OUR COVID-19 RESPONSE
The virus can cause a range of symptoms, ranging from mild illness to pneumonia. Symptoms of the disease are fever, cough, sore throat and headaches. In severe cases difficulty in breathing and deaths can occur.
There is no specific treatment for disease caused by a novel coronavirus (covid-19). However, many of the symptoms can be treated and therefore treatment based on the patient’s clinical condition. For people with mild disease, recovery time is about two weeks, while people with severe or critical disease recover within three to six weeks.
APPROACH and SAFETY STRATEGY to COVID Back to School Safety Strategy amidst COVID 19
With the start of a new school year, a lot needs to happen so that students can continue to learn and thrive without raising the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The goal of having children attend school in person at ITS Kigali, which is also critically the only way they learn best, will only be safe when the entire school community has the spread of the Corona virus under control.
The layered approach that is most crucial to keep students, teachers and staff safe and our Approach and Safety Strategy to COVID 19 keeps us guarantee readiness to reopen a school for in-person learning of our students.
Most importantly, ITS Kigali school management commits to provide students with holistic support. We endeavor to provide our youthful learners with vital information on hand washing, social distancing, face masks and other measures to protect themselves, their fellow students and any other member of the school community and their families; facilitate mental health support; and help to prevent stigma and discrimination by encouraging students to be kind to each other and avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus.
Our safety strategic plan is aimed at helping us to protect our students and the entire school community from transmission of the COVID-19 virus while at school. The strategic plan will act as a guidance that will provides critical considerations and practical checklists to keep the school safe. It also advises other stakeholders and local authorities on how to adapt and implement emergency strategy.
Understanding why ITS Kigali students should come back to school
ITS Kigali provides more than just academics to learners. In addition to routine academics, developmental and practical technical skills, other complex educational support and services that cannot be provided with online learning are provided effectively. For many of our youthful learners, ITS Kigali is a safe place to be while away from their parents at home. Better still, we provide healthy meals, access to the internet and other vital services that may not be matched with those elsewhere..
The pandemic has been especially hard for Rwandan learners and adolescents especially those living in low-income families. One in 5 students cannot complete schoolwork at home because they do not have a computer or internet connection.
But whatever form learning takes, we assert that our school will need subsidized funding to provide safety measures for in-person learning and to be able to support all students in virtual learning plans.
What ITS Kigali ought to do
As ITS Kigali reopens and also remains open, we commit to ensure that learners and the entire school community and beyond remains protected and informed, the guidance calls for:
- Providing students with information about how to protect themselves;
- Promoting best hand washing and hygiene practices and providing hygiene supplies;
- Emphasizing wearing facemasks for all students, staff and visitors at all times while at school
- Cleaning and disinfecting school buildings, especially water and sanitation facilities; and
- Increasing airflow and ventilation.
To stay safe, there are a number of steps we are taking to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They include:
- Physical distancing
The goal for students and adults is to stay at least one to one and a half meters apart to help prevent the spread of the virus. Within our new implementations, spacing desks at least 3 feet apart and avoiding close contact has similar benefits especially if students wear cloth face masks and do not have symptoms of illness.
Teachers and staff must stay 6 feet apart from other adults and from students when possible. Teachers and staff should also limit in-person meetings with other adults and avoid areas such as staff lounges.
When possible, we intend to use outdoor spaces and unused spaces for instruction, assemblies, prayers and meals to help with distancing. For example, extracurricular activities like singing, band and exercising are safest outdoors and spread out.
- Cloth face mask
All children students and all staff and visitors must wear cloth face coverings that cover the nose and mouth to stop the spread of the virus. When worn correctly, cloth face coverings are safe to wear for long periods of time such as during the school day.
- Hand Hygiene
Body hygiene and sanitation is fundamental at ITS Kigali but in addition, frequent hand washing with sanitizers, toilet soaps and enough clean water is important for everyone. At every hand washing station around the school compound, a responsible person is put to watch over the hand washing process of the students, teachers and visitors. The hand wash supervisors ensure that people wash hands well by scrubbing all hand surfaces, including the backs of hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails for at least 30-40 seconds.
- Classroom changes
To help limit student interaction outside the classroom, we consider:
- Having teachers move between classrooms during change of lessons and periods, rather than having students fill the hallways during passing periods.
- Allowing students to eat lunches at their desks or in small groups outdoors instead of in crowded lunchrooms.
- Leaving classroom doors open to help reduce high touch surfaces such as doorknobs.
- Testing & temperature checks
Much as testing may not be useful in preventing outbreaks in school communities, temperature checks will help us to ascertain the possibility of a student, staff or visitor is infected at that specific moment in time. In addition, it may not be feasible, but it will help us to monitor our people’s health at school and seek medical advice if they are not feeling well. Schools should frequently remind students, teachers, and staff to stay home if they have a fever of high degrees F or greater or have any signs of illness.
- Symptoms at school
The ITS Kigali school nurses will take the temperature of anyone who feels ill during the school day, and the school has put in place a specific area to separate or isolate students or anyone who are not feeling well. To stay safe, our nurses should use PPE (personal protective equipment) such as N95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, disposable gowns and face shields.
- Cleaning and disinfecting
At ITS Kigali we plan to follow CDC guidelines on proper disinfecting and sanitizing classrooms, dormitories, the dining hall and other common areas.
- Buses, hallways and playgrounds
Since these are often crowded spaces, we:
- Give students in buses assigned seats and require them to wear a cloth face coverings while on the bus.
- We encourage students who have other ways to get to school to use those options.
- At school, mark hallways and stairs with one-way arrows on the floor to cut down on crowding in the halls.
- We encourage outdoor activities such as using the playground in small groups. We also include playground equipment in cleaning plans.
- Other considerations
In addition to having plans in place to keep students safe, there are other factors that ITS Kigali has committed to address:
While COVID-19 school policies can reduce risk, they will not prevent it. Some students with high-risk medical conditions may need other accommodations. School nurses at ITS Kigali ensure to see if any student or staff at the school needs additional solutions to help ensure safety at school.
- Students with disabilities
The impact of schools being closed may have been greater for students with disabilities. They may have a difficult time transitioning back to school after missing out on instruction time as well as school-based services such as occupational, physical and speech-language therapy and mental health support counseling. At ITS Kigali we have reviewed the needs of each student with an Individual Education Program before they return to school, and providing services even if they are done virtually.
- Behavioral health/emotional support
At ITS Kigali we anticipate and we are prepared to address a wide range of mental health needs of students and staff. This includes providing mental health support for any student struggling with stress from the pandemic and recognizing students who show signs of anxiety or distress. We are also committed to help students with suicidal thoughts or behavior to get needed support.
ITS Kigali students receive healthy meals through school meal programs. More students might be eligible for free or reduced meals than before the pandemic.
NB. Returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic may not feel like normal, at least for a while. But whatever form our school takes, it will require everyone’s support to make sure that it is healthy, safe and equitable for students, teachers, staff and families.
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