Infection Control Guidelines for Upper Secondary Schools

This guide gives advice and guidance to upper secondary schools during the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19). The guide is in addition to existing rules and guidelines.

Updates

Updated fifth edition published March 19th 2021

  • Guidelines for secondary and upper secondary schools are divided into two separate documents
  • General content update in line with new knowledge and infection situation
  • Reorganisation of content
  • New sections: Responsibility and collaboration, Infection control measures for employees, Students with special needs and special schools, Adult education
  • Updated sections: Use of face mask, Gatherings of students from several schools or municipalities
  • Abbreviated section on cleaning and hand hygiene and links to the FHI website
  • Attention to the importance of compliance with measures on the yellow level where possible. A number of additional restrictions and clarifications on the yellow level
  • Stricter guidelines for group sizes and other infection control recommendations on the red level
  • Extra chapter on exams
  • Checklist removed
  • Clarification of recommendations concerning school transportation on the yellow and red levels 2 March 2021
  • Updated sections: About the virus, illness and outbreak and The role of children and young people in the outbreak 2 March 2021

Updated fourth edition published September 28th 2020

  • The role of schools in an outbreak and infection tracking
  • Clarification of recommendations for employees
  • Recommendations on protecting vulnerable students
  • Recommendations on gatherings from different schools
  • Clarification of certain recommendations, including information on face masks and ventilation
  • Detailed information removed on symptoms, the virus and illness, when students can attend school, flowchart for dealing with sick individuals at school, risk groups. Reference to the FHI website for updated information
  • Abbreviated information on young people with chronic diseases and conditions. Reference to the Norwegian Society of Paediatricians website

Updated third edition published May 29th 2020

  • Introduction of traffic light model for adapting social distancing measures
  • Improved recommendations for gentle hand washing
  • Chapter removed on infection control recommendations in conjunction with holding oral, oral/practical and practical exams

Updated second edition published May 7th 2020

  • Clarification of a number of social distancing measures for lower and upper secondary schools
  • Clarification of several recommendations

Introduction

A primary goal is for children and young people to be subjected to as few infection control measures as possible. Keeping schools open is particularly important. The overall negative effects of closed schools are significant.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Directorate for Education and Training have developed guidelines with various levels of recommendations (traffic light model), aimed at maintaining infection control in schools and kindergartens with varying infection levels, both locally and/or nationally. The traffic light model was developed in order to keep schools open in spite of different infection levels in society.

These guidelines provide insight into and examples of how kindergartens, primary, secondary and upper secondary schools, as well as out-of-school care (SFO), can stay open, while at same time complying with infection control measures. The guidelines are updated continuously as medical knowledge advances and are based on the applicable framework conditions, regulations and funding. They are also in addition to the existing rules and guidelines described in the ‘Regulation relating to environmental health in kindergartens and schools’.

These guidelines are intended to provide recommendations and rules for upper secondary schools during the Covid-19 outbreak. They apply to all upper secondary schools, regardless of type or profile .

The guidelines are based on the requirements of infection control measures for safe operations in the Covid-19 regulation § 12 b., first section, cf § 12a., first section, d-f.

They also apply to adult education (see separate section).

These guidelines were developed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Directorate for Education and Training and Directorate of Health.

Responsibility and roles

The role of schools in the community

Schools play an essential role in the social and academic development of young people. The Education Act prescribes that young people who have completed lower secondary or a comparable education have the right to an upper secondary education. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Norwegian Constitution  and regulations within the field of education all recognise the importance of schools as an arena for young people’s learning, development and well-being. School staff therefore also play a pivotal role in meeting student needs in a pandemic situation. The outbreak has lasted for a long time now and it is especially important that students are able to attend school during the outbreak and that infection control measures are implemented for students and staff alike.

Responsibility and collaboration

Responsibility of school owner and school management

The school owner is responsible for guaranteeing that the school complies with the applicable regulations at all times .The school owner is also responsible for establishing internal control routines that ensure that the school environment promotes good health, well-being, good social and environmental conditions, as well as prevents illness and injury. Consequently, the school owner is responsible for ensuring that the school implements all necessary infection control measures. It is important that the school owner has a productive relationship with school management with regard to local measures, especially in upper secondary schools, which are attended by students from a large geographic area and different municipalities.

School management is responsible for facilitating good communication and educating staff, students and parents/guardians on the importance of the measures. Additional materials with more detailed information that can be used for the competence development of staff can be found on here.

The school owner and school management are jointly responsible for finding the best solutions on the local level and aspiring to achieve the best possible infection control on the different levels (of measures). This assures students, parents/guardians and staff that infection control protocol is followed.

Involvement and collaboration

Everyone who plays a role in the school must contribute to ensuring the best possible infection control. This applies to students, parents/guardians and staff, including union representatives and safety officers.

School health services and municipal health services

The school nurse has infection control expertise and should be involved in the planning and supervision of the school’s infection control efforts. The municipal health and care services can be consulted if necessary for advice on infection control measures at schools. This is also the organisation responsible for following up on Covid-19 cases and outbreaks at schools and for assessing the level of measures in light of the local infection situation.

Students

Students are important contributors and should be included in the school’s planning efforts, such as through the student council, to ensure the best possible implementation of infection control measures. This can lead to better and more targeted measures and increase motivation in terms of infection control among students, especially at upper secondary schools. Students can also help assess how the school can organise the education in the best possible way on the yellow and red levels. Collaboration between the student council, school and school health services to promote effective infection control measures leads to better compliance. The student council can also encourage students to install the ‘Smittestopp’ (‘Infection Stop’) app on their smartphones. 

