Through the ups and downs of the coronavirus pandemic, students, teachers, and school staff have all done their best to adjust to new learning models—from modified in-person instruction to remote learning to a hybrid of the two—all while shifting between these options as COVID-19 infection rates fluctuate. The pandemic has certainly taken a toll on our schools.
But with the news of potential vaccines on the horizon, there is hope that schools may be able to get back to some semblance of normal later this school year. When exactly that will happen and what it will look like we don’t yet know, but we do know that for a while, our schools will be in a period of recovery. To help your school get ready for this process, we’ve come up with 7 tips for pandemic recovery for schools. Let’s take a look at a few things your school will need to think about as you navigate through the coming months.
1. Continue With Health Safety Requirements
Once we do have a vaccine for the virus, it may take a while for it to be distributed to everyone. Because of this, we won’t be able to immediately go back to the old normal in our schools. Health safety measures that have been put in place during the pandemic should stay in place until a large enough percentage of the population has been vaccinated (watch for direction from the CDC as well as national, state, and local government officials for updates on this).
This means that hygiene practices such as increased handwashing, use of hand sanitizer, and the wearing of face coverings should remain in place. Increased surface cleaning and sanitization should continue as well.
2. Keep Social Distancing in Mind When Thinking About How Space is Used
Don’t be too quick to take down that social distancing signage that you have put up throughout your school. Some measure of distancing will still be necessary until the virus is reasonably under control. Additionally, you may want to keep social distancing in mind as you think about how your building spaces are used going forward, in case of future COVID-19 spikes or the advent of another widespread health issue.
A few ways to do this:
- Think about how you can repurpose large common areas like auditoriums or gyms to use as additional instructional spaces as needed, investing in portable room dividers to have on hand when you need them.
- Implement the use of smaller, multi-use portable partitions in the classroom, such as our DivideWrite Portable Whiteboard Partition, that will allow you to create separation in a highly functional way.
- Outfit your school office—especially the reception desk—with transparent Countertop Screens to protect office staff as well as students and visitors from virus transmission.
These are only a few suggestions, but the idea is to rethink your use of space going forward: How can your spaces be used more flexibly? Where is it possible to create more separation if you need to? How can you better handle crowded hallways and entryways in the case of a health-related outbreak?
3. Upgrade Ventilation Systems
A report posted earlier this year by a federal watchdog estimated that 41% of school districts had heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems that were in need of repair or replacement in at least half of their schools. Many schools opted to make updates this year due to the pandemic, but if yours hasn’t been able to yet, it’s something you should consider doing as you move forward.
Proper air circulation and filtration in enclosed environments is a necessary part of controlling the spread of many viruses, including, but not limited to, the virus that causes COVID-19. Every school district, including those who have made recent updates, should have protocols in place to have their ventilation systems inspected and maintained regularly to keep them in prime working order.
4. Make Sure Teaching and Learning are Well-Equipped and Focused
In addition to continuing to protect students and staff from the virus, schools must make sure their teachers are equipped to provide deliberate, focused education to all students, whether they are learning in person or remotely.
As many schools learned this year, this is much easier said than done. However, schools now have the benefit of learning from the events of this year to inform them in creating policies for the future. All schools should have a remote learning policy in place for future virus outbreaks or other emergency situations where students need to move to remote learning quickly. This includes making sure that teachers and students have access to the technology they need to do their best in a remote or hybrid learning environment.
5. Determine What Students Need to Catch Up
The disruption of regular schooling this year has caused many students to fall behind in their learning. In order to serve them well and help them catch up, schools need to take stock of where each student has fallen behind by using diagnostic assessments. These assessments will help teachers understand what areas each student is struggling in so they can guide their learning from that starting point, with the goal of once again reaching their grade-level standards.
6. Provide for Collaboration and Professional Development for Educators
Teachers must be given the time, training, and tools needed to collaborate with their colleagues in determining the needs of students and the best ways to meet those needs. They will require the help of paraprofessionals and school support personnel to effectively engage students in distance learning or hybrid learning as the need arises. Coordination of remote or hybrid learning takes more time than in-person instruction does, so school districts must provide these additional support staff to help teachers juggle the extra workload.
Ultimately, the skills and resourcefulness of teachers, as well as their relationships with students, are more important than ever right now, especially in an ever-changing school environment.
7. Tending to the Mental Health of Students and Staff is Crucial to Successful Pandemic Recovery for Schools
Supporting the well-being of students and staff will be a crucial part of moving beyond the pandemic’s effect on schools. All school staff should be trained in how to identify the effects of trauma so they can help struggling students get the care they need. While social-emotional learning and well-being is always an important factor in a student’s education, it must be a particular focus moving forward. School staff will need training in how to engage with families throughout the recovery process as well.
Additionally, with the extra weight put on teachers and school staff during this time, offering sufficient mental health support is vital. Schools must engage the services of mental health professionals to help all students, teachers, and staff overcome the stress and trauma caused by pandemic-related changes and uncertainty.
While school districts, teachers, staff, and students will all have a lot to overcome in the coming months, if they have the resources they need, pandemic recovery for schools is far from impossible. Hats off to the teachers, staff, and school administrators who are working so hard to continue our children’s education throughout this unprecedented time. Your work has not gone unnoticed.
If your school is in need of supplies to aid in social distancing and health safety, such as room dividers or countertop sneeze guards, Versare has you covered. Shop our online store or call us at 800-830-0210. We look forward to helping you equip your school for pandemic recovery.