CDC’s Considerations For Schools

Below is a summary of the considerations the CDC offers as school districts open K-12 schools.

Stacy Stepney DeKalb Schools
Stan Jester
Board of Education

I would like to draw your attention to the spacing recommendations for classrooms and buses. These are going to be particularly burdensome for students and teachers in District 1 given the persistent overcrowding in this area. The arithmetic of students, bus seats, and square footage make it difficult to balance the equation. If these recommendations are implemented with fidelity, school will necessarily look very different in the fall. Shifts, virtual school, cohort groupings, mixed-models – all will have to be considered while we are living in a time of transmission mitigation.

Once again, we see the real disadvantages and consequences of overcrowding. No new high school has been built north of Hwy 78 since 1975 despite the significant growth. No cluster realignments have happened to better use facilities throughout the district and alleviate overcrowding.

As I warned, the empty promises for improved facilities made by the previous administration in SPLOST V have never materialized. All of this only compounds the unusual situation we find ourselves in today. Students at our most overcrowded schools will be more burdened than ever before.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Considerations for Schools
Guidance for Schools & Child Care
School Decision Tool
Considerations for Youth Sports

The CDC believes COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as handwashing, staying home when sick) and environmental cleaning and disinfection are important. Furthermore, there are a number of actions the CDC recommends school administrators can take to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread during school sessions and activities.

Promoting Behaviors that Reduce Spread

• Stay Home when Appropriate
• Stay at home if you have tested positive or are showing symptoms of COVID-19
• Stay at home if you recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19

How to discontinue home isolation
People with COVID-19 who have stayed home (home isolated) can leave home under the following conditions:

If you have not had a test to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:

  1. You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers)
  2. other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
  3. at least 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared

If you have had a test to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:

  1. You no longer have a fever (without the use of medicine that reduces fevers)
  2. other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
  3. you received two negative tests in a row, at least 24 hours apart.

Hygiene Etiquette

• Wash your hands with soap and water
• Hand sanitizers are acceptable if soap and water is not available
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue

Cloth Face Coverings

Face coverings should be worn by staff and students (particularly older students) as feasible, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. Individuals should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently.

Maintaining Healthy Environments

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
• Clean and disinfect school buses or other transport vehicles
• Discourage sharing of items that are difficult to clean
• Ensure adequate supplies

Modified Layouts

• Space seating/desks at least 6 feet apart when feasible.
• Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.
• Create distance between children on school buses (g., seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible.

Physical Barriers and Guides

Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., reception desks).

Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g. guides for creating “one way routes” in hallways).

Communal Spaces

Close communal use shared spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds with shared playground equipment if possible; otherwise, stagger use and clean and disinfect between use.

Add physical barriers, such as plastic flexible screens, between bathroom sinks especially when they cannot be at least 6 feet apart.

Food Service

Have children bring their own meals as feasible, or serve individually plated meals in classrooms instead of in a communal dining hall or cafeteria

Use disposable food service items (e.g., utensils, dishes).

If food is offered at any event, have pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee instead of a buffet or family-style meal.

Maintaining Healthy Operations

Schools may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy operations.

Staff and Children at Higher Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19

Offer options for staff at higher risk for severe illness (including older adults and people of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions) that limit their exposure risk (e.g., telework, modified job responsibilities that limit exposure risk).

Offer options for students at higher risk of severe illness that limit their exposure risk (e.g., virtual learning opportunities).

Gatherings, Visitors, and Field Trips

Pursue virtual group events, gatherings, or meetings, if possible, and promote social distancing of at least 6 feet between people if events are held. Limit group size to the extent possible.

Limit any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations as possible – especially with individuals who are not from the local community

Pursue virtual activities and events in lieu of field trips, student assemblies, special performances, school-wide parent meetings, and spirit nights, as possible.

Pursue options to convene sporting events and participation in sports activities in ways that minimizes the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to players, families, coaches, and communities.

Identifying Small Groups and Keeping Them Together (Cohorting)

Ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff (all day for young children, and as much as possible for older children).

Limit mixing between groups if possible.

Staggered Scheduling

Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations by cohort or put in place other protocols to limit contact between cohorts and direct contact with parents as much as possible.

When possible, use flexible worksites (e.g., telework) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to help establish policies and practices for social distancing (maintaining distance of approximately 6 feet) between employees and others, especially if social distancing is recommended by state and local health authorities.

