Image courtesy of the Sumter Item
Education will never look the same. We are planning for the worst and being prepared for what comes before us. Smaller classroom sizes (10-15) students per classroom, temperature checks, facemasks, A/B schedules, hybrid model, and remote learning are just a few of the many decisions we will need to make in preparing for students to come back to the “Classroom.”
What are the safety measures that you will put in place to assure the healthy wellbeing of students while they are in the educational environment?
We are definitely in a transition. Planning and preperation is the key to providing the most safe and appropriate transition for students to return to school. The key components in planning should consist of completing a plan for surveillance of illness, guidelines for health and wellness, discussion around temperature checks, and how to ensure that students and staff act in the best interest of their health and the health of others.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Districts are purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), appropriately adequate for their staff members, students, classrooms, offices, lunchrooms, and nurse's office. Staff training will be provided to educate staff members on the use of PPE, all safety procedures and aspects of safety during this COVID-19. The state guidance has indicated that personnel and students are prohibited from bringing personal cleaning supplies for the products that are being utilized in the educational environment must be state approved.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education State Guidance (June 4, 2020) schools should enforce frequent hand washing with soap and water. Hand washing with soap and water is always the first recommended line of defense. If it is not feasible or accessible, the use of hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol may be used. Schools should also ensure availability of supplies, such as soap and paper towels, hand sanitizer, and tissues, for all grade levels and in all common areas of the building. Cloth towels should not be used.
Schools should follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines regarding face coverings. Schools should educate and develop ideas and ways to encourage the students to keep their face covered. Schools should also discuss the types of masks that are acceptable & unacceptable. (No bandanas). We should also be cognizant of student allergies. If schools have students with certain health issues or disabilities regarding mask wearing or if a student becomes anxious, a plan may need to be put into place (504 Plan), to help insure their safety.
Surveillance of Illness
Schools should consider being accountable to surveillance of illness. Through this process schools can keep an account of the amount of students who become ill and if there are patterns that are consistent with specific groups of students. Data Analysis will help determine if there is a consistency with certain classrooms, hallways or certain children who are ill. The data can also help guide your process in determining if your schools are following the right procedures for cleaning and keeping a safe school environment.
At any time, a school may need to be shut down and return to Remote Learning. If a student in a classroom tests positive for COVID-19, the entire classroom will need to be closed. Students with fevers are to stay home 72 hours without medication. Schools have the authority to ask them to stay home 10 days.
Policies and Plans
School should be safe and consistent. Teachers should be involved with administrators in planning and making and decisions. Schools should create annual reports to update the Board of Education on the health and safety status of the district. Schools should consider creating a health plan and a social and psychological plan. Uniform procedures should be put in place. Policies should specify how students should be transported to and from school safely.
Always have policies and procedures in place that are consistently enforced. Guidelines for students and staff with mental health issues; depression, suicidal, and emotional issues should be put in place. The school community must communicate with each other if they have these occurrences so it can be addressed. Maintain confidentiality.
Daily clean frequently touched items such as door knobs, telephones, computers and toys, using cleaning supplies that have been approved by the CDC.
There should be daily temperature checks taken for students and staff. Schools should purchase equipment to take temperatures that are feasible to sustain the total population of their educational environment.
Mental Health Aspects Upon Returning
Training is recommended for staff on how to respond and support students and parents. Staff will need direction on how to respond if there is a loss of a loved one, or crisis situation for students and/or staff. Schools can monitor these situations through Response to Intervention (RtI) when students have issues with their learning related to COVID-19. Students should be referred if they are suicidal or experiencing anxiety.
Understanding the mental impact that Covid19 had on our students.
Covid19 created a form of trauma that has impacted us all. As we consider the mental perspective of our students, as they transition back to education after this traumatic event we must have an understanding of how it presents as an Adverse Childhood Experience.
Children who are suffering from trauma after exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) often present with a variety of issues that disrupt their learning and hamper their ability to develop the skills necessary for social and emotional development (Young 2018). According to our core value it is our duty to ensure all students have the opportunity to learn and achieve high expectations. The administrative team has been working with the staff in the school district enwich I serve to bring awareness of how trauma can impact the academic performance and social well being of our students. Educators must be mindful of the impact that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have on student success in the educational environment. Trauma studies implicate that students who were afflicted with ACEs who had one adult that believed in them and cared about their wellbeing grew to be successful. During these unforeseen times we must be able to identify and monitor those students who have been directly affected by Covid19 whereas the effects have decreased their educational performance and emotional well being. It has been noted that teachers were the most frequently identified adults who made a powerful impact on positive decisions students made in life. Now that we know what we know, how will we support our students: Restorative Justice, PBIS, RTI, Mindfulness, SWISS data, and assessing our facility to create spaces for students to digress. Knowing the impact that trauma has on the academic success of our students, we must ask ourselves how we can create an educational environment where all children feel safe? What changes can be implemented in the classroom that can help all students to meet their full potential?
Understanding Response To Intervention! “The Response To Intervention (RTI) approach represents a process for assessing and maximizing the opportunity to learn” of students who are struggling in any content area.” It emphasizes the importance of effective, culturally responsive instruction and early intervention service for all students prior to making a referral to Special Education.
The features of RTI focus on “accountability for results.” RTI features focus on the following:
● High-quality, culturally-responsive classroom instruction
● Scientifically-Based Reading Research
● Universal screening
● Continuous progress monitoring
● Early implementation of research-based interventions
● Progress monitoring during intervention
● Fidelity measures
Parents and family members are an integral part of the educational process of student achievement. Parents should be invited to participate in team meetings where we identify interventions and strategies to use in support of our students. It is especially important during these times to communicate with parents so that we can have a sense of the family dynamics and how they were impacted by Covid19.
Dr. Tamara M. Young,
Director of Special Education