COLORADO SPRINGS — It's a conversation that's happening in households across Colorado: How do we safely reopen schools in the fall?
Children's Hospital in Colorado has released a new guide designed to help school administrators and board members determine how they can most safely reopen.
Dr. Sam Dominguez spoke with News5 about this guide. He says this plan focuses on three tiers that, if consistently used, can support large-scale, in-person learning in school.
Tier 1 involves schools implementing frequent hand washing, practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings. Schools must also make sure all students are up-to-date on their current vaccines.
"I don't think we need to buy expensive cleaning equipment to make our schools safe," Dominguez said. "There are plenty of cost-effective ways we can use, and one is making sure everyone wears a mask."
Tier 2 requires screenings for students and staff for COVID-19 symptoms. It recommends schools quickly isolate students and staff who exhibit signs of illness. Tier 2 suggests schools use a pod system of learning, that groups students and staff into a single, isolated group, while eliminating the need for students and staff to touch common surfaces.
"This guide will help teachers think about how we use space differently," Dominguez explained. "We want administrators to think about how we can be outside more and how we get kids to touch things less. So when schools are open, maybe they should have doors open in the beginning so students and teachers don't have to touch door handles."
Tier 3 recommends schools conduct enhanced cleanings. It encourages schools to manage "airflow," and continue providing education efforts for students and their families, as well as staff.
Rhonda Conn-Parent's daughter is 15 years old and goes to school in District 11.
"How do you keep 15-year-old teens six feet apart? It's summer and we've had a hard time doing that," Conn-Parent explained. "I'm not so sure that face masks and staying six feet apart will stop the spread."
Conn-Parent says she still likes the option of e-learning for her daughter, just in case the pandemic gets worse. Conn-Parent says she's comfortable with in-person learning as long as schools are implementing plans from the experts.
"As long as this plan follows strict CDC guidelines, I'll be okay with sending her back," she said.
There's also the issue of class size, transportation, and student athletics. Dominguez says schools should use "pod learning" on buses too. Keep the same group of students on the same bus everyday, making sure everyone on board wears a mask.
Dominguez says schools with big class sizes may have to utilize space outside if the weather permits. Sports with little physical contact will probably be allowed to continue. Other sports may have to be postponed for now.
To read the full guide on how to safely open up schools, click here.