Plan and Prepare
Every school should have a plan to protect staff, children, and their families from the spread of COVID-19.Click to enlarge.
Emergency Operations Plans (EOP): Review, Update, and Implement
Every school should have a plan to protect staff, children, and their families from the spread of COVID-19 and a response plan in place for if/when a student, teacher, or staff
member tests positive for COVID-19.
This plan should be developed in collaboration with:
- state and local public health departments;
- parents, caregivers, and guardians;
- school nurses;
- student leaders;
- community members; and
- other relevant partners.
Schools should give Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) components that address infectious disease outbreaks and their consequences a high priority.
Reference these key resources on emergency preparedness while reviewing, updating, and implementing the EOP.
- The Department of Education and other federal agencies have developed resources on school planning principles and a 6-step process for creating plans to build and
continually foster safe and healthy school communities before, during, and after possible emergencies.
- The Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center's website contains
free resources, training, and technical assistance (TA)
for schools and their community partners, including many tools and resources on emergency planning and response to infectious disease outbreaks. Schools may find
these considerations help develop high-quality emergency operations plans.
Strategies for EOP Development
Assess students' special needs, such as continuing education, meal programs, and other services.Click to enlarge.
The Department of Education recommends the following strategies school administrators should consider while developing their EOP:
- Involve school nurses, teachers, staff, parents, student leaders, and other community stakeholders (e.g., youth service organizations, health centers, etc.) in developing EOPs.
- Monitor local COVID-19 data to keep track of the level of community transmission, to make decisions about changes to mitigation strategies, and to help determine whether school closures may be necessary. Include a daily review of official public health data for the community surrounding the school. Contact the state, local, tribal, or territorial Public Health Department for references to local COVID-19 data.
- Develop and test information-sharing systems, such as school-to-parent email or texting protocols, and periodic virtual meetings with parent/teachers, school and community partners and key stakeholders. Use institutional information systems for day-to-day reporting on information that can help detect and respond to an outbreak.
- Adopt mitigation strategies to promote behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19, maintain healthy school environments and operations. Plan what to do if a student, teacher, or staff member gets sick.
- Examine the accessibility of information and resources to determine if they are culturally relevant, in plain language, and available in appropriate languages and accessible formats.
- In consultation with local officials, establish transparent criteria for when the school will suspend in-person learning to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 and criteria for when to resume in-person learning.
- Assess students' special needs, such as continuing education, meal programs, and other services. Develop strategies to address special needs if in-person learning is suspended or if a student needs to self-isolate due to a positive diagnosis of COVID-19.
- Ensure the EOP considers students with disabilities, students with special healthcare needs, students experiencing homelessness, migrant students, and English as a second language learners.
Prepare to Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures
All employers should give information and training on good hygiene and infection control practices.Click to enlarge.
When developing the EOP, develop policies and procedures that emphasize basic infection prevention measures. As appropriate, all employers should give information and training on
good hygiene and infection control practices, including:
- Personal hygiene: Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing a place for students and staff to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not
immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Flexible work scheduling: Employers should explore establishing policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g.,
staggered shifts). Require workers to stay home if they are sick. Encourage work at home when possible.
- Respiratory etiquette: Encourage properly covering coughs and sneezes.
- Waste containment: Provide students and staff with tissues and trash receptacles.
- Social distancing: This measure and hand washing are the two most effective measures to prevent infection. Increase the physical distance to at least 6 feet and do not shake hands.
- Sharing items: Discourage employees from using other employees' phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
- Housekeeping: Maintain good housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. When
choosing cleaning chemicals, consult information on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -approved disinfectant labels with claims against emerging viral pathogens. Products
with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2.
Staying Home when Appropriate
Staff and students should stay home if they have tested positive for or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.Click to enlarge.
The EOP should educate staff and families about when they/their child(ren) should
stay home and when they can return to school.
- Actively encourage employees and students who are sick or who have recently had
close contact (less than 6 feet for fifteen minutes or more) with a person with COVID-19 to stay home. Develop policies that encourage sick employees and students to stay at home
without fear of reprisal, and ensure employees, students, and students' families know these policies. Consider offering virtual learning and telework options, if feasible.
- Staff and students should stay home if they have tested positive for or are
showing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Staff and students who have recently had close contact with a person with
COVID-19 should also stay home and monitor their health.
- CDC's criteria can help inform when employees should return to work:
Encourage staff and students to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Click to enlarge.
Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
The EOP should educate everyone and establish requirements for protecting students and staff through good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
- Teach and reinforce handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and increase
monitoring to ensure adherence among students and staff.