Staff

Staff members, represented by the union representatives and safety officers, make an important contribution to ensuring good infection control for students and staff alike. Union representatives should be involved in planning and assessing how schools can organise the education in the best possible way on the yellow and red levels. The safety officers also play a role in preventing infection at schools (see the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority website). It is important to provide all staff with good information.

Home-school cooperation

It is important to engage in productive dialogue with parents/guardians in order to provide them with the necessary information on the measures implemented at the school. This includes providing information tailored to the recipient. It is necessary to promote an understanding of the importance of students attending school and that infection control measures are respected.

Student progress meetings can be conducted on the green and yellow levels in keeping with the regular infection control recommendations. Online meetings are recommended on the red level. All the same, a face-to-face meeting may be necessary. In this case, the regular infection control recommendations should be followed.

Parent-teacher meetings and other gatherings organised by the school are considered public events and must be carried out in line with the applicable recommendations from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Directorate of Health. The municipality may have implemented stricter rules than the national ones, so the municipal website should always be checked first. If the red level of measures has been implemented, parent-teacher meetings or other large gatherings are advised against. Online meetings are recommended in this case.

Parents/guardians in a risk group can contact their own doctor to assess the need to adapt instruction in order to limit the risk of infection. It is important to engage in productive dialogue with parents/guardians and make every effort to ensure that the interests of the young people are considered, so that the young people can experience as normal a daily routine as possible and continue to attend school.

Infection control measures for staff

The school is a major employer, with employees in a wide range of positions. The workplace environment must be completely safe . It is important that infection control measures for the staff are observed on the same level as measures aimed at students in order to both protect employees and limit the spread of infection. It is the responsibility of the employer to facilitate this. See also the Recommendations for Workplaces (FHI) and guidelines for Workplaces and Home Offices (Hdir).

To prevent infection by the coronavirus, it is important that employers carry out a risk assessment of possible infection risks. This is especially important at workplaces that involve frequent contact with large numbers of people. See the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority website.

Employees must maintain a distance of at least one metre from other employees throughout the workday and in all situations. Particular attention should be paid to common areas and offices, where employees spend longer periods of time. If an employee becomes infected, this will limit the number of employees who can become infected. If the social distancing recommendations and reduced physical encounters are observed, fewer employees will have to quarantine. School management must assess the number of employees who can be present based on the available space.

Infection among employees can lead to a spread of the virus among different classes and grades, resulting in a large outbreak. Schools are therefore encouraged to limit contact between staff members as far as possible. Online meetings are recommended in this case. A home office is recommended for tasks that do not necessarily have to be carried out at the school in municipalities that recommend or require a home office.

The use of assistants, part-time teachers and special staff members may pose a particular challenge because their work involves contact with both students and other staff members in different classes and grades. The same recommendation applies when it is necessary to use substitute teachers or to rearrange staff. To reduce the total number of contacts, a good organisational plan must be prepared.

Risk groups

Certain groups of individuals have an increased risk of serious complications, although the majority of people in risk groups experience only mild symptoms. As we have acquired more knowledge on Covid-19 and risk factors, the recommendations regarding which individuals fall into risk groups have become more detailed (see the Recommendations and Information for Risk Groups).

Staff members who belong to a group with a higher risk of contracting a severe case of Covid-19 should be assessed individually to determine whether adapted or alternative work is appropriate. The employees to which this applies require a medical certificate.

The role of schools in an outbreak and infection tracking

The TISK strategy – testing, isolation of positive cases, contact tracing and quarantine – is most important for reducing the spread of infection. In light of the new virus variants with increased transmission potential, the most recent recommendation is to enhance the

TISK response by means of faster and more extensive testing, infection tracking and quarantine follow-up. Expanded quarantine boundaries can challenge the staffing situation during an outbreak at a school.

The municipal health services are responsible for following up on confirmed cases of Covid-19 (infection tracking) and will warn the school if students or staff are confirmed positive. It is also the health services that determine the necessary measures and define who is a close contact of the sick individual. And it is the municipal health officials who determine the need to raise the level of measures. If necessary, they can seek the advice of the national health authorities.

The school’s contribution is equally as important:

  • The school owner must have a contingency plan. This plan must make it possible for the school to quickly switch between the different levels in the infection control guidelines, while at the same time offering a quality education, regardless of the level of measures. The schools must also have a plan that facilitates social distancing measures, procedures for drop-off and pick-up, and so on. Good planning enables the school owner and the school to implement changes quickly if an outbreak occurs. It may be necessary for some schools to have home schooling for one or two days if the level of measures is raised at short notice.
  • The school can help prepare a list of close contacts at the school. The obligation of confidentiality and privacy requirements must be observed.
  • The health services and school owner must work together to determine who is to inform the various groups (students, parents/guardians, teachers and other employees) and how. It is important to include support staff, substitutes and temporary employees when informing, as well as individuals in other municipalities who are affiliated with the school where an infection has been confirmed.
  • The school must inform the health services if an interpreter is needed.
  • It is important to provide enough information to all those affected, while at the same time observing the obligation of confidentiality and privacy requirements.

