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 schoolsafety.gov, there are three steps to a safe school:
- Protection and Mitigation
- 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.
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.
School Resource Officers (SROs) are law enforcement officers from local police departments assigned to schools to connect students with school resources. They handle all the school’s security needs while facilitating student access to all school’s resources.
Background and Qualifications Needed for SROs
Besides ensuring peace of mind for students, staff, parents, and management, School Resource Officers are liaisons, connecting the school with external security and safety organizations.
Three or four decades ago, their job was simple: maintain a visible presence, look for minor crimes like vandalism and theft, and respond to isolated violence, drug, and gang activity related incidences.
Today, the security needs of an average K-12 school have evolved into needing to prevent mass shootings and bomb scares. As such, their role has evolved to investigating bomb threats, preventing abrupt incidences of violence, and watching out for “lone wolf” mass shooters.
Related Article: Our Schools are Less Safe Today than 50 Years Ago
School Resource Officers Need to Meet the Following Qualifications:
- School Resource Officer Certification (over 40 hrs through MDE) or Bachelor’s degree in sociology or equivalent
- Minimum of 2 years in any law enforcement field
- Commissioned as a qualified law enforcement officer
- Ability to work flawlessly with youth
- A wide base of knowledge concerning social issues, criminal justice system, and youths
- Knowledge of state, county, city, and federal laws
- Ability to work effectively and tactfully with others
- Knowledge of how courts work and how to present evidence during court proceedings
- Effective written and oral communication
Annual Earning Potential for a School Resource Officer
The wage potential of an SRO depends on the state where they are working. Below are some resources to see the earning potential in various states across the US.
Zip Recruiter: What is the Average School Resource Officer Salary by State
Career Trend: How Much Money Does a School Resource Officer Make?
Salary Expert: School Resource Officer Salary
When Do Schools Typically Hire SROs?
Recruitment agencies and schools tend to hire School Resource Officers at the end of summer break, between late July and end of August. Some agencies tend to hire a bit early at the start of summer break.
To find out when summer break is for your state or district, check out this website: My School Holidays
Meanwhile, the academic year for K-12 schools in the US lasts for 180 days with Thanksgiving, Christmas, mid-winter, and spring breaks. K-12 schools often close in mid-June and commence at the start of the second week of August.
Common Recruiting Websites for Finding SRO Jobs:
ZipRecruiter – one of the largest web-based recruitment agencies in the United States, links over 20,000 recruits to employers annually.
Lucas Group – This is the third-largest recruitment agency in the United States
Robert Half – a highly reputable security personnel recruitment agency in the United States
Best Practices of a School Resource Officer
Typically, schools hire School Resource Officers on their own. Some SRO’s are regular police officers – a practice that is often objectionable by some parents and community leaders. However, the SRO is bound to adhere to the best practices of the profession regardless of their recruitment.
- SROs should have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the learning institution. The MOU draws a line between disciplinary issues that the school pursues and the role of the SRO: the student’s general security and safety.
- SROs should receive specialized training even if they are already in law enforcement service. Officers should be aware of normal temper flares that characterize adolescent development. They also need to have a grasp on the best ways to address the issues experienced with students, particularly those with special needs
Dos and Don’ts for SROs
- Mingle with students and create rapport
- Ensure that security and safety installations are working properly
- Ward off any safety threats
- Connect with community, youth-service professionals and external security agencies regarding the school’s security
- Have a good working relationship with the school’s teaching and non-teaching staff
Related Article: School Safety is No Joke – A Teacher’s Take
- Take disciplinary actions against students
- Interfere in the school’s disciplinary apparatus
- Target a student unfairly based on race, gender, religious affiliation or in any unlawful way
- Dispense their firearms unnecessarily
3 Steps to Be A Successful School Resource Officer
Build a Professional Relationship with Staff
Staff cooperation is a necessity to complete your responsibilities.
School Resource Officers Need to Engage Students in Their Environments
Mixing with students helps you create rapport and win their trust, two factors that ease intense situations. The expectation you have for teenagers should be different from those you have for adults
Maintain strong LEO relationships
Besides students and school staff, the SRO should also maintain good working relationships with law enforcement officers outside the school
Things Districts Should Know About School Resource Officers
Sometimes, districts have a bigger say on policing decisions in schools under their authority and, there tend to be misunderstandings around the topics of hiring SROs and whether they should carry guns.
- It is the duty of relevant authorities to know who they’re hiring as their SRO
- SRO should be trained to meet the school’s standards and expectations
- The training should entail specific content that has been vetted to be relevant
- An MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) should be signed, outlining the SRO’s specific duties
- Accountability tools such as police body cameras should be available
Related Article: School Security: A Human Layer
Top 12 Qualities of a School Resource Officer
1. Culturally and Socially Sensitive
K-12 schools, like any other school in the US, consisting of students from different cultures and social backgrounds. School Resource Officers should understand a variety of cultural and social backgrounds. This helps them avoid responding to issues in a way that could be interpreted as racially or culturally insensitive
Recently, this has become one of the core qualities the SRO should possess, as concerns rise over racial profiling in community policing.
2. School Resource Officers Need to Possess A Positive Attitude
They should have a positive attitude towards the school community and their own career.
