During the COVID-19 epidemic, returning to school brings a new set of concerns for parents. You’re now faced with the dilemma of how to keep your child safe in the school, especially as COVID-19 instances continue to climb due to the more highly transmissible OMICRON version. In comparison to adults, children generally have a milder type of disease. Schools must now strike a balance between children’s educational and safety demands.
Few advices for school authorities would be:
- Ensure that all staff members are adequately vaccinated and that everyone entering the school has their temperature taken.
- Create one-way traffic in school halls, reduce the number of students on school buses, and use outdoor areas as much as possible, such as during lunchtime. Desks are being spaced apart and students are being divided into smaller groups for lessons.
- In the case of an infection, a documented policy of contact tracking process.
- Frequently touched locations such as doorknobs, stair rails, and keyboards should be cleaned and disinfected.
Physical distancing at schools
- Keep a space of at least one metre between everyone at school.
- Increase the distance between workstations (at least 1 metre), and stagger them. Lunch breaks and recess/breaks (if difficult, one alternative is to have lunch at desks).
- Mixing classes for school and after-school activities should be avoided. For instance, pupils in a class may remain in the same classroom throughout the day while professors travel between them; or classes may utilise various entrances, if available, or arrange an order for each class to enter and depart the building/classroom.
- Vary the start and finish hours of the school day to prevent having all of the kids and instructors together at the same time.
- Consider expanding the number of instructors, if possible, to allow for fewer kids per classroom (if space is available) (if space is available).
- Avoid congestion at school pick-up or daycare, and if feasible, avoid having older family or community members pick up your child (i.e., grandparents). Arrange school pick-up and drop-off hours differently (based on age group) to avoid big groups of children at one time.
- Maintain a 1-metre space in line-ups around doors by using signs, ground markings, tape, barricades, and other techniques.
- Talk about how to run physical education and sports classes.
- If feasible, move classes outside or ventilate rooms.
- Remind pupils not to congregate and interact in large groups when they leave the school premises.
Health and Hand Hygiene
Teachers have a critical role to play in ensuring students understand the precautions they should take to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 Variant, and it is important that teachers lead by example in the classroom.
Handwashing is one of the easiest, more cost-efficient and effective way of combating the spread of germs and keeping students and staff healthy.
Five Steps for Hand Hygiene
- Wet hands with safe, running water
- Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
- Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including backs of hands, between fingers and under nails – for at least 20 seconds. You can encourage students to sing a quick song at this point to make it a fun habit
- Rinse thoroughly with running water
- Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use towel.
Actions to take if one of your students appears to be sick
- School preparations and what to do if one of your students displays any of the symptoms
- Designate a specific area in the school (i.e., near the entrance) as a waiting room where children can wait. Ideally, this room should be well-ventilated. If there are school nurses available, it is recommended that they are designated staff in this waiting area. If students feel ill and/or exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, they should wait in the designated room to be picked up by their parents/caregiver. Afterwards, the room should be cleaned, disinfected and sanitized
- Provide the sick student with a medical mask if available
- Consider daily screening for body temperature, and history of fever or feeling feverish in the previous 24 hours, on entry into the building for all staff, students and visitors to identify persons who are sick
- Ensure a procedure for separating sick students and staff from those who are well – without creating stigma – and a process for informing parents, and consulting with health care providers/ health authorities wherever possible
- Students/ staff may need to be referred directly to a health facility, depending on the situation/ context, or sent home
- Encourage all students to stay home and self-isolate should they feel ill
- Develop a standard of operation if temperature screening is required
- Share procedures with parents and students ahead of time.
Few advice for children and parents:
- Wearing a cloth face mask. Parents should label the face mask to avoid confusion and children should never share their mask.
- Teaching the children, the importance of wearing the mask all time and reminding them they need to clean their hands before and after touching their mask.
- Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 secs, if washing is not available to use an alcohol-based sanitiser.
- Stay home if sick, especially if the child has fever, cough, sore throat or headache.
- Don’t skip your regular vaccinations.
- Children at higher risk- with immunodeficiency disorders or chronic health issues could take advice from paediatricians before going to school.
- Nutrition- healthy balanced diet and good sleep a must for good immunity during pandemic times.
- Mental health- parents and teachers should address the child’s fear of going to school with an open conversation.
Dr. Mehta’s Hospitals