Ahead of the return of students to school, the Department of Education and Skills has outlined a Covid-19 response plan to try and ensure safe reopening of schools.
The comprehensive document outlines a number of steps schools will have to take before opening and also measures that need to be be put in place once students and staff are back on the premises.
Before reopening schools for the 2020/21 school year each school will need to have processes in place to include the following:
* Means of keeping up to date with public health advice, changes to any government plans for the safe reopening of society and Department of Education updates
* Means of passing on this information in a timely manner to staff, students, parents and others as required
* Ensure that staff have reviewed the training documents
* Provide staff with access to the Back to Work form
* Identify a Lead Worker Representative
* Displayed posters and signs to prevent introduction and spread of Covid-19
* Made the necessary changes to support the redesign of classrooms to support physical distancing
* Remove unnecessary clutter to facilitate ongoing cleaning of the school but take into account the importance of having educational materials to create a stimulating learning environment
updated the health and safety risk assessment
* Made necessary arrangements to restrict access to the school and maintain records of contacts to the school
The school building will also have to be reviewed to check for the following:
* Does the water system need flushing at outlets following low usage to prevent Legionaires disease?
* Has school equipment and mechanical ventilation been checked for signs of deterioration or damage before being used again?
* Have bin collections and other essential services resumed?
Before returning to the school, all staff will undertake and complete Covid-19 Induction Training. The aim of such training is to ensure that staff have full knowledge and understanding of the following:
* Latest up to-date advice and guidance on public health
* Covid-19 symptoms
* What to do if a staff member or pupil develops symptoms of Covid-19 while at school
* Outline of the Covid-19 response plan
Staff will be kept fully informed of the control measures in place in the school and their duties and responsibilities in preventing the spread of Covid-19 and will be updated with any changes to the control measures or guidance available from the public health authorities.
In order to return to the workplace, staff must complete the Return to Work (RTW) form three days before returning to work.
On receipt of the completed form the principal will provide details of the Induction Training for completion by staff prior to the return to the workplace, and details of any additional health and safety measures in place in the school to facilitate the staff member’s return to the school facility.
Schools will be required to display signage outlining the signs and symptoms of Covid-19 and to support good hand and respiratory hygiene. The department will provide printed posters to schools with age appropriate key health messages – hand washing, sneeze and cough etiquette and so on.
Schools can then arrange to display the posters in prominent areas such as offices, corridors, staffroom area, classrooms and toilets.
Changes to school layout
Maintaining physical distancing in the school environment is recommended as one of the key control measures to minimise the risk of the introduction and spread of Covid-19.
Schools will be required to reconfigure classrooms and other areas to support physical distancing in line with the guidance in advance of school reopening.
Access to the school and contact log
Access to the school building will be in line with agreed school procedures. Arrangement for necessary visitors such as contractors and parents will be restricted to essential purposes and limited to those who have obtained prior approval from the principal.
The Department of Education Inspectorate may also need to visit schools and centres for education to support them as appropriate in the implementation of public health advice relating to creating a safe learning and working environment for all.
The prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a crucial step in restricting the spread of the virus and protecting the health and safety of the individuals themselves and other staff, contractors and visitors at the workplace.
A detailed sign in/sign out log of those entering the school facilities should be maintained.
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