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COVID-19 Update: Considerations for Re-Opening Your School Campus

By Net Assets posted 04-24-2020 06:21 PM

  

(From NBOA) On April 22, over 1,000 independent school leaders joined NBOA's latest webinar to hear nationally renowned medical experts as they discussed some of the medical considerations and precautionary measures for limiting transmission and keeping school communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel included The Honorable David Shulkin, M.D., FACP, Ninth Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and president, Shulkin Solutions. He was joined by Michael R. Jaff, D.O., FACP, FACC, chief medical officer, global medical device manufacturer and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

What will independent schools look like when students and employees return? “Pandemics are world-changing events,” said Shulkin. “With testing, we will find ways to get closer to normal, but the approach will have to be individualized to each school.” Here are three key ideas offered by Shulkin and Jaff for what reopening might look like:

  1. Maintained social distancing in carpooling and bus environments; classrooms and teaching spaces; and faculty gathering spaces. “You’re not going to have to build new facilities,” said Jaff. “You may have to consider how to stagger schedules for students and redesigning spaces that are not traditionally used for teaching to become teaching spaces.” Central eating spaces such as cafeterias may need to be eliminated until a vaccine is available.
  2. Improved hygiene measures. Schools must ensure everyone knows what it means to disinfect surfaces and ensure availability of disinfecting wipes. Schools must have regularly scheduled surface cleaning, particularly for spaces used by younger children. Finally, Use of masks may be important to maintain when in close quarters, especially for immunosuppressed and vulnerable individuals.
  3. Rapid testing and antibody testing may be used by schools to determine what proportion of the population has already been infected, at least until a vaccine is available. Most respected officials say that a COVID-19 vaccine is 12-18 months away from being commercially available. But schools should expect a “new normal” until a vaccine is available, according to Shulkin and Jaff.

David Wolowitz and Linda Johnson of McLane Middleton joined the webinar to discuss some of the legal and risk management considerations facing independent schools, including a staggered return model and what criteria schools should have for who comes back and when. Philip Hauserman, vice president and director of crisis communications at The Castle Group, followed with how schools can provide insight and advice on best practices for communicating consistently, clearly and effectively during this highly dynamic and evolving situation.

NBOA members can access the webinar recording and additional links and resources through the NBOA Library. More information is available at SchoolSafePlace.com and ShulkinBlog.com

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