As more individuals receive the COVID-19 vaccines and public facilities reopen, students return to in-person classes. Researchers identified the challenges of re-entering community spaces following a year of isolation, emphasizing our immune system limitations. Without frequent exposure to illnesses, one’s ability to fight common diseases may decrease.
As we enter the winter months, students are spending more time inside around large groups of people. Schools can address students’ immunity changes by increasing their health regulations, preventing additional illness outbreaks. Professionals can explore the seven ways schools can prioritize health and safety this winter to improve students’ health and well-being.
COVID-19 and Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered the education system. Many regions utilized online learning systems, increasing students’ safe access to schooling. While at-home education effectively protected many students and their families, it only offered privileged access.
Many students are unable to access computers, Wi-Fi and other necessary online learning tools. Some individuals also rely on in-person schooling to escape domestic abuse at home. Others receive most of their daily nutrient intake for free on-campus.
The transition to online education places many students in challenging and even life-threatening situations. The isolation associated with quarantining additionally caused adverse effects for students and staff members. Many individuals experienced an increase in mental health struggles during the lockdown, especially those with preexisting conditions.
Attending in-person classes is crucial to the health and well-being of students. Administrative officials recognized the importance of on-campus learning and decided to transition away from the remote education system. Using seven methods, individuals can increase campus safety, improving students’ access to social interactions and traditional learning styles.
1. Everyone Who Can, Should Get the Vaccine
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states all children over 12 can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Pfizer shots come in two doses, which individuals get about three weeks apart. Students should wait two weeks after receiving the second dose before returning to class, ensuring their protection against the virus.
2. Students Should Wear Facemasks on Campus
Younger students who are unable to receive the vaccine should wear face masks at all times on campus. A team of researchers conducted a study within Beijing households, testing the efficiency of masks. They found wearing face coverings decreased the spread of COVID-19 by 79% on average.
The virus spreads through minuscule droplets projected when talking, coughing and even breathing. Young children have limited spatial awareness abilities, increasing their susceptibility to the virus. Creating in-school mask mandates can effectively improve students’ and teachers’ health and safety this winter.
3. Clean Surfaces Frequently
Staff members can additionally decrease the spread of COVID-19 in schools by enhancing their cleaning routines. Frequent handwashing is essential for reducing the spread, and the virus can live on hard surfaces. Sanitizing and disinfecting desks, chairs, railings and shared materials may protect students’ health and safety.
Individuals should utilize ammonia and bleach-based cleaning products like Clorox to disinfect communal surfaces. Investing in a trained cleaning crew can also increase the safety of in-school learning.
4. Test Drinking Water Before Returning
Returning to school after a year of remote learning creates various health and safety challenges. Vacant buildings may have stagnant water remaining in the faucets and holding containers. Over time, the water may become infected with bacteria like Legionella, placing students and staff members at risk.
School officials can reduce the risk of illness by testing their water before returning to in-person learning. They may also schedule regular maintenance to prevent bacterial development in the future.
5. Install Effective HVAC Systems
Another challenge of returning to in-person classes this winter is indoor air quality. In the warmer months, teachers may decrease the virus’s spread by opening windows or holding classes outside. Schools can increase the health and safety of their students this winter by installing effective heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
Adequate indoor ventilation technology may reduce the concentration of airborne contaminants. Advanced systems can catch and filter COVID-19 particles before they land on hard surfaces.
6. Increase Students’ Access to Mental Health Counseling
The COVID-19 pandemic also increased mental health challenges for many students and staff members. They became frustrated, lonely and anxious through the isolation period, and transitioning back to the classroom may create new struggles. Many individuals experienced a loss of friends and family members throughout the pandemic, causing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Education officials can support students and teachers through their mental health struggles by hiring licensed therapists. They may offer free counseling sessions for all individuals on campus, supporting their health and well-being.
7. Teach Students Effective Handwashing and Respiratory Practices
Additionally, professionals can increase in-school safety against viruses by developing hygiene training lessons. While many adults understand the importance of handwashing and covering their mouths, younger students may struggle with health protection practices. Staff members can help children increase their hygienic standards with a fun and enjoyable flare.
Some professionals help students practice effective handwashing by having them sing the Happy Birthday song. Teachers can also create a designated nose-blowing area where students can remove their masks and use tissues. Increasing students’ awareness of viruses and the importance of illness prevention practices can effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Choosing the Best Prevention Strategies for Your School
Each school is different based on its size, resources and funding. While the seven health and safety tactics effectively reduce the spread of viruses, some are more compatible with certain schools than others. This winter, you can find the perfect illness prevention strategy for your campus by talking to your staff and developing a feasible plan.