Follow-up of vulnerable young people

Schools play a pivotal role in identifying and supporting vulnerable young people. Schools and school owners are also important for establishing effective procedures for collaborating with school health services, the Educational and Psychological Counselling Service (PPT), general practitioners, child welfare services, mental health services, and so on.

Some young people have already been identified as having special needs, while others may require special follow-up as a result of the infection control measures. The infection control measures can lead to social isolation due to fewer recreational activities and fewer opportunities for social contact in the community. Another consequence may be a lack of continuity in the education due to quarantine, isolation or home schooling. This may result in students who have never before experienced challenges losing their assessment basis in a subject and becoming at risk for dropping out of school.

Read more about education for students who are unable to attend school here.

If a school closes or has reduced opening times due to measures prescribed by the Act Relating to the Control of Communicable Diseases/Covid-19 Regulation, the school owner must provide an educational programme for students with special needs who cannot be accommodated in such cases. This may be relevant for students enrolled in special education, for example. There may also be students who cannot be accommodated when the school is closed or has reduced opening or attendance times, such as young people with difficult family situations. It is also important to be attentive to young people who would not usually be vulnerable under normal circumstances. The school owner is responsible for identifying and assessing which students need an adapted programme and for ensuring that the students who are eligible for this actually receive this. This should be part of the school’s planning work. Parents/guardians and students should therefore not have to request or demand such an adapted educational programme.

Good collaboration between municipalities and the county municipalities must be facilitated in order to ensure that the school health services are also available on the green, yellow and red levels in upper secondary schools.

The school owner must ensure that schools:

  • Establish good procedures for collaboration with school health services, the Educational and Psychological Counselling Service, child welfare services and other municipal services in order to gain an overview of which young people require support for health, personal, social or emotional reasons.
  • Prepare plans for how they will ensure that students receive adequate educational opportunities.
  • Establish procedures and collaborate with parents/guardians and relevant services to ensure that students with excessive absences receive the necessary support. This includes students at risk of dropping out of school.
  • Make it possible for the school health services to be available to students on the green, yellow and red levels and that they can easily be reached by students who are not physically at school.
  • Make it possible for students with family members or close relatives in risk groups to have home schooling.

Regular testing/mass testing of students and staff may be necessary in outbreak situations or with high infection rates in the community over time. If possible, the school should assist the municipal health services in the implementation of testing. See Regular testing (FHI).

About the coronavirus

About the virus, illness and infection

Covid-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, also referred to as the coronavirus. The virus can cause a mild to severe upper respiratory infection. New, more contagious virus variants have gained a foothold in Norway. The variant of the virus first identified in England in particular has spread across the country.

The virus can be killed by soap and water, as well as disinfectant with alcohol and temperatures over 60°C. It is also deactivated more quickly outdoors.

Transmission method: The virus is primarily transmitted through inhalation droplets when viral particles emitted from the respiratory track of a sick or infected person are spread by droplets after, for example, coughing or sneezing, and then enter another person’s respiratory system. Transmission can also take place when droplets from the respiratory track end up on hands or surfaces that are later touched by others and the virus is then transmitted to the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth (contact infection). There is no basis at this time to claim that airborne transmission is a common method of transmission for Covid-19, nor is there any documentation of food or waterborne transmission.

New variants of the virus (especially the UK variant) are more contagious, but transmit in the same way as the original strain. This is why the infection control recommendations are based on the same principles as before. The basic infection control measures, such as staying home when ill, good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and social distancing measures are also effective against the new variants. Effective and fast testing, contact tracing, isolation of sick individuals and more quarantining (abbreviated in Norwegian as TISK) continues to be the most important strategy to limit the spread of the virus. This is the responsibility of the municipal health services.

For more information, see the Norwegian Institute of Public Health website.

The role of children and young people in the pandemic

The majority of knowledge we have about infection in children and young people applies to the original strain of the virus. Children catch and spread the virus around half as much as adults, including the new virus strains. Young people transmit the virus to a greater degree than children, but less than adults. Children and young people are most often infected within their household, followed by private gatherings or at kindergarten/school.

Infections at schools and kindergartens reflect the infection level in wider society: when infection rates increase in local communities, the number of infected children and young people also increases. Local measures therefore help control the spread of the virus and make it possible to keep schools open. New and more contagious strains of the virus increase the likelihood of cases at kindergartens and schools because the strains are more contagious in all age groups (ECDC). When very strict social contact restrictions are imposed for other age groups, schools and kindergartens are the few places where people still meet. For this reason, cases of infection and outbreaks can occur, even with strictly enforced infection control measures.

It is first and foremost symptomatic individuals who are contagious and the virus is most infectious when a person begins to show symptoms. The majority of children and young people will have very mild illness and it is estimated that 20-50% will have no symptoms whatsoever when infected. Children have fewer symptoms than adults and are therefore less contagious. Young people become more ill than children, but to a lesser degree than adults. The UK variant, which has spread widely in Norway, is more contagious in all age groups, but the distribution by age group is comparable to the original strain (Public Health England).

Young people have a wider social circle and geographically spread contact network than children. Higher infection rates can therefore occur among young people than children. However, the risk of an increased spread of infection among young people can be counteracted by the fact that young people are better able to respond and adhere to the recommended infection control measures than younger children.

It is important that children and young people are subjected to as few restrictions as possible and it is especially important to keep schools and kindergartens open. The overall negative effects of closed schools are significant. Consequently, the effectiveness of closure to limit the spread of infection should only be considered as a last resort. The traffic light model was precisely developed to keep schools open during different infection levels in the community.

