Paying families, a non-union workforce, and operation as an ongoing private business concern also provides some impetus for solving the live education puzzle in a COVID-19 environment. A local private school that we interviewed suggested their campus tours for interested families have increased 5 to 10 times each week since the schools were required to shut down earlier this year, while enrollment has quickly reached capacity for the new school year. They believe this means parents find quite a bit of value in live, in-person education. When they polled their group of 45 faculty and administrators about their preference for in-person or distance learning, all but 2 faculty also voted to start the school year with live, in-person instruction.
In California, private schools were allowed to apply for a waiver from the State which would allow them to reopen with live instruction immediately instead of waiting, provided a number of circumstances came together, including having documented safety protocols in place. As of September 18, 135 schools in Orange County, CA have submitted waiver applications to the state, with all of those receiving approval. Of these schools, all are private except 8 that filed together within two small public districts The remaining 16 are pending and at this point no applicants have been denied. Of these schools, all are private except 6 that filed together within a small public district. Most other states have allowed for the re-opening of schools. Individual districts have decided to either stay virtual, allow in-person classes or a hybrid of the two.
So what are private schools doing to maximize the learning experience while minimizing the risk of COVID transmission? According to various Withum clients serviced by our firm’s Irvine, CA office, they are going to great and costly lengths to ensure a positive and safe learning experience for families.
1. Daily health evaluations including temperature checks
2. Face shields
3. Plexiglass desk shields
4. Limited class sizes to facilitate distancing requirements
5. Pods format for classes and scheduling to achieve minimal exposure
6. Staggering of recess and lunch by pod
7. Rigorous sanitizing schedule of hard surfaces 3 times daily (before school, and during recess and lunch)
8. Mandatory 20 second hand-washing sessions when entering classrooms
9. Monthly commercial grade fogging of all indoor spaces
10. Tracing procedures for any positive COVID cases with mandatory 14 day quarantine for those in contact
Additionally, the schools are providing ongoing education to students, parents and faculty about safeguards and rules in place and have constructed action plans for transitioning to distance learning in case of mandatory shut down ordinances due to prevalence of COVID cases in the school population or geographical locale. Any student or employee that has been exposed to COVID is required to obtain a doctor’s clearance before reentry.
At Withum, we are grateful for the hard work, creativity and sacrifices of our school clients and teachers across the country, who ensure our young people receive the highest quality education in an environment that prioritizes their safety.