With nearly all school sites and university campuses beginning to return to something like normal operation from March onwards, the challenge many in the education sector will now face is how to keep their establishment free of the virus.
Obviously, schools have had children attend them throughout the lockdown periods, either because they have been the offspring of key workers or have particular vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, both universities and schools will now be shifting away from a predominantly online model of learning to a more conventional, face-to-face one.
Of course, it is in the area of face-to-face learning that we now know that the virus can be so easily transmitted. The droplet infection of viruses such as influenza and the common cold can occur with Covid-19. However, it is also possible for an infected person to simply breathe out the virus, potentially spreading the disease within classroom settings. What do you need to do to prevent as much viral spread as possible?
Given that Covid-19 can spread from one person to the next simply from breathing, certain activities should not be offered to students. Singing in choirs and blowing wind instruments are two things that only ought to occur outside or in a socially distanced manner. Overall, the best thing is to teach outside, wherever this is possible. If it isn’t, then opening windows to ensure that lecture theatres and classrooms have adequate ventilation is the next best option.
The government guidance is that wearing masks in schools and university campuses is recommended for everyone, students and teaching staff alike. This should be followed unless there is a specific reason not to, such as a student with a special educational need who will not be able to cope with a mask. Physical education can take place without masks but this should be conducted outdoors rather than in gyms or school halls.
Keeping school premises clean is always a challenge, especially sites which have upwards of a thousand children on them. The same will go for many university sites, too, especially those which have not been in use for months. Hiring a professional educational cleaning company to perform a deep clean will destroy any remnants of the virus that may still be hanging about in these settings. Locations to which particular attention should be paid include toilet blocks and food preparation areas. Only hire a cleaning contractor to undertake this sort of work if they have the right sort of antiviral equipment. Some cleaners who operate on a small scale simply won’t have what it takes to deep clean properly.
Finally, it should be mentioned that hand sanitisation will remain important for everyone in education for some time to come, even after the vaccine roll-out has been completed. Sanitised hands help to prevent the virus from being picked up from things like door handles and so on. Not everyone will be protected from the range of vaccines now on offer, so frequent hand washing will remain an important measure to reinforce among students.