Infection prevention measures

Good infection control is based on a multi-faceted approach involving a range of measures that together offer greater protection. It is important that each individual school make every effort to adhere to the measures as much as possible. It is the sum of all measures that offers the best overall effect. This applies to all levels of measures.

The various types of measures throughout society together limit the spread of infection. It is important to implement measures adapted to different situations. Measures that are appropriate at a company or other part of society may not necessarily be appropriate for schools.

We describe measures here that help limit the spread of infection among students and staff in upper secondary schools. It is not necessary to introduce further measures than those listed here, unless decided otherwise by local or national health authorities.

As long as the virus is active in society, people will continue to become infected, even with good infection control measures. This means that the virus can spread in schools, but the measures described here will limit the spread of infection. It is important not to blame individuals for the outbreak.

The goal of the recommendations is to limit the spread of Covid-19. The three pillars for reducing the spread of infection are as follows:

  1. Sick students and staff members must stay home. The most important infection control measure is that anyone who is sick should stay at home, even with only mild symptoms.
  2. Good hygiene. Cough etiquette and social distancing are essential to limit airborne transmission, while hand hygiene is important for preventing contact transmission.
  3. Social distancing. Increased physical distance between people reduces the possibility of infection, even before symptoms develop. Smaller groups mean fewer close contacts and a lower risk of infection.

Classification of infection – Traffic light model control measures into levels

Infection control measures must be adapted to the local situation. For schools, this is done by classifying measures in a traffic light model with green, yellow and red levels. The measures vary from a relatively normal organisation of the school day (green level) to extensive measures that entail smaller groups and more distance between students and staff (red level). The differences between the three levels primarily concern the measures to reduce contact between individuals (see below).

The infection control authorities (local or national) determine the level of measures. Local authorities have the option to impose stricter measures – but not less strict – than the national ones. School health services and municipal health services have infection control expertise and should be contacted with any questions regarding local organisation and adaptations.

Table 1 shows the key features of the traffic light model for upper secondary schools. More detailed information is provided below.

Traffic light model for upper secondary schools
LevelMeasures
Green level
  1. Sick individuals may not attend school
  2. Good hygiene and regular cleaning
  3. Social distancing measures: 

    Avoidance of physical contact between individuals (shaking hands and hugging)
    Social distancing between staff
    Regular organisation of classes and school day

Yellow level
  1. Sick individuals may not attend school
  2. Good hygiene and increased cleaning
  3. Social distancing measures: 

    Avoidance of physical contact between individuals (shaking hands and hugging)
    Entire classes and groups can receive instruction together
    Students should have assigned seats in each classroom or designated partners/groups
    Social distancing between staff (of at least one metre) in all situations
    Staff can switch classes, but should maintain a distance to students if possible
    Social distancing between students/staff outside the classroom/teaching situation
    Prevention of crowds and large gatherings

Red level
  1. Sick individuals may not attend school
  2. Good hygiene and increased cleaning
  3. Social distancing measures: 

    Avoidance of physical contact between individuals (shaking hands and hugging)
    Division of students into smaller groups – goal: reduce the number of contacts by half
    Students should have assigned seats in each classroom or designated partners/groups
    Social distancing between staff (of at least one metre) in all situations
    Staff can switch classes
    Social distancing between students/staff (at least one metre) in all situations
    Prevention of crowds and large gatherings
    Consideration of alternating attendance times/alternative rooms
    Partial online instruction

At upper secondary schools, students of different subjects mix together, making it impossible to create fixed cohorts, as is done in lower grades. This makes it especially important that all other infection control measures are in place.

Sick individuals may not attend school

No one who is sick should go to school. This applies to the green, yellow and red levels.

Symptoms of Covid-19 can be mild and difficult to distinguish from other upper respiratory infections. It is first and foremost symptomatic individuals who are contagious and the virus is most infectious when a person begins to show symptoms. This is also why it is important to be attentive to symptoms that have developed recently, while residual symptoms following a respiratory infection are less important in terms of transmission. The general recommendation of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health is that everyone with newly developed symptoms should be tested.

More information on symptoms, the clinical picture and when students can go to school can be found on the Norwegian Institute of Public Health website.

When should students and staff not go to school

Students, parents/guardians and staff must be clearly informed, so that they understand the reason why those with new symptoms of a respiratory infection should not go to school.

Students and staff with respiratory symptoms:

  • Students and staff with newly developed respiratory symptoms and/or who are feeling ill should not go to school, even if the symptoms are mild. Testing is recommended. See the Norwegian Institute of Public Health website.
  • They must stay at home until they are symptom-free. Students and staff can return to school if the test result is negative and when they are feeling well and are free of fever. The same rule applies to residual symptoms of a respiratory infection (some coughing, mucous, stuffed nose).

 Students or staff in isolation or quarantine:

If symptoms occur at school

Students who develop symptoms of a respiratory infection must be sent home from school. Sick students should not take public transportation. If the student is to be picked up, he or she must wait in a separate room or outside, away from other students. A face mask should be worn if it is not possible to maintain a distance of two metres from others. This can reduce the spread of infection. Anyone who has been in contact with the student must wash their hands. Afterwards, the room, bathroom and other areas where the student has been must be cleaned using regular cleaning products.

Employees who become sick while at school must go home. Sick employees should not take public transportation and should wear a face mask to reduce the spread of infection if it is not possible to maintain a distance of two metres from others.

