As we reopen schools and await a COVID-19 vaccine, schools and districts are flirting with another shutdown from a spike in cases among school staff. Schools are far from immune to the potential of further disruption should a school staffer unwittingly or knowingly report to school with the virus – or even just symptoms.
And as many states are requiring schools to track and report the incidence of staff and student COVID cases, schools cannot afford to wait for the slow and burdensome process of vaccine development. In-person learning needs to be safe and available for everyone now, not next year. One way schools can safeguard against an overnight shutdown is by using Google tools to automate and streamline COVID-19 pre-arrival health screenings for school staff.
Why school staff health screenings are important
Medical professionals have been unified about the importance of widespread, reliable testing since the very beginning of this pandemic, and for good reason. If no one has the virus, there is no concern about people transferring it to one another. Because this virus presents in so many people without symptoms – particularly young, healthy people one might find in a school environment – the only way to be sure that a person does not present a threat of contagion is through testing.
Imagine a world where everyone who arrived on a school campus could be tested for COVID quickly, easily and affordably, before they ever stepped foot in the school environment. Students wouldn’t need to socially distance, masks wouldn’t be necessary – school as we once knew it could return. But widespread rapid tests simply aren’t available yet. One alternative to this unavailable solution? Daily staff health screenings.
In one Michigan school district, the Daily Health Checker Project conducts automatic pre-arrival COVID health screenings for over 1,000 district employees every day.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have in fact outlined strategies for protecting K-12 school staff from COVID-19. While it's important to follow these guidelines, there is debate over whether teachers or other school staff deemed "essential or critical" should still report to school if exposed to the virus.
While health screenings don’t prevent asymptomatic carriers from entering a school, they certainly reduce the likelihood of anyone with symptoms entering the community. A short survey that encourages staff to sit and consider how they feel, take their temperature, and report any contact with the virus ensures that even staff with the mildest symptoms can stay home and self isolate.
Staff health screenings can help us re-open schools and return to in-person learning quickly and safely.
The challenges of staff health screenings
1. Collecting and managing
This pandemic is unprecedented for the contemporary school environment. As such, the effort to collect and organize health data for all school staff on a daily basis is an unprecedented challenge. Not only is it important for these screenings to be done daily, by everyone, but they also need to be completed off campus. It doesn’t make sense to screen staff when they’ve already arrived at school and potentially infected someone.
The sheer scope of this project is further complicated by the fact that a school is a hub – permanent staff and teachers aren’t the only ones entering the school doors. What about substitute teachers, non-staff contractors, or visiting sports coaches? Any effective health screening program will include options for temporary visitors, as well.
Unlike testing, health screenings rely on the honesty of the subject. Staff are required to self-report their conditions and symptoms. The only way this works is if everyone knows exactly how important it is, and feels safe and comfortable reporting their condition. For this reason, education and privacy assurances will be integral to the success of any staff health screening program.
3. Privacy concerns
The privacy of health matters is a very touchy subject. Health privacy concerns have been such an issue that some states and districts have even refused to report school COVID cases to families. People want to keep their health to themselves, even though we know that transparency is important during a public crisis like this one.
Schools and districts need to be explicit and intentional about protecting anonymity and keeping specific health matters private, but they also have to prioritize transparency and safety. Not only do students and their families deserve to know about their exposure to COVID, but that knowledge can help prevent further spread of the virus, ultimately taking us a step closer to the end of this pandemic.
A solution for staff health screenings
So, how does one expedite and simplify this daunting process? The solution to these challenges can be found in an effective, simple tool that automates and streamlines the screening process.
Enter: the Daily Health Checker Project.
Campus Suite has teamed with Google's G Suite for Education and select school districts to create an online solution that sends an automated survey to staff before they come to campus and allows leaders to see real-time data on the health of employees district-wide.
At 3 a.m. daily, a COVID health survey link is automatically emailed to all registered staff. If anyone reports symptoms, they are told to self-isolate. School leaders can see, quickly and easily, who has responded, who has been told to stay home, and who hasn’t filled out their form. A constantly-updating quick reference log shows you exactly what you need to know to keep your school safe and operational.
This clear, consistent screening process – automated and backed by the biggest name in tech – will assuage concerns and make it easier for administrators to monitor school health both short-term and long-term. Also, as state governments and health departments continue to slice and dice data, this solution provides a built-in log of district screening results over time.
The Daily Health Checker can also help with staff resistance to health reporting, because they are likely to have more confidence in a formal online questionnaire than in, say, filling out a written form. Furthermore, users can rest easy knowing Google's commitment to data security and user privacy. All Daily Health Checker users must be Google authenticated for added protection.
Early success with the Daily Health Checker Project
In the case of Hudsonville (MI) Public Schools, that district implemented the Daily Health Checker Project to conduct automatic pre-arrival COVID-19 health screenings for over 1,000 district employees every day.
It's a streamlined, simple process. Using Google's Calendar, Email, Forms and Sheets, the district notifies employees that they need to complete their health survey, the results are automatically gathered, and they know in real-time who has and hasn't responded, and who passed or failed the screening. It's all done on the Google platform, so data security and user privacy are protected.
COVID-19 dashboard used by Hudsonville Public Schools to post weekly updates of confirmed cases and quarantines among staff and students.
This project has saved the district a lot of time and energy to monitor all its employees. It's a very economical solution to a big challenge, and can be up and running in just days.
Return to school with peace of mind
Safety and protection of the school population are the highest priority for any school leader, and never has that been more true than in the times of this pandemic.
I strongly encourage you to register for the case study webinar that details Hudsonville Public Schools and the Daily Health Checker Project. The Campus Suite Academy is hosting a webinar that shows how they're doing it and how it all came together.
Using Google tools and the multi-faceted Daily Health Checker Project – along with education and clear instructions for staff – will ensure your school is doing everything possible to return to in-person learning safely. And that’s good news for everyone.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.