Most School Resource Officers are derived from local police departments while others have experience in law enforcement from elsewhere. One thing unites all of them: many people they meet are illegally peddling drugs or committing a homicide. This can cloud their judgments of everyone else.
Also, law enforcers seldom receive the credit they deserve. Once they leave service, nobody remembers they were there. For this reason, some of them don’t see the point of committing themselves to the profession with the required zeal. If a law enforcement officer holds these thoughts for a long time, they’re less likely to be willing to make a difference or even enjoy their responsibilities.
It becomes hard to be a disciplined enforcer if you don’t have the right attitude. Schools want to work with an SRO who loves their job and who is willing to do anything to keep school staff and students safe.
3. Mingle with and Engage Pre-Teens and Teens
The SRO in K-12 school needs to be able to effortlessly interact with pre-teens and teens and engage them in safety.
Students are often more willing to share with an SRO than with a teacher. Thus, an SRO becomes the best link between students and school management. However, that’s only possible if the SRO is accommodating to young people.
Pre-teens, like anyone else, don’t want to approach an intimidating person. An SRO who gets along with pre-teens and the school’s personnel is likely to meet their responsibilities better than one with no rapport at all.
4. School Resource Officers Need to Have the Ability to Work Independently
The SRO should be able to perform their duties independently and without supervision. Partly because School Resource Officers often don’t have an assistant to back them up. And partly because an independent SRO is more efficient.
A typical K-12 school would employ one SRO to oversee the security needs of the entire institution. When they work independently, they respond faster to emergency situations because they know exactly what to do and don’t need to take orders from anyone.
Law enforcement and outside pressure don’t mix well. The SRO who can perform their duties without being pressured is a valuable resource to the school.
5. Excellent Interpersonal Communication Skills
School Resource Officers must possess interpersonal skills for daily interaction with school personnel and students. Communication skills which include the ability to listen and speak effectively are needed. The SRO should possess non-verbal communication skills and even be able to use American Sign Language. Additionally, they also need to be able to control their emotions in any situation.
There are several reasons why recruitment agencies put more emphasis on communication and interpersonal skills when hiring School Resource Officers. Firstly, a person with this quality is more likely to be emotionally intelligent. Secondly, people with these skills tend to be good in mediation and conflict resolution as well as influencing and persuading others.
6. Understand Child Psychology and Development
This is one of the most important qualities a K-12 school SRO should possess. Pre-teens are children according to the law and from a psychological perspective. This means that they don’t reason like adults. Following this rationale, a school will only want to hire an SRO who understands children and will only approach students as children, not adults.
Child psychology and development studies teach children’s development including physical, social-emotional, cognitive, and psychological milestones. The SRO with certification in this area can be of great value to a K-12 school.
7. Knowledge of School Safety Technologies and Implementation
The increasing confrontation between students and law enforcement officials and the prevalence of mass shootings have pushed schools to implement rigid security and safety policies.
Part of these reforms is the installation of security systems that take advantage of modern technology. Such systems include social media watchers, internet safe kits, anonymous alerts, entry control equipment, visitor management systems, X-Ray machines and metal detectors, panic buttons, surveillance cameras, etc.
The SRO should be knowledgeable of these technologies including their implementation and use. An SRO with certification in policing technologies or the equivalent is skilled enough to use most security safety technologies installed in schools.
Related Article: Spring is the Best Time to Make School Technology Changes
8. Willingness to Work with Parents, Community, and Youth-Serving Professionals
The SRO should be willing to work with the community to ensure students’ security and safety.
In the event of a security emergency, the SRO will be the first person to contact parents and give them situational updates. During a safety breach, community members and parents will talk to the SRO first. For these reasons, the school would want to hire an SRO who is ready to work with all interested stakeholders regarding the student’s safety.
At the same time, the SRO is expected to be able to work with an array of pre-teen and youth-serving professionals on a range of issues regarding the safety and wellbeing of students.
These youth-serving professionals can be
- community leaders dedicated to such issues as drug abuse and gang activity
- councilors dedicated to providing advice
- teen-health professionals
School Resource Officers can provide these professionals with a lot of useful information that other school employees wouldn’t be aware of. Because SRO’s tend to be closer to students.
Related Article: Preventing Coronavirus/Contagious Diseases in Schools
9. Knowledge of K-12 School-Based Legal Issues
With the prevalence of “banned” items entering schools, it is important to understand what the law says concerning searching students and seizing their property.
School personnel, including SRO’s, need only establish reasonable suspicion to search and seize items, instead of the probable cause standards used by police officers. By reasonable suspicion, the search need must be reasonable both in scope and at inception.
Other than being privy to the legal framework about the relationship between the students and the school personnel, the SRO should also be aware of legal and security challenges facing K-12 schools today.
10. School Resource Officer’s Are Counselors When Needed
After being hired, SRO’s need to familiarize themselves with the school and identify community resources that are available to them and the students.
When an issue occurs in the community that affects the students, the SRO officer is a valuable resource to the school personal by helping them protect the students. They should also be knowledgeable in child protective services, technologies used by the community and the school, and mental health services.
11. An Enforcer
While in the K-12 school, the SRO handles the safety of the school staff and students within the boundaries of the school. They also serve as liaisons between the school and external security establishments such as police departments and the community.