Good hygiene

Good hand hygiene and cough etiquette

Good hand hygiene and cough etiquette reduce the spread of all respiratory viruses, including Covid-19, and are important measures on the green, yellow and red levels. All students and staff must be informed about the following measures.

It is advisable to make paper towels easily accessible to students and staff. If not available, it is advisable to use the inside of the elbow when coughing or sneezing.

Good hand hygiene should be performed correctly at the right time and using effective and gentle products. Good facilities and procedures are necessary to ensure compliance.

Hands should be washed or disinfected:

  • On arrival at school
  • Before eating or handling food
  • After going to the bathroom
  • If hands are visibly dirty
  • When switching classrooms
  • After contact with bodily fluids (for example, after nose blowing)

Read more about hand hygiene recommendations, including choice of products, method and skincare, on the Norwegian Institute of Public Health website.

Use of a face mask

The proper use of a medical face mask or approved cloth face mask can help reduce the spread of infection from a person infected with the coronavirus, but are less effective at protecting the user from infection. Face masks are less effective than other infection-reducing measures, such as social distancing and staying home when sick. In public spaces, face masks are generally recommended in situations with a high level of infection, when it is not possible to maintain a distance of at least one metre from others and when infection tracking is not possible, such as in shops and on public transportation.

Effective infection tracking is possible at schools. All the same, infection tracking experiences to date show that infection among staff can lead to a larger outbreak that involves many different classes and grades.

Infection control in upper secondary schools is challenging since the schools are often large and have many students who, in addition, live in a large geographic area. On the other hand, the students are older and better able to use a face mask properly. The voluntary use of face masks by upper secondary students can therefore help reduce the spread of infection.

A requirement to use face masks should be based on a:

  1. General recommendation to wear a face mask in the municipality and
  2. Yellow or red level of measures at the schools, as well as a
  3. Situation in which it is not possible to maintain the recommended distance from others at school.

In such situations, face masks must be made available to both students and staff free of charge.

Recommendations on the use of face masks by school staff:

  • It is not recommended to wear a face mask while teaching.
  • Face masks can be worn outside the classrooms, in common areas and offices, as these are places where large numbers of people congregate. It is important to continue to maintain a distance whenever possible, even when wearing a face mask.
  • It must be possible to wash or disinfect hands before and after putting on the face mask. A clean face mask or new disposable mask is recommended for each use. Cloth face masks should be kept in a closed plastic bag after being removed and washed after every use. See the face mask recommendations (FHI).
  • Waste management processes must be in place for disposable face masks.
  • To ensure the best fit, face masks that are tied at the back are better than those with ties around the ears.
  • The use of a face mask does not mean that other infection control measures are no longer important, such as staying home when sick.
  • For employees with one-on-one contact (such as special education teachers and assistants), communication can be more challenging when wearing a face mask. Usage should be assessed in each individual situation. If a staff member has few contacts (responsibility for only a few students or only a few students per day), the disadvantages of wearing a face mask outweigh the advantages, so its use is not recommended.

Recommendations on the use of face masks by upper secondary school students:  

  • It is not recommended to wear a face mask while learning in the classroom.
  • Face masks can be worn outside the classrooms and in common areas where large numbers of people congregate. It is important to continue to maintain a distance whenever possible, even when wearing a face mask.
  • It must be possible to wash or disinfect hands before and after putting on the face mask. A clean face mask or new disposable mask is recommended for each use. Cloth face masks should be kept in a closed plastic bag after being removed and washed after every use. See the face mask recommendations.
  • Waste management processes must be in place for disposable face masks.
  • To ensure the best fit, face masks that are tied at the back are better than those with ties around the ears.
  • The use of a face mask does not mean that other infection control measures are no longer important, such as staying home when sick.

Good cleaning

The coronavirus can be easily eliminated by cleaning with water and regular cleaning products.

The school owner should go through all procedures and local cleaning schedules and make the necessary adjustments (organisation, responsibility and resource needs).

On the green level, normal cleaning is sufficient.

On the yellow and red levels, increased cleaning is recommended, with an emphasis on contact points. See the cleaning recommendations (FHI).

Ventilation and airing

In general, good ventilation is recommended in closed environments and rooms. See the recommendations for practical indoor work at kindergartens and schools. In closed rooms without a ventilation system, frequent airing is recommended, such as during recess. In addition, existing ventilation systems should be used and maintained as normal. 

Distance and group size

The infection control measures were developed based on the method of transmission of the virus. Reduced contact with other people lowers the risk of transmission from those who are not aware that they are contagious. The overall goal of the social distancing measures is to limit the spread of the virus among individuals and to limit the number of contacts. This makes infection tracking easier and reduces the number of individuals placed in quarantine. 

Contacts and close contacts are two different categories:

  • A close contact is used to define who is to be placed in quarantine and tested if they have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus. Close contacts include individuals who have been closer than two metres from an infected person for more than 15 minutes.
  • A contact is a person who has been close to an infected person, but who does not fall into the category of ‘close contact’ and is at little risk of being infected.

See the definitions of cases and close contact (FHI).

There are two main approaches to reducing contact between students and staff:

  1. Social distancing between students/staff in all situations.
  2. Reducing the number of close contacts by splitting students into smaller groups and having assigned seats in each classroom.

It is important to emphasise that staff can still meet students’ needs for reassurance and ensure a good psychosocial environment.

