The country is beginning to open in phases from medical offices and restaurants to schools and parks. Every industry is taking precautions to safely reopen to the public. This means that facilities are more focused than ever on the health and safety of their guests, including schools. K-12 schools are especially working hard to plan for safe reopening this or next school year. While every student and faculty member is important to keep safe, schools also need to plan for those that are high risk or immunocompromised to ensure their safety. We discuss how K-12 facilities can plan for reopening with these high-risk folks in mind.

Face mask sitting on table

What Does it Mean to be High Risk?

According to the CDC, many conditions can cause you to be considered high risk or immunocompromised. Some conditions include cancer, bone marrow/organ transplant, genetic immune deficiencies, diabetes, and severe obesity. When you are high risk or immunocompromised, you can be more susceptible to contracting diseases like COVID-19. This makes things like attending school difficult for individuals during the time of a health crisis. These individuals need extra precautions to stay safe from disease and keep their immune systems strong.

When reopening a facility that is full of K-12 students, staff, and faculty, it’s important to remember those in the high-risk population. High-risk individuals will require additional preparation to help them safely integrate back into your facility. These extra precautions will require participation from your whole team to be effective.

How to Keep High-Risk Populations Safe 

Space Out Furniture

Spread out the furniture in classrooms and cafeterias to keep the suggested six feet apart between students. If your classroom has activity tables instead of desks, space out chairs appropriately at each table. Be sure that any high-risk student has additional room in any shared space to help keep them safe. 

Wear Masks

According to the CDC, face coverings can help significantly to slow the spread of disease among people. Provide masks for all students and employees in your school to keep everyone safe. Masks help to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets when someone coughs or sneezes, which is especially important when working with K-12 students. 

Sanitize and Wash Hands

Another recommendation from the CDC for safety is to frequently wash or sanitize hands. This helps to kill any bacteria on hands and prevent it from spreading to surfaces or into mouths, noses, or eyes. Be sure to teach and remind students, especially younger ones, about how to effectively wash hands.

Spray bottle and gloves

Sanitize Surfaces

Frequently sanitizing surfaces is key to keeping communal spaces like schools clean. Utilize things like sanitizing wipes or surface cleaners and rags to kill bacteria. Be sure to continuously wipe down surfaces, at least twice per day.

No Shared Snacks or Supplies

Bacteria can spread easily on surfaces that have been touched by others. Work to ensure students aren’t sharing snacks or supplies (pencils, papers, markers, etc.) to help limit the spread. If your school typically offers communal snacks during break times, have a teacher or helper pass them out to each student after everyone sanitizes hands. 

Distanced Lunches

Many cafeterias are utilizing takeout containers and food transportation equipment to serve lunch in classrooms. This prevents the use of communal areas that would be easy places to spread disease. If your school has gone back to cafeteria service, make sure anyone with high-risk or immunodeficiency can have an isolated lunch at least six feet from others. Offer these students takeout lunches from the cafeteria if they cannot bring their own lunch from home. 

Distanced Communal Spaces

While many of the communal places like cafeterias or playgrounds can be cut for safety, some cannot. These include restrooms, lines, and waiting areas. This is when it becomes important to utilize crowd control products and signs to offer visuals for safe distances. You can also offer touchless products that assist in limiting touching of communal surfaces like door handles or hand dryers.

Additional Reopening Resources

For more information and helpful products for reopening your school, read our COVID19 Guide Series. Keep yourself and others safe when going back to school by incorporating these best practices.