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Infection Control and Mitigation

Review Marker
Review whether these tasks have been completed or are underway as of end of the 2019-20 school year.

REVIEW: District Level
  • Establish a planning team* to:
    • Develop guidelines for infection control practices.
    • Determine what supplies (PPE, disinfectants, soap, tissues, hand sanitizer, thermometers) are available and make arrangements for procurement
    • Determine if school health staff need N95 respirators and make arrangements for procurement and fitting of respirators if needed. Bear in mind numerous supply chains are broken and it may be difficult to obtain supplies.

*If the district includes 4K or 4K Community Approaches, include child care and Head Start partners on the planning team.

REVIEW: School Level
  • Designate a school health member, such as a school nurse, to act as liaison with the local public health department.

*Suggested planning team members include administrators, school nurse, medical advisor or local community health care providers, public health official, teachers, support staff, parents and students.

School Marker
Do before the 2020-21 school year starts.

PREPARE: District Level
  • Consider ways to accommodate the needs of children and families at risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
  • Honor requests of families who may have concerns about their children attending school due to underlying medical conditions of those in their home.
  • Identify staff who cannot or choose not to be in school due to their own high-risk conditions or age. Staff who cannot be at school due to their own high-risk conditions could provide distance learning instruction to those students who are also unable to attend. Job responsibilities could be modified that limit exposure risk.
  • Develop a continuum of strategies for implementation of physical distancing. Identify all locations and times where students are in close contact with each other and create strategies to restructure those locations and activities.
  • Consider the impact of physical distancing on school provided transportation.
  • Create plans to limit symptomatic and asymptomatic spread of the virus:
    • Individuals should not be in school if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
    • Require ill staff and students to remain home and contact healthcare provider for guidance.
    • Ill students or staff should not return to school until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation.
  • Determine exclusion criteria and plans to monitor students and staff for COVID-19 like symptoms. See DHS’s Guidelines for the Prevention, Investigation, and Control of COVID-19 Outbreaks in K-12 Schools in Wisconsin
  • Additional waves of infections are expected, possibly coinciding with flu season in October or November. This could result in site, district, regional, county or statewide school closures or additional modifications to school operations. Short-term closures of single or multiple schools will remain a possibility until a vaccine is widely used.
  • Determine district protocol on use of facial coverings by staff and students. Follow any state or local orders. PPE recommended for school nurse, building engineer, and isolation room monitor could be different from that of teachers and other support staff.
  • The Department of Health Services recommends cloth face coverings for teachers, staff and older students who can wear and remove them properly.
  • Ill student or staff should not return to school until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation. 
  • Consider implications of staff traveling between several buildings.
  • Develop strategies to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
PREPARE: School Level
  • Determine what communications and what messaging will be required to both staff and families to provide reassurance that health and safety precautions are in place for a safe return to school.
  • School districts are encouraged to have thoughtful discussions with school nurses, other school health professionals, teaching and support staff, and parents regarding use of masks by students and PPE use by staff who work closely with students who are unable to control secretions or present other concerns for effectiveness or safety of masking.
  • Create small, closed classroom groups that serve a consistent group of students and teacher(s) to:
    • Enable physical distancing
    • Enable closer control of the environment
    • Support contact tracing if exposure occurs.
    • Build classroom routines for students (wash hands upon entering and leaving the classroom) and to regularly clean desks, equipment, writing utensils, and other classroom materials.
  • Stagger arrival and/or dismissal times. Stagger recess, lunch hours to avoid contact between cohorts.
  • Consider dividing up student entry points rather than funneling all students through the same entry space.
  • Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations, or put in place other protocols to limit direct contact with parents as much as possible.
  • Establish controlled entrances and exits (based on grade levels, students and teacher entry) and flows (one way traffic in tight corridors).
    • These approaches can limit the amount of close contact between students in high-traffic situations and times.
  • Explore the use of alternate spaces (classroom) for eating lunch and breakfast.
    • If alternate spaces are not available, ensure classroom groups sit together in lunch- rooms.
  • See: Interim COVID-19 Cafeterias and Food Service Guidance
  • Rearrange student desks and common seating spaces to maximize the space between students.
    • Desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other) to reduce transmission caused from virus-containing droplets (e.g., from talking, coughing, sneezing).
    • Consider using visual aids (painter’s tape, stickers) to illustrate traffic flow and appropriate spacing to support social distancing.
  • Modify classes where students are likely to be in very close contact.
    • Bring in specialist teachers (music, art, physical education) to individual classrooms versus rotating all kids through a shared space that is not able to be cleaned with each new student introduction.
