Essential actions to keep staff and students safe and healthy

Do First

  • Designate a mental health liaison (school-based) who will work with the district, local public health agencies, and community partners. A good candidate to serve as the mental health liaison is the school social worker or school psychologist. 

Do Before School Opens

  • Develop  site-specific communication resources to help students understand changes to normal operating procedures. 
  • Finalize health screening protocols based on district guidance.

Do When School is Open and Operating

  • Maintain mental health supports via on-going wellness assessments of staff and students.
  • Normalize feelings through forums and spaces for compassionate listening where students and school staff can share, discuss, and process their common experiences relative to SARS-CoV-2.
  • Prevent the spread of infection:
    • Encourage students and staff to stay away from school when sick.
    • Teach students and staff to use masks and protective equipment appropriately, covering a cough, and using/discarding tissues appropriately.
    • Stress the importance of keeping hands away from the eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Teach students and staff how to keep surfaces clean and disinfected.
  • Introduce hand washing best practices: 
    • Utilizing and posting signage.
    • Using soap and water and scrubbing for approximately 20 seconds before rinsing.
    • Using paper towels to turn sink handles and open doors before discarding.
    • Using alcohol-based sanitizer when hands are not visibly soiled.
    • Developing fixed schedules for hand washing (particularly, for younger students).
    • Ensuring that adequate supplies are available and in good functional condition.
  • Institute limited contact policies:
    • It will be challenging to minimize personal contact between students of younger age, but efforts should be made to limit close contact between older students.
    • Spread desks and seating arrangements to conform with social distancing guidelines.
    • Amend schedules to conform with social distancing guidelines (e.g. stagger lunches).
    • Employ virtual meetings to conform with social distancing guidelines. 
  • Review and Amend vaccinations planning:
    • School officials should not plan on a vaccine being available for the start of school in fall 2020, and the return to school will take place with a body of students unprotected from infection.
    • School officials should expect to receive guidance on the timing and availability of teacher and student vaccines from public health officials.
  • Update and Finalize student and staff health records:
    • Once vaccination begins, it is possible that SARS-CoV-2 immunization status will fall under state “school entry” laws wherein states can prohibit student attendance unless there is proof that a student has been immunized through a verified health record. Schools should expect that a requirement for such evidence will be forthcoming from public health officials.
    • It should also be considered, however, that prior SARS-CoV-2 status may be protected under current privacy laws. Certain diseases, including acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and mental health, for example, are considered protected health information that students, parents, and employees cannot be forced to disclose involuntarily. Because immunization statutes are enforced at the state level, there may be some inter-state variability around SARS-CoV-2 requirements and school leaders should seek guidance from their district.