The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance to help school districts prepare to reopen public K-12 school buildings and classrooms closed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The CDC issued a flowchart on Thurday that outlines the steps schools should complete before opening their doors. The recommendations begin by stating that school districts should have reopening plans that are consistent with state and local orders, protect children and staff who are at higher risk of severe illnesses, and screen students and employees upon arrival for symptoms of COVID-19 and history of exposure.
School buses are not specifically mentioned, though the vehicles are school property and considered an extension of the classroom. If any of these steps are not or cannot be completed, CDC recommends districts to remain closed.
In a School Transportation News survey conducted this month, 10 percent of 210 readers as of this report said they are discussing the health screening of students, which could include taking body temperatures and asking questions before they are allowed on the school bus. But many details must be determined, among them what school employee conducts the screening and how to maintain physical distancing of students at the bus stop before they are cleared to board.
Rideshare Best Practices
The center for Disease Control and Prevention also issued guidance on what rideshare, taxi’s, limo’s and other passenger drivers-for-hire need to know about the COVID-19 situation. The CDC recommends that drivers wear cloth coverings, avoid providing pooled rides or trips with multiple passengers, and recommends cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
HopSkipDrive, a transportation network company operating in several states across the nation, released its safe ride standards which are consistent with the CDC recommendations. In a press release from the company, HSD is requiring drivers to wear face coverings and personal protective equipment during rides.
The press release also stated that plastic dividers will be used in every vehicle, and vehicle cleaning and disinfecting will take place between rides. HSD will reportedly be one of the first transportation network companies in the country to adopt plastic dividers as a standard operating procedure.
The company also reported they are going to provide CareDrivers and ride organizes with critical safety resources, promote healthy interactions between CareDrivers, riders and ride organizers and minimize exposure through anonymous COVID-19 exposure reporting.
If school districts can answer yes to the first three CDC recommendations, the flow chart proceeds to the next set of safeguards.
Next, the CDC said school districts should have health and safety actions in place before reopening. These include promoting personal healthy hygiene practices, which entails employees wearing a cloth face covering. Districts should also intensify cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation systems as well as encourage social distancing through increased spacing. Lastly, they should train all employees on health and safety protocols.
If a district answers no to any of the above, the CDC said it should first meet the safeguards before it can proceed with reopening schools.
The final phase before reopening is implementing ongoing health monitoring. CDC said this includes developing and implementing procedures to check for signs and symptoms of students and employees, encouraging those who are sick to stay at home, and having a mitigation plan in place for what happens if a student or employee becomes sick.
The monitoring, CDC continues, requires regularly communicating and monitoring developments with local authorities, employees, and families regarding cases and to have a flexible leave of absence policies and practices.
Districts should also monitor student and employee absences from school and offer flexible leave policies and practices. And districts should be prepared to consult with local health authorities if there are cases at schools or facilities, or an increase in cases in the local area.
If school districts pass all those recommendations, the CDC said they can then reopen but continue monitoring procedures as well as student and employee health.
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Related: NSTA Urges School Bus Drivers Be Classified as COVID-19 Essential Workers