Guide to Re-Opening Your School Safely and Successfully
Shutdown has been hard on martial arts schools across the world– it’s kept us from being able to teach our students in person and caused us to rely on virtual training to cut down attrition. But soon your state or province will begin opening up schools. But there won’t be a return to the old normal for a long time. You can still thrive in the new normal if you take proper precautions to allay fears around training at your school and transmission of COVID 19.
The keys to doing this are preparation, communication and follow through.
20/20 Armor has prepared this guide by collecting resources from leaders in the industry and consulting school owners preparing their plans to get up and running. In it you’ll find tips that will help establish the trust parents will need to let their students train in your martial arts school and provide strategies for moving your school into the future.
Let’s get started!
First Steps: Communication Plan
It’s up to your local government when you’ll be able to open. But that messaging can change very rapidly. So you need a good communications plan in place that can be used at a moment’s notice. You have to communicate your plan and safety measures to your instructors, students and their parents to make sure that everyone feels safe to return to your school. You should start working on this plan right away.
Once you have your plan organize a video call with each student and their parents before you reopen to make them aware of the procedures that are in place and their parts to play in them. This both makes them more likely to follow and assures families that you are actively working to keep them safe.
Be clear with what you’re doing, how you’re meeting the challenges and what you expect from your students and parents going forward to minimize risk.
Next Steps: You Have An Opening Date, What Next?
1. Communicate Your Plan
You know your opening date. Put out those communications to your staff, parents and students. They need to be clear on the procedures so they can follow them. Use every means at your disposal to get the word out: phone calls, text messages, Facebook group posts, emails, etc.
2. Create a Temporary Schedule
Make it clear that your online classes are going to continue for the near future and that your classes at your school will be smaller to meet your local safety guidelines. Your students need to be spaced apart and no more than 10 students per class. (More information will follow concerning scheduling and what needs to change for the new normal).
3. Get the Necessary Cleaning and Safety Supplies
Be prepared to take temperatures before people enter the building and provide masks and gloves to the people who need them. (More details to follow).
4. Set Up a Time to Teach Your Instructors and Staff the Right Procedures
Before you open your doors. Your staff needs to know you have their best interests at heart and that you are going to make sure they are safe at your studio.
The biggest switch to your class structure will be the size of your classes. You’ll need to keep them much smaller to meet safety protocols. Aim for no more than ten students at a time (or what you’re allowed within your phase protocol for the area.) So if you had thirty students in a class you are going to need to have 3 live classes instead of one.
If you had multiple classes scheduled with them in a week, you are going to want to split this into virtual training and in class training. Because you’ll have to have more smaller classes to meet the demand but there won’t be enough time in the day to do all of your classes in person under these circumstances.
It’s important that students who are comfortable with returning get at least one live training session per week. Think of it like your Zoom Private lessons, a way of deepening personal connection. To keep your classes as large as they can be under the circumstances considering limiting parent attendance of your classes.
Some parents and students will still not feel comfortable attending in person classes for a while.
Continue to provide virtual training as long as necessary. You can even use virtual training as a way to continuously allow your students to train online in the future. But what’s important is that you reached out to those families with a phone call. Telling them what you’re doing and figure out what the best time is for them to come in and do their live classes. This personal attention will pay off in your retention and provide opportunity for new students to try the class out without coming to the physical location.
Remember the level of personal attention = retention.
- Space out markers or dots on the mats 6 feet apart to clearly mark where students should stand.
- Start classes earlier in the day to fit in more time for more classes.
- If you have a larger number of students, consider shortening classes to 30 minutes instead of 1 hour. This way, instructors don't get burnt out by increased number of classes.
- Build a space between your classes to allow for proper disinfection before the next class arrives.
The more thought out your plan the more students are likely to come in and train at your school.
The Supplies You Need
It is of the utmost importance that you have the supplies you need to keep your school safe. In this part of the document we are going to go into what you’re likely to need for supplies. Remember these are suggestions current to what is happening as of: May 6th, 2020. These may change.
