Back-to-School Tips for Reopening Schools during COVID-19
In March 2020, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, many schools stopped in-classroom instruction and opted to provide remote learning for students.
As the new school year begins, some students will continue to attend school remotely, but in some regions of the country, students are returning to in-classroom instruction.
As some districts begin reopening schools, parents may become very concerned about the health and safety of their children returning to school during COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have provided some guidance for districts that are preparing schools for the return of students.
CDC guidelines recommend that schools communicate, educate and reinforce age-appropriate strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, practicing hand hygiene, wearing cloth face coverings and practicing physical distancing.
Proactively Plan for Outbreaks
CDC also advises schools to develop proactive plans for when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, and to educate parents and caregivers on monitoring children for COVID-19 symptoms at home is also important. Know the dangers of self-medicating against COVID-19.
Schools can look to CDC guidelines to safely clean and disinfect classrooms and other areas used by students, teachers and staff. The EPA has a list of antimicrobial products for use against COVID-19.
Get more guidance on how to properly use disinfectants safely.
Wash Hands Frequently and Use Hand Sanitizers
Increasing ventilation can help lower the concentration of indoor air pollutants and contaminants—including viruses. Opening classroom windows and using air conditioning can help to increase air flow. Outdoor spaces, which naturally have more ventilation, may be used for meals and instruction when feasible. Air filters used with other model practices for combatting COVID-19 can also be effective.
Wear cloth face coverings to help limit the spread of COVID-19. These face coverings provide a barrier when someone talks, coughs or sneezes by helping to keep respiratory droplets from traveling into the air or onto others.
Keep Vaccines Up-to-Date
Students should be up-to-date on their immunizations to help prevent illnesses and hospitalizations. Vaccines, such as the flu shot, have been shown to be safe after being carefully tested by scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals.
Practice Physical Distancing
Keep desks at least six feet apart and give students extra space to spread out for exercising. Schools may wish to limit or cancel activities, such as sports, where physical distancing is not feasible. Consider converting underutilized school and community spaces to increase classroom space.
Other Tips and Considerations
- Leave classroom doors open to reduce the need to touch doorknobs.
- COVID-19 is easily spread from adult to adult. Consider limiting in-person meetings between teachers, staff and other adults.
- Minimize crowding by having teachers move between classrooms instead of students and mark hallways and stairs with one-way arrows.
- Assign seats on buses and consider limiting playground use to small groups.
Safe Use of Cleaning Products
Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces such as desks, doorknobs, handrails, sink faucets and knobs, tables and chairs frequently.
However, consider avoiding the use of cleaners when children are present because exposure to some cleaning chemicals can exacerbate some respiratory conditions such as asthma. The CDC cautions that anyone using disinfectants should be properly trained in their use and wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
For more guidance about operating schools during COVID-19, visit: