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Communities on the Frontline: Week of July 13

Around the world, communities are using innovative approaches to support coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on communities that are using new protocols and resources to adapt to new learning environments.

Precautions at Primary Schools

At a Nashville, Tennessee day school, teachers disinfect kids’ lunchboxes at drop-off in the morning, and children must switch into a designated pair of shoes that remain at the school. Schools are also removing soft toys and dress-up clothes and dividing supplies, such as markers and scissors, so that each child can have their own. To prepare for students who may test positive for COVID-19 as operations resume, some schools designated isolation rooms where sick children can wait for pickup from school. The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) recommends that the isolation room is adjacent to a nurse’s office and features an outside access door.

Precautions at Child Care Centers

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a preschool divided its playground into sections so that different classes could play at the same time. To accommodate limited indoor space for social distancing, a childcare center in Atlanta, Georgia placed privacy dividers between cots and cribs, which were arranged in an alternated head-to-toe pattern. In classrooms with infants, teachers are using clear masks so that infants can take cues from facial expressions.

Staffing to Support Reduced Class Sizes

Although school reopening guidance recommends emptier classrooms to encourage social distancing, overcrowded schools in New York have about 30 students in one class and an insufficient number of teachers to accommodate reduced class sizes. To address the staffing shortage, the president of New York City's teacher's union suggested supplementing staffing for in-person or remote teaching with employees from the city’s Department of Education who have teaching certificates. Classes may also be held in cafeterias or gyms to allow for adequate social distancing.

Resources to Support Remote Learning

Nordic countries, such as Estonia, Finland, and Denmark, made their remote learning tools and resources available for global use at no cost, although the duration of free access varies by resource. This online source is regularly updated and allows users to sort by "General Education", "Early Years", and "Higher Education". Examples of resources include management tools for lessons and homework assignments, exam and quiz generators, and messaging applications for communication between teachers and students or families.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.