Reopening schools post COVID-19: A facilities manager's guide

On Sunday 10th May the Prime Minister announced a “conditional plan” to reopen society which included a three step plan to modify the lockdown measures. This plan sets out the phased re-opening of schools starting with Reception, Year One and Year Six pupils, to begin no earlier than 1st June.

The governments 3 step plan

This was followed up the next day with the release of the Governments “Plan to Rebuild” and whilst the document had some more guidance it was still lacking in specific detail. This potentially leaves schools with less than three weeks to prepare for a partial reopening.
Whether your school has been fully or partially closed during the current period of lockdown there are preparatory actions that will be needed to ensure operational readiness. Below we have listed some considerations for managers of school facilities.

Facility considerations:

  • Kitchen equipment deep clean: Equipment will have been, at best, underutilised. It is likely that daily hygiene practices will have been missed allowing potential bacterial growth on surfaces and equipment.
  • Heating and cooling system check:Settings will need to be changed if previously placed in holiday or energy saving mode. Additionally, during in lockdown there has been a change of season therefore settings may need altering accordingly.
  • Water hygiene sampling: Assuming the actions listed in the legionella risk assessment have been followed, with the addition of increased weekly flushing to include the outlets rendered little used by the under occupation in the lockdown period, then sampling is not required but may be desirable. If the above has not been followed or the system has been drained a full system chlorination would be required along with the relevant testing.
  • Fire alarm test: Good practice would have seen the weekly fire alarm test continue but the system should be tested a minimum of a week prior to reoccupation to allow for the remedy of any faults.
  • Mechanical ventilation check: As these are unlikely to have been classified as requiring essential maintenance it may be worth checking operation and cleanliness of filters to ensure efficient and effective operation.
  • Time clock adjustments: It seems a long time ago that British Summer Time officially commenced but this was after lockdown began therefore time clocks need checking for heating systems, intruder alarms, CCTV, etc.
  • Emergency light test: At least a week before reopening complete a monthly emergency light check to ensure any remedial work can be completed in time.
  • Deep clean: Normal cleaning practices for underutilised areas will have likely ceased, therefore a deep clean is recommended to ensure all areas are ready for occupation.
  • Revised grounds maintenance regime: March and April are key months in grounds maintenance and assuming visits have not gone ahead as planned a revised short term regime may need to be implemented. Two weeks before reopening you may want to consider a thorough application of weed killer to all hard landscaped areas. If the grass has been left to grow quite long, a cut and collect service could be requested as excess cuttings left uncollected will have a detrimental effect.
  • Notify security contractors: If you have a monitored CCTV system it would be worth informing the company who manage this of any change to occupation times. Similarly, adjust timings for any fail to open/close protocols that are in place.
  • Waste removal review: It will be necessary to restart waste collections (if previously cancelled) when the reopening date is confirmed.In addition, the frequency/quantity of bin collections may need reviewing to suit the level of revised occupation.
  • When not used for some time things have a greater tendency to fail, so schedule a mock full opening to ensure that all is working as expected.

People considerations

  • Ensure any revised staff rota takes into account the required ratio of first aiders and that adequate coverage of fire wardens is in place.
  • Consider if any new emergency evacuation procedures are required, whether routes need amending and revisit any existing PEEPs
  • Dependent on your buildings design some reduced toilet access may be necessary and decommissioning of some urinals to allow for maintenance of social distancing guidelines.
  • There could be an increase in staff and pupils needing or choosing to cycle to school so consideration should be given to storage capacity.

Revised working practice considerations:

  • Entrance & egress routes may need to be reviewed to aide social distancing, this could include a requirement for new way finding signage
  • Similarly one way systems could be considered, again with the requisite signage.
  • Application of social distance markings in any likely areas that queues are likely to form
  • Consider day time sanitisation of major touch points (ie. bathrooms and door handles) and additional cleaning time to allow for increased daily sanitising
  • Review signing in procedures to eliminate sharing pens, touch screens, etc. Also, consider replacing visitor lanyard badges with a disposable alternative.

Final considerations:

  • Ensure the stocks of tea, coffee, milk and (most importantly) biscuits are replenished!
  • We hope you have found the above informative and useful.

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