    • Whenever possible, hold physical education and music classes outside and encourage students to spread out.
    • Discourage the sharing of music stands. It is important students in music classes maintain social distancing. Have students in one line or stagger spacing to ensure maximum distancing. Recognize singing and playing of some musical instruments increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19 via respiratory droplets. Consider increasing the amount of social distancing beyond six feet.
    • Consider using visual cues to demonstrate physical spacing.
  • Arrange classrooms to allow teachers to practice social distancing.
    • Turn teachers’ desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing students) to reduce transmission caused from virus-containing droplets (from talking, coughing, sneezing).
  • Erect partitions in open spaces with high risk of interaction or contact (playground, blacktop) to create several separate areas to prevent large groupings
  • Determine protocols for notifying local public health officials of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
  • School districts should remind school staff regarding confidentiality laws and statues that protect student and staff health information. Student communicable disease related information is protected health information. Even if a family or student acknowledges and publicly discloses a positive test, school staff and officials should not participate in discussions or acknowledge a positive test if personally identifiable information (PII) is involved. Consider community circumstances that affect if such information may be PII.
  • Resources: 
  • Determine schedule of regular screenings or surveillance in line with current COVID-19 health recommendations.
  • Create a communication system for staff and families for self-reporting of symptoms and notification of exposure and closures.
  • Set up policies for closing classes, cohorts, or the entire institution and for managing symptomatic students.
  • Set up protocols for contact tracing if cases are detected in the school or community.
  • Set up an isolation facility to limit contact in case symptomatic students or staff are detected on campus.
  • Determine staffing of isolation facility and use of PPE.
  • Communicate behavioral expectations of use of masks (if facial coverings will be recommended or required) hand hygiene, social distancing, exclusion criteria, and symptom monitoring to families, students and staff prior to start of school.
  • Determine attendance policies and how absences will be monitored.
    • Policies that support ill students and staff remaining home are encouraged.
    • School has a plan for monitoring student absences by grade and classroom and has flexible attendance policies and practices in place.
    • School tracks whether absences are due to illness, quarantine from being identified as a contact, or any other reason. If absence is due to illness, school monitors symptoms being experienced and whether the student has been asked to isolate following a positive test.
    • School has a plan in place to offer alternative or distance learning for students who need to be absent from school due to illness or potential exposure and has clarified any differences in expectations of participation in alternative learning for students who are experiencing symptoms, compared to asymptomatic students who have been sent home due to potential exposure.
  • Consider change in open campus lunch policies.
  • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on:
    • Children younger than 2 years old
    • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
    • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.
  • Face masks and coverings:
    • DHS recommends adults and students over age 2 wear cloth face coverings.
    • Work with those who are uncomfortable or unable to wear a cloth face covering – due to health, sensory or racial discrimination concerns – to develop an appropriate alternative.
    • Consider providing education to staff regarding implicit bias and racial profiling in the context of COVID-19 and face coverings.
    • Consider providing training to all school to increase knowledge and understanding of the district anti-bullying policy so that all staff know the protocol for consistently responding to both witnessed and reported incidents of bullying.
    • Consider providing education to staff regarding varied sensory needs, as well as alternative options, such as face shields, to those who communicate via American Sign Language.
    • CDC Resource: Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19
    • Using Facial Coverings When Supporting Students
  • The justification to support facial covering recommendation is largely based on evidence of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission.
  • Schedule and structure routines for hand washing at the start of each class period or at strategic times of the day.
  • Make arrangement for use of hand sanitizer on buses.
  • Schedule frequent disinfection of high-touch surfaces. Install no-touch bathroom fittings, no touch trash cans.
  • Install hand sanitizing stations at entrances, common areas in the school.
  • Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high touch materials to the extent as possible, or limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of children at a time and clean and disinfect between use.
  •  Handwashing or use of hand sanitizer is recommended after handling mail and packages. Avoid touching face while sorting mail.
  • Post signs regarding how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, pro- mote everyday protective measures, and properly wear a face covering.
  • Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, or other methods.
  • Do not open windows and doors if they pose a safety or health risk (allowing pollens in or exacerbating asthma symptoms) risk to children or staff using the facility. Consultation with school nurse regarding risks is suggested.
  • Provide information to all staff on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.
  • Implement communication system for staff and families for self-reporting of symptoms and notification of exposure and closures as needed.

