On Tuesday, federal officials warned the public that schools across the nation need to be prepared for a potential Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that could significantly disrupt day-to-day life and operations in many communities and schools.
Nancy Messonnier, a director at the Centers for Disease Control, urged parents to ask schools about their plans for school dismissals, school closures, and tele-school during a press briefing on Tuesday. Additionally, Messonnier stated that she had already reached out to her local superintendent inquiring about the district’s plans in the event of a serious outbreak.
Many K-12 schools around the country are already distributing letters to parents advising frequent hand-washing and recommending they keep sick children home from school until they are fever-free for 24 hours sans medication. Here are some other suggestions regarding COVID-19 moving forward:
- Follow your district’s protocols as a baseline, but consider establishing a process for determining whether students are contracting the virus and a system for reporting updates to health officials;
- Look at policies regarding flexible instruction days (FIDs), school dismissals, or school closures and come up with an action plan if students would have to be instructed remotely for a period of time;
- Be ready with information for concerned families. Communicate early, often, and transparently with the goal of reducing anxiety and educating on infection control. Consider distributing a letter to families or publishing updates on the district website;
- Prepare and evaluate your health services/office and be sure to train staff and students for different emergency scenarios;
- Identify and track sources of information. Keep abreast daily of information globally, nationally, locally, and on your school’s campus;
- Follow state and local public health steps and be resource aware;
- Alter field trips as needed, training chaperones and students on extra precautions as needed; and
- Take reasonable steps to limit exposure (e.g. requiring notices of travel if parents/students/staff have exposure issues, allowing vulnerable populations to take time away from school if needed, cancelling major school events that would draw large crowds; preparing for any possible school closures, managing campus hygiene, etc.);
Currently, schools do not need to take any special precautions beyond what is normally recommended to prevent the spread of viruses in schools, but they can help students and staff reduce their risk for getting and spreading viral respiratory infections, including the flu and common cold, by encouraging them to take simple steps which will also prevent COVID-19 (e.g. staying home when they are sick, frequent hand washing, following the school’s routine cleaning and disinfection program, providing adequate supplies for good hygiene, etc.).
The School Law Practice Group at Stock and Leader is closely monitoring the novel coronavirus to provide you with any pertinent updates. Please contact us with any questions.