A New School Year in the Time of COVID
Every year, schools throughout the nation use the summer months to prepare for the upcoming academic year. With the surge of COVID-19, this summer’s preparation has been like no other. In addition to the usual tasks of giving classrooms a fresh coat of paint and performing routine maintenance, Pre-K 4 SA is adding new safety features and developing new sanitation protocols to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Drawing on the latest guidance from public health officials and our own consulting physician, we’ve organized our work around three goals:
1. KEEP THE VIRUS OUT OF THE BUILDING
- Limit who comes in the building. Implementing a touchless, curbside drop-off and pickup process will allow us to continue our practice of having a personal handoff of children each morning and afternoon while keeping social distance.
- Screen every person, every day. Installing touchless thermometer stations in every building will allow us to quickly take the temperature of each adult and screen for symptoms of COVID. Children will be screened as part of the curbside drop-off process. Our full-time nursing staff will help us monitor for symptoms in children and staff throughout the day.
- Limit items from outside. Pre-K 4 SA will provide all supplies for the children, including personal items like water bottles and nap blankets. These items will remain at Pre-K 4 SA and we will take responsibility for sanitizing them. Additionally, any item brought into the building by an adult (e.g., purse, lunch bag) will be sanitized upon entry.
2. REDUCE THE CHANCE OF AN OUTBREAK
- Reduce high-contact surfaces. Touchless sinks, toilets, doors, and paper towel dispensers mean fewer opportunities for hands (big and little) to spread germs. We are also moving away from family-style meals with shared serving utensils to individually packaged meals and snacks.
- Follow strict sanitation protocols. While Pre-K 4 SA always follows the highest sanitation standards, we are increasing the frequency with which we clean materials, equipment, and facilities. Anything that is used by a child or adult will be cleaned and sanitized multiple times throughout the day.
- Improve indoor airflow. The most recent guidance on COVID-19 suggests it can be spread through airborne transmission. To help prevent airborne transmission, we are adjusting our HVAC system to bring more fresh air into the classroom and adding higher grade air filters to help capture germs.
- Increase time outdoors. COVID is much less likely to spread in outdoor areas. We are adjusting our daily schedule to allow children more time in our outdoor learning environments. Children will spend most of the morning outside and may even eat and nap outside, weather permitting.
- Teach children healthy habits. Washing hands and covering coughs have always been important lessons in early learning, but this year we will also teach children how to use hand sanitizer, how to wear a mask or face shield, and why we need to tell an adult when we feel sick. We will follow these lessons with supportive guidance to help children make these habits part of their everyday routine at school and at home.
- Create opportunities for safe interactions. Having fewer children in a classroom, keeping the same set of children and adults together, and wearing masks or face shields will help keep children and adults safe while allowing children to continue learning through play.
3. RESPOND QUICKLY TO POTENTIAL COVID EXPOSURE
- Actively monitor for COVID-19. Pre-K 4 SA teachers have always been mindful to watch for signs that children may not be feeling well. This year, they will proactively monitor for COVID symptoms and seek guidance from our nursing staff at the first sign of illness.
- Isolate potential cases. If any symptoms are detected, the child will rest in our health clinic away from others until a family member arrives to pick him/her up.
- If a child or adult is suspected of having COVID-19, the classroom will close immediately and families will be notified. Thereafter, a deep clean and disinfect will be performed and classes will resume via remote learning until it is safe to return to the classroom.
- If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, the entire Education Center will close temporarily. This will allow us to conduct contact tracing, identify which children and staff need to quarantine, and clean and disinfect the entire building. While the center is closed, children will be taught remotely until it is safe to return to the classroom.
Given the current spread of COVID-19 in our community, we do not know when we will be able to welcome children and families in person, but we do know that when that day comes, Pre-K 4 SA will be ready.
Written by: Sarah Baray, Pre-K 4 SA CEO