Table 1

Strategies for reopening schools

1. Reopen schools in a staged fashion.
A number of countries have reopened kindergartens and primary schools first (Denmark and Norway).
2. Incorporate social distancing.
Across the school
  • Close playgrounds or social distance within playgrounds, for example, single-class groups in playground at a time, implementing social distancing during play.

  • Stagger school start times and period changes for year, to avoid years mixing and to reduce social contacts in corridors.

  • Stop all communal activities, for example, dining, assemblies and sports.

  • Ensure social distancing on school buses and other transports.

  • Split school into halves so that only half the years attend at one time. This could be half-days (some years in the morning, some in the afternoon, with no mixing), alternating full days or alternating weeks (half the students attend every second week).

  • Keep children in constant class groups to reduce range of contacts.

  • Keep all books or equipment at school to reduce potential for transmission through surfaces. Avoid sharing of equipment between children.

Within-year groupsSplit each year so that half the classes in a year attend at a time. Again this could be half-days, alternating full days or alternating weeks or fortnights. Fortnights may be epidemiologically more effective at disrupting transmission.
Within classes
  • Split classes so that only half of each class (or a maximum of 15–20 students) attend at any one time. Splits could be half-days, full days or weekly.

  • Physical social distancing within classes, separation of desks by 1–2 m; physical barriers between desks have been implemented in some countries.

3. Infection control, testing and tracing.
  • Institute hygiene practices, both personal (handwashing) and institutional (regular cleaning of surfaces) and education of students in hygiene and infection control.

  • Testing and tracing of contacts of positive cases.

  • Isolation of suspected cases in students and staff.

  • National and regional class and school closure policies, depending on infection burden in students.

4. Protect teachers and vulnerable students.
  • (Re)Institute programmes to support vulnerable children before schools reopen and continue them during reopening.

  • Encourage older or medically vulnerable teachers to provide administrative support or virtual teaching.

  • Social distancing for teachers within classrooms.

  • Basic protective equipment for teachers.

  • Wearing of face masks: the WHO currently does not recommend wearing of face masks in community settings but recognises current uncertainty and that some countries recommend them.

5. Research and evaluate.