Support Coping and Resilience

Encourage employees and students to take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories about COVID-19, including social media if they are feeling overwhelmed or distressed.

18 responses to “CDC’s Considerations For Schools

  1. Ben Greenwald

    Do you expect that there will be a uniform plan throughout the district? While overcrowding in the northern part of Dekalb County makes social distancing almost impossible, there are schools in the district that are at 50% (or less) capacity.

    I know in the past you have advocated cascading redistricting to take advantage of seats in those empty schools. Might this be part of the solution for this fall?

  2. Stan Jester

    Hey Ben. I don’t see how the school district could implement any kind of redistricting in such short notice.

  3. Despina Lamas

    Private hospitals were asked at a moments notice to re-engineer their facilities to care for COVID-19 positive patients. School districts should be able to pivot to some sort of
    Hybrid learning model for the fall. But it will take planning and communication, two things I’m skeptical about. I’m still patiently waiting for communication about how my children’s yearbooks from
    2 different schools will be distributed. If DCSD can’t plan and communicate a strategy for something as simple as a school yearbook, I have very little hope for a forward thinking hybrid school model. Sigh.

  4. Hi Stan,

    Is there a deadline by which the schools will decide about a Fall return? Do you anticipate they will call it one way or another ahead of time so parents can secure childcare should home learning continue?

  5. Stan Jester

    The sooner they come out with a plan, the better. There is inevitably going to be some component of virtual learning and flex scheduling that parents will need to prepare for.

  6. Kirk D Lunde

    Considering the school district’s inability to supply toilet paper, soap, paper towels, and hot water to bathrooms, before DCSD can begin to plan for reopening schools, those things need to be addressed.

    Let’s face it. DeKalb Schools can not meet any of those guidelines with fidelity. No school district can.

    Children can not maintain social distancing in a school. In a 750 square foot classroom there would only be room for 15 students after you add a teacher and bookshelves, work stations and such. How would a science lab work? Would the teacher have to wipe down everything between classes? Will students have to purchase their own supplies and carry them? Can’t use lockers anymore. No library. Elementary schools without playgrounds? What will recess be? The list goes on and on.

    The school district is either going to pull a Governor Kemp and ignore the guidelines, or continue with virtual learning until the guidelines are no longer needed.

  7. Hs teacher

    The Only real option is for public schools to ignore these guidelines and open as normal
    Anything less is impossible
    We are going to be facing severe budget cuts in the next year; keeping things at 2019 levels of staffing will be extremely difficult
    To follow these, the district would need to double staff, purchase hundreds of busses and begin a massive building program
    In a year when employees are going to see salaries cut, that is ridiculous
    BUT that’s assuming this is a good idea
    The shutdown of inperson schooling has been a nearly universal disaster
    In the highest performing schools, 40% of students did no work and all missed much work
    In the title I schools, probably 70% or more did nothing
    Digital learning is now known to be grossly inferior
    And let’s not even discuss our ESL population

    The impact of anything less than a full reopening is to punish students, especially those who are already most vulnerable , and cause long lasting harm while destroying any educational gains or strives towards equity

    The board and the state DOE need to ignore these guidelines as anything else is a disaster

  8. I work with a teacher who is 28 years old. She has Lupus. She has to be very careful. Does she return to work or does she quit teaching? There is another teacher whose husband has had a kidney transplant. Does she risk coming to work and perhaps taking the virus back home? There are many students that have health issues. What should these students do? A 17 year old child died of complications from the virus this past week. I am not listing these things to be difficult, but just to point out that this is a complicated issue. I don’t know what is the correct answer.
    To try and do many of the things that CDC recommends means that schools will need extra staff and additional money’ Where is the money coming from to install the sneeze barriers? If fewer students will be on each bus, how will we transport all of the students ? We already cannot get enough bus drivers. Add to all of this Ms Tyson is scheduled to leave at the end of June. There are so many facts to consider.

  9. Kirk Lunde

    Hs teacher,

    You are basically correct.

    I see a possibility for high schools to not require juniors and seniors to go to the school building every day. The majority of students who are younger need a teacher to help them. So, I disagree with you, but only regarding juniors and seniors.