On the yellow and red levels, gatherings that bring together students and staff who do not normally meet at school should not be held. On the green level, gatherings can be held in accordance with the current rules, as well as the recommendations of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Directorate of Health.

Social distancing measures – recommendations for upper secondary schools

Green level

Physical contact:

  • Avoid shaking hands and hugging.

For staff:

  • Maintain a distance to other staff members.
  • Follow the national infection control guidelines.

Yellow level

The primary goal on the yellow and red levels is that students and staff have a reduced number of contacts and to maintain an overview of their contacts.

On the yellow level, particular attention must be paid to common areas and recess, when students can congregate from different groups. Increased staffing (hiring, for example, ‘coronavirus attendants’) can contribute to better compliance with infection control measures.

Each individual school should strive to adopt as many measures as possible from the yellow level to ensure that the sum total of measures is as effective as possible.

Physical contact:

  • Avoid shaking hands and hugging.

Distance:

  • Entire classes and other designated groups can receive instruction together.
  • Students should have designated seats in each classroom and/or designated partners/groups.
  • Register who sits where (classroom map).
  • Avoid large gatherings.
  • Maintain a distance of one metre outside the classroom.
  • Avoid crowds on entering and exiting classrooms, changing rooms and bathrooms.
  • Consider placing markings on the floor to promote distancing in areas that are prone to crowding.

Recess and common areas:

  • Maintain a distance of at least one metre during recess and breaks.
  • Consider increasing staffing to help ensure that infection control measures are observed in common areas/during recess.
  • Consider implementing alternating use of common areas.

Limit the sharing of food and items:

  • Students should not share food or drinks.
  • Students should sit in their assigned seats when eating.
  • Food can be prepared and served at schools in accordance with the normal guidelines. It is not known whether Covid-19 can be spread through food.
  • Limit the use of a common cafeteria. When used, distance between students must be ensured.

Public and school transportation:

  • The use of public transportation to and from school should be limited where possible.
  • School transportation: Students who depend on school transportation can take the bus or other form of transportation to get to and from school. Follow the current national or local guidelines for public transportation, including recommendation or the requirement to wear a face mask.
  • School trips that include a gathering of students from different classes and the use of public transportation should be limited.

For staff:

  • Avoid shaking hands and hugging.
  • Maintain a distance (of at least one metre) from colleagues in all situations.
  • Maintain a distance from students where possible (of at least one metre).
  • Staff can move from classroom to classroom, while students should have a designated classroom and assigned seats as much as possible.
  • Online meetings should replace physical meetings as much as possible.
  • Limit the use of public transportation during rush hour to and from the workplace when possible. Follow the local recommendations for the use of a face mask.
  • The use of substitutes and staff rotations should be limited, but not at the expense of the education of the students.
  • If there are employees/substitutes who work at several schools, they must be informed about the local procedures and guidelines at each school. Substitutes should avoid working at different schools on the same day.

Red level

The primary goal on the yellow and red levels is that students and staff have a reduced number of contacts and to maintain an overview of their contacts.

On the red level, the number of contacts (in a week) should be half of the number on the yellow level. This is organised in accordance with local needs and considerations. To facilitate a reduction in the number of contacts, the schools must devote special attention to attendance and recess times and other uses of common areas. Coronavirus attendants can contribute to better compliance with infection control measures in common areas.

Physical contact:

  • Avoid shaking hands and hugging.

Distance:

  • Students are split into smaller groups, such as dividing the class in half. The groups must be small enough to ensure safe distancing in the classroom.
  • Maintain a distance of at least one metre between students/staff in all situations.
  • Students have designated seats or areas in each classroom and/or designated partners/groups.
  • The seats or areas should face the same direction to prevent face-to-face contact.
  • Register who sits where (classroom map).
  • Avoid large gatherings.
  • Avoid crowds on entering and exiting classrooms, changing rooms and bathrooms.
  • Consider the need for partial online instruction.
  • Consider introducing different attendance times, alternating attendance days and/or using alternative rooms.
  • Consider having students meet in different locations before the start of the school day.
  • Consider placing markings on the floor to promote distancing in areas that are prone to crowding.

Recess/breaks:

  • Maintain a distance of at least one metre during recess and breaks.
  • Remind students of the importance of social distancing.
  • It is recommended to increase staffing to help ensure that infection control measures are observed in common areas/during recess. Facilitate the alternating use of common areas and schedule breaks at different times to limit the number of students outside the classrooms at the same time.
  • Facilitate outdoor breaks.

Limit the sharing of food and items:

  • Students should not share food or drinks.
  • Students should sit in their assigned seats when eating.
  • Food can be prepared and served at schools in accordance with the normal guidelines. It is not known whether Covid-19 can be spread through food.
  • If a common cafeteria is used, social distancing must be enforced (at least one metre).

Public and school transportation:

  • The use of public transportation to and from school should be limited where possible.
  • School transportation: Students who depend on school transportation can take the bus or other form of transportation to get to and from school. Follow the current national or local guidelines for public transportation, including recommendation or the requirement to wear a face mask.
  • School trips that include a gathering of students in larger groups and/or the use of public transportation must be cancelled.


