It’s winter break. This is traditionally the time of year in which people go home and gather with their families. If you are like me, you may even catch up with your old friends being that you are already in town. But given that the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been running wild, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested that people don’t do that or at least take precautions if they do. I am sure by now everyone realizes that many people, perhaps even most people, will not do that.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the rather predictable outcome of increased cases when people come back from break. COVID-19 outbreaks have wreaked havoc on schools. However, a lot of that havoc is due to being unprepared. Because this upcoming spike has indeed already been predicted by medical experts, schools have no reason to not be at least somewhat prepared.
Being prepared can look many different ways … and probably should look a lot of different ways because no one response will work for every school or every situation. However, school administrators should be taking time and coming up with those responses.
- How are you going to contain an outbreak in a classroom?
- What is the protocol for students who have a close contact?
- Are you requiring staff to get the vaccine or the booster?
- What is the coverage plan when multiple teachers are out for days at a time?
- Is there a scenario in which you would temporarily return to e-learning? What is the threshold and what does that look like?
- Are field trips still a viable or wise option? When will they be allowed again?
- How will you message and enforce student behavior around masks and cleanliness?
There are all kinds of questions that come with planning for COVID-19 spikes. Having answers to them will inform consistent decision making and save time and confusion when the situation arises. Additionally having answers to these questions can help put both staff and parents at ease. That is especially important for staff because ultimately, they are the ones that make the school run.
Imagine you are a teacher in a high need school who just came back for break. You didn’t go see any extended family or friends in order to minimize contact. You got the vaccine and the booster. You wore your mask when you went out in public. You did everything you were told to do. You get back to school on Monday morning and find out you are covering two classes because a teacher who you know didn’t do any of those things got COVID and your school wasn’t prepared for their absence. Sounds like a staff morale killer, but I guarantee this will happen because it already did when we came back from summer break.
Admin cannot control what people do outside of school, but they can control how they respond. The impact of the impending spike can be mitigated by being prepared and given the significant advance warning we have, leaders have no excuse not to be.