School Activities and COVID-19
By Harry Cheff, Certified School Risk Manager
As schools across Montana begin the 2020-2021 school year, there are the usual start-up questions and concerns that come at the beginning of each year. Staff is preparing their classrooms for the arrival of students, maintenance/custodial staff are finishing up summer projects, and administration is double-checking final lists to assure a smooth start to the school year. In addition to these usual preparations, there are of course others this year associated with COVID-19. To be sure, the coronavirus has changed the way schools will provide education for their students, and in this regard, the pandemic has introduced yet another set of protocols and preparations for school leaders to consider related extra- and co-curricular activities.
School activities are an important part of a student’s education. The health, safety, and welfare of the students, staff, and community members should thus be at the forefront when considering how to best approach the start of the fall activity season and how to move forward throughout the year. How, for instance, will the district approach those staff, students, and community members accessing the facilities at various times of the day and weekends? School districts must make certain that they have a plan in place that meets the guidelines set forth by their county health department. These plans should be strictly adhered to by district personnel as well as by students and community members.
In addition to the county, state, and federal guidelines, MTSBA has developed the MTSBA Emergency Policy Series; and MT-PEC has released “Back to School: A Roadmap for Reopening Montana’s Public Schools Using Emergency School District Policies,” which will assist and guide districts as they plan and proceed through the school year. If – or when – questions arise, please contact Kris Goss, MTSBA Director of Policy Services/Senior Counsel, who can assist in adopting and implementing policies to deal with COVID-19.
Below are some additional guidelines to assist school districts in dealing with the coronavirus. Keep in mind that these recommendations can change and are not all-inclusive.
PRACTICES AND TRAINING
The school district should adopt activities, events, and facility plan that addresses the following precautions:
- Signage for procedures related to hand washing
- Hand sanitizing stations
- Permissible group or pod sizes
- Prohibitions pertaining to personal items, including but not limited to water bottles
- Proper cleaning of surfaces, equipment, and balls
- Implementation of physical distancing practices and polices when possible
- A review of the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) guidance for activities and implementation of activity-specific protocols
GAMES AND EVENTS
The school district should adopt activities, events, and facility plan that addresses the following:
- Posting notice of risk for attendees
- Implementing distancing markers for attendees
- Erecting barriers for employees such as ticket takers and scorers
- Limiting crowd size or consider streaming event
- Limiting community use of the facility to preserve cleanliness
- Encouraging the use of face coverings
- Providing hand sanitizer stations
- Developing restroom cleaning protocols
- Implementing vigorous cleaning of gym following event
- Practicing in areas different from games
School districts should be proactive and vigilant when opening schools for learning and all the activities held throughout the year. MTSBA and MSGIA want all its members to have a safe and productive school year. Please contact us if we can be of any assistance. Return to newsletter