On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance on how to determine when it’s safe for schools, childcare centers, restaurants and bars to reopen amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic. The advice includes many now-familiar practices including frequent handwashing, social distancing and the use of cloth face coverings. The CDC has been facing pressure from state and local lawmakers for information on how to safely begin lifting restrictions as the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have begun to dwindle.
As New Jersey students face finishing out this school year with remote learning and parents are wondering whether or not school will be open in September, a “decision tree” offered by the CDC stipulates that schools should not reopen until certain guidelines and benchmarks are met.
The first threshold that schools must meet is to answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Will reopening be consistent with applicable state and local orders?
- Is the school ready to protect children and employees at higher risk for severe illness?
- Are you able to screen students and employees upon arrival for symptoms and history of exposure?
If schools cannot meet these criteria, they should not reopen, according to the guidelines. Once schools have met the criteria, other benchmarks include the ability to promote healthy hygiene, intensify cleaning and disinfection measures and to encourage social distancing through increased spacing between students and the implementation of small group learning. If these guidelines cannot be met, schools should meet the safeguards first, according to the diagram.
The flowchart goes on to stipulate that when feasible, schools should take steps to check both employees and students for symptoms upon arrival each day. And while state and local officials will make the decisions regarding reopening, the guidance released by the CDC shows that when students do return to school, we can expect a much different environment than what we were used to pre-coronavirus.
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