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COVID-19 and its impact on K12 Education Facilities

The health and safety of all of students and staff is the top priority for K12 Schools, and it is now more than ever in the wake of the evolving global situation around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

For the nation’s K-12 public schools, a recent report demonstrates the extent of the challenges facing facility managers as K12 facilities begin the process of reopening.

Conducted by the Government Accountability Office on the condition of schools to which students, teachers and staff will return. The report surveyed nearly 100,000 K12 public schools nationwide about common school facilities’ issues and priorities. Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Overall the highest priorities for school facilities were improving security, expanding technology, and addressing health hazards.
  2. Half of districts need to update or replace multiple systems such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) or plumbing.
  3. An estimated one-third of schools need HVAC system updates.
  4. Funding for school facilities maintenance and upgrades come primarily from local government sources.

As the nation's K12 schools began to reopen, who will be there to perform these needed upgrades and maintain schools?

Maintaining the health and safety of educational facilities falls into the realm of facilities managers and directors and COVID-19 is a fluid situation that requires agility and proactive measures. In light of the current situation we have rounded up a list of proactive measures that K12 Schools can do to protect students and staff.

Read our guide to emergency response management and preparedness for facility managers.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have released updated guidelines for Administrators of US K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs in order to appropriately plan, prepare, and respond to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

While decisions about implementing school-based strategies (e.g., dismissals, event cancellations, other social distancing measures) will be made locally, in collaboration with local health officials who can help determine the level of transmission in the community, the CDC has released a comprehensive decision tree to help schools determine which set of mitigation strategies may be most appropriate for their current situation.

Further to this, there are several proactive measures that all facilities professionals can implement to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19):

  1. Making hand sanitizer available in all common areas, bathrooms, lobbies and check-in areas.
  2. Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of all buildings, including all common areas and individual spaces.
  3. Increase the frequency and scope of cleaning of frequently touched surfaces throughout the workplace, including increasing the use of disinfectants on all high traffic areas, such as door handles, elevator call buttons, faucets.  
  4. Coordinate with building Engineers to increase the fresh air balance of HVAC systems.
  5. Posting informative guides on proper hand-washing to insure sanitization.
  6. Maintaining continuous and accurate communication on additional measures that need to be implemented during this dynamic situation.

Read our guide about the 4 phases of emergency management to consider when developing an Emergency Response Management (ERM) Program and preparing the Facilities Management department for unexpected events.

For those K12 Schools and Universities that remain open, they should continue promoting everyday disease prevention strategies:

  1. If you are sick, stay home from school.
  2. Avoid close contact with those who are already sick.
  3. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or the crook of your arm.
  4. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  5. Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.
  6. Consult this web page for further guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.

Schools can share relevant CDC fact sheets to help students, families, and staff understand COVID-19 along with steps they can take to protect themselves:

Bottom line: People should help each other, but still listen to public health experts’ guidelines at the same time — implement social distancing, resist the urge to shake hands, and above all, don’t go out if you’re sick.

From all of us at Intellis, Be well!

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Further resources for information about mitigating the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19):

The U.S. Department of Education issued Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel:

The Child Mind Institute issued guidance on talking to kids about the Coronavirus,"

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidance to protect children and support safe school operations:

The CDC issued Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Office of Postsecondary Education issued Guidance for interruptions of study related to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

New York City Department of Education updates related to Coronavirus (COVID-19):