University students observing safe physical and social distancing to avoid coronavirus spread in a higher education institution. Photo credit: en.as.com
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Following the relaxation of lockdown after weeks of shutting down of the economy of many national governments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many health experts have continued to warn of the impending the second wave of coronavirus infections globally.
Beijing’s education commission ordered the closure of the Chinese capital’s schools last month following a new outbreak of the coronavirus after schools in China were reopened for normal traditional in-person classroom learning though not without national health precautionary measures. Many more such cases abound.
The second wave of coronavirus infection may have a more devastating effect on the global education system, and not only leaving the system in ruins but prolonging the time for its full recovery.
Many schools have taken up distance education globally ever since the pandemic to enable school children and students to continue their academic work safely even though the traditional in-person classroom learning is a preferable education mode especially for children in the school of early years and basic education like lower primary classes.
Outside the responsibility of international health and education organizations, national governments at all levels – federal, state, and local government, civil society organizations, private schools, and other educational centers proprietors have a duty to perform before reopening school or to ensure safe learning in schools after reopening in response to post-COVID-19 pandemic effects.
3 measures and actions schools should take for a successful reopening of schools and avoid post-reopening COVID-19 infection spread
Since the COVID-19 pandemic remains a threat to global health, what measures and actions can schools take responsively to avoid the predicted second wave of coronavirus infections spread from causing further harm to the global education system especially now schools in many countries have reopened?
Observing safe and hygiene measures and practices
In order to prevent the second wave of COVID-19 infections, schools, and learning facilities should ensure that all learners and teaching staff, including parents and all school visitors, comply strictly with national CDC COVID-19 prevention guidelines and proscribed safety and hygiene measures and practices, such as proper screening at school entrances, sports, Physical Education (PE), and extra-curricular activities, use of face masks, clean water and sanitation hygiene WASH facilities and education in schools and during transit to and fro schools to avoid raising the infection rate.
In observing safe physical and social distancing, learners should be supported to stay two meters apart in schools and learning facilities – a requirement that reflects current national CDC COVID-19 public health advice. Classrooms, dining halls, staff rooms, and offices should have sufficient space to allow for the two-meter physical separation between all schoolchildren and students.
Schools should adopt risk mitigation strategies for early years, younger schoolchildren, and learners with additional needs. Such risk assessment, undertaken in the interest of the learners, teachers, and other school education personnel, requires organizing the school children and students into small groups with consistent membership.
Again, in compliance with the risk mitigation strategies, safe physical distancing practice between the school staff and such a group should be maintained. A member of that group can only be changed in compliance with the national CDC public health guidelines or its approval.
If safe physical and social distancing, as well as risk mitigation strategies, are put in place appropriately, the predicted second wave of coronavirus infection can possibly be averted.
Another way schools and learning facilities can reopen and avoid the second and subsequent waves of COVID-19 spread by observing alternative learning models for safe physical and social distancing. The following practices depict the globally-standard alternative learning models which also apply to countries that are yet to reopen their schools:
One of the alternative learning models schools and learning facilities can use is shelter outdoors for teaching and learning. This sounds right for the protection and safety of teachers and learners with suitable security measures provided and ensure of safety in all weather in all learning locations.
Schools and learning facilities can reopen and avoid the second wave of COVID-19 spread by gradually starting with particular grade level(s) if they can ensure that learners arrive and depart at different times in order to avoid overcrowding.
Schools and learning facilities can reopen and prevent the predicted second wave of COVID-19 infection from taking place if they can alternate attendance days per week, with secondary or high school learners and above having a fewer number of students in the in-person classroom learning since these categories of learners can manage independent learning.
Schools and learning facilities can observe platooning as a learning model if they reopen and continue their academic work without endangering the lives of schoolchildren and students in the school dividing the classroom learning into morning and afternoon shifts.
Schools and learning facilities can reopen if learners can avoid interactions with schoolmates by remain in one location and be attended to by teaching staff.
Flexible scheduling can be observed if classroom learning can be structured in a way to avoid learners and teaching staff moving to different locations and areas in the school premise.
Delivering creative learning
Classroom learning can be creatively and holistically delivered, taking into consideration various learning environments including indoor and outdoor in-person education and various avenues for distance education (computer, TV, radio, online, print materials). Schools and learning facilities can provide learners with these opportunities and environments or to reduce the burden placed on indoor and outdoor classroom education.
Schools and learning facilities can reopen, if yet to, and avoid further COVID-19 infection spread, once they can implement the above safety and hygienic measures and alternative learning models for safe physical and social distancing measures. The measures and actions required of them will help minimize and isolate risks through a focus on flexible scheduling and content delivery to returning school children and students.
The importance of the models is on the premise to avoid learners who have disabilities or require additional support getting disadvantaged.