SROs need to be informed regarding law enforcement matters concerning the school personnel and students.
They should be able to handle many responsibilities besides receiving and responding to calls for service from the school’s management. These include coordinating externally sourced responses from other security personnel. Contacting emergency services in the event of injuries or breach of safety.
12. School Resource Officers are also Educators
In many states across the US, the SRO occasionally teaches both teachers and students about policing. Therefore, having certifications in the related public safety, counseling, and policing studies is an added advantage.
Teaching topics can include:
- policing as a profession
- motor vehicle safety
- DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) topics and programs
- general public safety.
The SRO who possesses the qualities of an educator is a valuable resource for a school. They are able to connect with the students in the classroom the same way teachers do while simultaneously enforcing the law.
Related Article: How to Create a Safe Space in Your Classroom
Other Private School and Charter School Safety Personnel
School first aid coordinators – they attend to students when they require urgent medical attention.
School nurse – they provide comprehensive medical services to students
Health and security volunteers – individuals who complement the responsibilities of School Resource Officers, school nurses, school first aid coordinators, and safety personnel free of charge.
Frequently Asked Questions About School Resource Officers
Q: Who is responsible for hiring SROs?
A: In some states, the school itself may choose to hire the SRO based on the criteria set by management. The local police department can provide its own officers to take roles if necessary. Any school can choose to outsource the recruitment responsibilities of a recruitment agency of choice.
Q: Do SROs need to be certified?
A: No, but they need to be trained. In most contexts, NASPRO (National Association of School Resource Officers) would take the training responsibilities as requested by the school or local police department.
Certifications are given for other purposes and don’t necessarily qualify as a show of qualification. Such purposes include communicating the expiration date, complying with renewal requirements, and as a revocation procedure.
Q: Are SROs always armed?
A: Yes. The SRO is not a security guard but rather, a commissioned law enforcement officer who is allowed by the law to use their firearms when necessary. But that’s not always the case. Some jurisdictions with stringent gun laws restrict School Resource Officers from carrying firearms when in schools.
Q: How many SROs could there be in the United States?
A: No one really knows the exact number of School Resource Officers in the United States. This is partly because there is no requirement for SROs to register with a national database. Additionally, local police departments do not report the number of their officers deployed in schools to serve as SROs.
Q: What evidence shows that SROs are valuable?
A: Research on SROs in the United States is scanty. However, Researchers at Carleton University in Canada conducted a study spanning 2 years on the Canadian SRO program. They released a report in 2018 indicating that, for every $1.00 invested in the program by the government brought, there is $11.10 in returns. The report also highlights several benefits of the program including:
- an increased feeling of security among the school personnel and students
- minimization and prevention of destruction of school property,
- prevention of student deaths and injuries
- increased chances that students would report criminal behavior to the authority
- drop in emergency calls made by schools.
Related Article: 4 Common Issues Found in School Safety Assessment
Q: Do SROs contribute to the dreaded school-to-prison incarceration pipeline?
A: No. School Resource Officers are carefully selected and follow the best practices as defined by NASRO. The role of the SRO is limited to ensuring the security and safety of the students. All disciplinary issues are handled by the school’s management.
Q: How do SROs respond to a mass shooter?
A: NASPRO trains School Resource Officers to charge directly at the shooter and quickly neutralize them to prevent injuries and loss of life.
Q: What’s the maximum number of SROs a K-12 school should have at a given time?
A: According to the recommendations given by NASRO, one carefully selected and trained SRO is enough to provide security for any school. There have been suggestions to allocate 1 SRO for every 1000 students. Schools are advised by NASRO to consider their location, climate, size of their campus, and size of both teaching and non-teaching staff when selecting an SRO.
Q: Who qualifies to be SRO?
A: Contrary to common belief, the SRO does not need to be a law enforcement officer in practice. However, experience in law enforcement is considered to be an added advantage. K-12 schools tend to put more emphasis on the ability of the SRO to connect with teens. Some schools allow volunteers to take over security responsibilities.
Impressive Safety Tools Parents and Teachers Should Have
As the name suggests, this platform connects teachers and parents regarding the care of children after the learning session has been dismissed. It is an excellent platform to ensure that your child is in safe hands immediately after school.
Instead of the old fashioned emergency button under the desk or on the wall, this panic button is designed in such a way that it can be available to every staff member to press immediately when an emergency occurs.
You can train your child to look for signs of danger such as abnormal behavior in the surroundings and send an anonymous alert. It can be a useful tool if there is a fear of kidnapping or frequent bullying.
The School Resources Officer has two core responsibilities:
- facilitating access to resources by students
- ensuring that the safety and security of the students are safeguarded.
Although most SROs are sourced from the local police department, the K-12 school can choose to outsource the recruitment task to a recruitment agency.
NASRO expects SROs to adhere to the best practices of their profession.
- avoiding interfering in the disciplinary apparatus of the K-12 school,
- avoiding taking disciplinary actions against the students,
- refraining from unfair profiling based on factors that would render it illegal.
School Resource Officers should have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the learning institution. This clarifies their specific roles and draws a line between routine discipline issues, which should be pursued by the teachers, and the general safety and security of the students, the actual role of the SRO.