  10. People, come on

    Wow- I thought Hs teacher was crazy and you people are agreeing?? Where do these numbers come from? “In the highest performing schools, 40% of students did no work and all missed much work…In the title I schools, probably 70% or more did nothing. The shutdown of inperson schooling has been a nearly universal disaster.” Lots of hyperbole in that post.

    All in the highest performing schools missed “much” work. I guess Chamblee isn’t high performing? I know of a lot of students who did ALL their work.

    And yes, Joy, there are teachers and students who’ve had horrific health issues. Kids with cancer, teachers taking care of the elderly. Just like with the flu, they will have to be more careful. But weren’t they already having to watch out, keep Junior at home if he has a fever or stay away from mass gatherings?

    And Kirk – seriously, the juniors and seniors don’t need class time? With the necessity of AP classes to get into a decent college (not even a good one), you’re thinking these kids can do that themselves?

    Why not go with a split system? Half at school Monday and Tuesday, clean on Wed, other half there Ths and Fri. Online can be a valuable supplement to in person learning, especially if we can give teachers a little more time and education on how to do it.

    One other thing – the world has changed. As schools and the world reopens, you won’t be able to shut down everything when there’s one case. It’s going to be a situation of how many cases do you allow before you have to shut down.

  11. dekalbteacher

    HS Teacher and Come on,

    The CDC guidelines also include proper ventilation with windows that open and properly working a/c units. As Kirk suggests, our district struggles to provide necessary items and do basic repairs in good health times.

    “Normal” school or the split system still assumes the school district can deliver. How many people trust this can happen?

    Does every school even have a full-time nurse? Who is responsible for supplying face coverings, and replacing them when they go missing?

    When there is a confirmed case in a school building, the CDC recommends a school’s closure for 2 to 5 days. In schools with 1, 500 to more than 2,000 students and another hundred to two hundred staff spanning at least six counties, how often could that happen?

    I agree that students need some form of education and the district can plan for that, but I’m not comfortable dismissing science, making declarations of disasters, and pretending there is only one way to do school during a pandemic.

  12. Kirk Lunde

    People Come on,

    I haven’t seen any percentages from DCSD, but I think the numbers Hs teacher quoted were from Miami-Dade. A teacher I follow on Instagram shared that 60% of students in Los Angeles didn’t log in every week. Hopefully, DeKalb students did better. DeKalb’s IT department has reported total number of log ins and probably has it broken down by school, but I haven’t seen the data.

    Yes. Students missed work in every school. There were no science labs/experiments, no band, no orchestra, no chorus.

    I didn’t say juniors and seniors didn’t need class time. Not sure how you got that.

    I feel sorry for you that you believe students need AP classes to get into college, “not even a good one.” Colleges are eager to admit homeschoolers who don’t have any AP classes. My son took ZERO/NONE/NULL SET, AP classes and got into his first choice.

    Also, if a sick student goes to school on Monday, cleaning on Wednesday isn’t going to do anything to prevent the students in school on Monday from being exposed. The biggest problem is the lack of appropriate ventilation in classrooms. It is so bad that whenever the district “tests for mold,” they don’t include the number of air exchanges per hour which is standard on any legitimate indoor air quality test. Even when the HVAC is working, the classrooms don’t get the EPA recommended three air exchanges an hour.

    Every parent should read this before deciding if they want to send their children back to public school.

    Also, it is a good time to ask to see your school’s federally mandated Wellness Plan.

  13. Admissions

    Colleges examine students in the context of their school. If a school offers 3 AP classes and a student takes 0, that’s is very different than if a school has 25 and the student takes o.

  14. People, come on

    Actually Kirk, my kid had chemistry labs and music playing tests. I’m not sure where you’re coming from with this “information.” Do you even have kids in the system?

    Additionally, as Admissions said, colleges look at the rigor of the high school. If you’re not meeting their requirements for rigor (usually by taking AP tests) you don’t get in.

    And for schools to reopen at all, one positive test can’t shut down the school or require the whole place to be cleaned. A classroom yes, but not the whole school. Now maybe you won’t want to send your kids into that environment. And that can be understood. But there’s no way a school can even attempt to open if they are having to close for every positive test.

    I’m open for any other realistic ideas. Don’t see anyone coming up with anything but roadblocks…

  15. dekalbteacher

    People Come on,

    Like many districts in Georgia, Dekalb received millions of dollars in COVID aid. To start, the district should stop using the programs and human resources decisions that didn’t work well before COVID.

