The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week issued recommendations for reopening schools in the fall amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with reinforcing hand-washing techniques and special attention to disinfecting common surfaces, the guidelines suggest that face coverings be used and staggered schedules should be set up to help to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The recommendations are meant as guidelines schools may adopt as they consider reopening their doors for the 2020-21 school year, the CDC says. They are not mandatory as some on social media sites have suggested.
“Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community,” the agency said on its website.
Here are some of the CDC recommendations:
Hand hygiene, coughs and sneezing
- Reinforce hand-washing techniques.
- Encourage students to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
Cloth face coverings
- Face coverings – not masks or surgical masks – should be worn “as feasible,” the guidelines say.
- Face coverings are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult.
- Face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2 years old; anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious; anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.
Cleaning and disinfection
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains) within the school and on school buses at least daily or between use as much as possible.
- Use of shared objects (e.g., gym or physical education equipment, art supplies, toys, games) should be limited when possible, or cleaned between use.
- Discourage sharing of items that are difficult to clean or disinfect.
- Keep each child’s belongings separated from others’ and in individually labeled containers, cubbies or areas.
- Avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, and other games or learning aids.
- Ensure ventilation systems operate properly.
- Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows and doors.
- Space seating/desks at least 6 feet apart when feasible.
- Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.
- Create distance between children on school buses (e.g., seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible.
- Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., reception desks).
- Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g., guides for creating “one-way routes” in hallways).
- Close communal use shared spaces, such as dining halls and playgrounds, with shared playground equipment if possible; otherwise, stagger use and clean and disinfect between use.
- Add physical barriers, such as plastic flexible screens, between bathroom sinks especially when they cannot be at least 6 feet apart.
- Have children bring their own meals as feasible, or serve individually plated meals in classrooms instead of in a communal dining hall or cafeteria.
Keeping small groups together
- Ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff (all day for young children and as much as possible for older children).
- Limit mixing among groups if possible.
- Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations by group or put in place other protocols to limit contact among groups and direct contact with parents as much as possible.
To read the full CDC guideline on school reopening, click here.
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