Does School reopening endanger the containment of the Coronavirus?

From September onwards, schools are set to be reopened, this is according to the Ministry of Education. But the question remains: How should that work?

Can normal lessons take place?

Definitely no. Many classrooms are often not large enough for this. In an average classroom of 60m² with a minimum distance of 1.5 meters in all directions.

It is likely that not all of the average of 40 students will fit in one room. Each class must, therefore, be divided into rough groups.

This means that more classes would be needed for lessons of normal size to take place – and for some of the students, the teachers will change too.

In addition, teachers who belong to the risky group will drop out. Those who have previous illnesses will not be teaching.

Teachers with previous medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes should not be teaching until the disease infection rate goes down. Though if you are healthy enough but older than 60 years, you can decide for yourself.

What could lessons look like?

But still, the space problem remains. Given the size of the rooms, the classes and lessons can hardly be larger than ten people and should not exceed 15 students.

Some of the students will probably continue to study from home anyway because they or a family member belong to the risk group.

To prevent many different classes from mixing on the school premises or causing problems on the way to school, various concepts are conceivable. Flexible teaching concepts are required.

The lessons could …

  • Be done in shifts.
  • Take place on Saturday.
  • Take place outside in good weather.

The break bell may then no longer apply to everyone. Instead, the classes could take separate breaks to reduce the number of students and simplify supervision.

In view of a renewed expansion, it is also conceivable that a switch must be made between school lessons and digital lessons at home.

This means that you can continue to learn and teach in suspicious cases and under quarantine.

Even if such plans should not be necessary for the new school year – now is the time to plan practical solutions.

How high is the risk of infection during exams?

The greatest risk of infection arises from direct contact between students or teachers. This is rather low in exam situations.

A distance of 1.5 meters in all directions minimizes the risk of droplet infection, the main transmission path of the coronavirus.

Respiratory protection is not mandatory. This would probably be of less use for a written exam, but would seriously damage concentration.

Since there is no speaking during the test anyway, the risk of infection via aerosols is low – as long as the rooms are sufficiently ventilated. According to the hygiene standards, this is mandatory at least once an hour.

Everyday school life is more challenging than the exams

At the same time, students and teachers must strictly observe hand hygiene. Sufficient washbasins, soap, and/or disinfectants must be available to use in the toilets.

Strict hygiene rules are also required to prevent contact infections caused by viruses at the tables, chairs, or door handles.

For lessons, cleaning should be done daily, for exams the day before.

But: Compared to the risk in everyday school life, the risk of infection in an exam situation is rather low.

How can the risk of infection be reduced?

Flexibility and creativity are required here. Before the exam, teachers will have to roughly check whether the students are healthy or have suspicious symptoms.

The obvious transmissions can thus be contained. But the biggest problem still persists. Infected people can be contagious, even if they show no or only very mild symptoms.

The proportion of mild cases is particularly high among young people – and so is the risk of unnoticed infection.

In order to avoid contact infections, the government should recommend that the school doors remain open so that neither students nor teachers touch the doorknobs. Every exam and classroom should be cleaned daily.

Fixed routes to the toilet

Exam documents are distributed to the places in advance. Even going to the toilet is presumably planned for a long time.

Prescribed walking paths can prevent too many people from meeting in the hallway. Waiting areas in front of the sanitary rooms guarantee that only one person is in the toilet.

For classes from June onwards, it could be tough but still to teach outdoors more often.

Are Schools Prepared?

For the continuation of classes, schools now have to prepare the classrooms, get disinfectants (and masks), and plan the way to school.

Because, if the distance requirement applies, this must also apply to the outward and return journey of the students. The more time, the better schools can prepare.

As long as it is only about the final classes, the organizational effort could have to be met. Most classrooms are empty anyway.

For all students to return, additional concepts have to be developed, curricula have to be turned upside down, and breaks between the individual classes have to be distributed differently.

In particular, a plan B is required. When classes are partially or completely quarantined and switched from one day to the next to homeschooling.

And it is also clear that all of this can only work if the students help. If possible, take care of masks yourself and above all: abide by the rules.

Will School reopening accelerated the spread of Covi-19?

With regard to the reported infections, Kenya does not show any accelerated or worsened the spread of the coronavirus even when the incubation period is included.

The effect of school students is probably too small in view of the total population of Kenya. However, one has to consider that the infection in adolescents often runs without symptoms.

So far, this population group has hardly been tested but can be considered as a vector. It is therefore also important for the pupils to limit social contact.

The danger for schoolchildren is not so much that they themselves become seriously ill with Covid-19.

But, that they spread the virus and thus infect people who are at higher risk of developing a serious illness – whether friends, grandparents, neighbors, or people, that they encounter in everyday life.

Rafa'el

Raf'ael is an influencer on matters Kenya and digital. Living in Nairobi Kenya, he likes coffee when it is cold.

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