If your local authorities have not already required you to shut down your operations, we’re sure you’ve been getting many calls and emails from parents wanting to know if it’s still safe to send their children to your school or daycare. In many places, the leaders in education have made the choice to temporarily suspend classes, or to extend their spring breaks. The reasons for this are apparent. Children do have the nagging habit of touching foreign surfaces and then touching their faces. They may often sneeze or cough without properly covering their face. While children might not be the most susceptible segment of the population to this variation of the flu virus, although that is still unknown, they can be carriers and in close contact to be able to spread amongst the rest of the population.
Facts About the Coronavirus
Here’s what we know thus far about COVID-19. According to the CDC, the coronavirus has spread to dozens of countries around the world including Canada and the United States. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and usually appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. The most common symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The illness spreads from person-to-person and people are thought to be the most contagious when they are showing symptoms of the illness. The virus can also be spread due to contact with contaminated objects. For instance, if someone with the virus touches a table, doorknob or another object and then you come along and touch that same object within a few hours, the virus can be transferred.
How to Avoid the Coronavirus
The CDC recommends washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching the mucous membranes of the face, sanitizing surfaces and high touch areas, and avoiding direct contact with other people. Authorities are telling us that life is returning to normal in China where the virus first began. All of the efforts there have seemingly worked, so we can be hopeful that life will soon return to normal here in North America and kids will return to their classrooms. But until then, we want to help you navigate these uncertain times.
Should my Organization Close?
The situation is evolving rapidly and by the time you read this, this is not a choice that may even be in your hands anymore. If someone at your organization has contracted COVID-19 (staff or student), then closing is definitely the best option. Some schools and centers are shutting down and sending in teams of professionals to disinfect the entire premises while they are closed.
What if my School or Center Stays Open?
If you can and decide to keep your school or center open, communicate with parents that you are committed to the health and safety of their students. Put increased health and safety measures in place and outline these practices to parents. Have a clear contingency plan in place in case someone tests positive so that action can be taken swiftly.
Health and Safety Measures You Can and Should Take
- Actively monitoring all updates and recommendations from state and local authorities, as well as organizations like the CDC, WHO and Health Canada.
- Deep cleaning more often (e.g. daily instead of weekly, twice daily instead of once daily, etc.).
- Increasing the frequency of handwashing in class, reviewing proper handwashing with staff and students, etc.
- Greeting with waves instead of hugs or handshakes.
- Reminding students about safety measures, such as coughing into their elbow instead of their hands.
- Updated your sick policy by asking parents to keep children at home if they show any signs of illness and/or keeping children home for a longer period once symptom-free.
- Placing sanitation stations at all entrances and asking parents and students to sanitize hands each time they enter.
Preventing Panic (Yours and Others’!)
Additionally, you’ll want to prevent panic among your students, who may feel confused or afraid. The first step is to manage your own anxiety. Students pick up on the emotions of the adults around them.
Keep your anxiety at a minimum by:
- Avoiding excessive/nonessential exposure to media
- Connecting with your support system
- Adding extra time for self-care and stress relief each day
- Practicing strategies like meditation, deep breathing, or anything else that you find soothing
Other steps you can take to help your students stay calm include:
- Remind students that your job is to keep them safe, and you take that job seriously. Talk to them about the steps you’re taking to ensure their safety.
- Allow your students to discuss their fears and worries. If they ask “what if” questions, provide age-appropriate responses. Don’t offer excessive information.
- Share the strategies you use to calm down, like taking deep breaths or talking to your close friends and family.
- Routines and predictability feel safe for children, so stick to your existing routines as much as possible. Stability during a time of uncertainty is essential.
How TUIO Can Help
As you already know with our payment solution, we take the health of your organization seriously, and that carries over to the health of your students, staff, and parents, without which you cannot manage. We are fully operational despite the outbreak and are now dedicating our resources to keep tabs, research and brainstorm ideas on how to contain the fallout of COVID-19 in the education sector. You can therefore look forward to future articles from us on topics such as What to do about fees if your organization is closing, How to offer education to students during their time away, What kinds of governmental support are available, and more as the situation evolves. Please let us know at [email protected] if you have COVID-19-related blog topics you would like us to try and cover.
Stay tuned and be safe!