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Back To School Safety In The Wake Of a Pandemic

Back to school safety is a complicated topic. Especially considering recent global news: Australia was on fire, COVID-19 became a pandemic, protests erupted across the US, and more. These things are proof that safety continues to become even more complicated everyday.

But, at the end of the day, children are our future and we need to protect them. But what steps can you take to make sure your school is safe for next school year?

According to, there are three steps to a safe school:

  1. Prevention,
  2. Protection and Mitigation
  3. Response and Recover.

We’re going to use, for example, a COVID-19 outbreak in a school.


What steps can you take today to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 (or another virus) in your school?

  • Prepare for possible viral emergencies
  • Work on distance learning
  • Discourage perfect attendance and encourage staying home when sick

Preparing for a possible viral emergency

For a COVID-19 (or other viral) outbreak, that would include preparing for distance learning and sanitation.

Have a plan for how ‘bad’ things have to get for you to close your school.

  • How many cases of a virus mean you have to close your school?
  • How long will you stay closed?

Keep in contact with healthcare officials

Keep in contact with your district and other schools in your area

How will you handle siblings where one member of the family has a viral illness? Will they all need to stay home? What about your staff when they have a family member who’s sick?

Have practice distance learning days

COVID-19 showed us all how many gaps there are in a mixed learning style. Albeit, I have to say, it was rather heroic how teacher’s took their lessons online in such a short period of time with barely any instruction.

However, practice makes perfect. Having a few distance learning days a month will help your staff, students, and family communities to prepare for an emergency. They will also enable you to iron out the wrinkles in your plans.

Discourage perfect attendance

Perfect attendance is an admirable goal, but it’s unrealistic in a society where humans interact so often on a daily basis. If one student gets sick, they can easily pass that illness to other students or staff.

Along those lines, set things up so that children/staff can participate in distance learning when they are sick. That way, they can stay on top of their schoolwork without endangering others.

Protecting and Mitigating for Back to School Safety

How can you protect your school from a viral outbreak?

Practice social distancing during drop off, dismissal, and throughout the day

Dismissal and drop off are particularly complicated aspects of the school day because they involve so many people moving and interacting with each other. Software can help ease this process and enable social distancing and tracking things like temperature. 

Disinfect regularly

Revisit your janitorial systems and procedures and make sure they are up to date with what health officials require.

Ventilate properly and often

Proper ventilation of classrooms, offices, and other enclosed spaces on your grounds helps slow the spread of germs.

Alleviating the threat

The first step to reduce the threat of a viral outbreak would be tracking symptoms and doing contact tracing of people who start to show symptoms

That way, you know which students/staff need to stay home and how long they need to stay away.

Responding and Recovering

COVID-19 is changing how millennials and other generations are interacting with the government and companies. We’re aware of who’s handling things well and who’s not. This awareness will change where we shop and the people we support.

Your direct response to a viral outbreak or the threat of one will depend on the severity of the threat, the size of your school, and other factors.

Sources like the CDC recommend vacating school buildings for a day or two to disinfect everything incase of an outbreak. And if more outbreaks occur, you could move to an entirely distance learning based procedures

Recovering from a viral outbreak

Recovering from a viral outbreak will take some time. Distance learning will need to be practiced for at least the length of the viral incubation period. After that, school buildings will need to be sanitized. And depending on the severity of the virus, some daily practices might have to be changed.

The most important step to recover from an emergency is to review everything that happened before, during, and after. You need to assess what aspects of your plans worked and what didn’t. Don’t be afraid to note changes for things that didn’t work.

Along those lines, make sure you communicate with every member of your staff. Find out how they and their department handled everything. What they think should be changed and what worked.

Communication and honesty is key to being prepared for any emergency.

What can you do for back to school safety before school starts this fall?

Now, understanding all those things is great. But, it’s currently June, what can you do now to prepare for the coming semesters?

That depends on your role at the school. Research is an effective thing to do during summer break and other in between periods. Particularly, researching the best practices for every aspect of a school day and how to manage different emergencies.

Set up software

There are many companies that work to help schools prepare for back to school safety and to help their operations run smoothly. PikMyKid is one such company that you could check out. They enable you to run an efficient, safe pickup line and manage several other aspects of the school day from a single computer.

Create a viral outbreak plan and add it to your back to school emergency plan

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that no one was really prepared to handle a viral outbreak like that. It’s been decades since we’ve had one that bad and it highlighted many aspects of our society that need to be changed.

When your school isn’t in session, research emergencies and create plans for how your school will handle each emergency. While you’re creating those things, be in contact with other members of your staff to get their input and keep everyone on the same page.

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