    The district should be surveying parents and staff now to see who can even return to the building and who would be willing to send their children to a school building. Other school districts have already announced alternative schedules that would have to recognize staff needs, especially those with young children.

    The district can also be determining which areas or neighborhoods or complexes have a concentration of students who didn’t do work during virtual learning to see how lacking resources may have been to blame. It would be easy to do what Marietta City Schools did in delivering wifi hotspots.

    Nothing about next school year will be business as usual, so the district should not be creating a budget that operates as such. How many central office and school-based administrators have reduced job responsibilities because of the lack of testing, the lack of behavioral issues, the lack of classroom learning? We have a curriculum and instruction division and a professional learning division that did what during virtual learning? No reason why each teacher is doing the same thing. Some facts and skills can be delivered across the board, so that all students can get more of the individual experiences they’ll need for other learning situations whether that’s face-to-face instruction or online.

    The district could have started assessing buildings’ ventilation needs and should be making sure that any schools or other buildings that would be used for face-to-face learning have windows that open, properly functioning air conditioning units, and clean air flowing in.

    Michael Thurmond instituted some type of financially backed jobs program. The county and the district could work together to get this done. Unfortunately, our county government and our school district don’t have a good record of work, so not sure this would ever happen.

    A new way of living requires a new way of thinking.

  16. Even if the schools have only 1/3 of the students there at once, how long will it take for lunch to be served? How long will it take for true distancing during class change? How long will it take the buses to transport the students, and how do you keep the students from congregating while they wait for the rest of the students to arrive?
    One of the primary considerations for reopening is screening students for history of exposure. I don’t think Georgia is anywhere close to handling the contact tracing that makes me confident that we are able to do that. I think that we have thought for so long that children are not affected by COVID-19. More and more cases of children with multi system inflammatory syndrome are appearing, probably because it is a post-infection result of the virus. Children are not safe. And the ones who don’t get sick may be more dangerous healthwise, in that they are spreading the virus without showing symptoms. It is easy to say, if you have symptoms, stay home. But children can be showing no symptoms and be carriers.
    The best solution is early decision to continue virtual learning. What can DCSD do to support this? Give families time to pick up a laptop, make sure that there is an internet connection, etc. Communicate that this is required. Send letters to the home, and communicate this during new student registration. Offer plenty of opportunities for teachers to prepare/collaborate for a semester of teaching online, providing services. Provide time for families and the community to create solutions for child care, if it is needed.

  17. Stan Jester

    Hello @Worried. There are a number of problems with extended virtual learning. Off the top of my head…

    1. I’m very concerned with the efficacy of our virtual learning. My kids did next to nothing during the virtual learning this Spring.

    2. DeKalb Schools originally purchased 1 Chromebook for every 2 elementary students. The idea was that classes would share and not take them home. While the board recently appropriated funds to purchase enough Chromebooks for every elementary student, it will be a while before we can get them in the hands of the students.

    3. It is extremely challenging for k-8 students to be home for many families … as you can imagine. Child care isn’t free and unemployment hasn’t been this high since the Great Depression or something like that.

  18. Downbutnotbroken

    Mr. Jester, with all due respect to the experiences in your household, I’m sure you appreciate that your voice carries a certain weight and there are narrow-minded readers who will interpret your experience as the reality for every student. You should note for your readers that the district tied teachets hands by limiting the amount of work we could assign to be no more than an hour a week. Clearly, there are limitations to virtual learning. Had DeKalb managed to deliver chromebooks and offered one-to-one, like so many other districts have done, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the virtual hole we’re in now. If you’re worried about the virus, we need to do virtual learning. If you’re worried about the economy, we need to do virtual learning. The economy cannot improve until we end the spread. The NEA and other organizations offered suggestions for the fall as early as May, but DeKalb has waited until mid July to plan. There are options beyond the 3 scenarios offered in the DeKalb survey, including opening computer labs for a limited number of students who’s families cannot serve their children at home. This requires the district to think outside the box. Regions may have to share resources, including learning sights. I am a stakeholder as a teacher, parent, and home owner in the district where I teach. DeKalb is not alone in this, but once again appears to be trying to reinvent a wheel when there are examples of how this can work. Not perfectly, but at least until our numbers of Covid go down.