New measures to fight Covid-19 on campus

By Lucia Yuki, Senior Advancement Coordinator

11/12/2020

How ISB is responding to the changing Covid-19 crisis

As our ISB community agilely transitioned back into a period of continuous learning earlier this month, plans were rolled out to ensure that our beautiful campus would remain a safe place for us to teach, learn and work together.

With the announcement of stricter government guidelines and the release of new findings on the spread of Covid-19, a significant amount of research and strategic planning took place in preparation for the reopening of campus. With so much information to juggle almost all at once, it was crucial that the school possessed a clear understanding of what was happening across the country, and how different safety measures might impact the risk of transmission.

When the new guidelines were published, a great deal of time was dedicated, first and foremost, to understanding the restrictions in place and what was legally expected of ISB as a Brussels-based school. A number of conversations involving the faculty and staff took place, resulting in a common understanding of the measures that would need to be implemented across campus.

Marie El Fares, Safety and Security Manager at ISB, explains that there are several ways in which the virus is transmitted and that for each transmission scenario, a combination of three types of preventative measures needs to be implemented: this includes a human measure, an organizational measure and a technical one. Focusing solely on one – the use of a particular technical instrument, for instance, or the role of a teacher in preventing transmission – will not provide a sufficient enough level of protection.

" In cases of direct transmission – transmission that happens when you speak to a positive person or touch a contaminated surface – several human measures are involved. At a school, teachers play an important role in the practice of these human measures. But there are organizational measures to consider as well, especially when it comes to the subject of aerosol particles. We had to do a lot of research on this to make sure that the combination of measures we were asking teachers to implement was realistic and feasible for them. It makes no sense to implement strong measures that are not realistically possible. It’s a lot of additional work for the teachers. But all of our employees have an important role to play. Currently they are being encouraged not to hold any meetings in person and to work from home as much as possible. "

Another example of where this combination of measures takes place is in our ISB libraries. Students are still allowed to check out the books they wish to read and to bring them home. However, when a book is returned, our librarians immediately place it in a plastic box located in a separate storage area. Together with other returned books, it is left untouched for a week before being placed back on the shelves.

Recent studies have also shown that increased ventilation in a room or a building can significantly reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission. ISB has taken these findings very seriously and has spent a lot of time understanding the research involved, and how it might be translated into new measures across campus. Although ventilation in most of the school buildings was already quite good, a combination of additional measures was put in place to help reduce the risk of transmission even further.

Marie describes how this system of increased ventilation takes place throughout the day at ISB. In the morning, she says, the guards open a number of windows and doors in each building as they prepare for the arrival of students, teachers and staff. Once school starts, some of these windows are partially closed again. This ensures that the temperature in the buildings remains at a comfortable level. The use of CO2 meters across campus also helps to monitor the temperature in the rooms.

Most lessons take place with the windows partially closed. The windows and doors are fully opened again during the break, when the rooms are empty. In this moment of the day, we also install fans that help to increase the airflow. The technical measure involved in this ventilation process is the use of CO2 meters. They measure the level of CO2, the temperature and the relative humidity in each room. They monitor the temperature to ensure that the students are not at risk of getting sick. These meters are important instruments in monitoring how well the school is ventilating its buildings and what, if anything, might need to be changed.

Several other measures are also helping to control and reduce the risk of transmission within the school gates. The assigned seating plan on the buses involved a great deal of strategic thinking. The bus team created its seating plan based on class bubbles in each division, so that students within the same bubble would also be sitting next to each other on a bus.

The seating plan involved a tremendous amount of work. On top of this, the team also collected feedback from the parents and really listened to them, to see if there was anything they could improve on, to do even better. It is amazing to see that on top of all of the work that is taking place at the school right now, we are still open to challenging our practices.

There is no doubt that adhering to these new measures requires both a willingness to support the community, as well as a combined effort on the part of every member of ISB. The school recognizes that the wellbeing of its employees is vital to the realization and maintenance of all these measures. Virtual activities that help to promote employee wellbeing are still being organized whenever possible. This includes courses in fitness, yoga and art. Since the start of the school year, six Health and Safety Q&As have taken place via Zoom, to provide employees with an opportunity to pose their questions on the new measures implemented across ISB.

A confidential survey, used in the analysis of employee wellbeing, is another step in ensuring that employees are listened to, and that sufficient support is being offered to everyone during these challenging times. ISB has already successfully used these surveys in the past to analyze different kinds of data. In the case of a national or global crisis, it becomes a legal obligation for the school to send out a survey that will help to determine the extent to which its faculty and staff are being affected by the situation at hand. This survey will also help ISB identify the teams, or areas of work, that might benefit from some additional support.

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