BATON ROUGE, La. (NBC 33 & FOX 44) – School officials will have a long checklist to go through before reopening. The more people interact and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in school settings as follows:
• Lowest Risk: Students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities, and events.
• More Risk: Small, in-person classes, activities, and events. Groups of students stay together and with the same teacher throughout/across school days and groups do not mix. Students remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects (e.g., hybrid virtual and in-person class structures, or staggered/rotated scheduling to accommodate smaller class sizes).
• Highest Risk: Full sized, in-person classes, activities, and events. Students are not spaced apart, share classroom materials or supplies, and mix between classes and activities.
The following adjustments are recommended in classrooms:
• Space seating/desks at least 6 feet apart when feasible.
• Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.
• Create distance between children on school buses (g., seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible.
• Cloth face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.
• Discourage sharing of items that are difficult to clean or disinfect.
• Keep each child’s belongings separated from others’ and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, or areas.
• Avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, and other games or learning aids.
• Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., reception desks).
• Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g. guides for creating “one way routes” in hallways).
• Have children bring their own meals as feasible, or serve individually plated meals in classrooms instead of in a communal dining hall or cafeteria, while ensuring the safety of children with food allergies.
• Use disposable food service items (e.g., utensils, dishes). If disposable items are not feasible or desirable, ensure that all non-disposable food service items are handled with gloves and washed with dish soap and hot water or in a dishwasher. Individuals should wash their hands after removing their gloves or after directly handling used food service items.
• If food is offered at any event, have pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee instead of a buffet or family-style meal. Avoid sharing food and utensils and ensure the safety of children with food allergies.
Even with these new guidelines, according to the CDC, “Schools can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials to the extent possible, whether and how to implement these considerations while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable and tailored to the needs of each community.”CDC.gov
Schools around our region will continue to use remote learning for the remainder of the academic year.
For a full list of CDC federal recommendations click here.