The U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office of Safe and Supportive Schools (OSSS) and its REMS TA Center would like to express gratitude to education agency leaders, essential staff, community partners, and other key stakeholders who have gone above and beyond in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. From your efforts to redesign protocols to ensure the safety of essential staff to the layers of planning work required to prepare for the reopening of schools, we applaud and appreciate you. If you need TA support at this time, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 1-855-781-REMS . We also encourage you to visit our COVID-19 Web page to access newly released resources developed by the REMS TA Center and other Federal and national partners to support response and recovery efforts.
Topical Resource Feature
This section of our newsletter features resources relevant to seasonal trends, current events, and other timely topics in the field.
Preparing for the Reopening of K-12 Schools and Institutions of Higher Education
As we approach a new academic season, the REMS TA Center has witnessed K-12 and higher ed agencies across the country collaborating with key partners on the local, state, and Federal levels to manage the reopening of schools. On August 12, the White House issued new recommendations to help “guide schools toward a pathway of safe reopening while empowering families to make the best decisions for their children.” Along with providing guidance aimed at protecting the most vulnerable populations, including high-risk teachers and students, the Trump Administration has offered eight general recommendations for all schools and campuses, which include the following:
- Ensure all students, teachers, and staff understand the symptoms of COVID-19 and its risk factors.
- Require all students, teachers, and staff to self-assess their health every morning before coming to school; if they are symptomatic, they should consult their physician.
- Encourage frequent handwashing or hand sanitizing during the school day, beginning upon entrance to the school, by ensuring that handwashing facilities are widely available throughout the school.
- Minimize large indoor group gatherings; hold large gatherings outdoors whenever possible.
- Maintain high standards of hygiene and ventilation within all classrooms, including keeping windows and doors open and running fans and AC units whenever possible.
- Require students, teachers, and staff to socially distance around high-risk individuals.
- Encourage the use of masks when social distancing is not possible.
- Liberally post instructions regarding hygiene and social distancing around the school.
ED and its TA centers have also issued guidance documents and supplementary resources to support schools and campuses with decision making around the topic of reopening. Visit the COVID-19 Resources for Schools, Students, and Families Web page for the most up-to-date resources from ED on the COVID-19 pandemic, and also download Returning to School During and After Crisis: A Guide to Supporting States, Districts, Schools, Educators, and Students through a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Framework during the 2020–2021 School Year, recently released by ED’s TA Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). This new resource for the K-12 population describes the use of a multi-tiered systems of support framework to support students, families, and educators with transitioning back to school while also prioritizing health and safety, social and emotional needs, and behavioral and academic growth. Information is provided to support implementation at the state, district, school, and classroom levels, including the
Guide to the Guide video developed to support education agencies with implementation, as well as streamlined guidance documents for states, districts, and schools.
Although reopening considerations for key stakeholders representing the K-12 and higher ed learning settings are similar, there are needs that are unique to each population. ED’s OSSS and its REMS TA Center recommend that education agency partners view and share the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently updated Preparing K-12 School Administrators for a Safe Return to School in Fall 2020 Web page as well as its related Web page for the higher ed population.
Preparing for the Reopening of Institutions of Higher Education
ED also recently announced a new grant program specifically for institutions of higher education (IHEs). The purpose of the Institutional Resilience and Expanded Postsecondary Opportunity program, which was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, is to support IHEs with various aspects of recovery so that they can “emerge from the coronavirus pandemic more resilient and better able to expand educational opportunities for students.” Learn more about the grant program and how to apply.
The REMS TA Center encourages higher ed partners and practitioners to take the following steps to access continuous support before, during, and after the reopening of campuses:
Seeking sample reopening models and tool kits from other states, localities, and agencies? The REMS TA Center has created K-12 Public Forums and Higher Ed Public Forums within our Community of Practice (CoP) on the topic “Reopening Schools and Reconstitution” to address those unique K-12 and higher ed considerations. Join the CoP today to view the existing national, state, and local resources that the REMS TA Center and your state partners have uploaded to the forums. We also encourage partners to share state, local, and/or agency plans and tool kits specific to reopening within those related forums.
Functional Resource Feature
This section of our newsletter features resources that can support education agencies, with their community partners, with efforts to strengthen emergency management functions and overall preparedness capacity.
NEW U.S. Department of Justice Report on Ten Essential Actions to Improve School Safety
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and its School Safety Working Group recently released a NEW report titled Ten Essential Actions to Improve School Safety. It outlines action steps that education agencies can take in collaboration with their law enforcement partners and other key stakeholders to “mitigate and prevent school violence as well as to facilitate swift and effective law enforcement assistance when it is necessary.” Developed with insight from agencies — including the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the National Association of School Resource Officers, the National Police Foundation, and the National Sheriffs’ Association — its key focus is school violence. However, the recommendations and principles can be applied to comprehensive school safety planning efforts that aim to address all hazards and threats, including biological, natural, and technological hazards.
