How To Support Schools In Preparing For Coronavirus
by TeachThought Staff
TeachThought is going to gather the latest news, data, resources, and recommendations for Coronavirus/COVID-19 and share that information here. We will continue to update the information as often as is relevant to support teachers, schools, and districts in responding to the virus.
What is the Coronavirus/COVID-19?
According to the CDC, “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.”
The Role of Schools In Preparing For Coronavirus
As a global entity, the concept and practice of public education gathers hundreds of millions of students together in small spaces every day. This makes it an easy way for viruses to spread, which is why on March 4th, 2020, Italy announced that all public schools would be closing until at least March 15th, 2020.
While schools face challenges every year in keeping students, teachers, and staff healthy due to viruses like the flu, the common cold, and other diseases, viruses, and infection, the Coronavirus represents a unique challenge due in part to misunderstanding of the virus (including misinformation, propaganda, fear, etc.) but also the fact that while not a ‘global super bug,’ it is indeed nearly three and a half times more deadly than the already deadly common flu strains schools experience every year.
“Schools, working together with local health departments, have an important role in slowing the spread of diseases to help ensure students have safe and healthy learning environments. Schools serve students, staff, and visitors from throughout the community. All of these people may have close contact in the school setting, often sharing spaces, equipment, and supplies. To prepare for possible community transmission of COVID-19, the most important thing for schools to do now is plan and prepare. As the global outbreak evolves, schools should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks. Schools want to be ready if COVID-19 does appear in their communities.”
The role of schools, then, might include four main parts: Prepare, Communicate, Educate, Support
General Overview Of Recommendations For Schools To Prepare For Coronavirus/COVID-19
The following info is sourced in part from research overviews and summaries of data and information provided by the Center for Disease Control in the United States, the World Health Organization, and the US Department of Education.
Have a clear and science-based plan for your school that responds to the most recent scientific data about the most urgent needs (i.e., public health and safety). This obviously includes everything from communicating with families and transporting students to curriculum and instruction delivery, online learning, and more.
Communicate with families now to begin preparations for an outbreak in your school and community, then and update that message continuously with new information as it emerges. School and district websites and social media platforms like twitter and facebook are obviously effective methods of doing this but you will likely need a multi-facted approach as not every family is likely to be on a single platform where they can all access critical data.
Clearly communicate the evidence-based facts and data about the Coronavirus–the mortality rate and how that compares to the common flu, how the COVID-19 virus is spread, what they should do if they feel sick, etc. In other words, stick to science and medicine rather than worry, social media, news, and policies.
For example, the most evidence (as of March 14th, 2020) shows that COVID-19 is more dangerous the more common seasonal flu (with a mortality rate 3.4% compared to the seasonal flu which is around 1%) and so far seems to spread more easily spread as easily. This helps contextualize what’s happening biologically. Then, help the students (who are children and lack life experience) to frame that data as well–not over-reacting to it but also seeing it as a very real threat to the health and well-being of anyone in contact with the virus.
Reduce potential transmission of virus and support teachers and students throughout the process with resources and information about how to stay healthy and what to do if they become ill.
Do whatever possible to limit the spread of the virus (from educating communities to closing schools when appropriate).
Encourage staff and students to stay home if they’re sick. Obviously this is complicated for teachers who may lack paid leave days at this point in the school year, and even more complicated for many families who don’t have access to childcare.
Everyone in the school should turn away from anyone around them and cover their mouth and nose with the crook of their arm when they cough or sneeze.
Teach students how to properly wash their hands and make sure they have the resources (e.g., soap, paper towels, etc.) and access to bathrooms to do so especially before eating.
Encourage students to keep their hands out of their ‘T-Zone’–their eyes, nose, and mouth. This is how the COVID-19 makes its way into the body. Make sure they understand that.
In the next post, we will provide more specific CDC recommendations for preparing for COVID-19 in your school and district.