Disinfection is a major step in every back to school checklist. Although it is extremely important, disinfection isn’t effective on its own. You can disinfect every inch of a school, but if students and staff leave campus and do not wear masks, don’t physically distance, or don’t practice hand hygiene, those efforts won’t matter.
Education leaders and health officials are working hard to develop complete programs that will help schools reopen safely. The California Department of Public Health has issued the following interim guidelines for schools and school based programs for reopening.
1. Implement General Measures
Most important is to establish and maintain communication. Guidelines and safeguards will likely change. Continue to communicate with local officials and collaborate with other educational institutions.
You should also plan for future closures and develop a response to potential outbreaks. As California continues to reopen more cases are inevitable. Have a plan ready.
Finally, develop a plan that supports at-risk students. Those with existing health conditions should not be allowed back to campus. Ensure that they have all the resources they need to succeed from home.
2. Promote Hygiene Practices
The number one defense against COVID-19 is hand washing because it removes germs and protects against infection. As we all know by now, it is also important to avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and to cover coughs and sneezes.
Educate your students on proper health hygiene before they return to campus and continue to educate them after. Take extra time educating younger students. Post signs in and around the restrooms, in classrooms and common areas where people tend to congregate.
It is encouraged to require students and staff to wear face coverings. If you can, provide masks for everyone so there are no excuses.
3. Intensify Cleaning and Disinfection
You don’t have control over students’ actions, but you do have control over their environment. For as long as school has been out, there is no excuse for the cleanliness of your campus. When students return to school, every building should be clean and disinfected.
Cleaning and disinfecting are different, but must both be performed to promote health and safety.
Cleaning: Removes dirt, dust and other soils from surfaces. This process can remove germs, but will not kill bacteria or viruses.
Disinfecting: Kills both bacteria and viruses from surfaces.
There needs to be an increased focus on disinfecting touchpoints, also known as frequently touched surfaces. These surfaces include door handles, light switches, faucets, countertops, desks, lunch tables, cafeteria trays, drinking fountains and more.
Health officials recommend that schools limit sharing by having an adequate amount of supplies. Also by restricting the use of commonly shared site resources like drinking fountains.
Whether these areas are restricted or not, they should be frequently cleaned and disinfected to promote health and safety.
Work closely with your janitorial staff to create an effective program, but recognize that disinfection is a team effort. Ensure that your staff has access to disinfecting wipes during the day for easy disinfecting.
Janitorial staff should focus on touchpoint disinfection of common areas and shared workstations every evening. You may even consider hiring day porters to disinfect hot spots throughout the day. Each cleaning caddy should be equipped with disinfectants from the EPA’s N List. This list included disinfectants labeled to be effective against emerging pathogens, like COVID-19.
The EPA has approved these disinfectants to disinfect COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean that they are all safe in regard to human health. We need to conduct even more research to determine which of these disinfectants is also safe for students and staff.
A service that should seriously be considered is electrostatic spray disinfection. The disinfectants we use for electrostatic disinfection are safe for people, plants and animals. Surfaces are safe to touch and use immediately after the service is performed. The disinfectants are also food safe.
Depending on the size of the school, your campus can be completely disinfected within two hours or less using electrostatic spray disinfection. This is our number one recommended coronavirus disinfecting service.
Electrostatic spray disinfection is the only way to achieve 360-degree coverage. The devices charge disinfecting solutions so that they wrap around and stick to targeted surfaces to thoroughly disinfect.
4. Check for Signs and Symptoms
Require screening procedures for everyone who enters the campus. Taking everyone’s temperature may not be practical, but you can ask each individual if they are experiencing COVID-19 specific symptoms and ask them to fill out a check-in form.
Record all incidents of possible exposure and encourage those who have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 to stay home. Also identify an isolation room or area to separate anyone who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19. If they test positive, close off areas used by this person and do not allow reentry before cleaning and disinfection is completed.
It is extremely important to prevent discrimination against students who (or whose families) were or are diagnosed with COVID-19. Schools should be a safe place both physically and mentally.
5. Educate Families
Finally, educate families in enhanced disinfection measures, physical distancing guidelines, use of face coverings, screening practices and COVID-19 symptom identification.
This can be done through socials, your school website, webinar training and take home flyers. In addition to maintaining a safe environment at school, help to maintain a safe environment at home.
When schools are allowed to reopen, be prepared.
- Implement general measures like communication, response plans and support for at risk youth.
- Promote healthy hygiene practices.
- Intensify cleaning and disinfecting.
- Check students and staff for signs and symptoms.
- Educate families on at home hygiene.
Please read over the California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 INDUSTRY GUIDANCE: Schools and School Based Programs for more recommendations.
Plan ahead and stay safe!