Children, Covid-19 & Classrooms: A 10-point Plan for Safe Schooling :

Children, Covid-19 & Classrooms: A 10-point Plan for Safe Schooling :

Still on the fence about sending the children to say, my views aside, Intended to provide practical life-saving advice based on the best emerging knowledge and evidence of Covid-19, this is what South Africa’s leading medical scientists and academics have to advise :

School attendance has nutritional, educational, cognitive, social and mental health benefits. Learners are not at the highest risk of infection or death from Covid-19, and all decisions should be based on emerging data, some of which we have presented here.

Schools should be opened and should remain open while facilitating non-pharmaceutical measures in the school environment and among learners and teachers. Children/teachers with individual needs should consult a health worker to assess their risk, and an individualised plan should be devised accordingly.

A 10-point Plan for keeping schools safe

The 10-point Plan we suggest below is based on the best knowledge available to us and is consistent with the Department of Basic Education guidance on keeping schools safe when re-opening.

Remember: Well ventilated school environments that minimise congestion and crowding should be the overall goal of every school. 

  1. Set up a Covid-19 School Management Team led by the school principal and designate a staff member who is the Covid-19 point of contact at the school with whom parents and students can communicate. Know who the local (district) public health official is in case you need advice. Alternatively, contact the Covid-19 hotline.
  2. Implement non-pharmaceutical interventions: physical distancing, regular hand washing or use of hand sanitisers, practising cough etiquette and the wearing of masks for everyone. Reinforce these throughout the day and especially among teenage school-goers. If learners are unable to afford a mask, a T-shirt, scarf or buff will serve as an adequate and appropriate facial barrier.
  3. Know the age profile and comorbidities of your teachers. Teachers who are older than 60, who have diabetes, hypertension, obesity are at higher risk of adverse illness. These teachers can be asked to play a supportive role in teaching (teaching preparation, supporting online/remote teaching, marking, administration), as per the DBE regulations.
  4. Know which children are sick or who have a relevant comorbidity that places them at risk of severe Covid-19. Have a plan for them to be supported with remote learning should the need arise.
  5. Limit the use of the tea room for teachers and limit in-person meetings with other adults to a maximum of five. Ensure that there is always adequate space for 1.5m physical distancing if meetings must be held indoors. Inside meetings should occur in well-ventilated rooms with windows open.
  6. Make sure the classrooms, desks and surfaces are cleaned twice every day as per DBE requirements.
  7. For lower grades, children could remain in the classroom and teachers could move from class to class; for higher grades, consider implementing alternate-day face-to-face teaching with half classes and have one set of classes in the morning and the other set in the afternoon. Holding classes in shifts, as per DBE regulations and time-tabling guidelines reduces the class size.
  8. Implement physical distancing in the classroom: desks to be spaced 1.5m apart. Discourage sharing food, containers and utensils.
  9. Use outdoor spaces as much as possible.
  10. Conduct daily checks with your staff and learners as per the DBE/DOH Screening Guidelines: symptom check and temperature evaluation may have a supportive role. The DBE Standard Operating procedures provide guidance in this regard.

Some of the questions raised and answered here :

  1. Back to school: What’s at stake?
  2. To ease anxiety, let’s start with what we know about Covid-19 in children:
  3. Attending school is essential for other aspects of children’s health and development
  4. Do children infect teachers with Covid-19?
  5. If a learner tests positive, who is a ‘contact’ and who must quarantine?
  6. What should schools do if a learner (or member of their family) or teacher or staff member tests positive or appears to be symptomatic for Covid-19 while at school?
  7. We do not recommend school closure or class closure.
  8. I am a teacher with comorbidities — should I be teaching?
  9. I have an elderly grandparent or family member at home — should I send my child to school? If so, how do I minimize risk?
  10. My child has a comorbidity (for example, congenital heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes) — should I send him/her back to school?
  11. What about sporting activities and choirs?

For peace of mind, advice and direction, read the entire article here on :

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