For staff:

  • Avoid shaking hands and hugging.
  • Maintain a distance (of at least one metre) from colleagues in all situations.
  • Maintain a distance of at least one metre from students where possible.
  • Staff can move from classroom to classroom, while students should have a designated classroom and assigned seats as much as possible.
  • Online meetings should replace physical meetings as much as possible.
  • Limit the use of public transportation during rush hour to and from the workplace when possible. Follow the local recommendations for the use of a face mask.
  • The use of substitutes and staff rotations should be limited, but not at the expense of the education of the students.
  • If there are employees/substitutes or support staff members (such as from the Educational and Psychological Counselling Service) who work at several schools, they must be informed about the local procedures and guidelines at each school. Substitutes should avoid working at different schools on the same day.


How to facilitate attendance as much as possible on the red level:
Schools with a physical lack of space will often need to resort to partial online instruction. This is possible by implementing alternating days or different attendance times during the school day in order to limit the number of students at the school at the same time.

To increase attendance, the school owner can consider using alternative locations as classrooms, such as the gymnasium or other special rooms. Locations outside the school should also be used where possible.

If possible, outdoor classes should be facilitated as much as possible, such as physical education or programme subjects in the sports programme.

School health services, library and other services (apply to all levels of measures)

School health services:

Other services:

  • Support services (Educational and Psychological Counselling Service, speech therapists and others) must follow the basic infection control practices based on the current recommendations (good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, staying home when sick, etc.), but can carry out their work as normal otherwise.
  • A distance must be maintained to other staff members (at least one metre) and to students as much as possible.

School library:

  • Make sure that hand disinfectant is available at the entrance to the school library.
  • The number of visitors is determined by the possibility to maintain a distance from others.
  • Returning books after illness: Students must stay home when sick and books can be returned once the student is able to return to school.

Infection control measures in certain subjects

Below are the recommendations for subjects that require special evaluations, in addition to the recommendations described above. 

Green level

  • Teaching can take place as normal

Yellow level

Physical education, sports programmes, dance and drama:

  • Outdoor classes are recommended where possible.
  • Changing rooms can be used. Students should maintain a distance of one metre from each other.
  • When education takes place outside the school, the entire class can be taught together (such as at a public swimming pool or gymnasium) and the size of the group does not need to be limited to the recommendations in the sports guidelines.

Music:

Red level

Physical education, sports programmes, dance and drama:

  • Outdoor classes are recommended where possible.
  • Changing rooms and showers can be used as long as there are no crowds.
  • Students should maintain a distance of one metre during all activities (including swimming) and in changing rooms.
  • When education takes place outside the school, the entire class can be taught together (such as at a public swimming pool or gymnasium) and the size of the group does not need to be limited to the recommendations in the sports guidelines.

Music:

  • Instruments and musical equipment should not be shared to the extent possible or touched by anyone other than the person using it. If equipment is shared by many students, it is recommended that students wash their hands before and after use.
  • Do not allow wind instruments to be shared by multiple students.
  • If handheld instruments and keyboards are used, all areas touched must be wiped off after use.
  • Students can sing in small, designated groups.
  • Students of music programmes should follow the industry standard: Infection control measures for musicians (Norsk musikkråd) (Council for Music Organisations in Norway).

Vocational subjects in upper secondary education

Vocational subjects in upper secondary education include a wide range of subjects in different fields. This makes it virtually impossible to develop a single set of infection control guidelines that cover all situations. Teaching in regular classrooms should take place as described above.

During practical training at the school or internship location, the same basic guidelines for infection control as described above apply. Industry standards must be followed to the extent possible if students are, for example, completing a work placement at a company (vocational specialisation, abbreviated as YFF in Norwegian). See also the template for infection control guidelines – industry standard (FHI) if no separate industry standards are available.

  • On the yellow and red levels, if assigned seating is not possible, it is recommended that students in vocational subjects have assigned partners/groups during the education.
  • On the red level, small groups are recommended and the group size should be small enough to maintain a distance of at least one metre between students and staff in all situations.

Subjects that involve one-on-one contact:
This applies to hairdressing, skincare, podiatry, etc. and for health studies. If an industry standard/recommendations are available for infection control, these also apply in a learning situation.

Links to current recommendations and industry standards (FHI):

Subjects that involve the use of shared equipment:
Many subjects involve the use of equipment that must be shared. On the green level, the measures described in section 3.4.2 are sufficient. On the yellow and red levels, personal equipment or equipment reserved for a single student can be used to the extent possible. If this is not possible, contact points on the equipment must be cleaned after use or put away for at least 24 hours. With equipment that cannot be cleaned, good hand hygiene practices before and after use are especially important. See the Cleaning recommendations for SARS-CoV-2 in non-healthcare sectors (FHI).

Food, cooking, restaurant and waiting subjects:
It is not known whether Covid-19 can be spread through food or water. Normal kitchen hygiene guidelines apply. Good hand hygiene practices should be observed. There is no need for measures in addition to the ones described above.

See also the Norwegian Food Safety Authority website.

Infection control measures for oral exams in upper secondary schools

The normal infection control recommendations apply during examination administration: sick students may not come to school and good hygiene and physical distancing must be observed.

Students who become ill during the exam have the right to postpone the exam .

Students should not gather in groups before or after the exam. They must maintain a distance of at least one metre from other students, the examiner and the censor. Materials and furnishings that are touched by students must be cleaned between students. This also applies to subjects with an industry standard during examination. Schools must avoid exams as much as possible that require close interaction between two or more candidates, making it difficult to maintain a distance of at least one metre.

Consider whether it is feasible and justifiable to have an external censor participate remotely (digitally) in the exam.

