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CORONAVIRUS: Full and Partial Closure Of School Sites

By Caroline Lee

Some school sites may be fully closing now for an undefined period of time, whilst some will be staying open so that they can offer facilities for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

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Here are our hints and tips for the partial and full closure of schools.

1. Partial Closure

If you are suspending some activities on site, yet are still providing core, essential services within your school we recommend the following: 

  • Increase cleaning and disinfection of hand contact points, using your standard cleaning products. 
    • Be aware of the contact time for sanitisers and disinfecting products. This can range from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. You should apply the product to the surface and leave it for this contact time so that it destroys pathogens.
    • Hand contact points and frequently touched objects include door handles, toilet doors, taps, and desks.
  • Maintain social distancing:
    • Move out of small classrooms and offices. 
    • Maintain 2 metres of space between people.
    • Allow post and deliveries to be made but give your delivery drivers and postal workers space. There are no additional precautions needed for the handling of post or packages.
  • The importance of good handwashing cannot be stressed enough at this time. 
    • Supervise young children to ensure that they wash their hands for 20 seconds more often than usual with soap and water. 
    • Everyone should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, regularly. 
  • Keep hands away from the face and catch coughs and sneezes with tissues.
  • Staff, young people and children should stay at home if they are unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature to avoid spreading infection to others. 
  • If staff, young people or children become unwell on site with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature they should be sent home. If a child is awaiting collection, they should be moved, if possible and appropriate. to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. 

At this time remember it will still be important to keep on top of your essential facilities monitoring, e.g. fire safety and legionella control.

Whilst you are on site, you will need to:

Daily

  • Walk the fire escape routes and ensure that they remain clear. 
  • Ensure that staff and students do know their escape routes; these may have changed. 

Weekly

  • Flush little used water outlets such as taps and showers.
  • Continue with weekly call point tests on your fire alarm system.

A note on fire safety, some schools will be bringing in students from other sites, and so they will be unfamiliar with the layout of the school and the fire escape routes. We appreciate it may be difficult to run a full blown fire drill in these circumstances, where social distancing is a priority for employees, but it is important that you show your students (particularly those from different school sites) their nearest evacuation routes. Please ensure that if you are running a rota for your employees that all of your team know what to do in the event of a fire, and ensure that you know who is in school per day (as student numbers and employees may change daily). 

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2. Full Closure

You may well now be facing the prospect of a full closure of your school site. This closure will echo the long summer holiday breaks but it is likely that you will be facing the prospect of leaving the site unattended for an unknown length of time. 

What are the immediate things that you need to think about?

Security

  • Carry out checks before leaving site to ensure that fencing is intact, with no holes or footholds evident. 
  • Ensure gates are fitted with suitable locks and that bolts, hinges and handles do not act as easy footholds/scaling points.
  • Check CCTV for vegetation that can block vision.
  • Check external lighting is operating correctly. 
  • Remove loose debris from the site, which may be used in vandalism attacks.
  • Check that your intruder alarm is functioning correctly and is not showing any faults. If linked to a central monitoring station, ensure that they have the correct contact details for the key holder.
  • Key holders: check that designated key holders are available. Make sure that you have reserves in place in case key holders have to self isolate.
  • Valuable equipment should be secured and kept out of view.

Building Information

  • Keep key information on the location of isolation switches, gas shut off valves, stopcocks, etc in a readily accessible location at the school’s entrance. Also distribute to key holders.
  • Keep a list of maintenance activities that will be due on your return to school; some of the following essential examinations may have expired whilst the school has been closed. Think particularly about: 
    • Science fume cupboards - LEV examinations
    • Passenger lifts - LOLER examinations
    • Play equipment - annual examination
    • Gas appliances - annual Gas Safe 
    • Slings and hoists - LOLER examinations
    • Fire alarms, fire fighting equipment and emergency lighting - servicing and testing
    • School vehicles - MOTs and servicing

Legionella

  • It is better for the water system to leave it full of water because this prevents corrosion and damage to water vessels. However, you will need to recommission your system on your return to the site (if left unattended for 3-4 weeks plus), and this will  involve a thorough clean and disinfection. 
  • You will need to plan for this clean and disinfection, so it is advisable to have to hand the contact details of a competent contractor who can undertake this work for you.
  • Where possible disconnect shower heads and water sprays, clean and leave in a clean, dry place.
  • Disconnect garden hoses from outdoor taps.

Fire 

  • School minibuses and coaches should not be parked in close proximity to the buildings (unless within a secure, alarmed garage) to minimise potential fire spread from vehicle to building.
  • Ensure the fire alarm panel is not showing any faults. If the fire alarm is linked to a central monitoring station, check that the link is working and that the station is able to detect an activation.
  • Lock flammable chemicals away.
  • Shut all internal doors, including those on acoustic door closers.
  • Talk through your monitoring options with your insurance provider.

Gas

  • Consider turning off gas supply at the main cut off valve. Ensure that hot water boilers are turned off. 

Food

  • Throw away all fresh chilled and frozen foods. Switch off freezers and refrigerators at the wall socket, clean the interior, and leave doors open.
  • Tinned and dry goods may be retained, but place open packages inside sealed containers and apply a label showing the date of opening.

Waste

  • Waste should be placed in skips or bins outside of the building. 
  • Locate plastic bins at least 10m from the perimeter of the building (metal skips and bins at least 6m). 
  • Secure into position. 

Post

It may be beneficial to arrange for school mail to be delivered to a local post office or similar, whilst you are off site. 

Swimming pools

  • Clean the pool. Remove foreign matter such as leaves from the water using a skimming net. 
  • Balance your water by ensuring that pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, and free chlorine are at the correct levels. (You should aim for pH 7.4-7.6.) 
  • Undertake a shock treatment of the water with chlorine to keep the pool clean for as long as possible.
  • Remove all pool equipment and accessories (such as skimmer baskets, ladders) from the water. Clean, allow to dry and store them in a safe, dry place.
  • Lower the water level; usually aim to have the water level at least below the skimmer.
  • Drain pumps, filters, heaters and chlorinators. Clean pool filters. 
  • Add a cover to the pool where fitted to inhibit algae growth. 

Hiring out of facilities

Leisure centres / sports halls will now need to be closed in accordance with government advice.

As always if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact your consultant or the Southalls office on 0345 257 4015.

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Tags: Coronavirus, School Safety