Infectious Disease Prevention and Planning
Administrators can support schools' safe reopening and help them stay open during COVID-19. Click to enlarge.
Schools are an essential part of the infrastructure of communities and play a critical role in supporting the whole child, not just their academic achievement.
This course is intended to aid school administrators consider how to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of students, teachers, other school staff, their families, and communities.
School administrators oversee the daily operations of K-12 schools and may include school district superintendents, school principals, and assistant principals.
The most important actions administrators can take to support schools' safe reopening and help them stay open during COVID-19 include the following:
- Engage and encourage everyone in the school and the community to practice preventive behaviors.
- Most importantly, administrators need to set a good example by always practicing preventive measures.
- Implement multiple SARS-CoV-2 mitigation strategies (e.g., social distancing, cloth face coverings, hand hygiene, and
- Communicate, educate, and reinforce appropriate hygiene and social distancing practices in ways that are developmentally appropriate for students, teachers, and staff.
- Integrate SARS-CoV-2 mitigation strategies into co-curricular and extracurricular activities (e.g., limiting or canceling participation in activities where social distancing is not feasible).
- Maintain healthy environments (e.g., cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces).
- Make decisions that take into account the level of community transmission.
- Repurpose unused or underutilized school (or community) spaces to increase classroom space and facilitate social distancing, including outside spaces, where feasible.
- Develop a proactive plan for when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.
- Develop a plan with state and local health departments to conduct case tracing for positive cases.
- Educate parents and caregivers on the importance of monitoring for and responding to the symptoms of COVID-19 at home.
- Develop ongoing channels of communication with state and local health departments to stay updated on COVID-19 transmission and response.
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Key Considerations for School Administrators
School administrators should also carefully consider the following:
It is important for school administrators work with the county to look at when they can reopen schools safely.Click to enlarge.
- COVID-19 transmission rates in the immediate community and in the communities in which students, teachers, and staff live
- approaches to cohorting that fit the needs of your school/district and community (e.g., keeping students in class pods, staggering when students return to the school facility, having the same teacher stay with the same group of students)
- consider repurposing unused or underutilized school spaces, including outdoor spaces, to increase classroom space and facilitate social distancing
- concurrently implementing multiple strategies in school to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (e.g., social distancing, masks, hand hygiene, and use of cohorting)
- best practices for your school and community to communicate, educate, and reinforce personal protective behaviors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in school and in the community
- integrating strategies to reduce COVID-19 transmission into co-curricular and extracurricular activities (e.g., limiting participation in activities where social distancing is not feasible)
- planning and preparing for when someone gets sick
- working with state and local health authorities to develop a plan to conduct contact tracing in the event of a positive case
- communicating appropriately to families about home-based symptom screening (e.g., Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
School-based health facilities may refer to CDC's Guidance for U.S. Healthcare Facilities.
They may find it helpful to reference the Ten Ways Healthcare Systems Can Operate
Effectively During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Schools Play a Critical Role in the Wellbeing of Communities
Schools provide safe and supportive environments, structure, and routines for children. Click to enlarge.
Schools are a fundamental part of the infrastructure of communities.
- Schools provide safe and supportive environments, structure, routines for children, and needed support services to children and families.
- Schools play a vital role in the economic health of communities by employing teachers and other staff and helping parents, guardians, and caregivers work.
- Schools provide critical instruction and academic support that benefit students and communities in both the short- and long-term.
- Reopening schools provides in-person instruction for students, improves communication between teachers and students, and provides academic services.
- In-person instruction may have advantages over virtual learning when virtual learning is not the planned format for instruction.
- In-person classroom instruction improves interpersonal interaction between the student and the teacher and the student and peers.
- In-person instruction may be beneficial for students with additional learning needs. Children with disabilities may not have access through virtual means to the specialized instruction.
The social and emotional health of students can be enhanced through schools.Click to enlarge.
Schools Support the Whole Child
The social and emotional health of students can best be enhanced through attendance at schools. Resuming in-person instruction can best support student social and emotional wellbeing for the following reasons:
- Social interaction among children is important for emotional wellbeing and for their language, communication, social, and interpersonal skills.
- Some students may have experienced social isolation and increased anxiety while not physically being in school due to COVID-19.
- When children are out of school, they may be separated from their social network and peer-to-peer social support.
The mental health of students can be fostered through school supports and services. Schools provide critical psychological, mental, and behavioral services to children who may not have access to these services outside of school. School closures have limited the availability of these services.
Lengthy school building closures can leave some students feeling isolated.Click to enlarge.
Lengthy school building closures can leave some students feeling isolated from meaningful friendships and support from other caring adults. Isolation and uncertainty about the COVID-19
pandemic can create feelings of hopelessness and anxiety while removing social support sources.
Increases in anxiety and depression may occur when students do not have the structure and routine of attending school. Opportunities to be physically active through recess and physical
education can help improve feelings of anxiety and sadness. These physical activities should be provided regularly to students in a safe and supportive environment that includes physical
distancing and strategies to reduce close contact between students.
Continuity of Other Special Services
Students who rely on school food programs, special education, and after school programs are at greater risk for poor health and educational outcomes when school buildings are closed.
Check your Work
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