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CDC Issues Interim Guidance for Opening of Schools Following COVID-19 Closures

By on May 21, 2020 in Other with 0 Comments

Earlier this week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) released guidance for K-12 school administrators on the reopening of schools.  The guidance is titled “Interim Guidance for Resuming Schools and Day Camps.”

The largest section of the guidance is the Social Distancing section which encouraging schools to promote social distancing to the fullest extent possible.  Steps 1 and 2 of the promotion of social distancing include suggestions, such as student and staff groupings remaining static (same students with same staff members), cancelling of field trips, inter-group events and extracurricular activities, limitations on gatherings, and restrictions on non-essential visitors and volunteers.  Additionally, this section includes space seating/desks at least six feet apart and the turning of desks to face in the same direction as opposed to facing one another.  For cafeteria and playgrounds, it is recommended that attendance in these areas be staggered and areas be disinfected between use.  For transportation to and from school, the CDC suggests staggering arrival and departure times and locations and to create social distancing on school buses where possible.

The guidance places strong emphasis on consultation with local and state health authorities in order to best tailor the procedures to keep communities safe during a gradual scale up of operations.  The guidance is also organized into sections and the sections further incorporate the scope and nature of community mitigation with suggested decreases from Step 1 to Step 3 (Step 1 being the most aggressive mitigation measures).  However, the CDC explicitly notes: “Some amount of community mitigation is necessary across all steps until a vaccine or therapeutic drug becomes widely available.”

In all steps, schools should strive to protect staff members and students who are at a higher risk for severe illnesses, which can include continuing to telework and/or virtual learning. 

It is also suggested that schools ramp up hygiene and cleaning practices, including but not limited to: teaching and reinforcing hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes between children and staff; face covering wearing; adequate hygiene supplies such as soap, hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol), paper towels, tissues, and no-touch trash cans; frequent cleaning and disinfecting of touched surfaces (for example: playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains); and proper ventilation systems that increase outdoor air circulation.

The guidance closes with a recommendation for a short term (1-2 days) school closure for cleaning and disinfection, in the event a person diagnosed with COVID-19 is determined to have been in the building and poses a risk to the community.

The CDC makes it clear on their website that this issued guidance is “interim,” which is interpreted to mean there could be need to amend in the near future should circumstances change.  School administrators should look closely at the guidance in formulating their local plans to the New Jersey Department of Education.

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Lauren E. Tedesco

About the Author

About the Author:

Lauren E. Tedesco, Esq. focuses her practice in the representation of public and private sector employers in the areas of labor and employment, school law (including special education) and civil rights law matters. Ms. Tedesco is admitted to practice in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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