How to reopen five US schools without causing a covid outbreak

“Cleaning up the areas that are most touching is very important in schools,” Cogan said. But wearing a mask, staying away from the body, getting vaccinated, and other measures are “higher protective factors.”

8. Provide agency to parents and teachers to protect their children.

In the past school year, many districts have used temperature tests and symptom testing as an attempt to catch infected students before they give others the coronavirus. but in Austin, Indiana, such formal screening has proven to be less useful than the intuition of teachers and parents. Teachers will find out if a student is not feeling well and ask them to go to see the nurse, even if the student has passed a temperature check.

Jetelina said teachers and parents can both serve as a layer of protection, preventing a sick child from getting inside the school. “Parents are very good at understanding their children’s symptoms and their children’s health,” he said.

In Andrews, Texas, district administrators inform parents of covid symptoms and trust parents to know when a child should stay home from school. The Texas district may be “too much to provide for the agency to parents,” even, Cogan said, to allow students to opt out of quarantines and wear masks-echoing the concern from the Andrews County public health department.

9. We need more data to push school policies.

Throughout the illness, I was always called a lack of detailed public data on covid-19 cases in schools. The federal government still does not provide such data, and most states offer scattered figures that do not provide significant context for cases (such as human enrollment or trial numbers). Without these numbers, it is difficult to compare school districts and identify success stories.

My research is about opening the school as well shed light on a data issue: most states do not provide anyone covid-19 scale up to each district, which makes it difficult for school leaders to know when they should tighten or interpret safety protocols. In the small district of Port Orford-Langlois in Oregon, for example, administrators must rely on covid-19 numbers for their entire county. Even if the district has zero cases in the fall of 2020, it will not be able to personally return older students until the spring because surges in other parts of the county are driving up case numbers. Cogan has observed similar issues in New Jersey.

At a local level, school districts can work with their local public health department to get the data they need for better informed decision -making, Jetelina said. But more importantly, at the system level, getting granular covid-19 data is even more difficult-a job for the federal government.

10. Invest in school staff and invite their contributions to safety strategies.

School staff describe working long hours, familiarizing themselves with the science of covid-19, and using greater determination and creativity to provide their students with a decent school experience. Teaching is often a challenging job, but over the past 18 months, it has become heroic – even when many people outside of school environments have no interest in this job, Jetelina said.

Districts can thank their staff by giving them a say in school safety decisions, Cogan recommends. “The teachers – they had a terrible time and a lot was put into them,” he said. But “everyone who works at the school has it too.” That includes caretakers, cafeteria workers, and – crucially – school nurses, whom Cogan calls the school’s “chief welfare officers”.

11. Allow students and staff in the space to process pandemic hardship.

About 117,000 U.S. children lost one or both parents during the pandemic, according to research from Imperial College London. Thousands more have lost other relatives, mentors, and friends-while millions of children have lost their families ’jobs, food and shelter insecurity, and other difficulties. Even if a school district has all the proper safety logistics, school staff cannot really support students unless they allow time and space. process the trauma which they face.

The PS 705 in Brooklyn could serve as a model for this habit. School staff are good at reaching out to families when a student is absent from class, offering support: “705 is the only class place where it’s a‘ force your family ’class at a school, ”As a parent.

On the first day of school in September 2021 – when many students returned in person for the first time since the spring of 2020 – the school was silent for loved ones lost in the school community.

New challenges ahead

These lessons were taken from school communities that were successful in the 2020-2021 school year, before the delta hit the U.S.. This most notable virus is presenting new challenges in the fall of the 2021 semester. The analysis of the data adapted to this project led me to profile especially rural communities, which may have been fortunate in the short covid-19 case numbers in previous stages of the pandemic-but now can no longer escape the delta. For example, the county of Oregon including Port Orford – Langlois saw its highest case in August 2021.

The delta challenge is exacerbated by the increasing polarization of masks, vaccines, and other safety measures. However, Jetelina pointed out that there are also “a ton of champions out there,” referring to parents, teachers, public health experts, and others who continue to learn from the past opening of school experiences – and advocates for their communities to do a better job. .

the Journalism Network Solutions this project is supported by a reporting provider, as well as trainings and other instruction. Learn more about the five school communities I profiled in this project for the COVID-19 Data Dispatch.

This story is about Pandemic Technology Project, supported by The Rockefeller Foundation.

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