Reopening Schools

Recommendations to Building Your COVID-19 Playbook from a Skilled Task Force

We know there’s a lot to consider when reopening schools. With a goal to develop a comprehensive and prescriptive playbook to ensure schools are reopened safely, a task force was created in April 2020 consisting of a panel of experts and ICS team members. “Ready, Set, COVID” webinars were held in June and July for hundreds of school districts across Minnesota.

Every Friday through September 25th, join a panel of Superintendents and ICS for COVID Convo! You will hear from and interact with Superintendents Andrew Almos (East Central Public Schools), Dan Voce (Mora Public Schools), and Tim Lutz (Bemidji Area Schools) about their COVID-19 plans for their district. Along with moderator Fred Nolan, bring your questions and join us for an informal free discussion you won’t want to miss! Click here to register!

Resources from Our Previous “Ready, Set, COVID” Webinars

Contact Information:

Educational Models/Delivery Resources


FAQs from Our July Webinars

A: Todd Rapp recommends the following six steps: 1) Organize a committee, 2) Develop key messages and key information that you want to share with stakeholders, 3) Create a clear list of items that you expect every school building to implement either before the start of school or right away when school begins, 4) select a spokesperson for the district and a couple back-ups, 5) write a calendar, and 6) identify benchmarks such as how will you evaluate your success..    

A: Due to HIPAA regulations, you cannot mandate a survey to be taken. Instead, you need to allow those that are at risk for illness to feel comfortable in coming forward and notifying your district regarding their individual situation.

It is not 50% of enrollment, it is 50% of occupancy. I will bet 10 students are under 50% occupancy so you may in the hybrid model be able to bring all students in every day. That is an A cycle within all the other requirements of a hybrid model. Please refer to the MN fire marshall document for guidance in calculating actual occupancies and allowable capacities within the various spaces in your building.

In general, we would recommend maximizing the use of any other spaces within your facility that are equipped with some form of mechanical ventilation as guidance indicates that rooms with no means of mechanical ventilation should be avoided. Opening windows and the use of fans is not recommended. The use of Portable air filtration units could also be explored as a last resort.

Where possible, utilize electric water coolers that have the bottle fill feature and disable the drinking fountain portion. Per Neil Carlson, if you are able to safely turn off your hand dryers, it is recommended to do so to avoid spreading aerosols. Drinking fountains can be used to fill water bottles, but you will need to explain clear instructions for the fountains and provide a handwashing or sanitizing option for the user after they fill their bottle.

Fred Nolan suggested that this will have to be decided in collaboration with your food service staff and transportation department. There is potential to send lunches/pre-packaged food/lunch items with students home with them or buses to transport the food on full distance learning days.

Per current building code, drinking fountains are required. However, we do not have clear direction from the Minnesota Deptartment of Labor & Industry – Construction Codes & Licensing Division on this issue yet. The recommendation would be to utilize the bottle fill feature only on those electric water coolers that have both drinking fountain and bottle fill features.  In this case, the bottle fill feature would meet the code requirement. This modification would require a plumber to make the required changes.

Yes, please visit this link to see an example of a recruiting email.

All persons driving or riding in a school transportation vehicle must wear a face covering. Please reference the Face Coverings section here for additional details. An extra supply of face coverings should be maintained on school transportation vehicles for riders who forget to bring them. Arrange seating to maintain 6 feet of distance between the driver and all riders.

Yes, visit this link to see an example of Aaron’s parent survey.

We will not ask our drivers to take temperatures of students boarding the bus. Refusing to let a student board without a parent/guardian present to take custody of the student is a safety issue and creates possible liability loss exposure.

We recommend that any students showing symptoms do not board the bus for the risk of exposing other students and the driver. Alternative transportation should be arranged, with the ideal method being the parent/guardian picking up the student from school.

Taking into consideration the size of the students, looking at one of our 77 passenger buses, a small student in the middle of one seat and another small student sitting tight to the window of the diagonal rear seat are still at or within 6′. While this is certainly in line with the spirit of the requirement, it does not meet the letter of the requirement. This also assumes that the students would stay in those positions and would not gravitate towards the aisle.

Most likely, two rows would need to be skipped to maintain the six-foot distance between students in this situation. Only skipping one row would not provide the required 6′ distance under Scenario 2. Create as much space between riders as possible, recognizing that it is not always feasible to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. Household members may be seated in rows together. Consider reducing capacity or adding routes to allow for more physical space between riders.

Students come to school based on the household they live in to be efficient in transportation. Since they are in one household, they can sit in one row. ‘Family’ is really a placeholder for ‘household.’ If a family were in two households for whatever reason, they should be considered as two households. Maybe in the future, our language should change to replace ‘family’ with ‘household.’

Bemidji’s answer: Yes, Bemidji is offering childcare free of charge when school starts. We are charging during the summer, however.

Bemidji’s answer: We are still working on the childcare issue in Bemidji. During the summer, our Community Ed program is running childcare in just a couple of our buildings. We are planning to run childcare using a model similar to what we did this spring, but we will keep those children in their own pods or “houses” in order to protect them, as much as possible, from the rest of the student population that is rotating.

