The unprecedented mass school closures have been vital in helping mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spreading within school communities, but at the same time, it has also exposed learners to other risks, including the lack of access to effective education, proper nutrition, health and hygiene services, and psychosocial support.
As the pandemic situation in every country varies and constantly evolves, some have started to restart physical classes while others have adopted hybrid learning methodologies. To ensure that back-to-school plans are strategized around the best interest of the school population, it is crucial for authorities to thoroughly plan the reopening of schools and universities while also taking into account every benefit and risk of doing so. Planning for school reopening should begin as early as now to ensure continuity of learning, but it should also be planned conscientiously while acknowledging the fact that situations can change at a moments notice.
This article will briefly discuss:
- the top concerns in reopening schools for its respective communities;
- the international Framework for Reopening Schools;
- examples of best health and safety strategies in reopening schools;
- planning and inspection tool for reopening schools and other learning facilities; and
- free school reopening checklists you can download, customize, and use.
The decision to reopen schools and universities is a difficult one, especially because the pandemic continually evolves; some of the key concerns revolving around reopening include the following:
When is the right timing?
One of the most vital questions in reopening schools is that it may be too early and can cause infection outbreaks within school communities. On the other hand, there is also greater risk of learning loss if schools are closed longer, especially for students in vulnerable groups.
Have the ideal conditions been determined?
Another concern of school administrators is the steep challenge of creating policies and strategies that will preserve both the education system and the safety and health of the school community. For the conditions for reopening to be in an ideal state, policies and strategies will depend on the preparedness of several factors, such as infrastructure, faculty manpower, pedagogy, and the school community.
Are the processes set?
Once the timing for school reopening has been set and the necessary health and safety conditions are ensured, the process of reopening schools need to be determined, including strategies and actions at national, district, and school level.
The Framework for Reopening Schools has been designed by the UNESCO, UNICEF, World Food Programme, and the World Bank, to help provide national and local authorities and policy makers a tool for planning on why, when, and how to reopen education institutions successfully. In summary, the guidelines of the framework include:
Policy Reform: Policy implications address all dimensions of the guidelines, including clear policies for school opening and closure during public health emergencies, reforms needed to expand equitable access for marginalized and out of school children as well as strengthen and standardize remote learning practices.Financing requirements: Address the impact of COVID-19 on education and invest in strengthening education systems for recovery and resilience.
Safe Operations: Ensure conditions that reduce disease transmission, safeguard essential services and supplies and promote healthy behaviour. This includes access to soap and clean water for safe handwashing, procedures on when staff or students feel unwell, protocols on social distancing and good hygiene practices.
Compensating Learning: Focus on practices that compensate for lost instructional time, strengthen pedagogy and build on hybrid learning models such as integrating approaches in remote and distance education. This must include knowledge on disease transmission and prevention.
Wellness and Protection: Expand the focus on students’ well-being and reinforce the protection of children through enhanced referral mechanisms and the provision of essential school-based services including healthcare and school feeding.
Reaching the most marginalized: Adapt school opening policies and practices to expand access to marginalized groups such as previously out-of-school children, displaced and migrant children and minorities. Diversify critical communications and outreach by making them available in relevant languages and in accessible formats.
See and consult the Framework for Reopening Schools here.
Some countries have already reopened schools and universities and they have been successful, to date, in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in their campuses. Here is a quick brief on the different health and safety strategies employed by five countries in reopening their educational institutions; the strategies revolve around attendance, social distancing, and cleaning.
Source: The Learning Policy Institute. See the full table here.
Disclaimer: The health implications of using any of these practices in the United States and other countries have not been investigated, thus the safety or effectiveness of these practices or of any medical practices cannot be fully endorsed yet.
School reopening during this global crisis is not a return to normal; things will be done differently, but also in a better way. Once schools reopen, the overarching goal is to reintegrate students into school settings safely and in ways that help learning get back on track, especially for those who experienced the biggest learning losses.
To plan and implement reopenings safely and effectively, equip your reopening task force with school reopening checklists from iAuditor by SafetyCulture to enable collaboration on making guidelines and the creation of a roadmap for the safe return of the school community.To get you started we have collected school and university reopening checklists designed to help school communities to get education back on track as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: Please note that these checklists are hypothetical examples and provide basic information only. It is not intended to take the place of government-mandated guidelines. You should also seek your own professional advice to determine if the use of such a checklist is permissible in your schools or jurisdiction.
Featured School and University Reopening Checklists
Social Distancing Plan
For schools in cities that are not on lockdown, school facility managers can use this social distancing plan template to establish school practices that promote social distancing. This school reopening checklist can help set and implement social distancing strategies that ultimately protect the health and welfare of students and school staff.
School Cleaning Checklist
This School Cleaning Checklist serves as a guide to inspect if different school areas like offices, hallways, classrooms, and bathrooms are properly cleaned and maintained. This checklist can be used to evaluate if desks, chairs, and all visible surfaces are dusted and clean. Use iAuditor to capture photo evidence of dirty fixtures and facilities and assign corrective actions to the right person.
Campus COVID 19 Inspection Checklist
This digital checklist can be used by campus facility managers as a guide in determining the appropriate preventative measures in preventing the spread of the virus in their respective schools and universities.