Back to School

August 6, 2020: Diligence (Still) Required: Reopening Doesn’t Mean Lower Risks

ABMP connected with epidemiologist Tessa Crume, an associate professor in the Epidemiology Department at the Colorado School of Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, to get her expert advice on our current climate. You can read it here. This piece reinforces our original May 12, 2020 statement, which you can read below.

May 12, 2020

In all our years of serving massage and bodywork programs, we have never seen a bigger challenge than the one we face today. Bringing staff and students back to campus during the COVID-19 crisis is daunting on several fronts—schools must be watchful of the impacts they face as an employer and business entity, they must honor their educational promise to the student body, and they must protect the public’s interests as they visit your student clinics and put their trust in your students’ hands. There is a lot at stake in making sound, informed choices as we move forward. What follows is the best advice ABMP can offer at this time regarding reopening your massage and bodywork program.

As states begin to allow for reopening in various stages, school owners will make different decisions. While some will dive back in as soon as state permissions are in hand, others likely will pause until certain medical milestones are in place in their community before bringing everyone back on campus. Your school will have to find its own comfort zone. Your staff and students will be making similar assessments.

The reality is that whenever stay-at-home orders are lifted in your area—earlier or later—many of you are still going to be faced with the question, “Should we go back to work?” That is not a question we can answer for you. With the possibility of asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19, every choice we make in the foreseeable future has a real level of risk attached. Even with stringent sanitation protocols and enhanced screening processes, there still exists a risk of infection in your school community.

For those schools planning to get back onsite, what follows is a hierarchy of ideas and precautions we strongly encourage you to consider for your school, your staff, and your students. We understand that not every idea here may fit for you—we plan to continue to add to this information, as well as share ideas from our school community submitted to education@abmp.com.

For every school, we do emphasize the reality that while these may be ways to make your learning environments safer, there is no known way to fully eliminate the risk of COVID-19 transmission and infection. There simply is no risk-free environment in which to conduct business today.

Summary

Using COVID-19 best practice recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), guidance from other health-care sectors, findings from the limited and preliminary research on the virus, and the most accurate updates we could gather from the quickly evolving science, we’ve compiled this document of protocols that seem most appropriate for schools that will be transitioning back to an in-person training model.

This document does not represent a recommendation from ABMP for bringing students and staff back to your brick-and-mortar, but rather gives our best guidance for when that time comes.

There Are No Guarantees

In lieu of a cure, vaccine, antibody tests, or other intervention for COVID-19, there is no way right now to venture back into face-to-face learning environments without revised protocols to protect your staff and your students.

Important School Reopening Considerations

  • You must abide by the guidelines and recommendations of your state and/or local governments and agencies regarding reopening your school. If you are working as an employee, consult with your employer to understand the precautions they are taking on behalf of you and your students.
  • Following CDC guidelines is imperative to offering the safest experience for your staff and your students. Much of the information that follows draws from CDC guidelines, which are available for your personal reference at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. For more information on CDC’s guidelines for businesses and employers, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/businesses-employers.html.
  • A requirement in any reopening plan will be the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically face masks for staff, students, and clinic clients. We understand that PPE is scarce and any available supplies are being redirected—rightly so—to frontline workers and health assistance staff who are still operating without the proper supply of equipment they need to work safely. Diverting supplies for non-emergency equipment requests at this time would be dangerous and unethical. Consider other options for face coverings for your staff and your students in the interim. For clinic operations, disposable masks should be made available for all clients who arrive without their own face covering. We have an overview of PPE options at www.abmp.com/updates/blog-posts/use-personal-protective-equipment-ppe-massage-therapists.

What Your School Might Look Like When You Return

  • You’ve likely already been faced with putting at least some of your curriculum online or figuring out how to deliver distance learning in the blink of an eye. What is the evolution of that process? What has it taught you? What’s next? Will you leave some distance learning pieces in place? Is it time to reconsider your curriculum and its delivery timeline altogether?
  • Staff and students may have trepidations about being back on campus. What plans do you have for accommodating and alleviating these fears? Will you offer additional sick leave and remote work opportunities for staff, or amended grading and attendance policies for students? How will you protect and/or accommodate staff and students with underlying health conditions, who may be uncomfortable returning to the school’s on-site facility? Will your classrooms be set up to honor the social distancing guidelines? And what does that mean for class size and student enrollments? What has your state specifically said about class sizes? Will you have enough PPE available for staff, students, and your student clinic clients?
  • Temper your expectations—it may be a while before you’re fully up and running efficiently again. While students are off-campus, use the time to update school policies, work on language changes for your website and materials, create virtual tours for student prospects, reconfigure the layout of classrooms and class schedules, revise your goals for next quarter, and have the hard conversation about whether to open your student clinic doors to the public anytime soon. Would a janitorial team be helpful in classroom and clinic area sanitation protocols, or does involving students in the post-class cleanup satisfy your sense of sanitation security?
  • Come back slowly—you do not need to bring all classes back to your brick-and-mortar location on day one. See what challenges you encounter by scheduling a few in-person classes simultaneously before pulling the trigger on having all classes delivered on-site again. Finding enough hand sanitizer and disposable face masks will be but one of your challenges initially. Think about how a change in class or clinic schedules might impact your hours of operation. Watch what’s happening in your communities and your counties for clues as to what the virus is doing. And be prepared for how you will pivot if and when the next wave comes through.

For more ideas and specific protocols on how to reopen your school, choose one of the other sections in the menu above.

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