CDC Issues Guidelines for Reopening Schools
Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines for reopening K-12 schools in the fall.
The CDC’s website says the guidelines are ways schools can help protect their students and staff while slowing the spread.
Maintaining Healthy Environments
Cleaning and Disinfection
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains) within the school and on school buses at least daily or between use as much as possible. Use of shared objects (e.g., gym or physical education equipment, art supplies, toys, games) should be limited when possible, or cleaned between use.
Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection.
Discourage sharing of items that are difficult to clean or disinfect.
Keep each child’s belongings separated from others’ and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, or areas.
Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high touch materials to the extent possible (e.g., assigning each student their own art supplies, equipment) or limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of children at a time and clean and disinfect between use.
Avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, and other games or learning aids.
Space seating/desks at least 6 feet apart when feasible.
Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.
Create distance between children on school buses (g., seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible.
Physical Barriers and Guides
Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., reception desks).
Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g. guides for creating “one way routes” in hallways).
Close communal use shared spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds with shared playground equipment if possible; otherwise, stagger use and clean and disinfect between use.
Add physical barriers, such as plastic flexible screens, between bathroom sinks especially when they cannot be at least 6 feet apart.
Have children bring their own meals or serve individually plated meals in classrooms instead of in a communal dining hall or cafeteria, while ensuring the safety of children with food allergies.
If food is offered at any event, have pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee instead of a buffet or family-style meal. Avoid sharing food and utensils and ensure the safety of children with food allergies.
Gatherings, Visitors, and Field Trips
Pursue virtual group events, gatherings, or meetings, if possible, and promote social distancing of at least 6 feet between people if events are held. Limit group size to the extent possible.
Limit any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations as possible – especially with individuals who are not from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city, county).
Pursue virtual activities and events in lieu of field trips, student assemblies, special performances, school-wide parent meetings, and spirit nights, as possible.
Pursue options to convene sporting events and participation in sports activities in ways that minimizes the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to players, families, coaches, and communities.
Identifying Small Groups and Keeping Them Together (Cohorting)
Ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff (all day for young children, and as much as possible for older children).
Limit mixing between groups if possible.
Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations by cohort or put in place other protocols to limit contact between cohorts and direct contact with parents as much as possible.
When possible, use flexible worksites (e.g., telework) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to help establish policies and practices for social distancing (maintaining distance of approximately 6 feet) between employees and others, especially if social distancing is recommended by state and local health authorities.
While highly recommended, these guidelines are nonbinding, the CDC emphasizes, and “implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable.” Additionally, “the considerations are meant to supplement — not replace — any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which schools must comply.”
Visit cdc.gov/coronavirus for the full list of recommendations.