Health and safety play an essential role in ensuring a secure educational environment and a productive learning experience. When health and safety are lacking, it’s pretty much impossible to learn. That’s why all districts need to make health and safety a top priority.
To do that, district leaders need to get everyone on board with health and safety initiatives. When it boils down, all educational stakeholders—from the superintendent to the students themselves—are responsible for helping maintain a healthy, safe school environment.
From a legal perspective, however, the responsibility to create and maintain a healthy and safe school environment ultimately falls on the district. It is therefore critical that superintendents and school boards develop comprehensive health and safety policies, make sure that administrators and teachers are aware of them, and educate parents and students about the roles they’re supposed to play in the process.
5 Steps to Keep Students Healthy and Safe
By following these five steps, you can create a safer and healthier school environment that enables students to reach their full potential and enjoy engaging, wholesome educational experiences.
1. Create a comprehensive health and safety policy.
First things first: Creating and maintaining a healthy and safe school environment starts with devising a comprehensive policy that outlines your district’s approach to the issue, what various stakeholders need to know about health and safety and their role in the process, what happens when someone violates the policy, how your district will respond to crises, and more.
Here are some of the items you need to address in your policy:
- Medical release forms
- Attendance policies for communicable diseases
- Concussion protocols
- Medication policies
- Policies about guests on school property
- Student records storage
- Student behaviors (e.g., bullying and drug use)
- Acceptable use of technology and social media
- Disciplinary actions
- Faculty and staff expectations
- Emergency contacts
- Facility safety protocols (e.g., quarterly fire drills and how to approach construction projects on campus)
- Third-party contractor procedures
- Smoke detectors, sprinklers, and HVAC systems
- Incident response (e.g., fire, intruders on campus, diseased animals on campus, death of a community member, bomb threats)
The above list is by no means exhaustive. But it should give you a good idea of the kinds of things you need to be thinking about as you begin drafting your policy.
2. Plan ahead to mitigate risk.
Although none of us can predict the future, we can anticipate it—at least some of the time.
As you begin planning the 2020–2021 school year, it’s safe to say that COVID-19 will be a concern for parents and teachers alike. You can take a proactive approach to fighting the virus by making sure you have proper protocols and procedures in place in case someone gets sick with COVID-19 or, worse, there’s an outbreak at your school.
Similarly, if it seems like a blizzard is going to blanket your region next week, you can start taking precautions now to make sure that the storm comes and goes with minimal disruption to the educational experience.
3. Implement a plan to ensure maximum safety.
Once you’ve put together a plan, you need to bring it to students, staff, and family and get their feedback and ideas. Getting buy-in from the broader school community is a vital step for ensuring that your health and safety policy delivers the results you’re hoping for.
4. Measure the performance of your policies.
Your policies are never set in stone. They can and should be updated from time to time to stay current. To do that, you need to measure the performance of your policies to see whether they’re having the desired effects. If your policies aren’t working, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.
Good news: Using a platform like FinalForms, you can easily manage and track the physical and mental health of students on a daily basis. This functionality is particularly helpful in the COVID-19 era.
FinalForms also enables you to digitally disperse and collect medical release forms, waivers, policy acknowledgment forms, and more—making it that much easier to ensure compliance with safety and health policies.
5. Adapt your policy and change what isn’t working.
With a platform like FinalForms in place, you have easy access to all sorts of health and safety data which you can measure over time. Based on those results, you can update your policy and continuously improve it to create a better educational experience across your district.
Keeping Students Healthy and Safe in the COVID-19 Era
It’s impossible to write about health and safety without mentioning COVID-19, which is taking center stage as students eye a potential return to school in the fall.
Districts that are planning to open their doors for the 2020–2021 school year need to do everything in their power to make sure that students can learn in a safe and healthy environment.
For more information about how your district can prepare for reopening in the COVID-19 era, check out this handy checklist.