After three months of teaching pupils remotely following pandemic enforced closures of schools around the world, Harrow International School in Bangkok reopened its doors to students last week. Operations manager Timothy Chappell shares his experience.
As soon as the school closed to students on 12 March, the operations team started to make plans for reopening: completing risk assessments across the campus to identify high-risk areas for transmission, and identifying suitable and proportionate engineering, physical and administrative control measures.
As a result, the school invested in 335 automatic soap dispensers, 250 automatic hand sanitisers, 300 automatic taps, 85 stainless steel hospital-grade sinks, nine ‘thermoscanners’, 40 shoe sanitising mats and 90 foot-operated door plates.
Having identified the potential antimicrobial properties of copper, the school also invested in copper buttons for lifts, and copper film for other high-touch points such as stair handrails and counter surfaces. The school also created a new entrance for pre-prep students to further reduce the congestion at the main entrance.
Physical control measures included barriers to support one-way systems, reorganising of classroom and offices to adhere to social distancing, adjusting seating plans for buses, improving ventilation of classrooms, and removal of setting in communal areas. All of these measures where supported by an array of signage.
Changes to lesson times, extended catering times, altered food menus, and delivery, restricted access to campus, were just some of the administrative measures taken to reduce congestion around campus.
Educating and preparing students is key to successfully reopening a school. To help educate both staff and students about the new normal, the school produced a video to demonstrate what students would expect on their return, and an informative cleaning video, to help reassure parents the campus was clean and safe to operate. The school already has a high standard of cleaning, with steam cleaners and UV disinfection equipment, all operated by an outsourced specialist company.
Training staff was key before the school reopened, to prepare staff, they provided online learning while working from their classrooms to help them understand the new procedures and challenges they would face delivering education. Once the school reopened, teachers could then role model good behaviour and positive reinforcement to following the rules.
Dr Preecha Premprari, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control, together with Dr Suthat Chotapanapan, director of the Office of Risk Communication and Health Behavior and development director of the Institute for Disease Prevention and Control, inspected Harrow Bangkok and said the control measures are 'excellent and suitable and can be a model school for other educational institutions in the prevention and control of such diseases.’
IOSH practical guidance for schools to return safely after the COVID-19 outbreak is available here.