Breakthrough Schools Facilities Response to COVID-19
The global pandemic known as COVID-19 has impacted schools in unprecedented ways over the last few months. On March 12, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine announced the closing of all Ohio K-12 schools for an extended spring break; he later extended the closure through the end of the school year. This order went into effect throughout the Breakthrough Schools network on March 13, 2020. Breakthrough’s academic leaders and administrators immediately began constructing a plan for distance learning, with a goal to ensure that every family in our network had access to the best education possible under the circumstances. The distance learning plan they designed went live on April 8. Since then, our students have been participating in online lessons, which our teachers format, share, grade, and provide feedback. This will continue until the end of the school year.
As of now, we do not know what the upcoming school year will look like. Ohio schools could continue distance learning, students could be back in school buildings, or there could be some combination of the two. While our students are learning from home, our school facilities have adapted so that they continue to serve students, families, and staff in a few different ways. We must also prepare for the reality that schools will eventually open their doors, and we will need to come up with protocols and procedures to ensure the health and safety of all parties. We have been creating protocols, making adaptations, and are beginning to develop plans in the following areas:
- Device Distribution: Breakthrough model education leaders and administrators immediately began constructing a plan for distance learning upon school closures for COVID-19. The first major step was figuring out a way for every student to have a working device and internet access. We purchased 500 hotspots to be distributed to families in need, and Digital C and Spectrum also helped assist some of our families in gaining online connectivity. Fortunately, most of our schools were already 1:1 with devices which allowed us to quickly execute our distance learning plan. The Operations Team, in partnership with IT and Facilities, created a detailed document outlining the policies and procedures for distributions. A sign-up system was created to ensure that only a small number of people were eligible to show up at any time. There were also very specific guidelines to minimize contact between people, such as barriers between the staff and the parents picking up the devices, the limited handling of supplies and paperwork, and frequent sanitation.
- Meal distribution: 79% of our students are eligible to receive free breakfast and lunch, though our schools offer meals to all students through the federal nutrition program. As such, the decision was made to continue to distribute meals during quarantine as well. A plan was designed to do this in a safe manner, utilizing front office security vestibules, creating structures for social distancing, and limiting staff. At first, all the buildings offered lunches daily. However, in order to decrease the number of visits to campus for both families and staff, we switched to distributing packs of 5 breakfasts and 5 lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We also developed a partnership with the Cleveland Food Bank to distribute backpacks of shelf-stable food items in addition to our usual meals.
- Sanitation and Cleaning: In partnership with outside experts, Breakthrough is working to create detailed checklists and processes for regular building sanitation, as well as for routine independent/third party testing of the effectiveness of our cleaning protocols. They are also helping us develop additional cleaning and testing protocols to put into place in the event of a confirmed case in a campus community.
- Facilities Adjustments: Once school resumes, possibly in fall 2020, schools will need to adapt many of our facilities to accommodate social distancing and safety guidelines. This may include the placing shielding in the front office, signage may be used for traffic flow within the building and to ensure proper distancing, outside signage for pickup and drop-off, temperature screening at front entrances, and possibly other measures as well.
As we continue to develop resources related to the topics above, we will be sharing them on our COVID-19 portal. If there are other topics or areas that your schools or networks are creating plans or resources on related to the pandemic, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.