Kid.io strives to put school safety first, no matter what. This includes protecting students, staff, and teachers from anything that could be problematic. Right now, the Coronavirus or COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind and is creating excessive amounts of anxiety and questions especially around preventing contagious diseases like coronavirus in schools. Today, Kid.io is determined to answer as many of those questions as possible and relieve that anxiety.
Remember, at the end of the day, preventing illness is the most important step but if you do become sick or you are in contact with someone who is sick, follow ALL guidelines given to you by medical professionals.
The Reality of the Coronavirus
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the actual health risk from the coronavirus is rather low for those in the US. And the WHO (World Health Organization) states, if you haven’t been in an area where the virus is currently spreading, there is a very small chance that you will contract the virus.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be cautious. It means that you don’t need to be panicking about the coronavirus right now. Fear leads to more stress and more stress leads to a lowered immune system and a lowered immune system means that you are more likely to contract a virus like a coronavirus. Prevention is the best way to keep this from becoming a global pandemic.
In keeping with this theme of reducing anxiety, research by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 14% of COVID-19 cases have been deemed ‘severe’, a mere 5% are considered critical cases, and less than 3% have resulted in death.
To learn more, read this article from The Scientist – Why some COVID-19 Cases are Worse than Others
Tips for School Staff and Students to Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus
Remember, the symptoms and spread of COVID-19 are very similar to those of a cold or flu and other contagious diseases so the precautions you need to take are very similar to those that you take during this season anyway. Also, keep in mind that it is cold and flu season so people with respiratory symptoms most likely just have a cold or flu and not a coronavirus.
Wash your hands regularly
The CDC and other health organizations recommend washing your hands liberally with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You should wash your hands after using the bathroom, before, during, and after preparing food, before eating, after touching your face, and after touching anything that could be infected. This helps to prevent the spread of any contagious diseases in schools.
To read more about proper handwashing, check out this article from the CDC: When and How to Wash Your Hands
Don’t share personal items
This includes toothbrushes, razors, and things that you use on your face regularly.
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
It is not recommended that you use your hands to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Because you use your hands to touch so many things. It is very easy to transfer the germs from a cough or sneeze onto other things. You should cover your mouth with a tissue, sleeve, or the crook of your elbow instead.
Get Vaccinated to Prevent Other Illnesses
COVID-19 is still a very new illness and we have much to learn about it. But there seems to be a bit of trend of cases being more severe in people with lower immune systems. Illness like the flu will lower your immune system, so preventing this and other illnesses also helps you keep yourself from contracting a coronavirus. Or if you do contract it, it won’t be as severe.
Be a Smart Traveler
Before traveling anywhere, be aware of any announcements made by health officials in the area. Don’t be afraid to cancel plans to areas that have precautions in place. If your school has pending trips, please check with your school district health officials/CDC if it is safe to travel to those areas.
To read more about traveling smartly, check out this article from the CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel
Don’t touch your face
Our hands touch hundreds if not thousands of surfaces in a single day. It is rather foolish to then touch our faces with them. Because our faces contain the best entrances for viruses to enter our bodies. Specifically through our noses, eyes, and mouths. Try to wash your hands before and after touching your face.
Exercise Caution around Animals
The SARS-CoV-2 virus was first detected in animals and then spread to humans and is now being spread through human to human contact. Because of this, it is important to be cautious around animals and wash your hands regularly when dealing with them. Teachers should pay particular attention to class pets in some schools that are in constant contact with students to spread of contagious diseases in schools.
Exercise extra caution if you are more at risk
The novelty of COVID-19 means that not a lot of distinct information is available on it. But research seems to suggest that you are more at risk for serious complications if you are elderly, pregnant, immunosuppressed or hospitalized. Children whose immune symptoms are not fully developed also tend to fall under these high-risk categories for any contagious diseases in schools.
Wearing Face Masks
Because COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets and those can enter your body through a variety of points, wearing a mask when you are not infected isn’t really helpful. It is important to wear a mask if you are in the same room as someone who is infected. But other than that, you can wear one if you want but it will not keep you from contracting the virus alone.
However, if you do become infected, it is important to wear a mask to keep yourself from infecting others.
To read more about COVID-19 and masks check out this article from the WHO – When and How to Use Masks
Stay Home When You Are Sick
The best way to slow and prevent the spread of any virus is to stay away from others when you are infected. By going out in public, you risk infecting others and increasing the spread. And, you risk picking up germs from another illness and making yourself sicker. Parents should be educated to keep sick children at home in order not to infect other children in school. Teachers should also keep a lookout for symptoms among children in their classrooms and immediately notify the school nurse of any children with flu or cold-like symptoms.
Keeping Schools From Becoming Infected With The Coronavirus
Unless a public health advisory or other relevant warning has been issued for your area, there is no need to keep a healthy child out of school. Instead, teach them how to wash their hands properly and what to avoid to stay healthy.
Support students and staff who are asked to stay home to ensure that they aren’t carrying the virus.
COVID-19 is typically spread through direct contact with respiratory droplets. Those are spread by coughing or sneezing so it is crucial that you clean frequently touched surfaces and wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Thankfully, children seem to be less likely to become infected than older people. When they are infected, their symptoms are milder and severe complications are uncommon. However, you should still take precautions to prevent the spread of contagious diseases in schools.
