For administrators or school owners or teachers to whom this could be useful I'd like to share our school's protocols and classroom modifications. They are largely based on the guidelines set by Aruba's Health Department, and I understand that in every place the situation may vary. When sharing this with parents at our school I tried my best to help everyone understand that this is a work in progress, that adjustments may be called for at any time depending on our greater environment as it evolves. I found it so useful to read what other schools in other places were doing, and especially to see photos of the changes in the classroom, since at the beginning I was resistant to making any change at all to our beloved Montessori classroom. We must adapt, just like the children, to our time and place and what is called for. This is the reality of our times. I think so far we have been fortunate to be able to maintain our group all together and have school five times a week. A week into these changes, I can say that the children, when introduced to the changes step by step as we do in Montessori, accept and roll with them without issue.
Our classroom is a one room Primary schoolhouse with two outdoor environments. We have 24 children enrolled, and 3 staff members. Typically, one of the staff members works in the kitchen and garden, but given the changes, she is now with us in the classroom especially in case one of us other two cannot be at school.
Protocols for Opening During Covid Pandemic
These guidelines are subject to change at any time depending on how the children respond to them, how the pandemic evolves, and as more information about children's role in spreading the virus becomes available. We will honor our calendar schedule and hope to be open through June 24th.
Modified Daily Schedule
Our school day will be from 8:00 to 12:00pm.
Arrival 8:00-9:00 (to allow for staggered arrivals)
Work Period 8:30- 11:30
Outdoor Play 11:30-12:00
(We shortened our day in order to limit hours of contact with children and also because we eliminated our lunch program at school for the moment. Not wanting to have to handle all the equipment that bringing lunch to school would entail for the children, we shortened our day to 12:00. )
(We've made a visual chart to introduce the children to our new daily routine.)
Adults will maintain social distance and wait in their car so that only one child and adult are at the gate at a time.
Children are greeted as they wish with a foot kiss, air high five, air huggie, wave or just a big smile.
Children will be visibly screened for symptoms (cough, extreme lethargy, fever).
Children will be given hand sanitizer when entering the school for during the play period.
An arrival time from 8-9 allows children to arrive in staggered times.
(We've asked parents to let us know ahead of time if their child or anyone else at home is ill, if they have received any visitors from abroad, or been in contact with any infected person. For the time being we are not taking children's temperature upon arrival. This may be mandated eventually.)
At 12:00 we ask that parents line up in their cars at the departure gate, and drive up to the school gate one by one. We will bring your child up to the gate as you drive up. You will have to make the FIRST LEFT TURN when driving into Balashi Web so that you can enter the “carpool line” in the appropriate direction.
(The first days, the pickup carpool style felt somewhat awkward especially for parents who were used to receiving their children out of school at the gate together with other parents. Now the line is flowing smoothly, I think more parents are appreciating the efficiency of the pickup time- many of them have to return to work right away.)
Children will not be allowed to come to school if they have even mild cold like symptoms including: cough, fever, runny noses, drowsiness, diarrhea, sore throat, chills.
Children will only be allowed to return if they have been symptom free for 48 hours without the help of fever reducing medications.
The reasoning behind this is to not only protect that child and the other children's immune systems but also the teachers at school. Teachers may not come to school with any of the above symptoms and this may imperil our daily functioning.
Children with sick immediate family members with Covid-like symptoms may be asked to stay home for a period of time.
When airports re-open, children who have traveled or whose immediate family members have traveled may be asked to stay home for a period of time.
We have an extended outdoor playtime in the morning and have added an extra "necklace" for children to play in our back garden. These necklaces are like a classroom work that a child can take and use for as long as they want. We may add more "necklaces" so more children can be outdoors at once. For the time being, 2 may be having picnic snack outdoors and 2 may be playing outside during the work period.
Indoor and Outdoor shoes
Children will switch into indoor shoes before coming into the classroom.
Social distancing will be indirectly supported but not demanded among the children. It will be maintained as much as possible between children and adults, and enforced consistently among adults.
During work period staff will observe, be on hand to help, and to ensure hygienic practices among the children.
The classroom is modified to indirectly support social distance among the children. Tables are placed with larger distance between them.
Only one child will be allowed at each snack table at a time.
Small group lessons given by the adults will have a limited amount of children at a time and larger space between the adult and children. Children will be spaced out with place markers.
When children need adults assistance, marks will be placed on the floor so they can stand at a distance and wait.
Large group lessons (meetings) will be given in our lunch room with distancing among the children and adults.
We will maximize ventilation with windows open when conditions are favorable. Airco filters will be cleaned every week.
Hand washing provisions
Hand washing will be required on entering the classroom, before snack, before lunch and after using the bathroom. It will also be asked of children who have placed their hands in their mouths or noses, or who have coughed or sneezed into their hands.
The hand washing procedure will involve washing hand with soap and water for 20 seconds, drying hands with a paper towel and following up with hand sanitizer.
All materials that are mouthed will be sanitized immediately.
Food and Beverage Related
For now, the lunch program is suspended. This will ensure we have Kylie available in the classroom, outdoors, for help sanitizing at the end of the day, as well as in case any of the other adults get sick.
Food preparation in the classroom is suspended for now.
Children have their own water bottle that stays at school. It will be placed at the water station for whenever a child needs a drink of water and brought to the table for snack time.
Water bottles will be run through the dishwasher at the end of the day and refilled with cold water the next morning.
Snack will be provided by the school daily throughout the work period. The children will use their own water bottles at the snack table. Children will wash their hands before snack and clean their table after snack with alcohol wipes.
(These are our handy reminders for washing hands and getting your water bottle before eating snack. Children place them on the table as a place marker before serving themselves snack to mark their spot.)
One child at a time will be allowed at each snack table. We have provisioned for 2 snack tables in the classroom plus the 2 tables outside.
Staff and Sanitation
At the end of the day, staff will sanitize the classroom thoroughly with Mikro Guard. Including all high touch surfaces, materials used by the children, tables, chairs, and materials used by staff communally. Floors will be mopped daily. Sanitation of the classroom will be done with windows open.
Staff must wash hands upon entering the school, after physically touching any child, before and after meals, and after handling any equipment children have used.
Staff will refrain from touching their own face as much as possible and wear a mask if they deem it necessary.
Gloves and mask will be worn when helping children in the bathroom, in very close quarters, or when handling any children's bodily fluids.
Airco filters will be cleaned every 7 days.
Staff that has cough, runny noses, sore throat or any other Covid-like symptoms must stay home and possibly get tested before returning to school. Parents will be notified immediately if there are any changes in staff due to illness.
If any staff member is exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus, they will have to self quarantine for 14 days.
Parents and Visitors
Parents and other adults will not be allowed into the building for now to minimize the amount of people coming into the school and being in contact with school surfaces. All external vistors/maintenance personnel will be asked to come when the children are not present.