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The 2020 fall semester is in full swing and schools across the country are navigating the unique challenges of this school year in vastly different ways. Eleven states have ordered schools to open for in-person classes or are proceeding with only partial closures, according to Education Week. The majority of states have no official state order, so school openings and closures vary by district.

Schools that are opening to in-person classes are not out of danger as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 200,000 lives nationwide and is on the rise in some Midwestern states, such as Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.

Recent evidence suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can not only be spread through large respiratory droplets, but can also be aerosolized into smaller particles and breathed into the lungs of individuals more than 6 feet away from an infected person. This type of transmission is more likely to occur indoors in spaces with poor ventilation, according to the CDC.

This information is especially troubling for school districts where students are riding the bus or are gathered indoors for classes. According to the Wall Street Journal, about 36,000 schools nationwide need HVAC updates to maintain proper ventilation and airflow.

To limit the spread of COVID-19 between students, teachers and administrators should take the following precautions.

  1. Open classroom windows to increase airflow and cross-ventilation.
  2. If possible, reduce class sizes or move classes into larger spaces.
  3. Use portable air purifiers in classrooms and make sure they are positioned in central areas.
  4. Clean and disinfect all commonly-used surfaces and prevent students from sharing any items.
  5. Enforce the use of masks and social distancing while on campus or in class.
  6. Develop a mitigation and response plan in the event of a positive case.
  7. Educate students and parents about how to decrease risk and community spread outside of school.

For more information, view the CDC guidelines here.