There are no vaccines for the coronavirus but there are vaccines for the flu and you should keep up to date with vaccines to keep from contracting another illness.
If there are no cases of coronavirus in your school community
Now is the time to prepare and plan for the potential outbreak of Coronavirus in schools. First and foremost, you need to be in communication with your local health departments. You also need to be staying up to date on all information and announcements that are issued by your local health departments.
For a full list of local health departments in the US: https://www.naccho.org/membership/lhd-directory
The CDC has this to say about student and staff screening in schools:
“Remember that schools are not expected to screen students or staff to identify cases of COVID-19. The majority of respiratory illnesses are not COVID-19. If a community (or more specifically, a school) has cases of COVID-19, local health officials will help identify those individuals and will follow up on the next steps.”Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – CDC
Share appropriate and accurate information between departments, parents, students, teachers, other schools, and centers that work with children on a daily basis.
Create and have a plan for dealing with absenteeism that will result from a coronavirus outbreak or other contagious diseases in schools. It is best for those who are sick to stay home so as to keep from infecting others. But in order for this to be successfully practiced, your school needs to have practices in place for dealing with these absentees and keep them up to date with their schooling. It is important to discourage perfect attendance rewards. If a child or a member of their family becomes infected, it is better that they remain home.
Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces and encourage frequent handwashing. Provide appropriate disposable disinfectant cleaning products to your stuff for them to use to keep their spaces as clean as possible.
If there are confirmed cases of coronavirus in your school community
It is essential that you stay up to date with your local health officials.
For a full list of local health departments in the US: https://www.naccho.org/membership/lhd-directory
Prepare for the possibility of dismissing children from services and schools to slow and hopefully stop the spread of the virus. Educate people on the priority of not socializing and gathering in large groups when school is dismissed because of a virus. These large groups are counterintuitive to the action of dismissing schools.
The CDC gives these recommendations for preparing for a school dismissal because of a coronavirus outbreak or any other contagious diseases in schools:
“Determine, in consultation with school district officials or other relevant state or local partners:
- If a waiver is needed for state requirements of a minimum number of in-person instructional hours or school days (seat time) as a condition for funding;
- How to convert face-to-face lessons into online lessons and how to train teachers to do so;
- How to triage technical issues if faced with limited IT support and staff;
- How to encourage appropriate adult supervision while children are using distance learning approaches; and
- How to deal with the potential lack of students’ access to computers and the Internet at home.”
To read more about what the CDC has to say about dealing with the coronavirus as a school, check out this article from their site: Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – CDC
Tips for Keeping Your School Staff’s families from Contracting COVID-19
Your school staff is a critical component in fighting a potential outbreak of coronavirus and other contagious diseases in the school community. Therefore it is essential to ensure the health of your staff first by educating them and their families about best practices.
Create a plan of how you and your family will deal with different outcomes of the virus
- Communicate with everyone who needs to be involved with your plan
- Determine if anyone in your household is at a greater risk for serious complications – elderly or has an underlying health condition and/or is immunosuppressed
- Create a plan to keep them as healthy as possible
- Meet and get to know your neighbors and community and communicate with them about what you will do in the event of an outbreak
- Identify the aid organizations in your community
- Who to contact for information
- For health care services
- For support
- For resources
- For mental health and/or counseling services
- For food and other supplies
- have/create an emergency contact list and share it with everyone in your household
- Practice precautions and preventative measures to keep yourself and your family healthy
- Determine a room or location in your home that will be used in case members of your household become sick to keep the rest of the family healthy
- Be prepared and create a plan for if school and/or childcare facilities are temporarily closed
- Stay informed about the local COVID-19 situation
- Directory of local health departments in the US – https://www.naccho.org/membership/lhd-directory
- Stay in touch with phone or email
- Take care of yourself and your household members emotional health
- Talk to your workplace about plans for if you or a household member becomes sick or your child’s school or childcare becomes dismissed due to contagious diseases in schools.
What to do if you or someone you know becomes infected
- Take the same precautions you would take if someone you know or if you have the flu
- Maybe wear a facemask to avoid contaminating others
- Cover your mouth with a tissue, sleeve, or the crook of your elbow when you cough or sneeze
- Throw away tissues immediately after use and wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- Clean commonly used surfaces regularly
- Keep stress levels down
- There isn’t a currently known cure or vaccine for COVID-19
- Stay home except when receiving medical care
- Separate yourself even at home
- Call ahead before visiting the doctor so that they can take proper precautions to stay healthy and keep those around them healthy
- Monitor your symptoms
- Call a doctor if they start to get worse
- To read more about what to do when sick Check out this article from the CDC – What to Do If You Are Sick With Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Frequently asked questions about COVID-19
How dangerous is the infection?
The coronavirus in schools like other contagious diseases in schools is still rather dangerous but a study done at the Zhejiang University in China shows that while the disease spreads from human to human contact, the symptoms of those in the rest of China were different and typically less severe than those in Wuhan where the virus originated.
To read more check out this article from the Medical News Bulletin – How dangerous is the COVID-19 infection?
Also, just because the virus is spreading rapidly does not mean that it is in fact absolutely dangerous. Many cases of COVID-19 aren’t serious unlike other contagious diseases in schools.
As with most diseases, you are more likely to develop a more severe form of the disease if you have a pre-existing illness or are elderly.
