Hazard Controls for Schools during COVID-19

For schools and childcare facilities, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends short-term closure to clean or disinfect if an infected person has been in a school building regardless of community spread. When there is minimal to moderate community transmission, social distancing strategies can be implemented such as postponing or cancelling field trips, assemblies, and other large gatherings such as physical education or choir classes or meals in a cafeteria, increasing the space between desks, staggering arrival and dismissal times, limiting nonessential visitors, and using a separate health office location for children with flu-like symptoms. When there is substantial transmission in the local community, in addition to social distancing strategies, extended school dismissals may be considered.

As the pandemic progresses, schools may continue with remote learning or decide to reopen. Strategies such as cohorting, rotating schedules, eating lunch in the classroom, and utilizing outdoor spaces are some ways to minimize close contact. Additional precautions include face masks, hand sanitizer stations, rearranging classrooms to enable physical distancing, and frequent cleaning. The CDC made a School Decision Tree to aid administrators in the planning process for reopening. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges re-entry policies need to be flexible and responsive as new information about the virus emerges.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine states that in-person instruction for grades K-5 and students with special needs should be prioritized to prevent children from falling behind. Younger children are at higher risk of suffering from long-term academic consequences and developmental deficits without in-person learning.