Through our ‘Technologies for School Resilience’ blog series, we have so far acquainted school owners, principals and teachers with free-to-use technological tools and quality digital education resources that they can access (using the internet as well as through offline means) to help facilitate education continuity for their students.
With schools being shut on account of lockdowns put into effect by governments across all countries, our aim was to nudge schools, especially those that come under the low cost private schools category to use this adversity as an opportunity to embrace technology with a twin objective of transforming them into virtual or e-schools and also to pave the way for them to adopt ‘flipped classrooms’ (hybrid of online access and offline delivery) style of pedagogy delivering experiential education after they are allowed to reopen.
Two months into the lockdown, while the prospects of schools re-opening in a phased manner in conjunction with commercial establishments still seem unclear in the developing markets we cater to (India, Pakistan and Nigeria), the experience of some countries like South Korea, China, Denmark, Norway and China which have reopened their schools has been rather mixed.
If you are to read some of the articles in the press below, you will get an idea of what the new normal is likely to be in running schools :
Read: We-Forum: COVID-19: Countries around the world are reopening their schools. This is what it looks like
Read: CNN: In Asia, children are going back to school. But education in the time of coronavirus is not without difficulties
To help guide schools like yours to adapt to the new hygiene and operational requirements post re-opening, our portfolio company – the Bengaluru based Kido Enterprises which supports 10000+ schools across Poland, Denmark, Australia, USA and countries in the Middle East with a variety of solutions such as Montessori and preschool materials, furniture, preschool curriculum and more has shared with us a set of helpful guidelines.
SANITATION BEST PRACTICES
Clean and disinfect school buildings, classrooms and especially water and sanitation facilities at least once a day – particularly surfaces that are touched by many people (railings, lunch tables, sports equipment, door and window handles, toys, teaching, and learning aids, etc.)
If possible, use sodium hypochlorite at 0.5% (equivalent 5000ppm) for disinfecting surfaces and 70% ethyl alcohol for disinfection of small items, and ensure appropriate equipment for cleaning staff
Promote and demonstrate regular hand washing and positive hygiene behaviours and monitor their uptake. This can be done by:
- Ensuring soap and clean water is available at age-appropriate handwashing stations
- Encouraging frequent and thorough washing (at least 20 seconds)
- Placing hand sanitizers in toilets, classrooms, halls, and near exits where possible
- Ensuring adequate, clean and separate toilets or latrines for girls and boys
Increase airflow and ventilation where the climate allows by keeping windows and doors open and avoiding the use of air conditioners which may increase the chance of spread
Post signs encouraging good hand and respiratory hygiene practices. Focus on good health behaviors, such as covering coughs and sneezes with the elbow and washing hands frequently.
- For Pre-KG, KG – Use puppets or dolls to demonstrate symptoms (sneezing, coughing, fever) and what to do if they feel sick (i.e. their head hurts, their stomach hurts, they feel hot or extra tired) and how to comfort someone who is sick (cultivating empathy and safe caring behaviours). Read: Songs that you can make your kids sing to while encouraging washing hands
- For Primary and Secondary school grades – Demonstrate using videos and other multi-media channels being projected onto the board.
Ensure Waste Management practices such as having receptacles / bins in toilets, classrooms, halls, passage ways and common areas, toilet rolls in bathrooms and disposable hand wipe tissues at wash basins with accessible bins. Ensure these are not open bins, but those whose lids can be opened by foot. Make provisions for trash to be removed daily and disposed-off safely.
Implement social distancing practices that may include:
- Cancelling assemblies, sports games and other events that create crowded conditions
- When possible, keep the children one meter apart
- Teach students how to create space and avoid unnecessary touching
Establish procedures if children or staff become unwell. Plan ahead with local health authorities, preschool health staff and update emergency contact lists. Ensure a procedure for separating sick children and staff from those who are well – without creating stigma – and a process for informing parents/caregivers, and consulting with health care provider’s/health authorities wherever possible. Share procedures with staff, parents and children ahead of time.
COMMUNICATIONS BEST PRACTICES
Stay informed about COVID-19 symptoms, complications, how it is transmitted and how to prevent transmission through credible and authoritative sources such as UNICEF, WHO, and national health ministry advisories.
Promote Information Sharing. Share known information with staff, parents and children, providing updated information on the pandemic, including prevention and control efforts at your school. Reinforce that parents should alert the school and health care authorities if someone in their home has been diagnosed with COVID19 and keep their child at home. Also, parents are to be advised not to send their child to school if he/ she displays any symptoms of the virus.
The school notice boards placed at the entry points (Gate, Administrative and Academic Blocks) should have all this information. Schools can also look to use digital communication means and be proactive on Email, SMS and WhatsApp. This will need dedicated personnel.
In class, teachers should be enabled to address children’s questions and concerns.
OPERATIONS BEST PRACTICES
Develop flexible attendance and sick leave policies that encourage children and staff to stay home when sick or when caring for sick family members. Plan for possible academic calendar changes, particularly about breaks and exams.
Implement attendance monitoring systems to track children and staff. Alert local health authorities about large increases in absence due to respiratory illnesses.
Social distancing is going to be the norm and implementing it in schools will be the biggest challenge we foresee. To overcome this challenge, the following suggestions can be mooted:
Odd-Even Alternate day classes: Classes will be divided into two halves with an Odd-Even formula in place where one batch (students with odd roll numbers) coming in on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday while the other batch of even roll numbers comes in on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The students who don’t come to school will join their classes virtually.
Furniture Arrangements: Place desks six feet apart and have plastic table-top desk partitions in classrooms and cafeterias, with every gap area marked with an X or No Seating sign.
Safety Grids: To reinforce social distancing, there should be safety grid markings or plasters on the ground at entry and exit points of schools, academic blocks, toilets, canteens etc.
Face Masks: While the use of infrared monitors to check temperatures might be used by schools which have the economic means to buy them, other schools can make wearing of face masks mandatory for all students as a preventive measure.
The Role of Teachers:
The role of teachers becomes all the more important as they additionally have to don the role of health counsellors as they address psychological support needs of students by guiding them on how to support their peers and negate any stigma associated with COVID-19 with facts.
With alternate day classes, teachers will have to focus more on time management in completing the education curriculum than on conducting in-class tests which can be outsourced digitally. [Read our blog: How Teachers can make the most of Khan Academy for Remote Learning]
The guidelines suggested in this blog, if implemented, would help allay fears of parents in sending their children to school and infuse confidence in them when governments take the decision to re-open schools.
Keep following our blogs for everything about schools and how they can cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Until then, stay safe and never let education stop!