In analyzing essential actions and guiding principles that can help enhance efforts to protect students, the DOJ School Safety Working Group categorized its recommendations into two categories: physical safety and emotional security. Find the key topics covered under each category listed below.
- Comprehensive school safety assessment
- Campus, building, and classroom security
- Coordination with first responders
- School-based law enforcement
- School climate
- Anonymous reporting systems
- Behavior threat assessment and management
- Mental health resources
- Social media monitoring
The report also presents the following guiding principles that reflect the Federal government’s continuous emphasis on school safety planning efforts that are comprehensive, collaborative, and multidisciplinary:
- A balanced approach to enhance safety and security in the learning environment
- A holistic approach that reflects physical safety, mental health, and personal connections to the school community
- A multidisciplinary approach that involves school personnel — including teachers, administrators, counselors, mental health professionals, and support staff such as janitors and school bus drivers — as well as law enforcement, other first responders, community-based resources, and families
- A focus on attack prevention via intervention rather than solely victim mitigation
To download a full copy of and learn more about the background behind the report, visit the COPS Office Website at https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/ric.php?page=detail&id=COPS-W0891.
ED’s OSSS and REMS TA Center regularly collaborate with DOJ’s COPS Office on key topics specific to school safety, security, and emergency management. Our most recent collaboration includes a 2019 Webinar, A Discussion on the Role of School Resource Officers in School Safety and a Review of the Averted School Violence Database, on the roles of school resource officers in school safety and the importance of integrating plans to prevent and respond to school violence. Webinar partners also included the National Association of School Resource Officers, the National Police Foundation, and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.
Help Desk Request Snapshot
This section of our newsletter highlights a noteworthy topic among TA inquiries received from the field during the last quarter.
As school and campus buildings reopen according to decisions made in collaboration with local public health departments, the REMS TA Center recommends that education agency leaders and safety planning partners review and determine options and protocols to ensure that disease transmission prevention measures are in place. Federal agencies have created a variety of resources and tools to help public agencies, including schools and IHEs, understand mitigative steps they can take to protect students, staff, faculty, and visitors. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) fact sheet on protecting workers during a pandemic offers some key considerations regarding communication, training, and control measures. Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees is one workplace control that is mentioned in OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.
One challenge that education agencies may face as they explore the integration of PPE in the school and campus settings is addressing possible PPE shortages, as well as understanding how to address other issues specific to access and availability. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created a fact sheet on addressing PPE needs in non-healthcare setting that includes acquiring PPE during shortages. FEMA recommends that agencies ask the following key questions before seeking support with addressing PPE shortages:
- Do you employ essential critical infrastructure workers?
- Have you implemented all possible PPE use reduction strategies?
- Have you sought regulatory relief or implemented approved alternatives?
- Is the PPE needed considered “scarce or threatened medical supplies”?
- Have you properly defined the need?
Education agency partners in some localities have reached out to the REMS TA Center for support with estimating the recommended and required PPE types and quantities within school and campus settings. Types of PPE may include, but are not limited to, gowns, gloves, respirators, surgical masks, face shields, aprons/smocks, safety glasses/goggles, and protective eyewear. Requirements regarding the types of PPE to be used in the school and campus settings may vary by state, but it’s important for education agency leaders to sit down with safety planning teams and partners to think through which staff and faculty — including teachers, aides, and school nurses — have the highest frequency of contact with students as well as which personnel — such as administrators and office staff — may have the highest frequency of contact with families, visitors, and other school personnel. Consider the amount of PPE each role within the school will need and whether different individuals require different types or amounts of PPE based on their roles and responsibilities.
For support, the REMS TA Center has created the following list of action steps that education agencies can take as they explore PPE access, availability, and shortages:
- Confirm state requirements and recommendations. Contact your state emergency management agency or partners to determine whether any state requirements or recommendations have been shared. State and local departments of labor, workplace safety, and/or health may also be key sources of informational support with this topic.
- Review the CDC PPE Burn Rate Calculator. The CDC created this tool to help agencies plan for the use of PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic. This spreadsheet-based model was designed for healthcare facilities but may also be useful for non-healthcare facilities. The CDC also offers strategies to optimize the supply of PPE and equipment for healthcare professionals. Some of those strategies may be applicable to the school and campus settings.
- Create virtual and in-person trainings on how to properly use PPE gear. The REMS TA Center, along with Federal partners, recommend that education agencies offer training opportunities for students, staff, and the whole school and campus community on how to properly put on and take off PPE gear and how to help preserve the supply. The CDC provides information on using PPE, and OSHA recommends “providing workers with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviors (e.g., cough etiquette and care of PPE).” Ensuring the proper fit and use of PPE is equally as important as ensuring access and availability.
- Develop a PPE self-inspection checklist. OSHA offers a PPE self-inspection checklist that schools can use or mirror. The agency recommends the following regarding PPE:
- Selected based upon the hazard to the worker.
