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Round Table Discussion - Access Controls in COVID-19

Kevin Lloyd

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Access Controls

Traditionally, access control refers to the practice of restricting entrance to a property, a building, or a room to authorized persons. Physical access controls can be achieved by a human (a guard or receptionist), through mechanical means such as locks and keys, or through technological means such as acces2003861017_TempScreen.jpg.fdd49a87c3ba69d1aa6361f8404b6182.jpgs control systems like smart card readers. 

Access controls are usually implemented based on policies and together facilitate approved access to a facility. Prior to COVID-19 schools would deploy a robust access control system to mitigate threats – criminal activity, child protection, child custody issues, etc. Now schools will need to deploy more robust access control to mitigate against new threats such as pandemics.

Awareness of who is on campus, controls on where will they are allowed to go on campus and tracing when were they on campus will require new considerations such as pre-screening, checking attendance of students, signing in and signing out visitors, and documenting all relevant information. These considerations need to be addressed for anyone within the school community – students, parents, staff, suppliers, and partners. Our discussions with schools indicated that many lack the needed policies, procedures, and tools to manage access control when it comes to COVID-19.

The International School Recovery Forum recently hosted International Schools from Russia, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Luxembourg, and Argentina to a round table discussion on Access Controls and discussed the following areas:

  • Access Policy / Strategy
  • Managing Arrival / Departure
  • Managing Movement / Access on Campus
  • Community Communication

Insights, Challenges and Learnings from these schools are presented below: 

Access Policy / Strategy


  • Ensure the school’s policies and procedure are approved and understood by school leadership otherwise conflicts and violations may occur.
  • Having structure in place allows for easier execution of policies – school head cannot approve every visitor; however, in most cases they are responsible for every visitor.

Status of the Virus in your Country

  • The higher the local transmission, the stricter the access limitation should be. 
  • Consider how masks requirements will influence the school’s policies. Determining who is required to wear a mask, when and where will influence other parts of school’s policies and procedures.

Visitor Access

  • For low case counts locally, consider travel verification / self-declarations.  For high case counts locally, then do not allow visitors. 
  • If visitors are allowed, have a screening policy in place that is visible to the visitors.


  • If employees of contractors do not have a good sick leave policy these individuals may not self-report for fear of losing income. Have a policy in place with your contractors that you will screen contractors and you can send them home. 
  • One school addressed this situation by compensating the contractors who were unable to work due to COVID-19 (i.e. quarantine or sickness).

Student/Staff Access

  • Require that anyone with a fever or other symptoms is not allowed to come to school – in other words, above specific temperature, stay home.
  • If measuring temperature, it is important to select the equipment in terms of speed, accuracy, ease of use and safety of those taking the temperatures.
  • If using a bus, then do not allow children on the bus if they have a fever.  Determine what this process will be – parents check at home, monitors check at bus or upon arrival at school. In the Recovery Forum (https://bit.ly/3jrFPc9) there are further insights from schools on School Bus Operations in COVID-19.


  • When documenting visitors to campus include who arrives and leaves, when they arrived and departed and if possible where they went while on campus.
  • Have a clear policy on documenting if people have had the virus or have been exposed.
  • Have clear policies on what data you retain, why and for how long to manage privacy
  • i.e., only document if a problem with temperatures, not what the temperature was, nor those who have no problem.
  • Use of an App can simplify your efforts in terms of capturing, documenting, and communicating information.

Responsiveness to change

  • Changes may happen quickly and may be dramatic. It is important to be prepared for contingencies.
  • Considerations include time and resources in responding to new procedures. Ensure these have been considered.
  • Plan for multiple scenarios such as full attendance of students at school, partial attendance of students at school, or closing of school due to a resurgence (second wave)

Managing Arrival / Departure

School Entrance

  • At the entrance to the school, increased support for screening procedures, social distancing, isolation areas and staff protection require additional space or utilization of space in a different way.
  • Do not introduce or elevate other threats in efforts to mitigate Coronavirus.  i.e., do not force people to wait on crowded or dangerous streets to get access to a secure area.
  • Have school policies clearly posted and easily understood. Signage should be located in places to allow for policies to be effectively followed, i.e., mask requirements should be visible before entering the school.
  • Consider using multiple staging areas based on means of arrival – parental drop off vs. bus users.

Arrival and Departure

  • Arrival
    • Have a nurse available for morning arrival as they are trained and credible to assess the health concern or threat.
    • If there is a suspicious case, move that person to an isolation area.  For privacy, do assessment behind a screen where others cannot see if they are isolated or not.
  • Drop-off / Pick-up
    • Plan how children will be dropped off and picked up, considering the physical situation with space, traffic, weather, safety, etc.
    • Meet the cars to bring younger students into the school
    • Have a special area for parents to drop students and to wait to collect students outside
    • Have separate locations, staging areas and even departure points for students dependent on means of transportation - bus, car, foot, or bicycle.
  • Cohorts
    • Morning: coordinate students arriving from the buses into cohorts (class or grade or location) to enter the school
    • Afternoon: coordinate movement of students from cohorts (class or grade or location) to bus cohorts when they leave the school
  • Staggered arrival and dismissals
    • Plan staging areas to manage staggered arrival before school start and dismissals prior to student’s departure to buses.
    • If using a staggered dismissal, plan staging areas for moving students between cohorts and bus groups as well as for those waiting for siblings.
  • Technology to accelerate
    • Thermal cameras are highly recommended to accelerate temperature control – these also increase student safety, instill confidence in your community and protect staff. These are expensive which can be a budget issue to implement.
    • Use an App to trace, register and communicate
  • Departure
    • Be sure to de-register people when they depart the school – it is important to know when people have been at the campus from start to end.

Managing Movement / Access on Campus

  • When planning how students will attend class – utilizing cohorts and limiting the movement between rooms is recommended.
  • If students are using lockers, reassign lockers to support social distancing.
  • Plan how students will move throughout the school – one direction flow in hallways and exit / entrance only door access.
  • If temperature checks are required during the day, plan for when and where these will be managed.
  • Have a process to manage if a child develops a fever during the day. A process to move that child to isolation that addresses the safety of staff and students must be established. This plan must also include what to do for the rest of the class or cohort. Communications and documentation will be important here.  An App can support the school staff in this situation.
  • Have a plan in place for use of facilities such as bathrooms and the canteen.  Limit children’s access to a single bathroom and even toilet to reduce chances of exposure and simplify notifications where a case is suspected.

Community Communication

Communication is always important; however, during times of change or crisis, communication is critical. Schools needs to ensure the right engagement within the community leveraging people, processes and tools is created.

The right approach and effective tools, such as an App, can help create a productive environment where the community is positive, confident, and supportive. 

Insights gathered and structured on communicating to parents from schools all over the world can be found here https://bit.ly/communicating_to_parents.

In all cases when planning and implementing Access Controls, be sure that you meet all local regulations. In some cases, your community may expect that you exceed these requirements to ensure safety of the children and staff. Involvement of the community via the Parent’s Association may be prudent to ensure you address these concerns.

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