AS CHILDREN GEAR UP TO GET BACK TO SCHOOL, AUTHORITIES UNDER HIGH PRESSURE TO KEEP THEM SAFE
As everyone in the society speaks openly about the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health, words such as ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ may be too extreme for suffering children. Life during lockdown and quarantine has been difficult for parents and children alike. Just as us adults miss going out, meetings friends and family, and socializing, children too miss going to school as it is their home away from home to meet friends, have fun and learn new skills. Having said that, the reopening of schools is definitely a welcome move, but is it really safe for children? Are schools ready to provide their students with a COVID-free atmosphere?
Well, answers to these questions are hard to find for the authorities and even for parents. A lot of inputs have been given in order to make schools safe for children but no final call has been taken yet as there is no such thing as zero risk. However, certain practices can lower the risk of an outbreak at schools and keep kids, teachers and families safe.
Schools should be cleaned and sanitized every day, especially all surfaces which are touched by so many students and teachers. They should all should wear right kind of masks, particularly globally certified antiviral masks. Social distancing should be thoroughly practiced and class strength should be reduced to half. Classrooms should also be well ventilated with their windows open, and if that is not possible, schools should invest in air purifiers and ventilation solutions. With effective and efficient ventilation in place, droplets from an infected person, if any, get pushed out due to air exchange. Further, ventilating for longer and opting for ventilation with higher airflow volumes helps reduce the risk of catching illnesses. Additionally, with the onset of the monsoon, childrens’ immune systems are bound to weaken due to the drastic fluctuation of temperature. Ventilation is a must for classrooms during this season.
Schools must also install powerful new air filters with a high MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating to filter out tiny particles. Since the average size of a COVID-19 particle is 0.125 microns, an ideal MERV rating is 13-14 to filter down to 0.1 micron. The higher the MERV rating, the more effective the filter is. Another useful tool in our fight against COVID-19 is the use of ultraviolet lights. UV lights are useful in killing airborne viruses on surfaces as well as on filter surfaces. They are most suited in disinfection of personal protective equipment, surfaces and floors.
Checking body temperature at the entrance of schools should be mandatory. Hand sanitizer dispensers should be installed at various points to ensure maximum safety and protection from viruses. Childrens’ immunity is important, so government and authorities should provide them with immunity supplements, especially to those who can’t afford it.
We all are living in an uncertain times and sending our kids to schools in an ordinary setup will not help them from fighting the virus. Authorities and government really need to take exceptional measures to ensure the safety of the students before welcoming them to schools again.