There is also the fewest cases amongst children under the age of 9 than any other age group. This is actually almost the opposite of how most viral outbreaks have been throughout history.
“Patients with severe disease were older than those with the nonsevere disease by a median of 7 years. Despite the number of deaths associated with Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2 appears to have a lower case fatality rate than either SARS-CoV or Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV). “Since patients who were mildly ill and who did not seek medical attention were not included in our study, the case fatality rate in a real-world scenario might be even lower. Early isolation, early diagnosis, and early management might have collectively contributed to the reduction in mortality in Guangdong.”Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China – The New England Journal of Medicine
Your immune system seems to play a key role in the severity of your case of COVID-19. So, doing things that boost your immune system lessen your chances of contracting the disease and lessen it’s severity if you do contract it.
To read more check out This Article from The Scientist – Why Some COVID-19 Cases Are Worse than Others
What causes novel coronavirus?
Science suggests that COVID-19 started out inside of animals and then spread to humans and is now mostly being spread by human to human contact like other contagious diseases.
The CDC says this about COVID-19:
“The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.”Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary
And Science Direct Says this:
“Although our phylogenetic analysis suggests that bats might be the original host of this virus, an animal sold at the seafood market in Wuhan might represent an intermediate host facilitating the emergence of the virus in humans.”Genomic characterisation and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding – Science Direct
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
- Shortness of breath
The CDC concludes that symptoms can appear in as little as 2 days or as many as 14 days.
Is there a treatment for the coronavirus?
There is currently no known cure for COVID-19 but research is being done into an antiviral drug that could treat COVID-19
To read more about this experimental drug, read this article from the Medical News Bulletin – Remdesivir antiviral – potential treatment for COVID-19
Will the novel coronavirus ever go away?
No one really knows if it will for sure at this time. There are currently two other known coronaviruses that are similar to COVID-19
The SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) was reported back in 2003 and there haven’t been any known cases of it since 2004
To learn more about SARS, read this article from the CDC – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
However, The MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) was first reported in 2012 and is still being reported to this day.
To learn more about MERS, read this article from the CDC – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
Will wearing masks stop the spread of coronavirus?
Wearing a mask can keep you from infecting others if you are already infected and they could help if you are in an area where there is a high possibility of being infected. But they don’t help that much because they don’t typically cover your eyes and infections can enter your body through those.
To read more about COVID-19 and masks check out this article from the WHO – When and How to Use Masks
Is coronavirus contagious?
Yes, COVID-19 is contagious. Scientific studies show that it was probably initially caused by an animal but there has been significant human to human infestation.
How long does the coronavirus live?
Some studies seem to suggest that the virus could remain on surfaces for up to 9 days at room temperature. However, it can easily be killed with disinfectants. The American Chemistry Council created this PDF of products that fight COVID-19
Viruses love to grow inside of warm, damp climates like your mouth, eyes, and nose. So be careful when touching these and be sure to wash your hands regularly.
To read more: New Study Shows How Long Coronaviruses Can Live on Inanimate Objects and Surfaces – IFL Science
Does coronavirus cause death?
In a very small percentage of cases, COVID-19 has caused death. But the majority of cases are not severe and don’t result in death
Is the coronavirus a global epidemic?
The coronavirus is yet to be determined as a global epidemic but it has spread very rapidly throughout many countries across the world.
When will a cure be available for the coronavirus?
Drugs take a log of testing before they can be approved for human use. But there is research being done into some that will potentially cure COVID-19
Does the flu shot protect against the coronavirus?
The flu shot does not protect against the coronavirus. But getting one lessens your chances of getting the flu. And if you’re less likely to be immunosuppressed from another illness, you’re less likely to contract a serious case of COVID-19
Is the coronavirus airborne?
There hasn’t been enough research done into COVID-19 yet to truly determine if it can be airborne. But there is a high possibility that it can spread through contact with fluids from the human body. And since these are occasionally airborne (in a sneeze for example) there is potential that the disease can spread through the air. But it is yet to be proven.
The Novel Coronavirus and other contagious diseases in schools is rather scary when you don’t have the proper information at your disposal to truly understand the risks. But hopefully, this article was able to give you the information you need to be prepared to deal with any COVID-19 situation.
Practicing good hygiene and educating everyone within your school community is key to prevention. Remember, stay informed with your local health authorities. Follow all guidelines given to you by medical professionals and your district health officials. Educate your staff and students on best practices. Wash your hands regularly. Isolate and quarantine affected staff or students immediately during any outbreak of contagious diseases in schools.
Resources on SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 or The Novel Coronavirus
Articles from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- When and How to Wash Your Hands
- Prevention and Treatment of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)
- Stigma Related to COVID-19
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary
- Preventing the Spread of the Flu at School
- Frequently Asked Questions and Answers: Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) and Children
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel
- Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities
- Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), February 2020
Articles from The World Health Organization
- Coronavirus Disease (COVID-2019) Situation Reports
- Situation Report 38 – from February 27, 2020, was the most recent report at the time of writing this article.
