District leaders and their staffs must plan for multiple potential reopening scenarios and anticipate the potential contingency issues that will emerge with each scenario. A majority of the districts represented by task force superintendents are planning for a combination of potential opening approaches, including:
Additionally, the task force supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations that universal guidelines and protocols be in place, regardless of the scenario adopted by the district or region. In partnership with local health officials, district leaders must assess the current level of mitigation needed based on levels of COVID-19 community transmission and the capacities of the local public health and healthcare systems.
For each of these contingencies and potential scenarios, the task force strongly recommends that schools and districts ensure resources for the protection of students and staff during the duration of the COVID-19 crisis; adequate supplies of personal protective equipment; and ongoing sanitation and decontamination of classrooms and school buildings. Participating superintendents were in consensus about the need for universal protocols and guiding principles for ensuring the safety and well-being of returning students, staff and families. According to international comparison studies published by the Learning Policy Institute, these protocols and principles should include the following:
Clearly Articulated Attendance Policies: The multiple scenarios that school districts may face during reopening will require flexibility in attendance policies and practices. At-risk students and staff may need accommodations to remain in their homes, increasing the need for universal access to internet and related educational technologies for those engaged in distance learning.
School Closure and Quarantine Procedures: Task force participants confirmed that district leaders must develop contingency plans for closing classrooms or schools in the event that students or staff contract COVID-19. This process will necessitate efficient health screening procedures, quarantine protocols, and clearly articulated criteria to determine if school closings are needed. This process will involve a multi-faceted communication plan that ensures all staff, families and community members are informed of closures and quarantines.
Hygiene and Cleaning Procedures: In addition to reinforcing handwashing as a key priority, school and district staff must ensure that there is ongoing cleaning and sanitation of commonly touched surfaces to mitigate the virus. The range of potential sanitation, health and hygiene requirements emerging from highly interactive settings in which social distancing may be challenging compounds the need to address these issues. For example, what hygiene and cleaning procedures are necessary when students are sharing equipment, supplies, textbooks and related resources?
Health Screening: This issue will become a major challenge for reopening schools and districts, regardless of the scenario they are confronting. Procedures will include temperature checks and assurances that students or staff exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms do not enter buildings.
Social-Distancing Protocols: Both the CDC and the World Health Organization suggest keeping individuals at a six-foot distance from one another and reducing the number of people with whom an individual interacts directly. Protocols for social distancing may require reducing class size, keeping students in a stable homeroom class with teachers circulating, seating students farther apart, and reducing large-size events such as assemblies and sporting events. Key issues to focus on include: (1) arrival protocols; (2) mealtimes, recreation, and transportation; and (3) unique challenges in classes and programs requiring a high degree of student interaction and proximity as well as experiential learning (e.g., art activities, physical education, music, Career and Technical Education).
1. Develop a Cleaning and Disinfection Plan for All Buildings and Classrooms:
2. Implement the Plan with Consistency and Quality Control Measures:
3. Maintain the Plan Throughout the Academic Year, Revising as Needed: