In-Person School During COVID

Updated: Feb 14

Opening a school soon? As if riding the tidal wave of giant emotions while leading a school during a pandemic (read: all responsibility and no control) wasn't enough, you also now get the insanely long hours spent writing, re-writing, throwing those plans away and starting all over on said plans trying to make the physical distancing work. #EduQueens...we know the feeling and are here to say, "You aren't alone."


We put out the call for a few of our local fan favorites to jump in with some tips and tricks that work for them. Lucky for TMP, the featured women below (ourselves included) have worked with students in one form or another on campus already and have some legitimate "high heel" on the ground insights to pass your way. No matter your level -- early childhood through secondary -- we've got you covered!


Some of the general take-aways of what to plan for in each area of your school?

  1. Mask Wearing - wear masks

  2. Social Distancing - stay 3-6 feet apart in all locations

  3. Sanitizing - hands, surfaces

  4. Contact Tracing - room logs, personal logs, seating charts

  5. Reopening Planning - put it all in writing, give to staff, and announce updates

Remember, though, all of this is based on the district and county guidance that you're receiving. You must run all of your plans by central office to be sure you understand any recent changes from the health department or the CDC. It can change quickly, so best to get multiple eyes on your planning.


Amanda Spight, Principal and Assistant Director of Early Education


Class sizes, staff to student ratio, basic structures

Our infant and toddler rooms operate with eight students, two full time staff, and one staff member to cover breaks. The ratio is 1:4. Our preschool rooms can have up to twenty students and two staff. We strive to cap rooms at 15 with two staff. The regulatory entity ratio is 1:10.


Procedures for student temp checks, student masks

We utilize one entrance for all staff and families. A nurse or clinic staff member is stationed near the vestibule to support the symptom screening process and assist with our infrared temperature scanner. This is helpful in the event a family or student is excluded based on temperature. Masks are only required for our students who are age 5 and up. Masks can be worn for our students age 2, 3, or 4 based on parent preference.


Cleaning schedules and requirements of staff and custodians

Cleaning schedules for early education have always been more rigorous but in our current reality it almost requires one full time staff member to complete the daily required cleaning.

We follow a three step procedure: soapy water, rinse water, and air dry bleach water. This is done on surfaces upon arrival, before and after use for meals/work time, and upon departure. Classroom staff use a special germicide chemical on all touch points hourly (toilets, sinks, light switches, gates, door knobs). Classroom staff also clean toys daily. Any toys with secretions or excretions are immediately placed in a dirty toy bucket to be cleaned and sanitized. Toys are also cleaned following a three step process. They can also be cleaned through our industrial dishwasher in the school kitchen.


Non-instructional times: lunch, recess, passing time, arrival, dismissal, etc.

For early education non-instructional times are for the most part minimally impacted due to our typical structures.


Meal Times:

Students eat in classrooms. The only shift in meal times is we use all disposable materials and instead of implementing family style dining one staff member (who doesn’t participate in toileting, diapering or cleaning procedures) is designated to plate each student's plate. In addition to not implementing family style dining we are not currently brushing teeth after meals as we would traditionally do.


Recess:

We refer to recess as gross motor time. Regulatory entities require our students have one hour of gross motor time daily. One group at a time has gym or outdoor play with a custodial staff member spraying between shifts. We also allowed ample time for classes to transition without crossing paths with the next group since our students are less likely to walk in straight lines and often prefer the herd approach to hallway transitions.


Arrival and Dismissal:

Designated staff transition to/from classrooms for arrival and departure instead of parents going to classrooms. This requires significantly more staff during high traffic times.


Overall reflection on the process and sustainability of the practices

Our school has been open since May so looking back, I feel that we have had an advantage in the reopening process. We truly had the gift of time to navigate the procedures while having more staff and less students. As I look ahead to launching a new school year in this current reality, I am confident that we have a good understanding of the policies and procedures and experience of putting them into practice. The staff will have a learning curve in the fall depending on how many returning students we have per classroom. The cleaning procedures and restrictions on who can help with what procedures (toileting, feeding, cleaning) will prove to be a challenge if we are staff for our traditional ratios. From an organization wide perspective, arrival and dismissal will pose a challenge as we navigate different arrival and dismissal times for our three programs.


Karen and Christy, Elementary Principals

Class sizes, staff to student ratio, basic structures


Both of our districts have worked hard to keep the in class ratios at 1:15, not to exceed 1:17. During summer school, we had fewer adults in the building, so now that our additional staff are returning, we needed to be thoughtful about how to spread out adults that may be sharing work spaces. If you are housing virtual staff, it's important to think about giving them space to record without someone else recording at the same time. Both of our staffs welcomed multiple new teachers to cover our virtual needs, but didn't exactly get to add square footage, so we had to get creative in locations to ensure safety of all adults and students first. Using common areas differently can be one way to find additional locations for students or staff. We encourage para professionals to take groups to our courtyard to work and for teachers to utilize zones on the playgrounds for extra mask breaks.


Contact tracing sheets are hanging on the door of every room in our building (whether it's a closet or a classroom). All humans (staff and students) are asked to sign in and out if they stayed more than 10 minutes in the space.


And just FYI, we work in different districts, so some of our insights vary based on the guidance from our administrative team.