Many families are concerned about the coronavirus that recently emerged in Wuhan, China. The CDC has provided a handout (enclosed) with information on this new disease, and Floyd County is providing local updates regarding the virus on its website.
A coronavirus spreads similarly to a cold or flu virus, so taking the same steps you would normally take during cold and flu season – washing hands frequently, using a 60% alcohol hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available, covering coughs and sneezes with your elbow, staying home when you are sick, and avoiding touching your mouth, eyes, and nose after potential contact with germs – will help protect you and prevent the spread of disease.
If you suspect you or your child may be sick, visit a doctor for assistance. Remember, as stated in school policy, children who are sick must stay home until fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medication for 24 hours. If your physician or the health department recommends a longer period of isolation or quarantine, then your child should not return to school until that period has ended.
If your child is diagnosed with COVID-19 or exposed to the coronavirus, please notify SJCP so that we can contact the health department for next steps to protect our preschool community. Please continue to notify SJCP about any symptoms your child is experiencing that will lead to absence from school as well. Respiratory illnesses and seasonal allergies are common among young children, but COVID-19 typically produces a dry cough, fever, and tiredness, according to the World Health Organization.
We know that the recent news of confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in Floyd County are concerning for parents. Please know that the staff here at SJCP are keeping up with all the latest recommendations from the Floyd County Public Health, Iowa Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help ensure the health and safety of students.
In the meantime, please know that SJCP will open this fall as long as the local health department does not recommend closing schools and child care facilities. Public health agencies tell us that the risk in sending children to school remains low for now.
The CDC reports that there is no evidence that children are more susceptible to infection with coronavirus than adults and that in most cases children without underlying health conditions have mild symptoms, with severe cases being uncommon among children. The main danger with healthy children at present is that they might pass the virus to someone in a vulnerable population: senior citizens and people with underlying health conditions.
Closures: SJCP continues to monitor the coronavirus situation in Floyd County. SJCP will follow the recommendations of the Floyd County Public Health/Iowa Department of Public Health regarding school and child care closures. SJCP, like other schools in the community, is planning to open for now.
Virus Exposure: Staff will be instructed to monitor students for the development of symptoms, and school policy continues to call for isolating any students who display symptoms of infection in the office until they can be picked up. If the preschool has a positive case, we will close down for the recommended 2 weeks to properly clean, disinfect, and sanitize the preschool and to allow all staff, students and their families to self-isolate.
If Your Child Gets Sick: Allergies and respiratory illnesses, including common cold and the flu, are common at this time of year. Most sniffles will not be Covid-19, the CDC says. However, if your child has a fever or other symptoms of acute illness (see the Health Policy), continue to follow school policies and keep them at home until the child is fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
If your child’s health-care provider recommends staying home longer, follow their recommendation. If your child is not well enough to fully participate in our program (including going outside to play), also plan to keep your child home a little longer.
For parents, grandparents, and children, the best policy is to follow the guidance of public health professionals and stay home if you are sick.
Please email (email@example.com) or call the preschool (641-228-7274) to let us know to expect your child’s absence and include any information about potential exposure. Any information about potential exposure shared with school families will not include identifying information.
Returning to School After Illness: SJCPs Health Policy states, “A child may not be readmitted to school after an absence of 3 or more school days due to illness without a written statement from a physician that the child may return to a regular schedule.” However, if you or your child contracts COVID-19, please self-isolate at home for the recommended 2 weeks.
Returning to School After Travel: Most travel remains unrestricted. However, the CDC has recommendations regarding avoiding contact with others after travel to countries with widespread community transmission, such as China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, and, to a lesser extent, Japan. If your child has returned recently from visiting one of these countries, please keep them at home for 14 days as recommended and notify SJCP.
The CDC currently recommends avoiding unnecessary travel to areas with a Level 3 advisory, as well as avoiding cruise ship travel. Please view their FAQ page for more information to help you make decisions about any upcoming spring break plans.
What Can Families Do?: See below for tips on limiting the spread of germs. Practice handwashing and coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue with kids at home.
What Is SJCP Doing Now?
We have instructed staff to review handwashing procedures with children, as handwashing continues to be the best option we have for limiting the spread of coronavirus and other illnesses. Staff members also wash their own hands and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers frequently. Classroom volunteers (Foster Grandmas) are also asked to wash their hands immediately upon entering a classroom.
SJCP staff will sign children in and out on families’ behalf to avoid passing the clipboard and pen through many hands. We will also temp each child BEFORE they enter the building. As for dismissal, all pick-up persons will need to remain in his/her car and a teacher will send your child out to you. NO parents/drop-off persons will be allowed down in the preschool.
Teachers are planning changes to classroom procedures, including teaching non-contact methods for greeting each other.
Staff members, like students, have been instructed to stay home if they are exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms or other symptoms of acute illness. Teachers will monitor children for symptoms such as fever and follow school policies on isolating sick children from other students.
Staff members will be extra vigilant about disinfecting classroom surfaces and toys using bleach-and-water solution and EPA-registered disinfecting cleaners. Play items such as play dough that cannot be easily disinfected are being temporarily retired.
SJCP director, Whittney Franke, will monitor communications from Floyd County Public Health, Charles City Public Schools, Iowa Department of Human Services, the CDC, and other sources for information on protecting students, families, and staff. Teachers are reflecting daily on class operations in order to identify other areas where we can continue to help promote children’s health.
Tips for Staying Healthy and Avoiding the Spread of Germs
Avoiding germs is on everyone’s mind these days as we hear story after story in the news about coronavirus. Please know that many of the same practices we use to help prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses can also help with coronavirus. The CDC recommends:
- Wash your hands frequently. Handwashing is cheap and effective. Take the time at home to work on proper handwashing technique with young children to ensure they are scrubbing all parts of their hands and washing for long enough. We also recommend teaching kids to turn off the faucet with a paper towel here at school to avoid reinfecting their hands by touching a dirty faucet.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Teach children to wash their hands after using tissues (or picking their nose, as is often the case with young children!). Face masks are not generally necessary unless you are already infected and trying to avoid passing your germs to others via respiratory droplets.
- Keep children home when they are sick (and stay home when you are sick). SJCP requires that children be fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication before returning to school. Follow your physician’s advice if you think 24 hours may not be long enough to prevent spreading germs to others.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. This could include phones, remote controls, tables, doorknobs, faucets, countertops, light switches, and more. You can use regular disinfecting wipes or disinfecting cleaning sprays for this (be careful to read the directions on the container to make sure you are leaving the surface wet long enough for disinfecting to work). If you find the store shelves are cleaned out, you can also clean with dish soap and water and disinfect with a solution of 2 tablespoons of 8.25% bleach and 4 cups of cool water. Bleach disinfecting solution should stay on the surface for five minutes. After that, rinse the surface and allow it to air dry. Bleach solution should be made fresh every day to maintain its effectiveness.
(*Policy adapted from Good Shepherd Lutheran Preschool in Maryland.)