COVID-19:
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Reopening Schools

How to Go Back to School Series Part 2: Safer Student Life

By addressing a breadth of new instructions and protocols, students and faculty can feel empowered to come back together safely.
8 min read
• 
Published
June 23, 2020
Dr. Robert Darzynkiewicz
Board-Certified Emergency Medicine Physician
Dr. Rob has over 13 years of ER experience, the last two as the Pediatric Emergency Director. He believes technology can improve healthcare access and quality for students and their families.

Did you miss part 1: Click here to read our take on the public health landscape and how to prepare when considering a return in the fall.

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 co-founder/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 can take next.

Questions sourced directly from IEI’s Superintendent Partners

Q: How do we transport students on buses if the virus is still active? (What are the) social distancing guidance for transportation?

There is a lot to consider going into the fall. If you are thinking about reopening, and when, it goes beyond just what to change in the classroom. There are a lot of components involved, including transportation to and from schools, localizing education, and addressing schools’ distance learning programs.

As it relates to transportation, there are a number of procedures to consider that focus on the health and safety of both students and faculty. While we recognize that each district is unique, and each reopening will look different given the local guidelines and community, here are a few things to ask your leadership team to consider regarding transportation in general:

  • How can school buses be set up to adhere to local social distancing guidelines regarding the number of students per bus?

  • Is there a way to have windows open to safe levels more often?

  • How will bus drivers and students follow any face mask requirements that are applicable at the time?

  • What needs to be considered regarding disinfecting buses between rides?

  • Could hand sanitizer be made readily available at the door for drop off and pick up, or on the bus?

  • Is it possible to have phased drop off times to reduce congregation?

Q: How will we have to rethink student gatherings, like sports, clubs, music? This stuff is the lifeblood of schools!

We agree – student activities are the lifeblood of school life! After many months at home, there will inevitably be significant pent up demand to socialize, play, and enjoy the extracurricular activities that once brought so much joy and community. It is critical that schools focus on creative ways to help students enjoy this important part of student life safely. Alternative activities, changes to activities, staged return, or new rules associated with contact sports could all be ways to help bridge the gap temporarily.

The reality here is that many activities will need to be evaluated as we wait for a vaccine. Some may need to be changed slightly, or even moved temporarily to the virtual world or modified into socially distant activities. We know that the risk increases with large gatherings and shared spaces, so considering ways to limit or manage crowds in closed areas reduces the chance for spread.

Throughout the school year, adjustments might need to be made to implement distance measures or even reschedule large gatherings and high-contact activities. Each community and each district is different. Once a vaccine has been made widely available, students could be allowed to gather again more regularly for activities or events. Superintendents can help demonstrate community leadership through proactive and frequent communication to students and families as guidelines evolve.

Q: What procedures are needed to disinfect school materials that have been in the homes during the closure?

There are many new habits students and staff are going to need to adapt as we all consider how and when to come back together. By addressing a breadth of new instructions and protocols, students and faculty can feel empowered to come back together safely when appropriate for your individual district.

Areas to think about include disinfection protocols for items that come back to school when students return, as well as ongoing disinfecting for materials that come and go. One idea is to create a separation between items that live at school and items that stay at home to lower cross-contamination. Where that is not possible, creating procedures for disinfection for items moving from place to place, or student to student might be right for your schools. Here are some helpful examples of ways to keep cross-contamination from objects down:

  • Wiping down computers at the start and end of school each day, as well as between usages

  • In-school lunch vs. lunch brought from home – considering requirements surrounding how lunch is brought to school safely

  • Checking out materials (like computers) to individual students for longer periods of time, similar to how textbooks are managed

  • Shifting an appropriate amount of work to digital to eliminate paper and supplies being passed around

  • Limiting in-classroom materials for the day’s lessons or play (like toys, displays, or other teaching tools)

  • Overall disinfecting of the school building and common areas. If there are shifts, disinfecting between these shifts.

The mental overload of new policies and procedures is tough on everyone, and will certainly be hard on children trying to adapt and be more aware. The more that simple protocols with streamlined directions can be readied before kids come back to the classroom, the lower the burden will be on everyone.

If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us here.

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.



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Parent Story
A father was concerned when his son was showing COVID-19 symptoms. His school uses Hazel, so he was able to contact a Hazel doctor from home.

The Hazel provider recommended he get a COVID-19 test and shared resources to help find a testing center in their area. The father was eager to help his son feel better and appreciated being able to quickly get answers and advice.
Nurse Story
A student came into the nurse's office with a sprained ankle. After icing her foot, she still was in pain, so the nurse called Hazel. Thankfully, her family had provided consent for over-the-counter pain relief because she was able to take some medicine and return to class feeling better.

After the visit, the Hazel provider reached out to the school nurse to check on the student’s injury. The nurse shared that the student’s ankle was improving, and she appreciated the follow-up.
Parent Story
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but no appointments were available. She didn’t want her son to run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

The provider was able to send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that her son would have the medicine he needed. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.
Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Student Story
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. She was sad about COVID-19 impacting her senior year, and she was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and she felt she didn't have the right support at home. After discussing her feelings, a Hazel doctor connected her with resources that she described as “life-changing.” She was very grateful and shared that she didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
Student Story
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.