- Q&A on Coronaviruses (COVID-19)
- Coronavirus Disease Healthcare Professionals: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Free PDFs and other Printable resources for your school, home or office
- Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)—Fighting Products – American Chemistry Council
- FAQ PDF – County of Los Angeles Public Health Coronavirus Resources
- Guidance for Schools PDF – County of Los Angeles Public Health Coronavirus Resources
- Guidance for Schools and Out-of-Home Child Care Centers: 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) – SCDHEC
- Stay Home if You’re Sick Flyer – CDC
- Don’t Spread Germs At Work Flyer – CDC
- What You Need to Know About Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) Flyer – CDC
- Stop the Spread of Germs Flyer – CDC
- Health Promotion Materials – CDC
- Coronavirus Statistics
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What parents should know – UNICEF
- How dangerous is the COVID-19 infection? – Medical News Bulletin
- Information For Schools and Child Care on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Minnesota Department of Health
To learn more about how Kid.io keeps kids safe, set up a FREE demo of our school safety platform today!
Emergency Preparedness for Schools Matter
Administrators have both a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that their schools have emergency protocols in place. All personnel should be trained and familiar with these strategies in the case of a natural disaster or security threat. In the case of an emergency, every second matters; a prepared team with an efficient plan can prevent injuries and save lives. Here are a few emergency preparedness tips for your school to make sure it is ready to handle any situation in the safest and most effective way possible.
Know what you’re up against
Every school faces unique challenges depending on their location, size, and population. The first step is to assess the risks that already have or could potentially affect your institute. This may include but is not limited to:
- Winter storms & extreme cold
- Extreme heat
- Bear/wild animals
- Building fires
- Burst pipes
- Gas leaks
- Bomb threats
- Terrorist threats
- Active shooter situations
- Health/medical emergencies
Some natural disasters can be predicted, but often they come on suddenly. It’s important to take precautionary steps against the most likely emergency situations.
Utilize your school community resources to enhance Emergency Preparedness
Every community has a number of professionals and volunteers who have dedicated their lives to keeping the community safe. Police agencies, fire departments, paramedics, rescuers, and other first responders are all excellent resources of information and can help you prepare for difficult situations.
Hold training seminars and conduct emergency-specific drills
Your entire faculty should receive recurrent training for emergency situations. Everyone should be familiar with emergency protocol and be prepared to fulfill their role in any given situation. Once your training is complete, drills should be conducted regularly so that students can be brought into the loop. This way in the case of an emergency, administration, personnel, and students can work together to make sure everyone stays safe.
Update parents about the latest ‘Emergency Preparedness Policy’ in your school
One of the most difficult parts of an emergency is making sure that parents are informed and conduct themselves in alignment with the protocol. Everyone should be familiar with evacuation routes, staging areas, and relocation sites. Emergency contact lists also need to be updated frequently to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
If you have any questions about school emergency preparedness or would like to find out how Kidio can help your school prepare and respond to emergency situations, give us a call at 813-649-8028, or schedule an appointment with one of our experts.
Need for School Emergency Reunification Plan
An Emergency school reunification plan for students is not a ‘nice to have’ but is a necessity in the aftermath of an emergency incident at any school. We cannot overemphasize the importance of having an emergency plan which can be put in place when an unfortunate incident happens at your school. Listed below are some of the best practices put together by industry-leading experts in the Disaster preparedness space(D-PREP) and the largest school safety solution provider (Kid.io) to help prepare your school with a safer reunification process while reducing chaos and time delays.
Best Practices for Emergency Reunification- 6 Essential Steps
Pre-planning is key:
Identify at least three (3) offsite locations that would be suitable for relocation. Start with a site that is within walking distance and two other locations that students and staff can be transported to. Good reunification locations are other schools with large auditoriums, community centers, and faith-based organizations. Get formal Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) from each of these sites and offer to reciprocate, if needed.
2. Information Sharing:
Share your relocation information with your local law enforcement, fire department, and EMS. Walk the sites together so everyone is on the same page and do not settle for a phone call. Also make sure you communicate the school emergency reunification plan with your parent community at least twice a year.
3. Site Preparation:
Store your school emergency reunification plan materials and equipment at each offsite facility in a designated area. Low-cost rolling suitcases work great and can easily be stored. Reunification can often require some essential supplies including pencils, hundreds of release forms, clipboards, etc. We recommend having laminated signage to help organize groups, a compact megaphone, and a small stack of stock cards.
In case your school already uses the PikMyKid platform to manage your daily dismissals, then most of your School Emergency Reunification procedures are pre-configured. You will conduct the release just like a regular dismissal, but from an off-site location after confirming parent ‘Announces’. The geo-fence for parent ‘Announce’ will be automatically enhanced to recognize parent arrivals at the alternate reunification location. Using PikMyKid for school’s emergency reunification process however assumes the availability of WiFi access or cellular phone coverage at the offsite location. Make sure when you leave the school facility during an emergency you bring a laptop or mobile devices like cell phones/tablets (anything with a web browser).
Other considerations might be several folding chairs and tables for staff, extension cords, and a multi-device charger. DO NOT count on the other facility to have these materials for you, Pre-Plan, Pre-Stage!!!
