Plastic screens and cameras – South African schools revamp classrooms for COVID-19

South African schools have rolled out a range of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 among their staff and learners.

The Department of Basic Education outlined a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) before it reopened schools to Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners on 8 June.

These are intended to help minimise transmission of the virus on school grounds and include directives on the screening of staff and pupils, disinfection and sanitiser rollout, and the spacing of classroom tables.

COVID-19 cases have been recorded at several schools in the past few weeks, some of which have had to be completely or partially closed again.

This includes several schools in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape.

South Africa’s biggest private school group – Curro Holdings – is one of the companies that has had to implement extensive measures to protect its staff and learners.

Operating procedures and planning

Curro Holdings executive for marketing and communications Mari Lategan said the executive heads at each school must apply the assigned standard operating procedures (SOP) in the specific context and on the basis of the demands of each campus.

This must be done without compromising the intent of the process that needs to be followed in order to ensure the health and safety of all on-site, she noted.

She explained that a thorough disinfection process was undertaken prior to the resumption of classes.

“Before learners and staff returned to the schools, all school buildings were deep-cleaned and disinfected, including classrooms and especially water and sanitation facilities, as well as surfaces that are frequent touch points, ” Lategan said.

These points include areas such as railings, lunch tables, sports equipment, door and window handles, toys, as well as teaching and learning aids.

“Schools have been required to put specific, detailed plans in place to ensure that daily routines are maintained after learners leave the campus – including the cleaning and disinfecting of school buildings and facilities.”

Screening

Lategan explained that on arrival each school day, all staff and learners must be screened for indications of COVID-19 infection – which includes a symptom check and temperature assessment with the aid of handheld devices.

“Schools are required to provide a site map indicating where the screening process will take place for learners in the respective age groups, staff, visitors, and parents/guardians and suppliers,” Lategan said.

A sheet provided to all schools must be used to record the temperature of each individual and must be retained for future reference.

“Learners, parents, staff or visitors registering an elevated temperature of 37.5 °C or above will not be permitted access to school property and must move to an isolation area pending immediate return to a self-isolating facility away from the school site,” Lategan said.

Hand washing and disinfection

Learners and staff at the schools are expected to perform habitual hand-washing and positive hygiene behaviours .

“All schools must prepare and maintain hand-washing stations with soap and water and place alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitisers) in: every classroom, at entrances and exits, and in lunch rooms, staff rooms, communal boarding-school rooms and toilets,” Lategan said.

The schools use a sodium hypochlorite solution at 0.5% (equivalent 5,000 ppm) for disinfecting surfaces, and a solution of 70% ethyl alcohol is being utilised for disinfecting small items.

“Appropriate equipment for cleaning staff has been supplied. It is also highly recommended that learners carry their own small bottle of hand sanitiser,” Lategan added.

Face masks

Curro provides personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of face masks or face visors to all its staff.

Parents or guardians are required to supply their children with face masks and/or any other form of PPE, Lategan said.

“Schools must keep a contingency supply of masks on hand to issue to those learners who may have forgotten to bring face masks or if face masks are damaged or lost during the day,” she added.

“The cost of the mask may be allocated to parents’ school account and the parent will be suitably notified of such charges.”

Social distancing

To cut down on transmission opportunities, Curro has also implemented strict social distancing measures both in the classroom and on the school grounds.

Learners’ seating in all classrooms or teaching venues are spaced at least 1.5 metres apart, Lategan explained.

“In cases in which the size of the classroom does not physically allow this, larger venues will be utilised or the learners in the class can be divided into smaller groups.”

Photos of at Curro schools show markers placed on school grounds to indicate the appropriate space that should be left between learners.

Cameras in classrooms

MyBroadband has also learned that Curro schools have rolled out high-definition cameras in classrooms to ensure teachers are able to provide classes to learners from grades that are not permitted to return as yet.

These cameras are placed in such a way that any illustrations in the class are clearly observable and the teacher is clearly audible when viewed from a device at home.

Teachers merely plug in their laptop via a USB cable and the video is streamed via Microsoft Teams.

The school has also rolled out additional measures which include using plastic screens on learner’s tables.

Photos

Below are images of the COVID-19 measures implemented at Curro Klerksdorp Independent School.

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Plastic screens and cameras – South African schools revamp classrooms for COVID-19