Bemidji’s answer: Our Special Education Director is working on the SPED program and developing plans for ongoing services, paperwork, due process, etc. Feel free to email me at for more details.

Bemidji’s answer: Bemidji only has 13 students who are classified as ELL, and we do have our ELL teacher/coordinator providing services to those students. ost of our ELL students are in the same building. For those few in a couple of other buildings, we are considering Google Meet. Gene Dillon Elementary will be looking to rotate our specialists through our homerooms, 1 week at a time, throughout the school year. This is very much in its infancy and needs to be explored further to establish this idea as part of our 2020-21 daily schedule.

Bemidji’s answer: Our high school is on a block schedule and that will allow for a pod structure. We’ve been on a block schedule for about 20 years now.

Mora’s answer: Mora has not officially put together our schedule yet. My guess is we will cut out study halls. We are planning on using separate teachers doing distance learning.

Mora’s answer: We will share our tools. We are pushing out our communication with staff and parents as we go. The specific plans will push out after completion.  We will share what you need. Brenda Spartz has all the tools and will share them. Feel free to email me at

Mora’s answer: We are planning to do modified music, PE, etc. classes.

Bemidji’s answer: We will need to collaborate with HR and learn who our staff is that can be part of our Face-to-Face Instructional Teams and who will need to be assigned to our Distance Learning Teams. This is definitely still a work in progress. Surveys will help with gathering this important data so we can plan for our staff and students. In Mora, we know from the staff survey and otherwise, that enough of our teachers will not be able to be in the classrooms working with students. Those teachers will become our distance learning cohort of instructors that will service our Family Flex Option families. Our numbers are fortunately working out and spread out over K-12 grades and content areas.

Mora’s answer: We are having our District Nurse work through the health recommendations for taking temperatures.

Mora’s answer: We are planning on leaning on our guidance department to help our schools with the SEL piece.

Bemidji’s answer: We will have a supportive team of mental health professionals available to our staff and students. At Gene Dillon, as an example, we have a school counselor, school social worker & school psychologist.  We are very fortunate.

FAQs from Our June Webinars

A: Yes, there are several filter alternatives are available for handling units and other ventilation system components. MERV-13 or MERV-14 filters have been referenced by ASHRAE in many COVID-related documents as good alternatives to be considered. Please keep in mind that increasing filter efficiency can also increase the static pressure within the system, which can, in turn, create additional issues related to overall system operation. We strongly encourage facility owners to seek assistance from a qualified Engineer or HVAC professional prior to implementing system modifications. The primary goal is to over-ventilate normally occupied spaces in an effort to dilute airborne contaminants.    

A: No, by code, NFPA will likely not accept permanent plexiglass shields or partitions. In our presentation, we referenced considering the use of temporary partitions or shields similar to what we have seen at transaction counters and other areas where social distancing is not possible. Code officials should be consulted for any such improvements if you have a question related to whether or not the improvement is okay from a code-compliance standpoint.

A: UVC requires a clean surface to disinfect. UVC works best if it’s used after initial cleaning. Use UVC Wavelength 254 nm and the room cannot be occupied. 

A: N95 masks have charged particles for the interior layers. Surgical masks do not. They are designed to prevent droplets from getting on patients from the healthcare provider and do not have a good face fit.

A: The death rate has remained consistent and, in some cases, slightly declined. This is mainly due to the fact that more younger people are getting infected but are able to recover faster than the older population. However, recent data is showing that health issues are ongoing after recovery. 

A: The MDH should have the ability to put that together, and the best way to gather what you need might be in partnership with your county’s public health department:

A: Sourcewell has put together a list of suppliers. This is also referenced on our website at

A: Yes, however, please visit this link for more information: and See note on accommodation.

A: Service cooperatives will need to develop specific policies for staff that will need to follow MDE and MDH guidance.

A: Correct, at this time, PPE is only covered for district employees.

A: In our presentation, we noted that districts may want to consider temporarily discontinuing the use of drinking fountains/bottle fillers that are not touchless in order to minimize any risk of cross-contamination. 

A: Yes, drinking fountains are code-required fixtures in most public facilities including schools. During our webinar, we referenced considering temporarily not using drinking fountains/bottle fillers that are not the touchless type. We do not recommend permanently removing these fixtures without first consulting with applicable building officials. 

A: For guidance related to how best to structure or modify your hot lunch program, we recommend consulting your district’s food service consultant in conjunction with MDH. 

A: We have not found in-depth information or specific documentation on how best to protect electronics during COVID-19 disinfection and cleaning efforts. Several equipment supplies and manufacturers supply protective covers for larger electronics such as desktops, copy machines, etc. that will likely provide some level of protection during disinfection depending on your cleaning methods. 

A: N95 masks have charged particles for the interior layers. Surgical masks do not. They are designed to prevent droplets from getting on patients from the healthcare provider and do not have a good face fit.   

A: For an example of an emergency resolution, please reach out to Shamus O’Meara at