School administrators are preparing for one of the most unusual school years on record. Whether your classes are conducted in-person or online this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Texas schools think about safety. As you make your preparations, we want to provide you with quick tips and expertise to help you keep your employees and students safe during this uncertain year.
Be proactive about COVID-19
Coronavirus has had a massive impact on education, making the pandemic a major safety concern for your employees as school starts back up. Not only can it jeopardize the health of your community, but it can also lead to other logistical risks for your district. Educate yourself on smart practices as you head into the school year to protect your students and employees:
The pandemic requires a dynamic response, and the Fund is here to help with whatever you face. Fund members can work with our special risk consultants to get the training and resources needed to keep their districts safe. The Fund frequently hosts training and events online and in person to help members stay on top of new and emerging risks.
As you prepare to handle COVID-19 this year, don’t lose sight of general safety concerns. Make sure you promote smart practices that protect you and your employees year-round.
Work with caution
Slips, trips, and falls are the leading cause of workplace injuries in the education sector. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of going back to school catch you or your employees off guard. Whether they’re grabbing documents from tall shelves, setting up classroom decorations, or simply changing a lightbulb, teachers and administrators should always use a ladder—not a chair or stool—when reaching for high places. Make use of your campus’s facilities requests to obtain the appropriate equipment for maximum safety, such as stepladders or full-size ladders when necessary.
Beat the heat
School usually starts during the peak of summer heat. With employees moving boxes, making facility repairs, and getting hot kitchens in gear, they will be exposed to several hot environments. Providing plenty of water breaks and making sure staff wears breathable clothing are a couple of the measures you can implement to prevent heat-related illnesses.
Say no to distracted driving
Regardless of your role, you hold the key to protecting yourself, your passengers, and drivers of other vehicles when you get behind the wheel. Put your cell phone down and clear your mind before you start to drive. If you are an administrator, make sure your employees (especially those working in transportation) follow these distraction-free driving guidelines. Contact your risk solutions consultant for resources and training for your staff on this topic.
Get updated on immunizations
COVID-19 isn’t the only virus that educators need to plan for. Immunizations are critical for students as well as everyone who works in education. To keep your employees and students safe from many illnesses, stay up to date on necessary vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers an assessment tool that can help you identify which vaccines you need. Consult with your medical professional to make sure you are proactive about the necessary vaccines.
Balance privacy and security
Student privacy and school security should go hand-in-hand as school decision-makers consider new security measures and make plans for the year. Whether you are considering metal detectors, increased surveillance cameras, or clear backpacks, recognize the pros and cons when it comes to security and student privacy.
Connect with your community
School district administrators should create opportunities for employees and students to build connections with the community around their schools, especially during these times of social distance. Follow your county’s local public health guidelines to develop safe and responsible ways to engage with your community.
Remember your roofs
You may not think about roofs every day, but they are an important line of defense that protects school employees and students from the elements. They are especially critical during the first few months of the school year, since August and September are the most active months of hurricane season. School administrators and risk managers should develop a preventative maintenance plan for facility roofs that helps you identify roof damage early and address it before costly repairs or replacement are needed. The Fund provides online roof inspection training at no cost to Property members. Contact your risk solutions consultant for additional resources and training on this topic.
Look to the Fund for help
Your district has unique challenges to address this year, and the Fund adapts to meet your needs. TASB has expert staff who can help you ensure a safe learning environment at the beginning of school and throughout the year. Visit the Fund website to stay updated on the latest resources and staff contact information.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in August 2019. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.