- Properly fitted and periodically refitted, as applicable (e.g., respirators).
- Consistently and properly worn when required.
- Regularly inspected, maintained, and replaced, as necessary.
- Properly removed, cleaned, and stored or disposed of, as applicable, to avoid contamination of self, others, or the environment.
For additional resources from Federal partners on COVID-19, visit the REMS TA Center’s Coronavirus Web page.
NEW REMS TA Center Virtual Trainings
This section of our newsletter features details specific to the REMS TA Center Trainings by Request (TBRs) and #REMSontheRoad Program.
The REMS TA Center offers a variety of TBRs for delivery on site at schools, school districts, or IHEs. For each training, we provide—free of charge—training materials, as well as one or more expert trainers and TA Center staff support for the event hosted at your site. To date, we have provided TBRs to more than 10,000 participants in 46 states, and in several territories. Check out the list of states on our calendar for July!
The REMS TA Center is pleased to announce that we are launching virtual versions of our live TBRs! These are available to education agencies, including state education agencies, regional education agencies, school districts, schools, and IHEs, to assist with their professional development efforts.
These new virtual trainings are dynamic and interactive and vary in length from 2 to 4 hours. The following topics are available for request:
- Resilience Strategies for Educators (RSE): Techniques for Self-Care and Peer Support Train-the-Educator
- Developing Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) K-12 101 Train-the-Educator
- Developing Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) K-12 101 Train-the-Trainer
- Conducting K-12 Site Assessments With SITE ASSESS
- Developing Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) IHE 101 Train-the-Educator
- School Behavioral Threat Assessments: An Introduction
- Earthquake Preparedness for Schools
To learn more about these virtual training topics and to request a virtual training, send an email with your training request to Lisa Scott at email@example.com. Training dates will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. The REMS TA Center is very excited about these new virtual training sessions, and we are looking forward to collaborating with you soon!
We also encourage you to visit the Trainings tab on our Website to access the variety of additional training types we offer, including Webinars, specialized training packages, and online courses.
Virtual Networking Corner
This section of our newsletter features highlights from our interactions with the field via our NEW #REMSontheAir Podcast, Twitter, the CoP, and other virtual events and networking platforms.
COMING SOON! #REMSontheAir Podcast
Information sharing not only informs but also brings to life the key school and higher ed safety, security, and emergency management issues and challenges that key stakeholders encounter as they work to protect students and staff from the variety of threats and hazards they may face. The REMS TA Center is excited to announce the NEW #REMSontheAir podcast series, which is the latest resource offering we have created for ED to highlight real-life lessons learned from the field in this interactive audio format.
Soon to be available for download on the REMS TA Center site, the #REMSontheAir podcast series will feature short interviews and informational segments on key topics specific to prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery in the school and campus settings. Stay tuned for the official launch of #REMSontheAir, coming this fall!
Archived Webinars and Web Chats
Did you miss one of our recent Webinars? You can view past Webinars on our Website:
- Opioids, Drug-Related Emergencies, and Substance Abuse Prevention Before, During, and After the COVID-19 Pandemic
On Monday, August 10, 2020, the REMS TA Center hosted a Webinar on the topic of opioids, drug-related emergencies, and substance abuse prevention before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 90-minute Webinar, the REMS TA Center shared information on planning for opioid- and drug-related emergencies and substance abuse prevention and reviewed why this topic is important to consider in all settings and at all times, especially in the current context of ensuring school safety at home. The presentation concluded with a question-and-answer session and was followed by a Twitter Chat. The Webinar is available on the archived Webinar Web page https://rems.ed.gov/TA_Webinars.aspx.
- Supports for Students and Families Experiencing Homelessness During the COVID-19 Pandemic
On June 30, 2020, the REMS TA Center hosted a Webinar on the topic of students and families experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this Webinar, the OSSS and REMS TA Center team provided an overview of data on students and families experiencing homelessness and of resources on homelessness available to students and families. The National Center for Homeless Education reviewed considerations for students experiencing homelessness that education agencies should address, while School House Connection highlighted common challenges faced by education agencies and solutions. The presentation concluded with a question-and-answer session and was followed by a Twitter Chat. Access at the Webinar at https://rems.ed.gov/webinarDetail?id=66.
Top @remstacenter Tweets for the Quarter
School will be reopening soon. Whether virtually, in-person, or a combination of both, updating your #school EOP is an important part of preparing for the new school year. Use the school guide to help update your school EOP → https://rems.ed.gov/K12GuideForDevelHQSchool.aspx #TrainingTuesday pic.twitter.com/i3m0mFMUDY
Check out this page from @Readygov that describes youth #preparedness activities during COVID-19 that families can use at home: https://community.fema.gov/story/Summer-Fun-for-Kids-in-the-Era-of-COVID-19?lang=en_US pic.twitter.com/qzzT2YDo4d
If you have any questions or need additional assistance, please contact the REMS TA Center at 1-855-781-REMS  or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.