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Mitigation - Managing Campus Access - A Round Table Discussion


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Kevin Lloyd

2003861017_TempScreen.jpg.fdd49a87c3ba69d1aa6361f8404b6182.jpgThe International School Recovery Forum – sponsored by Together School, Clearpath EPM and the ECIS recently sat together with leaders from International Schools around the world to discuss mitigation efforts and managing campus access during COVID-19. Insights from these discussions below should support schools as they continue to manage the current pandemic as well as to prepare them for other Emergencies / Crisis in the future.

PREPAREDNESS:

Mike Johnson, CEO of Clearpath EPM shared his expert insights on the need for preparedness and how schools around the world were caught unprepared by the pandemic: 

  • Pandemics are a something we need to be prepared for – COVID-19 is 3rd Coronavirus in past 18 years.
  • Schools have been reacting, which is not where we want to be.  We want to be in a position of response as response implies prior planning.
  • During the pandemic, it is important for schools to learn from this experience and codify these learnings as part of their future preparedness planning.

POLICIES:

  • Community support for handling of crisis at International Schools, including pandemics is vital to ensure confidence and trust. Establishment, communication and enforcement of policies and procedures will help you with management and mitigation at your school. 
  • Guidelines should be
    • based on a recognized external authority such as the CDC
    • clearly communicated – including disciplinary actions
    • should be simple
    • enforced

Community Compact

In support of your schools policies, consider a community compact. According to Mike Johnson, “A well understood Community Compact can instil confidence in the community, simplify enforcement, align the community.” 

Creating a Community Compact

  • Use a behavioural perspective as a foundation
  • Ensure it can be embraced by the whole community
  • Identify acceptable practises, requirements and enforcement
  • Keep it simple 
  • Use a reputable source as the base such as the CDC guidelines
  • Communicate clearly the requirement to align to local laws.
  • Clearly state implications for not complying

Benefits

  • Demonstrates that school is mindful of parents’ expectations
  • Creates confidence in the community
  • Makes it easier administratively 

Visit Riverdale Country School for an example of a successfully implemented Community Compact - https://www.riverdale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Riverdale_covid_compact_090820.2.pdf

Schools have had to adjust procedures in mitigating COVID-19. The pandemic’s status in the local area was the key driver behind procedures taken by schools. Three areas of note include arrivals, dismissals and parental access

PROCEDURES:

Mitigation efforts at International Schools resulted in significant procedural changes, some of these are discussed further below:

  • Arrival:
    • Screening of students for many schools has become a key step in the arrival process. 
    • Multiple entrants points or the creation of screening areas were implemented to support distancing, afford space for screening and protection of staff. Weather concerns have also been a factor in determining how the arrival process is handled.
    • Most schools have barred parents from access.
    • Pre-screening at home has been seen as another tool.  Enforcement is then required for this to be effective.
    • Many schools have taken the step to add thermal cameras.  The benefit has been a deterrent and a confidence builder.  Schools did not indicate they were finding cases of COVID through these cameras.
  • Dismissal:
    • Dismissal had a more significant impact on schools than arrival requiring increased planning and resources which included:
    • the use of multiple exits / gates
    • staggering of dismissal times 
    • the use of staging areas
    • the use of staff to escort students on dismissal to buses, staging areas or pickup areas 
    • restricting access to loading zone
    • prohibiting loitering by parents outside the school
  • Parental Access:
    • Have a clear policy on parental access and enforce it.  
    • Consider needs of younger children or special needs children.
    • Exceptions should have a clear approval process.

 THOUGHT BOX:

Considerations for pre-screening at home

  • What criteria will you include
  • Ensure that tools exist to support screening – thermometers for example
  • Ensure alignment to guidelines / compact – implications are clearly understood
  • Be able to verify and enforce the pre-screen
  • Consider the use of a School App or Portal for reporting, verification and enforcement

COMMUNICATION:

Communication is important to ensure clarity of the situation, to establish confidence and maintain trust, to prevent or reduce rumours and to protect and manage the reputation of the school.  It is clear that many schools still rely upon email and the intranet as their primary channels for communication which can be ineffective when managing a crisis such as COVID-19.

  • To implement effective communication at schools and effectively support the management of crisis situations schools should consider:
  • As part of our Community Compact, be clear and upfront about your communication strategy including:
    • How you will share information
    • What information you can and will share – be clear about what is legal 
    • With whom (staff, parents, students)
  • Having task force to manage communication
  • Maintaining a regular schedule for updates
  • Using pre-defined and approved templates- this can make things simpler and faster.  (Many of the situations you will face can be predicted, and as such you should have these already pre-approved.)

A well thought out, planned and executed communication strategy will increase confidence in your school, help to alleviate concerns that your hiding information and help you navigate a challenging time. 

THOUGHT BOX:

Consider the Use of a Mobile App

  • Email and intranet are effect tools and are fine for regular/weekly updates, for posting of policies, educating, etc.
  • Mobile Apps are more effective for immediate communication
    • One on one communications such as a sick child
    • Updates on changes to policies and procedures as they constantly change
    • Stay ahead of the rumour mill and help to keep the confidence and reputation at a high level
    • To reduce anxiety with your staff and parents

TEACHER SAFETY / PEACE OF MIND:

Anxiety is highest among teachers and as such schools need a means to help manage this anxiety and provide a level of confidence within their staff.  

Things that schools can consider include:

  • Be open with staff about the status of COVID-19 in your school, while respecting individual privacy and local laws.
  • Encourage peer support
  • Be clear about the school’s processes and procedures
  • Good reporting / screening procedures help reduce the anxiety
  • Provide education / awareness to avoid a stigmatism with people who have been infected when they return.  
  • Help people to understand that they are safe.

ONLINE LEARNING:

Online or Blended Learning has many challenges and benefits – Schools around the world shifted rapidly from in person to fully online as a primary means of mitigation.  This shift presented insights and understanding that Online Learning presents.

  • Challenges:
    • Not all schools are positioned to fully support online learning
    • Equitable and ubiquitous access does not yet exist 
    • Expectations exceed the current capabilities
    • Competence in providing an online learning experience varies
    • Ability to quickly shift to handle things such as snow days is not currently possible
    • Supporting online and in-person simultaneously is not easily manageable (sick / quarantined children).
    • Stress on teachers is significant
  • Opportunities
    • Ability to offer remote options / distant learning options has accelerated
    • Acceptance of the technology amongst teaching staff has increased
    • Understanding of potential and limitations by parents has increased
    • Need for further evolution in terms of technology and training is clear

Schools should continue to evolve their Online / Blended Learning for many reasons, addressing health and safety as a means of mitigation should remain an ongoing consideration.

  

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