School is back in session! With all of the excitement of a new school year, new students, and new friends (plus reunions with old ones), you might forget about the less-exciting parts of returning to school: germs.
Within a few weeks, it seems like everyone has caught a stomach bug, the flu, a cold, or even COVID-19. This back-to-school plague seems unavoidable — but you can stem infections in your school with a few preventative measures.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your students from the bugs that go around every year.
1. Request hand sanitizer on your school supply lists
There are so many shared surfaces in your classroom, let alone in the entire school. Proper hand hygiene is one of the best ways to stave off school-wide outbreaks, but it’s hard to make sure that every kid is washing their hands properly. Instead, provide your students with easy access to hand sanitizer every time they enter a classroom to mitigate the spread of germs that they come in contact with.
Teachers already have to spend so much of their own money to supply their classrooms and provide resources for their students. Instead of asking them to provide another pricey classroom item, suggest that your teachers request at least one bottle of hand sanitizer per student, with the goal of collecting enough to last for the whole year.
2. Create hybrid options for sick students
Your best students don’t want to fall behind their classmates, so they may return to school even when they aren’t 100% better. If students come back while they’re still contagious, that puts the rest of your students at risk for contracting the same illness.
Instead, take the pressure off sick students by preparing hybrid options in advance. Make it a school policy that students should be able to access their work online, or offer to send handouts home with a sibling or friend to pass along. Sick students won’t stress about their grades, and they won’t put their peers at risk either. Even better, your teachers won’t have to throw together a packet for sick students if they’ve already prepared hybrid options for each lesson.
3. Forget about perfect attendance
Those same students who are worried about falling behind may also want to return to school so that their perfect attendance record can stay intact. For many of your overachievers, pushing through the day sniffly and coughing is better than jeopardizing their awards day at the end of the year.
Rather than rewarding perfect attendance, reward students for listening to their doctors and staying home when sick. After you provide schoolwork for them to work on while they recover, also provide emotional support. Their classmates could make cards for sick students, or they can expect a special treat whenever they return fully healthy.
4. Make sick days accessible for teachers
We get it, schools are already strapped for teachers and substitutes as it is. But if you’re not providing adequate sick leave for your teachers, you’re putting the entire school at risk. Not only do teachers pass along their germs to their classroom (starting a ripple effect for their students’ families), but they also interact with other teachers and staff throughout the day, putting the entire school at risk.
While it may be difficult to get subs for teachers who are sick, it’ll be even harder to get subs to cover an entire grade because one teacher “pushed through” their illness to stay at work.
5. Minimize shared supplies
It’s important to create a school community that’s generous and compassionate while also protecting your students’ health. While students should be encouraged to share, they should also be reminded that some items are personal. Things like water bottles, hairbrushes (hello, lice), and utensils should only be used by one student.
There are a few items that must be shared, but you can still cut down on the spread of germs. Limit the number of students who share items like desks and computers, so if one of those students gets sick, the others can be informed and monitored for symptoms.
6. Sanitize shared items
There are some school supplies that you can’t afford to provide for each student, like lab gear, PE equipment, or lunch trays. These items that touch hands, faces, and food likely carry bacteria, viruses, and other germs — providing the perfect storm for infection.
There’s already a lot of work on teachers and janitorial staff’s plates — so efficiency will be key to your disinfection policies. Look for a sanitizing solution that makes it easy to sanitize several items at once while still thoroughly disinfecting each item.
Sports-O-Zone works great for your student athletes’ gear, but it is also effective on your shared school supplies. The disinfecting power of ozone effectively kills 99.99% of germs in just 32 minutes, making it a great option for sanitizing students’ shared supplies.
Want to create a healthier environment at your school? Reach out to us today.