Here are some items you need to keep in stock:
- Mask - disposable and surgical
- Nitrile gloves
- Infrared thermometer
- Disinfectant spray - 10% bleach solution made fresh daily or a hospital-grade disinfectant
- Spray bottles - 1 liter plastic spray bottles
- Hand sanitizer dispenser floor stand
- Hand sanitizer refills
- Hand soap
- Paper towels
- Confirm you have an adequate supply of soap, disinfectant spray, hand gel, paper towels and tissue
- Schools should keep a minimum quantity 30-day supply of disinfectant supplies
PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)
- Confirm stock of face masks and gloves on-site and on-order with proper lead time
- Schools should keep a minimum quantity 30-day supply of PPE
- Require all parents/siblings to wear masks inside of building
- Require all non-teaching staff to wear masks
- The top priority is always protecting people. Based on CDC findings, the company does not require or recommend that employees wear gloves except for those performing disinfection of common surfaces. However, the company should provide gloves if mandated by local laws.
Pre-Opening Disinfection Measures
According to the CDC website, “If it has been more than 7 days since a person with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.”
However, you may wish to go to the extra measure of disinfecting your school in order to put students’/parents’ minds at ease before restarting classes. If this is the case, here are some points to pay attention to:
- All surfaces (benches, chairs, countertops, etc.)
- All equipment/gear
- Bathrooms/locker rooms
- Replace HVAC air filters
In order to help mitigate virus transmission, you and your employees will need to be diligent on regular routine disinfecting protocols using hospital-grade disinfectant or fresh 10% bleach solution as appropriate.
This protocol should be conducted at least at the end of every class with the exception of wiping down general objects such as doors, handles, faucets, sinks, and bathrooms which should be done a minimum of 4 times per day.
During this routine, be sure to wipe down all seating areas, locker rooms, countertops, equipment/gear, etc. For electronics (tablets, keyboards, phones, etc.), follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfecting products.
Employees performing these routine disinfection measures should be wearing PPE in the form of nitrile gloves. Along with that, proper training for safe glove removal/disposal will be needed.
Social Distancing Protocol
Social distancing is a simple yet very effective mechanism to prevent potential infection that relies on simple distance to avoid infection. In practice, this means:
- Staying 6 feet away from others as a normal practice
- Eliminating contact with others, such as handshakes or embracing
- Avoid touching surfaces touched by others, to the extent feasible
- Avoid anyone who appears to be sick or who is coughing or sneezing
To help facilitate social distancing, it’s recommended to place signage/markers in your seating area to help parents to maintain the 6’ distance while observing classes.You may also ask parents not to attend classes during this time.
Social Distance During Class Changes
Class changes must be managed thoughtfully to reduce infection risk and to leverage the opportunity they present to ensure optimal disinfection of the school. Classes should be separated by enough of a gap in time to allow for one class to leave and for employees to perform disinfection protocol before the next class begins to arrive.
Helpful Tips to Communicate to Parents & Students:
- Avoid gathering when entering and exiting the school
- Encourage students to stay in their car if they arrive early until the previous class has exited
- Ensure 3-6 feet of space between each person while entering the school or waiting to check in
- Do not touch your face before you have had a chance to wash or disinfect your hands after entering
Train Your Staff, Students and Parents
Part of your pre-opening plan is to be sure that all staff, students, and parents are trained on the new procedures that apply to them. Safety protocols are only as good as the information provided on them.
For staff, it’s imperative they know exactly what the daily protocol is and who’s responsible for which tasks during the day. The last thing you want is for the door handles to not get wiped down because it wasn’t assigned to anyone. Be diligent and specific when assigning tasks. They need to be as aware of these protocols as they are of what they are going to be training the kids in class. Your business depends on insuring the safety of your students.
Staff should also know ALL of the protocols concerning students and parents and should be encouraged to help enforce them, for example — kindly reminding friends grouped too closely together upon entering of the social distancing rule or encouraging parents to stay outside the building when dropping off their kids.
It takes a great communication strategy, careful preparation and great follow through to make this work. But it’s worth it because you are doing the work you love and helping children grow into responsible adults prepared for the future in challenging times.
But no matter what you do there will be a level of risk. Keep up to date with your local guidelines as they will change regularly and you'll need to be compliant with them. In this document we are providing frameworks and areas to focus on but there is of course much we can't know about the future.
Good luck and can’t wait to see our amazing community come back stronger than ever!
Want to regain the students you've lost during Coronavirus?
Check out our step by step guide to bringing them back to your school.