The coronavirus (COVID-19) has now spread to six of the world’s seven continents, and in this country, the Centers for Disease Control have responded by calling on the public to prepare for a potential pandemic. At the encouragement of federal officials, hospitals, businesses, and schools are preparing for coronavirus outbreaks. Across the United States, parents, educators, and administrators are at work at all levels in case of an outbreak of the respiratory virus at their schools.
We will continue to update this article as the situation progresses.
At the district level.
Districts can prepare and develop procedures for all of their schools.
- Districts should have a plan in place to continue student learning should they have to shut down due to an outbreak of coronavirus. Miami-Dade County Schools—the fourth largest district in the United States—is prepared to maximize digital learning opportunities such as teleschool.
- Other system-wide changes must also be ready to roll out. Superintendent Alberto M. Cavalho tweeted, “In preparation for the possibility of local detection of #coronavirus, we are prepared to implement, should need warrant it, alternate dismissal of students, reduce large scale student assemblies, while increasing school cleaning cycles.”
- Districts should also develop a process to determine if students are, in fact, contracting the disease, as well as how to report cases to the appropriate health officials. They must also develop a plan to communicate timely, accurate information to students and families.
At the school level.
Each school within the district should also be prepared for a coronavirus outbreak.
- Programs that reward attendance are problematic, especially in the face of a potential pandemic. Schools should encourage both students and staff to stay home if they aren’t feeling well. They should be especially mindful of symptoms such as fever, body aches, or scratchy throat. Use the guideline of fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school.
- Many schools are stocking up on supplies such as hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. It’s worth noting that a surgical mask doesn’t protect the wearer from germs. Rather, it helps keep someone who is sick with a respiratory illness from passing it to others.
- Some schools are even implementing smaller-scale “social distancing measures.” (Closure would be large scale.) Individual schools may divide classrooms into smaller groups to try to limit person-to-person transmission of infectious disease.
At the classroom level.
Teachers should have their individual plans in place as well.
- Teachers should take this opportunity to discuss and promote good hygiene techniques with their students. Frequent handwashing and remembering to cough and sneeze into your elbow are great ways to prevent the spread of any disease—not just the coronavirus. It also helps contain the flu, which is responsible for more cases of serious illness than COVID-19.
- Cleaning wipes are a teacher’s best friend—now more than ever. Disinfecting is a good line of defense against all kinds of germs. Teachers should routinely sanitize classroom surfaces like desks, countertops, doorknobs, and faucet handles.
- Students are experiencing the same kind of illness-related anxiety as adults. This is likely due to the sensationalizing of coronavirus, especially on social media. Teachers can ease their students’ fears (so they can get back to the important task of learning) by addressing misconceptions around the virus.
- One of the most concerning factors out of the coronavirus outbreak is the uptick in racism and xenophobia, fueled by ignorance, misinformation, and fear. Teachers need to meet that kind of rhetoric head-on and let students know it is as unacceptable as it is inaccurate.
How are you and your schools preparing for coronavirus? Come share on the WeAreTeachers Helpline on Facebook.