Due to close student contact and lack of proper hygiene practices, schools are ideal breeding grounds for the spread of illness and disease. Much of this day-to-day germ sharing is inevitable, but in the event of a communicable disease outbreak, you should be prepared to take further precautionary measures. You are responsible for the health and safety of your staff and students, so it is essential that you have the proper policies and procedures in place to respond to a communicable disease outbreak.
Educational and child care facilities must develop a communicable disease policy requiring staff to notify their supervisor of any possible disease exposure. This will allow school officials to take proactive preventive measures against the spread of the disease.
In addition, encourage staff to communicate with parents and students to ensure that student disease exposures and illnesses are reported immediately. This includes encouraging students that travel overseas to have the recommended vaccinations beforehand and requiring that they inform the school of any possible disease exposure upon returning.
Since medical disclosures are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you must ensure that your policy meets the requirements of the ADA, including keeping employee health information confidential as required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). As part of the policy, employees may be asked to work reduced hours or may be removed from certain teaching duties until they are no longer contagious.
Social distancing is one of the best methods to prevent the spread of a communicable disease. Unfortunately, this is often not possible in a classroom setting. Encourage staff members to stay home when they are ill to prevent the spread of disease to other staff or students. In addition, during a disease outbreak, some staff members may be forced to stay home to care for sick family members. In order to prepare for such a situation, your leave policies should address the following issues:
Compliance with the directives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with regard to social distancing – this may mean staff being removed temporarily from teaching duties, sent home or required to work remotely or solitary on paperwork and other similar tasks.
- Maintenance of school operations, including backup teaching plans for absent staff (combined classes, substitutes, etc.).
Limiting unnecessary social interaction among staff members. This may include avoiding in-person meetings and instead using email, telephone or other remote conferencing strategy.
Address the following logistical concerns:
o How staff should request communicable-disease leave.
o Requirements for reporting medical conditions.
o Whether leave is paid or unpaid.
- Creating a communicable disease response plan is an effective way to communicate with employees clearly while also complying with local, state and federal guidelines for pandemic responses. Plans should be concise, easy to understand and effective in preserving the health and safety of all employees. Plans should include:
- The designation of a person within the workplace who is responsible for all disease planning and emergency actions.
- Communication of the policy and required steps for requesting leave.
- Development of protocol with regard to requiring ill staff members to stay home and filling the spots of sick teachers.
- Development of a monitoring program to track employees who cannot return to work immediately due to illness.
- Plan distribution timeline and format (online, hard copy, etc.).
- Student and parent education, including proper hygiene techniques such as frequent hand washing
- In the very worst of situations, school officials must be flexible and creative to continue to keep their school open as long as possible while also protecting their employees and students. If you are prepared for a possible communicable disease outbreak, you and your staff will be able to better respond.
Contact Carriage Trade Insurance to learn more about our School Insurance and Health Insurance options.