine emerges.
With that in mind, it’s essential to focus on social distancing, physical protections when appropriate such as PPE and good hygiene. One of the things that’s most powerful as a weapon against the virus is good hygiene. Washing hands, keeping surfaces and learning environments clean and disinfected and paying attention to how the virus might spread will all make a difference when enacted in schools as well as any other public setting.
It’s not just about protecting yourself and your family, but also doing your bit to slow the wider spread of the virus. Children aren’t likely to get serious symptoms even when infected with Covid-19, but they can still spread the virus to other people, including elderly relatives and others in higher risk groups than themselves. That’s why it’s so important to remain vigilant and follow the rules as we ease out of lockdown.
Who are we? SMC Premier are a team of specialist cleaners, specialising in school cleaning services alongside other specific cleaning offerings. We understand that hygiene is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, now more than ever, therefore we hope guide helps you in understanding how you can mitigate risk.