School Preparedness

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has not ordered the continued closure of the state’s K-12 schools for the 2020-2021 school year as had been ordered for the final several weeks of the 2019-2020 school year. As many schools prepare to re-open in the fall, the Ohio Department of Health has issued the following COVID-19 Health and Prevention Guidance for Ohio K-12 Schools and Higher Education Institutions (K-12 Resource | Higher Education)

For the latest additional information and guidance, please visit the Ohio Department of Education website.

Every School Should Have A Plan

School preparedness is extremely important for our community. While the outbreak of COVID-19 has increased the call for preparedness, it is not the only reason that schools should be prepared. Although COVID-19 is currently what we are trying to protect our community from, it is still necessary to be prepared even after COVID-19 has come and gone. There are many things that schools can do to prepare themselves, including organizing an emergency plan team if you do not already have one, establishing relationships with key community partners and stakeholders, updating emergency communication plans, staying up to date about the local COVID-19 situation, distributing health messages including prevention actions to staff and participants, addressing the potential fear and anxiety that may result from rumors or misinformation, providing prevention supplies to staff such as hand sanitizers, tissues, trash baskets, disposable facemasks, cleaners, and disinfectants, considering reassigning duties for high-risk staff (older adults and people with underlying health conditions), implementing flexible staff attendance and sick leave policies, identifying a space to isolate staff or participants that become ill, and advising employees and students before traveling to check the CDC’s traveler’s health notices.

According to Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, there are many steps that the CDC advises schools to take. The first step is establishing a process for determining whether students are contracting the virus and for reporting updates to health officials. It is also important for schools to prepare for the worst case scenario. For schools, this would mean school closures for the safety of the students, staff, and community members. School closures have shown to be very effective in stopping the spread of viruses in the past. School closures have started to happen in some impacted areas due to the virus. If COVID-19 continues to escalate, schools will need to be prepared for more closures. We are lucky enough to have the technology to allow students to stay home and do their school work online. Many schools are already equipped with the technology to allow their students to do this, but it is important to be preparing students for this now. Conducting online practice while students are still in school will make the transition much easier for them. Prior to closures, it is important to consider limiting or cancelling school group events and activities. While students are still in school, it is crucial to stress the importance of frequent hand-washing, covering your coughs and sneezes, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, having sick students and staff stay home from school until they are fever-free for 24 hours without medication, and avoiding close contact with others who may be sick.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Schools

The CDC released a guide on how to properly clean and disinfect schools to slow the spread of illnesses.

  • Know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.
    • Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap and water to physically remove germs from surfaces.
    • Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects.
    • Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level. This works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are touched often.
    • Follow your school’s standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting. This means daily sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, faucet handles, phones, and toys. Immediately clean surfaces and objects that are visibly soiled. If surfaces or objects are soiled with body fluids or blood, use gloves and other standard precautions to avoid coming into contact with the fluid.
  • Simply do routine cleaning and disinfecting.
    • Most studies have shown that a virus can live and potentially infect a person for only 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on a surface. Therefore it is not necessary to close schools to clean or disinfect every surface in the building. Viruses are fragile, so standard cleaning and disinfecting practices are sufficient to remove and kill them. Special cleaning and disinfecting processes, including wiping down walls and ceilings, frequently using room air deodorizers, and fumigating, are not recommended. These processes can irritate eyes, noses, throats, skin, aggravate asthma, and cause other serious effects
  • Clean and disinfect correctly.
    • Always follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants. Wash surfaces with a general household cleaner to remove germs. Rinse with water, and follow with an EPA-registered disinfectant to kill germs.
  • Use products safely.
    • Pay close attention to hazard warnings and directions on product labels. Cleaning products and disinfectants often call for the use of gloves or eye protection. Do not mix cleaners and disinfectants unless the labels indicate it is safe to do so. Ensure that custodial staff, teachers, and others who use cleaners and disinfectants read and understand all instructions labels and understand safe and appropriate use. This might require that instructional materials and training be provided.
  • Handle waste properly.
    • Follow your school’s standard procedures for handling waste, which may include wearing gloves. Place no-touch waste baskets where they are easy to use. Throw disposable items used to clean surfaces and items in the trash immediately after use. Wash your hands with soap and water after emptying waste baskets.

Resources for school administrators/teachers