By Kerry Needs   |  
September 10th, 2020

Getting safely back to educating: how schools can prepare for reopening during COVID-19

Reading Time: 4 minutes

COVID-19 has created a vastly different world for school aged children. Starting in March this year, millions of children experienced homeschooling for the first time, as parents and caregivers instantly became teachers. Traditional classroom-based learning shifted to digital platforms overnight, as an unusual consequence of global lockdowns. 

Despite fears of a second wave, schools across different continents are slowly reopening with stringent new safety protocols in place to protect students and staff. 

New safety measures are being revealed daily, and staying on top of the extensive guidance provided for staying COVID-19 free is exceptionally challenging. The previously safe classroom environment has become high-risk, and school operations are adapting to the new classroom normal. 

We’ll explore some of the challenges faced by educators globally and suggest ways for schools to react faster to new risks, maintaining the safety of children, parents, and staff during the pandemic. Keeping the school environment safe is everyone’s responsibility and we’ll help your school get safely back faster with top tips for education.

Back to school around the world 

Back to school as normal? Not this year. 

Education has been one of the last sectors to return to full operations amid the pandemic. Following the global shutdown of schools and learning centers, over 22 countries around the world have now fully reopened their schools, with many more to follow over the coming months.

By mid-September 2020, a further 55 countries will have permitted a partial reopening, trialing different strategies to mitigate transmission risk.

A cautious return to the classroom

In Australia, a study published in the Lancet has shown that  virus transmission is minimal in children, meaning it is safe to reopen schools with strict precautions.

Across England, the government is facing pressure for pupils to wear face coverings, which are already partially used in secondary schools in Scotland. The current guidance from the World Health Organisation states that those below 12 do not have to wear a mask.However, as we’ve seen  with other COVID-19 measures, this is subject to change at a moment’s notice.

In the US, there is more reluctance  about getting back to school. Teachers are hesitant  to return until the virus has been contained further. Some are pushing to delay in-person learning, with some US states declaringit’s simply not safe’.

So, how do we keep education  safe in the midst of a global pandemic?

Safety Culture is leading the way for schools to return safely and stay on top of new guidelines.

Keeping your school safe with digital  checklists

When advice is lengthy and daunting, an easy way to keep on top of changing government advice is to implement digital checklists.

Digital checklists are easy to implement, simple to customize, and hold a large amount of data. Apps such as iAuditor allow checklists to become collaborative, allowing everyone to take responsibility for safety. Checklists can empower the entire school with teachers, supervisors, and cleaners all able to complete frequent checks. The simple app in their pocket replaces cumbersome paper-based lists.

iAuditor allows for a range of online checklists, and here’s just some of the digital checks you could implement to keep your school safe.

PPE: Are staff wearing appropriate PPE? Do children know about the risks of not wearing a face covering, if mandatory?

Tip: Keep a stock of spare face coverings in the classroom, ready for pupils to take one should they forget their own.

Social distancing: Are tables appropriately spaced? Do pupils have enough space to move around the classroom freely without getting too close to others?

Tip: Make floor markers with a  fun  design so younger children are more likely to stick to the guidelines.

Digital learning: Is every opportunity to remove paper based learning implemented? Can pupils view videos instead of sharing books or papers?

Tip: A personal digital device that is sanitized after use could be encouraged.

Sanitization: Are tables sanitized? Are chairs cleaned after every lesson?

Tip: Remember to sanitize smaller spaces, such as coat hooks and door handles.

Cohorting: Are measures in place to keep large groups apart? Can you stagger break and eating times to avoid too many people in one space? Can unused or under-utilized school spaces, including outdoor spaces, be repurposed to increase classroom space and facilitate social distancing?

Tip: Keeping certain sections of the school closed for a morning or afternoon allows them to be deep cleaned ready for the next class. 

Essential learning: Are singing and music recitals off-limits?  Is all non-crucial learning suspended until further notice?

Tip: Put up posters around the school informing staff, pupils and parents what activities are allowed.

Hand washing: Are hand washing stations near to the classroom? Are pupils being directed to wash hands after every class?

Tip: Encourage singing a 20 second song for younger children whilst washing to make it fun.

Contact tracing: Are contact tracing measures in place? Do children know to update the school with changes in contact details?  

Tip: Send a weekly email to inform parents of updates, and include a reminder to update the school information regarding changes to contact information.

Communication:  Do all pupils and staff know the symptoms of the virus? Are any illnesses communicated effectively to the necessary people? Do parents know to keep their child at home if they have any symptoms?

Tip: Set up alerts that can be distributed to parents at a moments notice; perhaps SMS notifications or a Facebook alert.

Complete rapid inspections and put minds at ease

With iAuditor, schools can upload a huge number of digital checklists, allowing them to record and track information, and spot information as they go. 

Recent research conducted by Safety Culture showed that over 1/3rd of parents do not feel safe letting their kids return  to school, due to the virus.

Digital checklists can help your school effectively manage risk, and alleviate parents’ concerns around safety.

In California, iAuditor is being successfully used by 45 schools, who have the mobile app on-hand to keep on top of every task and inspection item on their checklist.

In the meantime, check out our list of free resources below, and aim to enjoy getting safely back to school – we wish all educators the best for the coming academic year.

Important Notice
The information contained in this article is general in nature and you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your specific needs. Legal and other matters referred to in this article are based on our interpretation of laws existing at the time and should not be relied on in place of professional advice. We are not responsible for the content of any site owned by a third party that may be linked to this article. SafetyCulture disclaims all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded) for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information contained in this article, any site linked to this article, and any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

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