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School Camps & COVID 19

This informal CPD article School Camps & COVID 19 was provided by David Gregory at Xcursion, a risk management training provider focused on school excursion & activity safety.

What do I need to do for school camps to be ‘COVID Safe’? This is a huge question which is being asked at the moment, by many teachers who want to get their school excursions and camps back up and running again. Other schools are just cancelling programs completely, which is a shame. Whilst there’s been a lot of media about the missed classroom time for students and the apparent need to ‘catch up,’ the reality is that missing 6-12 months of school will have little to no impact on someone’s entire life. Some teachers are making out that it will ruin students for life, which is complete nonsense as many students are leaving school unprepared for the workforce due to the current education process. Many senior students have said that it’s been useful for their studies as they haven’t had all the distractions that come with the busy daily school life. (Time to put that spoon down teachers, as students are better without it!).

However, I digress! Getting into a debate over the state of the education sector is not the point right now. Having said that, students who miss out of experiential education programs such as camps and excursions, do risk falling behind in the critical social and emotional growth which comes from these sorts of programs. Content can be found on the internet anytime, however, relationships, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and leadership development all risk getting left behind when experiential education programs aren’t run.

As soon as governments allow camps and excursions to start again, then being prepared to work with an additional layer of complexity shouldn’t be an overwhelming burden. To help you with the sorts of things you and your teachers should be considering for your COVID Safe Camp & Excursion Plan, we’ve put together an outline with some of the key considerations which should be made in conjunction with your school’s policies and local, state and national health guidelines.

COVID-19 is currently a significant global pandemic and concern. As such, it should be treated in accordance with your infectious disease control measures as well as ensuring any cases are communicated immediately with your local state or territories health authorities and be as accurate as you can with travel, locations, sites, activities and contacts to help with contact tracing.

It should however, be noted that the management of the COVID-19 risk, should not compromise your other risk management practices and procedures. If standard risk management practices and systems for an activity could be compromised by additional health or social distancing requirement, then this sort of activity should be modified or reconsidered at this point in time as student safety remains the key priority. The risk of infection could be very low, but a compromised risk practice as a result, could change the formerly low risk activity into a high risk activity, which you don’t want.

Some key points to help your school excursion be ‘COVID Safe’

  • Clear communication with parents is critical
  • Health monitoring 14 days prior to camps is critical in minimising risk of infections being brought on the program.
  • Apply very conservative health stipulations and vetting for your camp. Even a suspect cold should be flagged. Whilst this may be seen as over the top, it’s one way to minimise the risks at this point in time and should be used sparingly into the future.
  • Pack additional hand sanitiser, soap, hand washing stations and bleach.
  • Look at the activities you’re conducting and ensure you have a hand washing regime built into the start/finish and other stages of the activity as required.
  • Meal-times should be pro-actively supervised ensuring all students and staff wash hands/sanitise before the meal.
  • Any meal preparation by staff and students should be conducted using gloves and face masks and the number of people involved be minimised.
  • Drink bottle refilling is a significant potential hazard for infection. Planning a non-contact bottle refill is critical. Purchasing endless supplies of disposable bottled water, may seem like an answer. However, this flies in the face of the educational benefit of a program, so get creative and work out a way to safely refill water bottles without contact with the bottle itself.
  • Health/temperature and symptoms checks should be conducted on the first day and on an ongoing basis.
  • Communication is vital back to school and with health authorities. Ensure you have clear communications lines back to school and not have multiple staff speaking with multiple people. This is a standard risk management practice anyway, so shouldn’t be any different.
  • Third party providers. Be clear with your expectations of third-party providers and what they need to be providing to your school to meet the distancing and cleaning requirements. Most providers have these already, but it’s important that these are read carefully to ensure they match your school’s requirements and are also not ridiculously over the top (which can also be an additional risk and process layer that’s not needed).
  • Transport is also another generally contracted service. Talk with your transport company about cleaning regimes and transport management.
  • Contact with the public. Minimise this as much as you can. Avoid lots of stops and crowded areas. Whilst a toilet break is likely to be needed, ensure that these are well managed and monitored and all students sanitise their hands after going to the bathroom and before they get back on the bus. Avoid allowing students to buy food or things during these stops.

More details around each of these areas can be found in our School Camps and Excursions COVID-19 Plan PDF and should be used as a guide to help you develop your specific management plan in conjunction with your state health guidelines.

Whilst the risk of infection is still low in connection with schools and school activities, if we’re able to follow these practices collectively, then it means we can get programs back out and running this year and provide that much needed experience for our students’ social and emotional growth. The mental health impact of this virus has been huge and we’re yet to see the full extent of it. Camps are just one great way to help address this program and at the end of the day will have a far more profound and wonderful impact on a student’s experience of 2020 than anything else so far this year.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Xcursion, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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