- Encourage staff and students to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not readily available, staff and older children should use a hand
sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Cleaning and Disinfection
Develop a schedule for increased frequency of routine cleaning and disinfection.Click to enlarge.
The EOP should educate everyone and establish requirements for cleaning and disinfecting objects and areas in all school facilities.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched areas within the school and on school
- If transport vehicles are used by the school, drivers should practice all safety actions and protocols. To clean and disinfect school buses or other transport vehicles, see guidelines
for bus transit operators.
- Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning, and disinfection.
- Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfection supplies, including storing products securely away from children. Use products that meet EPA disinfection criteria.
- Cleaning products should not be used near children. Staff should ensure adequate ventilation when using these products to prevent children or themselves from inhaling toxic fumes.
Keep each child's belongings separated from others' and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, or areas.Click to enlarge.
The EOP should educate everyone and establish requirements to limit the sharing of objects and materials among students and staff in schools.
- Discourage sharing items that are difficult to clean or disinfect.
- Keep each child's belongings separated from others' and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, or areas.
- Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing high-touch surfaces or objects. Limit the use of supplies and equipment to one group of children and clean and disinfect between use.
- Use of shared objects (e.g., gym or physical education equipment, art supplies, toys, games) should be limited or cleaned between use.
- Avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, and other games or learning aids.
Drinking fountains should be frequently cleaned and sanitized.Click to enlarge.
The temporary shutdown or reduced operation of schools and reductions in normal water use can create hazards for returning students and staff.
The EOP should include information on taking steps to ensure all water systems
and features are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown. Follow the
EPA's 3Ts, (Training, Testing, and Taking Action) for reducing lead in drinking water. It may be necessary to conduct ongoing regular flushing after reopening. For additional resources,
refer to EPA's Information on Maintaining or Restoring
Water Quality in Buildings with Low or No Use. Drinking fountains should be frequently cleaned and sanitized.
The EOP should educate everyone and establish requirements for the adequate modification of the spacing and layout of equipment and spaces in schools.
Establish requirements for the adequate modification of the spacing and layout of equipment and spaces.Click to enlarge.
- 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.
- Modify learning stations and activities as applicable so there are fewer students per group, placed at least 6 feet apart if possible.
- Create distance between children on school buses (eg., seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible.
- When feasible, use separate exit and entrance doorways and use one-way hallways.
Physical Barriers and Guides
Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls.Click to enlarge.
The EOP should educate everyone and establish requirements for installing barriers and providing physical guides to control exposure to COVID-19 in all school facilities.
- Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly 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.
It's important that the EOP develop strategies and establish requirements for preventing and minimizing exposure to COVID-19 in communal spaces in schools.
- 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 flexible plastic screens, between bathroom sinks, especially when they cannot be at least 6 feet apart.
Ensure children remain at least 6 feet apart in food service lines and tables while eating.Click to enlarge.
Schools are essential to meeting the nutritional needs of its students. More than 30 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program, and nearly 15 million participate in the
School Breakfast Program. The EOP should establish mitigation strategies that schools may implement while providing this critical service to their students:
- Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options, such as hot and cold food bars, salad or condiment bars, and drink stations.
- Serve individually plated or pre-packaged meals while ensuring the
safety of children with food allergies.
- As feasible, have children eat meals outdoors or in classrooms while maintaining social distance (at least 6 feet apart) as much as possible, instead of in a communal dining hall or cafeteria.
- Have teachers and children wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol before and after eating.
- If communal dining halls or cafeterias are used, ensure that children remain at least 6 feet apart in food service lines and tables while eating. Clean and disinfect tables and chairs
between each use.
- Ensure children do not share food or utensils. This helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 for all students and helps ensure the safety of children with food allergies:
- Use disposable food service items (e.g., utensils, trays).
- If disposable items are not feasible or desirable, ensure all non-disposable food service items and equipment are handled with gloves and washed with dish soap and hot water
or in a dishwasher.
- Individuals should wash their hands after removing their gloves or after directly
handling used food service items.
- If food is offered at any event, have pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee instead of a buffet or family-style meal.
- Provide tissues and no-touch or foot pedal trash cans, where possible, for employees, volunteers, and students to use.
- If possible, install touchless payment methods (pay without touching money, a card, or a keypad). Provide hand sanitizer right after handling money, cards, or keypads.
- Note: The USDA has issued the COVID-19 Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility
in the Child Nutrition Programs.
Check your Work
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