May 31, 2020
If you’ve already created a COVID-19 planning committee, chances are its primary tasks have been navigating campus closures, implementing a distance learning approach, and managing the challenges of academic and financial continuity.
Now, as the school year ends, this group must transition to a reopening task force. This group will handle planning your school’s 2020–21 operations.
To bring you up to speed on the road to reopening your campus, ISM has partnered with the Auxiliary Services Organization (AUXS). AUXS works exclusively with independent schools to support campus operations, programs, and safety.
Who Needs to Be on the Reopening Task Force?
First, identify the key stakeholders in the reopening process. Medical Directors, Division Heads, and Directors of nearly all departments, from operations and facilities to food service, play a critical role in campus reopening discussions and should be involved.
There are three administrators that you want to make sure are represented on your committee. Directors of Operations and Facilities are focused on logistics. Your Security and Safety Director has experience in emergency planning. Your Auxiliary Director is your best choice for project manager—and potentially has more time available if your school has canceled summer programs. Ideally, these three leaders should coordinate efforts.
This year’s first day of school will be nothing like any other.
Charge the task force with developing a plan for reopening, implementing that plan, and maintaining and revising the plan as needed. The plan will lay out what to consider and how to execute decisions over the next 60 days in preparation for the fall.
The plan you develop must be flexible. You must assess and react to local impact. Think about the process as a light switch—rather than simply switching all the lights back on, you're slowly relighting the room.
How Do You Know Where to Start?
Guidelines have been issued at the federal, state, and local levels, so there are plenty of sources for guidance on how to manage reopening. The CDC provides updated guidance and maintains information specific to schools and day camps. Some states have begun to release reopening plans with specific benchmarks for schools. Additionally, check with your county and state health departments.
OSHA has made recommendations in line with workplace safety. Other organizations such as the Academy of Pediatrics, the American Camping Association, and regional associations have all provided guidance that can be applied to your school.
Many of these guidelines vary from level to level and from state to state.
Some will be conflicting. All this information must be brought together and discussed by the task force. Because circumstances are changing almost daily, make select team members responsible for keeping track of updates.
Tune in to live webinars every week during the school year to get specific, research-backed insight you can immediately apply at your school.
Ensure That You Prepare for the Following
Without knowing what effect current measures will have on the virus spread and what future tactics may be necessary, be ready to operate at different levels and have a different means of operation for each scenario.
While some locations will open traditionally with no limitations, others may not be allowed to open campus at all. Those that are permitted to open freely may face future closures, while many others may see a first day of school with various restrictions in place to limit physical proximity. You may need to plan for delayed starts, modified schedules, lower student density, and even further differences in approaches based on age group.
The Agenda for the Next 60 Days
Once you determine the key stakeholders involved in your reopening task force, assign roles. Be sure to provide backup coverage for all the required tasks—remember that you are dealing with an illness that can side-line individuals for several weeks.
Set a schedule for meeting frequency and develop a timeline for internal decisions and announcements.
While it may seem obvious, it must be reinforced: do not meet in person.
The task force’s first piece of business will be to determine supplies and equipment needs. Schools, clubs, retail businesses, hospitals, and more compete for the same supplies. Do not wait.
The task force must make decisions based on rapidly changing circumstances. Your team must decide what is right for your faculty, families, students, and the community.
Being prepared for the unknown is the best strategy to maintain continuity, while keeping everyone safe.
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