PONTIAC (WXYZ) — Schools have different plans for the start of the school year, but they also will share some policies. County health departments are sending out toolkits to guide school policies. Schools across Oakland County received their plans last week.
Supt. Dr. Richard Machesky from the Troy School District hoped the toolkit would help him answer one question: Is it safe to open schools? He expected metrics on community spread and data points to look for.
“It is a health crisis, so you look to your health experts to say these are the things you should be looking at,” Dr. Machesky said.
Calandra Anderson, a nurse and the Quality and Process Improvement Supervisor for the Oakland County Health Department, says, “ Is it safe to go back to school? That is the number one question.”
She says there is not a one size fits all set of metrics that schools should look at for several reasons.
She says the data is not always complete. For example, in communities where people do not have access to testing sites, there might be fewer reported cases compared to communities with access. Also, the ability to return safely is dependent on resources available to schools.
“Resources for some areas are going to be better,” Anderson said.
She says the toolkit should help school districts decide whether to open by providing processes. Schools can then decide whether it can carry them out. For example, what should schools do to prevent the spread of the virus?
The toolkit talks about sanitizing practices, student co-horts, lunch hours, and more.
“It focuses on social distancing, hand washing, and wearing a mask,” Anderson said.
Plus it lays out a process to make sure schools and health departments communicate when there is a case of COVID-19. The county health department will provide case investigators and contact tracers who will reach out to people believed to have been in close contact with someone sick.
“We have over 200 people at the health department with the sole duty of doing contact tracing and case investigation when we are notified of a case of Covid19,” Anderson said.
It will also determine if people need to be quarantined and even if schools need to close temporarily.
“It is important for schools to work with the Oakland County Health Department at the first onset of a positive case,” Anderson said.
The health department is helping provide schools with access to nurses, experts and more.
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