Controlling COVID-19 Transmission:
June 8, 2021
The information in this discussion provides an expanded focus on the health and safety of K-12 school staff. These strategies also provide workplace safety and health information for administrators related to protecting teachers, substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, janitorial/maintenance staff, office staff, school nutrition staff, school nurses/health professionals, school bus drivers, and bus aides, coaching staff, and athletic trainers, and music, choir, and performing arts teachers.
Administrative Strategies: Engineering Controls
Important administrative controls include staggering and alternating schedules, reducing maximum occupancy in all areas of the building, closing indoor communal use spaces, promoting hand hygiene, implementing cleaning and disinfection protocols, and posting signs and messages to promote everyday protective measures.
In addition, K-12 school administrators may consider strategies to:
- Reinforce the use of masks (refer to Guidance for K-12 School Administrators on the Use of Masks in Schools for more information).
- Masks are not personal protective equipment and should not be worn instead of respiratory protection when respirators are required.
- Implement social distancing measures.
- Institute flexible leave policies.
- Ensure that policies encourage sick employees to stay at home but without fear of retaliation, and ensure employees are aware of these policies.
- Minimize elevator use, wherever possible, and encourage the use of stairs. Review CDC’s Considerations for Schools, FAQ for School Administrators on Reopening Schools, and COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings for information related to safely using elevators during the pandemic.
Consider strategies for protecting staff at higher risk for severe illness
- Offer options for staff at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (e.g., telework, virtual teaching opportunities, modified job responsibilities, or temporary reassignment to different job responsibilities). Employers may also consider extending these options to staff with a household member at higher risk of severe illness if exposed to COVID-19.
- If a job may only be performed at the workplace, investigate reasonable accommodations that could offer protection to an individual whose disability puts them at greater risk from COVID-19. Some accommodations may meet an employee’s needs on a temporary basis without causing undue hardship on the employer. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has established guidelines regarding Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The guidance enables employers to take steps to protect teachers and staff, consistent with CDC guidance.
- Consistent with applicable federal, state, and local law, put in place policies to protect the privacy of people at higher risk for severe illness due to underlying medical conditions.
Educate and train K-12 staff about how they can reduce the spread of COVID-19
Training should be provided to all staff, including substitute teachers and other temporary personnel. Communication and training for staff should be easy to understand and be provided in languages other than English, as needed. Training should also be accompanied by necessary instructional materials in accessible formats, as required, and include information about:
- Symptoms of COVID-19, how it spreads, risks for workplace exposures and how teachers and staff can protect themselves, and the different risk levels for different populations depending on age and medical condition.
- Proper handwashing practices and use of hand sanitizer.
- Cough and sneeze etiquette.
- Other routine infection control precautions (e.g., putting on or taking off masks, social distancing measures).
- More detailed information on PPE training for school nurses and health professionals is provided in the Special Considerations – School nurses/health professionals section below.
- Procedures to follow when an employee becomes sick or is exposed to someone who is potentially sick.
- Other workplace hazards, including exposure to cleaning and disinfectant chemicals, and ways to minimize exposure without compromising cleaning and disinfection.
- OSHA provides additional information about training on its COVID-19 webpage.