School Marker Icon
Implement and review during the 2020-21 school year

IMPLEMENT: District Level
IMPLEMENT: School Level
  • Ensure classroom access to hand hygiene products (hand sanitizer, soap, tissues, disinfectant wipes). Ensure availability of appropriate cleaning supplies (disinfectant wipes) for cleaning high touch surfaces. Ensure daily cleaning of the school environment.
  • Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep products away from children.
  • Encourage no sharing of supplies, learning aids, electronic devices, lunches among students.
  • Use promotional programs around hand washing and other best practices. Consider engaging the school community in developing communications or creative strategies to limit the spread of COVID-19 (e.g., develop a competition to design posters addressing COVID-19 prevention tactics).
  • Provide information to staff on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.
  • Adjust lunch policies:
    • Consider change in open campus lunch policies.
    • Ensure all food items and choices are fully boxed or individually plated and no food can be directly touched by students.
    • Enforce ‘take what you touch.’
    • Package cutlery, seasonings, sauces and napkins in single serve packages.
  • If students eat in class rooms as part of social distancing take measures to ensure the safety of food allergic individuals (students and staff). Minimize risk of cross-contact of allergenic proteins in the classroom by:
    • Reinforcing strict hand washing with soap and water after food contact.
    • Disinfect surfaces after food contact is made.
    • Enforce blanket “do not share” food practices.
  • These strategies are consistent with those outlines in the CDC’s 2013 publication:
  • Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs, and synergize with the principles of hand hygiene and surface washing that also reduce infection spread.
  • It is essential for schools to reinforce to students, parents or caregivers, and staff the importance of staying home when sick until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher) or signs of a fever (chills, feeling very warm, flushed appearance, or sweating) without the use of fever-reducing medicine (e.g., Tylenol). Policies that encourage and support staying home when sick will help prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (and other illnesses including flu) and help keep schools open.
  • Symptom screening at home can be helpful to determine if a student:
    • currently has an infectious illness that could impair their ability to learn, or
    • is at risk of transmitting an infectious illness to other students or to school staff.
  • Daily home screenings should ask staff, families or caregivers to report their answers on two topics: symptoms and close contact/potential exposure. Staff, parents, guardians, and caregivers can self-report the answers to these questions through existing school health portals or school communication platforms in the morning before the student leaves for school.
  • Conduct health screenings safely and respectfully in accordance with privacy laws and regulations. Confidentiality should be maintained.
  • CDC Resource:
  • If it is not feasible to do health screenings before students and staff enter the building or bus, then more effort will be required and attention given to identifying ill staff and students at school and isolating them as quickly as possible to limit the risk of transmission of any illness.
  • Utilize a designated communication system for staff and families for reporting of symptoms and notification of exposure and closures.
  • Require ill staff and students to remain home and contact family healthcare provider for guidance.
  • Ill student or staff should not return to school until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation.
  • Reinforce flexible attendance policies and other educational options during quarantine period.
  • Notify health officials of suspected or confirmed positive cases.
  • Reduce congestion in the health office.
    • Use the health services office for children with respiratory symptoms and, if possible, create a satellite location for first aid or medication distribution.
    • Allow for flexible administration of health care tasks for students who are able to independently manage needs.
    • Consider using visual cues to demonstrate physical spacing
  • Limit interactions from outside school.
    • Limit nonessential visitors.
    • Limit the presence of volunteers for classroom activities.
    • Move parent-teacher conferences, 504 and Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings to phone conference or a virtual format.
    • Use virtual formats for guest speakers and reading programs. Limit cross-school transfer for special programs.
    • Consider using distance learning, or recording any live competitions from your own school.
    • Promote staff, students, and their families to maintain distance from each other in the school.
    • Potential visitors, including substitute teachers, families or caregivers, are screened prior to entry for fever or symptoms of COVID-19. Those with symptoms are not permitted to enter the facility.
    • Families or caregivers who are picking up their child are not required to be screened but should avoid entering the building by waiting outside or in their car for the student to be dismissed. Staff members can escort younger children out of the building.
    • Mail carriers and other delivery people do not need to be screened.
    • Visitors who are permitted inside must wear a cloth face covering while in the building, maintain physical distancing, and restrict their visit to the location designated by the school. They are also reminded to frequently perform hand hygiene.

For questions about this information, contact Louise Wilson (608) 266-8857