CDC releases guidelines for reopening schools

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Reopening Schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released safety guidelines for reopening schools in the COVID-19 era.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released safety guidelines for reopening the economy to accompany the White House’s plan, including a long list of recommendations for schools should they reopen in the fall. Currently, Tennessee officials have not shared any recommendations concerning the reopening or closure of school facilities come the fall.

According to the Opening Up America Again plan from President Donald Trump’s administration, states and counties can reopen their economy within a three-phase approach, and schools are allowed to reopen within phase two.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and his Economic Recovery Group have gradually released guidelines for the reopening of the 89 counties with state health departments, including Williamson County but not Davidson — the Tennessee Pledge. With restaurants, retail, small attractions and close-contact businesses open, elective surgeries resumed, and large venues to open Friday, the state’s plan currently sits somewhere between phase one and two of the White House’s plan.

Though the state has not spoken much to the looming back-to-school date, Williamson County Schools recently released its planning framework as it prepares for three different scenarios depending on the state of the virus in July and August. The scenarios include on-campus school, remote school and a hybrid model.

In the event that some on-campus schooling is pursued, the CDC provided its guidance for communities across the country, adding that its recommendations may be tailored to the specific needs of a community.

“Schools can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials to the extent possible, whether and how to implement these considerations while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community,” the CDC website reads. “These considerations are meant to supplement — not replace — any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which schools must comply.”

Aside from screening staff and students and recommending those with symptoms to stay home, listed below are some of the CDC’s recommendations for reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 during school.

• Have teachers and students above the age of 2 wear cloth masks. The CDC admits that this “may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings,” but asserts that it should be encouraged when feasible, particularly “in times when physical distancing is difficult.”

• Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as playgrounds, door handles, sinks, drinking fountains and rails or handles in buses, every day or between each use as possible.

• Limit shared objects, such as gym or physical education equipment and art supplies.

• Keep children’s belongings separate in individually labeled containers in their own areas or cubbies.

• Dedicate typically shared supplies, equipment and devices to individual students.

• Keep windows and doors open when possible unless it poses a safety hazard.

• Keep desks and seating facing the same direction and spaced six feet apart.

• Seat one child in every other row in buses.

• Have children bring their own meals, or distribute prepackaged individually plated lunches. Disposable utensils and dishes should be used, and students should eat in their classrooms, not in a cafeteria or dining hall.

• Children should stay with the same group and staff members all day or as much as possible.

• Virtual options should be considered instead of field trips.

WCS district administrators said that, since the planning team is still in the early stages of developing its guidelines for school in the fall, it is not yet ready to share any more details other than the currently released guidelines.

To read the full CDC guidelines for schools, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html.

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