Safely Returning to In-Person Learning

The percentages of schools reopening across the country continue to rise as infection rates decline and vaccines are distributed. According to a school opening tracker from Burbio, approximately two-thirds of schools are currently operating at either a hybrid online/in-person learning schedule or entirely in-person classes.Classroom Social Distancing

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released updated guidance for schools gearing up to resume in-person learning.  Schools will need to have an operational strategy in place that covers the use of masks, cleaning, hand hygiene, screening students for symptoms, and protecting staff from COVID-19.

Mitigating Hazards

When working with local public health officials and district administrators, schools can use the CDC’s 5-step process for resuming in-person learning during COVID-19. According to the CDC, the entire process is estimated to take between five and eight hours over a week or two.

  • Step 1 – Planning and coordination: Work together with state, tribal, local health department staff, and other district staff to conduct a school walkthrough.
  • Step 2 – Completing the COVID-19 mitigation toolkit: Review the CDC’s Considerations for Schools and share your findings from the K-12 COVID-19 Mitigation Toolkit with health officials and district staff.
  • Step 3 – Pre-walkthrough meeting: Have a meeting with local health officials and district staff to review the school’s reopening plans.
  • Step 4 – School walkthrough: Conduct a complete walkthrough with the officials and staff your school is working with. Assess the different buildings and facilities on schoolgrounds and consider what policies and safeguards will need to be implemented.
  • Step 5 – Debriefing: Review the previous steps in a short conference.

Setting Up a Classroom

Teachers, administrators, custodians, and other school staff should work together to modify and adapt the classroom so students can return safely to in-person learning.

  • Keep assigned seating charts for students and space everyone at least six feet apart.
  • Create walking paths with colorful floor tape and shapes to help ensure students are keeping a healthy distance from one another. If possible, create one-way paths for entering and exiting the classroom, making sure these paths are compliant with emergency exit procedures.
  • Using tables instead of desks? Use tape to mark “X’s” on tables and explain to students these are off-limit zones.
  • Create a “teacher zone” with floor marking tape, walls, and signs to ensure students are maintaining a six-foot distance around the teacher’s desk or teaching space.
  • Remind students what healthy hand hygiene looks like! Hang posters around sinks and hand sanitizing stations. Make sure instructions are clear and easy to follow.

Visual cues are especially important in classrooms with younger children, such as using brightly colored floor tape and floor signs (like arrows) that will easily catch their attention.

Additional Resources

The CDC has also added resources for improving ventilation in facilities, recognizing symptoms of COVID-19, and adapting classroom behaviors to ensure the safety and health of students, teachers, and staff. You can find more information in their COVID-19 Mitigation Toolkit as well as additional general information about COVID-19 and social distancing materials on Creative Safety Supply’s website.

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Additional Resources