School districts are increasingly concerned about how COVID-19 will affect protocols and practices when students return to school. The Institute for Education Innovation has started a dialogue with Superintendents about what to do and how to prepare. Hazel Health was asked to respond with the medical perspective on what to consider when thinking about re-opening.
Hazel Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Rob Darzynkiewicz, and Hazel Cofounder/Head of Education, Raquel Antunez, collaborated in this 3-part Q&A format to address questions asked by superintendents, and provide clarity on what steps districts might consider.
Questions sourced directly from IEI’s Superintendent Partners
Q: Do you think that the number of COVID-19 cases needs to get down to zero before we can return to school safely? I am concerned that COVID-19 will linger for a bit, perhaps through the summer and into the fall.
Q: Do you anticipate that a new vaccination will result from this crisis? We don’t want this thing to “boomerang” and come back at some point, and a vaccination seems imminent.
Q: What procedures will need to be in place prior to opening in order to create a safe environment for students and staff? We need plenty of time to plan, purchase safety equipment, and arrange for scheduling that meets new standards.
1. Prevent Spread: Consider how you might leverage temperature screenings for students and employees, as well as policies on returning to school after recovering from illness. Evaluate if documentation needs updating surrounding doctors’ notes, actions to take when someone is sick, and how parents can determine when it is the right time to return to school.
2. Practice Social Distancing: Take a look at the best way your district can make classrooms and gathering spaces safer according to CDC guidelines on social distancing and groups. Systems could be created to stagger students or even have them stay in one classroom for the duration of the day rather than moving from room to room.
3. Reduce Exposure: Evaluate your particular situation and space options within your district and schools when thinking about hosting any larger gatherings. For example, could outdoor spaces be used more for gatherings that would normally happen in the gym or auditorium?
4. Disinfect: Regular disinfecting procedures are important for areas occupied by students each day. Consider how else you can encourage new disinfection habits for students, staff and parents as it relates to coming and going each day. One idea is to set up disinfecting stations for frequently used objects.
5. Wear Appropriate PPE: The guidance around PPE has changed throughout this process and will continue to evolve. Clear and simple reminders and guidelines for your district, that are relevant for your community, will help everyone understand what to do.
6. Enable Healthcare Access: One of the best ways to help support students and families during this pandemic is to increase access to physical and mental healthcare resources. An on-going, sustainable approach to at-home and at-school virtual care can help manage the health of your students and help you react to early indicators of community spread or other related issues.
This is a lot for schools to take on. Remember you don’t have to do it all alone! We are here to support you and your faculty. With Hazel, you can reach a doctor with the touch of a button. Our medical staff is here to provide proper guidance to families and reinforce individual school policies surrounding staying safe, as well as see students for acute issues, document fevers, and provide local resources for testing and screening.
Superintendents are defenders of our children’s right to a high-quality public education, leading their teams toward effective, sustainable solutions to age-old problems. They must be at the center of discussions around when, where, and how innovation will affect teaching and learning. Many education solution providers, funders, researchers, and thought leaders are mission-driven: they do what they do to improve student outcomes. The Institute for Education Innovation bridges the gaps between the individuals and organizations committed to seeing students succeed in school and life, creating a safe space for constructive problem-solving and innovative thinking.
About Hazel’s Contributors
Dr. Robert Darzynkiewicz, Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Rob (as he is known to the kids) is board certified in Emergency Medicine with over 13 years of experience, the last two as Pediatric Emergency Director. Dr. Rob received his M.D. from New York Medical College. He oversees all clinical staff and operations, ensuring students are receiving top-quality, evidence-based care. Rob recognizes that technology allows him and his team to make a difference with students and their families by providing much-needed access and better care.
Raquel Antunez, Cofounder / VP Education
Raquel Antunez serves as Vice President of Education at Hazel Health. She has deep expertise in providing advisory and service to diverse ethnic and socio-economic demographics and is fluent in Spanish. Raquel has over 20 years of extensive experience in the education sector, including teaching various grade levels, serving as a school principal and director, and a multitude of other leadership roles including leading full- district implementation for English Learners and struggling learners. Raquel earned undergraduate degrees and certifications from the University of the Pacific and Universidad de Granada (Spain); she has a Master of Arts degree in Education Administration from Cal State-Sacramento.