Preparation to start a new school year
Before the upcoming school year I would like to inform you about the preparation of the school (understood as a team of institutions: club, kindergarten, primary school, secondary school) to start a new school year during the coronavirus epidemic.
In our three locations, a sufficient number of non-contact hand disinfectant dispensers have been purchased and supplies of disinfectant have been made before the holidays. During the holidays, the ventilation and air conditioning of the rooms and the school bus were inspected and cleaned (filters replaced). Each room where children and teenagers are staying is equipped with an air purifier which not only traps dust particles, allergens, mites, PM10 and PM2.5 pollen, but also removes bacteria, viruses and fungi. In the auditorium on the fourth floor at 6a Belwederska Street, where various school celebrations and performances of our students of different ages (from kindergarten to secondary school) take place, there is an activ tek ap3000 air purifier for large areas, using needle ionization, ion field generator, molecular oxygen activation and ultraviolet rays, photocatalytic reactions and an advanced oxidation process. The device destroys microorganisms in the air and on surfaces.
In each of our three locations – at 13 Stępińska Street, 7 Górska Street and 6a Belwederska Street – there is one mobile direct-acting bactericidal lamp (on wheels), which irreversibly inactivates viruses, bacteria, fungi, moulds and is most often used in treatment rooms and operating theatres. It can be switched on after people leave the room. Disinfection of each room takes 15-20 minutes.
In the building at Belwederska Street, from 1 September this year, a person will start working, who will be responsible only for disinfecting the tops of students’ and teachers’ tables in the classrooms and the teachers’ room, and – for ventilating the rooms (in all rooms, despite air conditioning in some of them, all windows open). This is due to the fact that this facility is cleaned after the end of classes. In the other two locations the cleaning staff is also available during teaching and care hours.
Thanks to the inspiration of our two students I also decided to make a serious investment – the application of nanotechnological disinfection in all our facilities. In Warsaw such a solution was introduced in June this year by the Copernicus Science Centre. A detailed description of this technology can be found on the Centre’s website. In the buildings at 13 Stępińska Street and 6a Belwederska Street and in the premises of the kindergarten at 7 Górska Street, the antiseptic coating will cover (28th and 29th August this year) all contact points: handles, stair railings, switches, buttons, computer keyboards, lifts with walls, all toilets (taps, cisterns, soap dispensers), countertops in secretariats, countertops in the canteens, touch panels of devices (e.g. photocopiers), handles in cupboards and cabinets. Also – handles and railings in the school bus.
The surfaces will be covered with a preparation based on titanium dioxide, which will create a photoactive coating – durable and retaining its antiseptic properties for at least one year, and sometimes even several years, depending on the frequency of use. Titanium dioxide is approved for use throughout the European Union and is used in the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetics industries. It is completely safe.
As I mentioned – this technology is very expensive – but after long negotiations we were finally treated with kindness and in a concessionary way. We have necessarily opted for a minimalist option. The contractor recommends coating the tops of all furniture, walls and ceilings, but this option is beyond the financial possibilities of the school. We are looking for a sponsor… If we find him, we will be able to order the “Lumichem” company to cover larger areas with the preparation, which will also provide air purification in rooms where antiseptic coatings will cover walls and ceilings.
But I think we are still well prepared to welcome the whole community within the school walls.
We have quite a favourable ratio of the number of students to the usable area of the premises. The tenement house at Stępińska Street has 1500.00 m2. There are about one hundred students learning there. The building at Belwederska Street has 2000 m2. In the coming school year there will be a little more than 200 students learning there. The premises at 7 Górska Street have 315 m2. About 35 children will be accommodated there.
We have also changed the organization of the facilities’ work through:
1. Limiting the entry of people other than students and school staff into the building. Only in the children’s club, kindergarten and lower primary school (class 0-4) parents will have limited access to classrooms.
2. Obligation to wear masks in buildings. It will apply to people from outside as well as older students (classes 5-8 and secondary school students) and their teachers. The masks will be obligatory during breaks, in corridors, staircases, cloakroom, food service, canteen. During lessons in classes and while eating meals at the tables the mask can be taken off.
3. The obligation to change shoes and leave outerwear in the cloakroom (by both students and teachers).
4. Obligation to disinfect hands immediately after entering the building and to wash them frequently during the day.
5. Measuring the temperature of students with a remote thermometer before the start of classes.
6. Obligation to keep a distance of at least 1.5 m during conversation.
7. Resignation from (with a heavy heart, for the first time in 28 years!) the “green school” for older students at the beginning of the school year to reduce the risk of infection of the participants.
8. Introduction of hybrid teaching in grades 5-8 of primary school from the second week of school in September and pre-DP grades in secondary school from October, following the pattern: school week, week – online. Older students are doing well with remote learning. This will result in a lower density of people at school during periods of seasonal infections and create a weekly quarantine for students. A large number of young people have found their place in remote learning very well. The school has developed attractive forms of work on the Microsoft Teams platform and they are worth using.
9. Take advantage of the opportunities offered by Microsoft Teams in organizing at least some of the meetings with parents and teaching boards.
10. Prohibit students and teachers from coming to school if they observe any signs of infection. These people will conduct/attend classes online.
11. Purchase twelve additional laptops with webcams that will enable hybrid education.
12. Acquiring additional space for older students. Classes for them will also be held on the ground floor of the building on Belwederska Street. There is an additional area of 350 m2. This has become possible because the number of kindergarten students has decreased and the kindergarten has returned to its old location at 7 Górska Street. This will create three additional classrooms, including one which will become a “science” studio (on the second floor, so there will be two such studios in the building) and a room for quiet work for the Diploma Programme students (in place of the former dining room on the second floor). The area of the canteen, which will now be on the ground floor, will increase significantly. We have purchased equipment for these newly created rooms, including three multimedia projectors.
13. Creating a second teachers’ room on the ground floor.
14. Creating from the side of Belwederska Street a “classroom under the cloud”, enabling the organization of outdoor lessons.
15. Spreading the idea: one for all, all for one. Making all members of the school community aware that unreasonable behaviour of one person can “send” many families to forced quarantine. Unreasonable behaviour by the majority can lead to an individual’s health tragedy. Let the pandemic become an important lesson in shaping attitudes of social solidarity, the ability to take care of each other. This task will require great care, breaking existing habits, especially those concerning social distance. Breaking habits is very difficult. Everyone has to be aware of this and watch themselves closely.
Before the start of the school year, you will receive detailed information from the vice principals of each facility and classroom teachers on the course of the inauguration celebrations for the school year 2020/2021 and on the security procedures on that day and during the pandemic.
And finally, since the sixth of May 2020, our children’s club and kindergarten have been working continuously. A moment later, classes started in grades 0-3 of lower primary school. The sanitary procedures implemented proved to be effective. I think that therefore the parents of our youngest students are the calmest at the moment. I hope that the new school year will start equally calmly in grades 4-8 of primary school and secondary school.
Warsaw, 24 August 2020