A teacher and schoolchildren in a makeshift classroom – an alternative learning model for COVID-19 prevention in schools
COVID-19 Response in Education: How to know if it is safe to return your children to school without COVID-19 spread
Key considerations to guide parents to decide whether it is safe to allow their children to return to school, in COVID-19 response in education, should be evidentially data-based and not politically-driven. Such comprehensive data-based public health strategies will help parents have vital information on the preparedness of their kids’ schools to reopen.
Countries like Japan, China, Sweden, Denmark, Israel, and Uruguay reopened their schools after relaxing lockdown measures with stringent COVID-19 prevention strategies, resulting in mixed experiences, but U.K. and U.S. schools are yet to reopen.
How parents and guardians will know if it is safe to return their kids to school
It is important to have a sustained reduction in coronavirus cases both nationwide as well in the communities where the schools are located to avoid the COVID-19 pandemic schools reopening surge in infection cases in Israel after school children and teachers became sick of the diseases and hundreds of school were closed again thereafter.
Parents and guardians should consider answers to these pertinent questions about the level of transmission of coronavirus virus pandemic in their locality before returning their children to school:
What is the level of the national transmission and the community where the school is situated? Has the virus spread been slowed down steadily, in the past two to three weeks, at least? Has the country reached the projected peak of coronavirus infection cases? Has the infection curve flattened? What is the level of compliance by the public and schools with the guidelines?
Parents who have decided to return their children should demand a shred of evidence that the school education community will comply with the national CDC public health guidelines in areas of low or no infection cases following SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Specific) goal-setting approach.
How much testing capacity has the country as a whole and the locality of the school location developed to tests local residents, community members, students, and schoolchildren? What’s the capacity to test, trace, isolate, and support the schools when cases are suspected? Does the government have the capacity to test all returning staff and learners in both day and boarding school students as well as disinfecting all school facilities?
In case of a second wave or third wave occurrence, can the healthcare systems in the locality of your children’s school location and others nationwide promptly detect and contain an upward surge in the number of coronavirus infection cases?
Can your children’s schools implement infection prevention and control measures
Are schools able and ready to implement recommended infection prevention and control measures?
- Do your children’s schools have the capacity to maintain safe school operations (such as social distancing) as a risk mitigation strategy? For example, what is the size of their classrooms as compared to the number of schoolchildren or students? What is the cross-ventilation in classrooms/TLCs? Are Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) amenities readily available in the schools, including restrooms, hand-washing facilities with soap and water? 47% of schools lacked a hand-washing facility with water and soap, according to UNICEF, affecting 900 million school-age children and over 30% of schools globally and 50% of schools in the least developed countries have no place for children to wash their hands at all if your children’s schools are among these schools that lack WASH facilities, will you return them to school and expose them to coronavirus infection that quickly without adequate precautionary measures?
- Considering epidemiological factors associated with coronavirus infection and prevention, public health and healthcare capacities, population density, and adherence to social distancing and good hygiene practices, how will your kids’ schools mitigate community-related risk factors to reopening schools for teachers, education personnel, and learners? How can the schools manage travel to and fro school by the school population? Will the schools be able to mitigate the risk of using public transportation for teachers, education personnel, and learners?