The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging to the nation’s K-12 education system. In 2020, many districts rushed to shut down schools in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. As schools begin to re-open for the new school year, decisions should be based on scientific evidence. There are several key strategies that align with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health experts.

Partner with Public Health Experts
School leaders should work with their local public health department to assess school facilities, consult on proposed plans as they reopen to help deliver COVID-19 prevention and health promotion training to staff, students, and the wider community [1]. Public health departments can help schools with managing testing, contact tracing, and provide the latest case numbers for the community.

Put Best Practices in Place to Aid in Prevention
There’s been a lot of confusion around SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and the new variants that cause COVID-19. Some cities are challenging mask mandates for their area schools. The CDC’s recommendation is universal masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools – regardless of vaccination status. They also recommend schools to have a layered prevention strategy in place [2]. Classrooms should allow for adequate physical distance between students and teachers [2]. Lunchtime needs to allow for students to keep physical distance while they are eating or drinking. Students and teachers should not be sharing high touch objects, such as crayons or pencils, without disinfecting between use [2]. The full CDC guidelines provides more guidance for schools to implement safety precautions: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html

Maintain a Healthy Environment
Classrooms and common areas of the school need to be cleaned and disinfected daily and in between uses. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is spread person to person, but it can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching your eyes or mouth [3]. Cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces and objects can reduce the risk of pathogen transmission to others [3]. The CDC states, “In situations when there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 indoors within the last 24 hours, the presence of infectious virus on surfaces is more likely and therefore high-touch surfaces should be disinfected.”

How an Innovative School District Adopted Germ-killing Technology
Ruidoso Municipal School District was the first school system in the U.S. to deploy a fleet of LightStrike™ Germ-Zapping Robots to disinfect its elementary, middle and high schools. The LightStrike Robot is proven to deactivate SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in two minutes, and it’s also proven to deactivate other germs commonly found in schools, like staph, norovirus and influenza. LightStrike’s patented Pulsed Xenon technology emits intense bursts of UV light that quickly deactivates pathogens on surfaces without damaging materials in the room the way other chemical/UV products do[4] Ruidoso is using their fleet of Robots to disinfect classrooms, offices, cafeterias, restrooms, locker rooms, gymnasiums, and more. Numerous schools have used CARES funding to acquire LightStrike Robots and are now using LightStrike robots to disinfect their buildings. Because the Robots don’t require warm-up or cool-down time, each Robot can disinfect dozens of rooms per day.

Disinfection Tools that Reliably Destroys Germs
It can be difficult, even frustrating trying to evaluate these disinfection products. The pandemic has brought a tidal wave of companies selling products that claim to disinfect surfaces and air. It is important to not only validate that they have documentation to support those claims, but to understand if there is published evidence showing their product truly does what it claims. You may also want to understand if the company has a background in environmental disinfection, a track record of achieving positive outcomes with their product, and if ongoing support/training comes with the product.

If have any questions or would like to learn more about deploying LightStrike Robots at your school, click here.

Authors: Dr. D. Passey, M. Hart

References:

1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2020) Reopening K–12 Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Prioritizing Health, Equity, and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID19, Schools and Child Care Programs. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html

3. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Airborne Transmission of SARS-CoV-2: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25958

4. Data on file