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Protecting Students and Staff: Proactive measures that all K12 Schools and Universities can implement to help mitigate the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As of Monday March 16 many public and private schools across the nation have now been closed. And the situation is continuing to change. School closures, self-quarantine, social distancing and tough decisions including cancelled meetings and other in-person events have become essential to help 'flatten the curve', slowing the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and helping to ensure that key healthcare facilities do not become overburdened. While these are not the easiest decisions, they can help slowdown the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

flatten the curveThe health and safety of all of students and staff is always a top priority for K12 Schools as well as Colleges and Universities, and it is now more than ever in the wake of the evolving global situation around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We encourage everyone to listen to facts and not respond to fear, and we have provided a list of resources at the end of this article.

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 and Universities 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!


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 Departement of Education updates related to Coronavirus (COVID-19):