4. Inform parents and guardians
Inform Parents and guardians in advance of what to do in the case of an emergency student reunification process. Send out a letter at least twice a year requiring a parent signature that explains your district’s policy and possible designated relocation areas. Take time to explain the following concepts to the parents/guardians:
- DO NOT come to the school because you may impede emergency responders
- DO NOT call the school because you will tie up phone lines
- Turn on local radio and TV for further instructions ( Or wait for push notification from the school via PikMyKid App )
- Keep your mobile devices with you to receive messages from the school
- Advise parents that the process will seem chaotic; however, your district has been training and has practiced for such eventualities.
- Instruct parents that the process could take up to five (5) hours for safety reasons and please be patient. The reality is most reunifications will happen faster but build in some “cushion” time to see the process through to completion
- Inform parents of possible reunification locations offsite and advise them of the student-collection process
- Notify parents and guardians that they must bring ID to pick up their children; but, have a plan if they do not.
In case your school already uses the PikMyKid platform or a similar dismissal automation solution, messages to parents can be automatically sent with the above information once in six months to refresh the emergency procedures in the parents minds.
5. Emergency Contact Information:
Have parents/guardians update emergency contact cards at least twice a year. Have an online method for parents/guardians to update.
Again, if your school already uses the PikMyKid platform all contact information of parents are updated on a regular basis and your school dashboard reflects the most current contact information at any point in time.
6. Training is vital:
Train all of your staff. Adopt DPREP’s “Vertical Emergency Management” training concept. Simply put, every member of your staff is vital and should be trained to participate in emergency operations. Training should include a scheduled drill at least once per year for staff.
For more information on PikMyKid School Safety Platform contact Pat Bhava at firstname.lastname@example.org
Video surveillance systems are often a primary line of defense in securing just about any large facility from elementary schools to international airports.
With $1.5 million in seed funding behind it, and a future Series A round ahead, Kognition’s goal is to make them smarter, and as a result, safer.
The Philadelphia-based company announced last week it’s partnered with school safety tech company Kid.io to integrate Kognition’s artifical intelligence-powered software into schools’ existing security systems.
Getting different devices and data sets to work together well is something Kognition Founder and CEO Matias Klein knows well. The bulk of his entrepreneurial and enterprise tech career has been in health care-focused enterprise software, meaning interoperability — a main barrier to implementing SaaS products like his that have to work with a range of different hardware and existing software systems — is his thing. So is growing a company.
He sold his first startup, Ethidium Health System, to Portico in 2008, and then led Portico’s tech operations until it was acquired by McKesson for $90 million in 2011. He left McKesson, where led product management for McKesson and RelayHealth’s $100 million SaaS business, to found Kognition.
“I like to tell people health care is a lot more complicated to be interoperable,” he said. “The human body is perhaps the most complicated thing we know. A light switch is either on or off, it’s not as complicated as your genome.”
So as Klein saw school shooting after school shooting in the news, and thought of his 9-year-old and 8-year-old daughters, he thought there had to be a way to make the existing technology more effective. According to gun violence prevention organization Everytown, there have been at at least 72 instances of gunfire on U.S. school grounds in 2018.
“That was kind of the Northstar for me, to say, ‘What can I do with the talent I have to make a contribution?’” Klein said.
He paired up with Internet of Things (IoT) industry veterans, and the company’s now grown to about 10 employees and contractors working full time on its product in Manayunk. The enterprise software platform is billed as smart property management that lays on top of existing systems. In addition to video, Kognition’s software can analyze data from, and control, thermostats, lights, locks and other connected devices that might still be existing in their own silos.
By pulling all systems into one platform, Klein said managers of high-security areas like critical infrastructure sites, school campuses, government and military facilities, among others, are able to find out exactly what is happening on their property in real time and act immediately.
Kognition’s software pulls in data input from sensors throughout a facility, analyzes it, automatically responds and then learns from that event to predict future ones. Its software could enable a school video system to detect the presence of a person carrying a gun in the parking lot, for example, and immediately lock down the school and alert authorities.
That’s where the partnership with Kid.io comes in. The Tampa, Fla.-based company is a fellow Dreamit startup, as Kognition was part of Dreamit UrbanTech’s spring cohort this year and Kid.io is a Dreamit alumnus. Previously named PikMyKid, the company creates an app that automates the often chaotic, congested school dismissal process, equips faculty and staff with panic buttons, allows them to message parents and receive tips about potential threats.
Adding Kognition into the platform is designed to enable all of those systems to work together with others and add on the ability to analyze data and predict outcomes.
“While access controls and physical barriers can provide a basic level of safety, unobtrusive and intelligent technology is the answer as we continue to evolve,” Kid.io Foudner Pat Bhava said in a statement.
Klein is aware that his high-end, enterprise-level software isn’t cost effective for many of the schools that need the tools the most, he said, so he’s working on creating a 501(c)3 nonprofit that Kognition will donate a cut of profits to and then use those funds to provide the tech to schools in need.
“We’re just going to give it to them, and we can get closer toward our mission of making the world safer and more secure,” Klein said. He’s aiming to get the application process going by the beginning of next year.
Describing the startup as “on the launch pad, burning fuel, and lifting off,” Klein said Kognition counts about a half-dozen clients and built an active pipeline with some “very, very big Fortune 500 accounts,” without naming names.
Its $1.5 million seed round — sourced from a mix of angel investors, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Dreamit and Alumni Venture Group — allowed Kognition to focus on building the product and increase sales. Klein expects to start raising a Series A sometime in the second half of 2019.