What Parents Should Expect From Preschool Health & Safety Norms?

Before school even opens its door to students, there needs to be a concerted effort to welcome children in a safe and hygienic environment.

With the new academic year only three months away and the Government mandate to reopen likely to happen soon, there is an electric excitement within our community. While the preschool industry waits with bated breath, parents are torn between being concerned about the safety of their little ones and excited about school reopening. 

So, what should parents look for in schools as far as Health & Safety (H&S) is concerned?

Centre and staff hygiene

Before school even opens its door to students, there needs to be a concerted effort to welcome children in a safe and hygienic environment. Fumigation (with medical-grade products), deep cleaning and sanitization of all movable and immovable assets are essential precursors. Post reopening, this could be followed up with daily cleaning of the centre including washrooms and sanitization of toys and other assets at frequent intervals to maintain the hygiene standards.

A strict centre access policy is absolutely essential to reduce exposure for the children and staff within the school. All those authorized to enter the premises should comply with temperature checks, hand sanitization, and be denied entry without masks. Staff and parents must compulsorily sign a self-declaration form to determine travel history and enable contact tracing. The classrooms, where children would spend most of their time, need to be sacrosanct with entry restricted to only children and the school staff.

In addition, the hygiene and health of the centre staff are equally (if not more) important. Before reopening, schools need to monitor the temperature of the staff for 7 days and make this data available for parents to access, to ensure transparency. It may bode well for parents to check with the school if the staff are being tested (Antigen/immunity test) so as to avert possible risk. Schools must also enforce protective gear for all staff and training of staff to ensure compliance with policies is critical.

Child safety

Parents must train their toddlers/pre-schoolers to comply with temperature checks upon arrival at the centre. In case of symptoms of fever, cold or flu, the child is to be kept at home for 14 days. Children are to wear a mask from the home location till school and be guided to frequently wash their hands throughout the day.

Physical distancing is probably one of the biggest concerns of preschool parents. While it is difficult to get children below 6 years to sit in one place, schools must create the necessary environment which will help children abide by the physical distancing rules to the best of their ability. Placemats with internal and external circles could be used to demarcate each child’s spot. In addition to the reduced class strength, the classroom space could be reimagined to ensure even more distance between the children. It is also a good idea to stagger the meal times, activities, pick up and drop off of children.

Protocols for the parent

The implementation of a majority of the H&S protocols in preschools requires the contribution and cooperation of parents. Temperature monitoring is one of the biggest areas that need parent involvement – helping children abide by this as stipulated, will help the detection of infection. Monitoring one’s own temperature and being alert regarding symptoms in their family is part of a parent’s responsibilities. Additionally, parents can insist on sending home-cooked food for the first couple of weeks until the child settles down in the new environment. It is also recommended for the parent to make sure to drop off the child in their own transport to reduce exposure.

Those parents interested in getting more actively involved in helping school reopen in a safe manner should keep in touch with the school authorities and contribute by expressing concerns and sharing feedback that will help schools keep an ear to the ground.

Emergency response mechanisms

While all these guidelines are precautions that will help prevent the spread of infection, owing to the nature of the pandemic, parents must proactively seek information on the emergency response mechanism the school has in place in case a child/staff shows symptoms, is suspected of having COVID-19 or is tested positive. Apart from closing down the school for the recommended timeframe, it is the school’s responsibility to also inform the entire parent body of the incident in the interest of everyone’s safety. Schools are to disseminate timely, accurate and transparent information however grave or trivial the situation, in order to gain the trust of parents.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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