The CDC made clear the considerations are meant to supplement -- not replace -- any state, local or other regulations with which schools must comply.
Health officials reiterated that the more people a student or staff member interacts with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.
The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in school settings as follows:
COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection, the CDC said. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as handwashing, staying home when sick) and cleaning and disinfecting are important.
RELATED: COVID-19 remote learning yields some nearly empty online classrooms
Schools should also encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19. That includes educating staff and families about the following items:
- Teach and reinforce handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use of hand sanitizer
- Encourage covering coughs and sneezes
- Teach and reinforce use of cloth face coverings. Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school. Face coverings should be worn by staff and students (particularly older students) as feasible, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. Individuals should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently. Information should be provided to staff, students and students' families on proper use, removal and washing of cloth face coverings.
- Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms.
The CDC suggested ensuring frequently touched surfaces, both in the classroom and in transport vehicles, are regularly disinfected and that outdoor air is circulated as much as possible.
Students' desks should be at least 6 feet apart, when possible. Those desks should be facing the same direction or students should only sit on one side of tables, spaced apart. Students should also be spaced out on buses.
RELATED: Free educational resources for students stuck at home
The government agency even suggests installing physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart and providing physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times.
Communal spaces, like dining halls and playgrounds, should be closed, if possible. Or use should be staggered. Have children bring their own meals as feasible, or serve individually plated meals in classrooms instead of in a communal dining hall or cafeteria, the CDC said. Disposable foodservice items should also be used.
Schools also might have to offer different options for students and staff at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Virtual group events, rather than field trips should be pursued, and any sports activities should be held with caution.
Staggered arrival and drop-off times or locations could help limit contact among different student groups, health officials said.
Schools should also prepare for when someone gets sick:
Read the full CDC guidelines here: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html.