When conducting an exam for a vocational subject, the infection control recommendations for vocational subjects described above apply.

Separate guidelines for external candidate exams apply.

Gatherings of studens from different schools or municipalities – subject assemblies, training assemblies and other school outings

One-day gatherings

During student gatherings/vocational training that bring together students from different schools, the following measures are recommended in addition to the ones described above:

  • Students should maintain the recommended distance (at least one metre).
  • Students must be grouped together with other students from the same school.
  • An attendance register must be kept.
  • Students should be split into smaller groups if there are large numbers of students or it is difficult to maintain a distance.
  • On the red level, student assemblies and gatherings should take place online.

Multi-day gatherings

Travel can represent an infection risk, especially when students from different parts of the country gather together. If the school is on the red level, school trips may not take place outside the municipality.

The infection control recommendations that apply at the school also apply during the outing.

On the yellow level, individual schools should assess whether it is responsible to travel in light of the infection situation in both the municipality where the school is located and the municipality in which the outing will take place. The municipal health services in the school’s municipality can provide advice on the infection situation and help assess whether travel is responsible. Before the outing, the school should also contact the local health authorities in the municipality where the school trip will be held.

When travelling with a group of students, contact should be limited to those outside the group, both during the trip and for several days after returning home. The recommendations in these guidelines for students who live in boarding schools can be followed where appropriate.

If student assemblies and other gatherings with students from different schools and/or regions are organised, arrangements must be made to ensure that social distancing is possible, both during and outside of teaching situations. The participants should be organised in smaller groups to limit the number of contacts. The groups should have the same participants during the entire gathering as much as possible and mixing of the groups should be limited.
On the red level, it is recommended that student assemblies and gatherings take place online.

A plan must be prepared for dealing with students who become ill or must quarantine. This involves having facilities available for isolation/quarantine and procedures in place for the student(s) to return home. Good procedures for information provision are necessary, both prior to gatherings and if illness occurs or infection is established.

Special guidelines for upper secondary schools with boarding schools

Boarding schools where students live close together can be particularly vulnerable to an outbreak. This makes it important to strengthen hygiene measures and limit contact between students. The general recommendations for hygiene, cleaning and reduced physical contact apply (see above).

On the green level, additional measures are not needed apart from sick persons staying at home/in their own room and that good hand hygiene and cough etiquette practices are observed. Students must be informed about how to contact the local health services if they become ill. Students and staff with respiratory symptoms may not go to school or use the common areas.

On the yellow and red levels, it should be considered whether the number of students per room and bathroom can be limited. Students should be put into assigned groups that share the same bathroom and other common facilities as much as possible. The groups should be mixed as little as possible. This reduces the number of contacts if a person becomes symptomatic. On the yellow level, the groups can be larger than on the red level. The group size depends on the number of students at the boarding school and the room facilities. If there is a shared cafeteria or dining room, the number of students who eat at the same time should be limited to reduce contact between students and staff. The number of persons in the common rooms at the same time should be limited.

Students and staff who become ill should follow the current recommendations for testing and quarantine. If possible, they should go home and only return to school when they are well enough and have tested negative. They should not travel home by public transportation. A plan must be prepared for dealing with sick students who live in the boarding school.

Students and staff who have tested positive for Covid-19 must be isolated in accordance with the current guidelines issued by the health services. The chief municipal medical officer is responsible for following up on all Covid-19 cases and for contact tracing.

The boarding school must facilitate the isolation of students who are infected or confirmed to be infected and are unable to travel home. They may not interact with other students and must stay in their own room and use a separate bathroom. Food should be served in their room.

Students and staff identified as close contacts who are required to quarantine should travel home during the quarantine period if possible. If this is not possible, a private room must be available to them. Persons in quarantine should avoid common areas. See Suitable locations for quarantine (FHI). These persons must remain alert for respiratory symptoms.

See also the recommendations for quarantine and isolation (FHI).

The municipal health services can be contacted regarding the local adaptation of procedures.

Students with special needs and special schools

Infection control measures adapted to students with special needs (such as developmental and other disabilities) are challenging due to the significant variations in student abilities, composition, organisation of schools/special classes and so on. The school health services and municipal health services who are familiar with the student and the relevant schools should be involved in adapting infection control measures.

Students with special needs may require physical adaptations and help and may require special care and physical contact. Consequently, the guidelines for the grade level in terms of social distancing and group size may not always be possible to follow, but the current infection control measures described in the guidelines should be observed as much as possible. Student caregiving needs are always prioritised.

The basic infection control measures that apply:

  • Persons who are sick must stay at home
  • Good hand hygiene, cough etiquette and good cleaning
  • Reduced contact between individuals

Some students may have difficult expressing themselves and communicating that they feel sick. Good dialogue with the educator/assistant and parents or guardians who are familiar with the student’s normal behaviour is important to ensure that these students are not at school when sick.

Students who attend regular school:

  • If the student receives special one-on-one instruction, the student and educator/assistant should be considered a single unit. If the student has several assistants, this applies to all of them.
  • The social distancing recommendations should be observed to the extent possible, but the student and educator/assistant can have close physical contact in situations that require this and the distancing requirement may not be at the expense of care for the student. Interaction with other students and staff should be limited and the recommended distance should be maintained.
  • It is preferable that the personal care and demands associated with caregiving for the individual student are carried out by the student’s assistant. Protective gear other than normally used for caregiving is not needed.
  • The student can interact with others within the cohort/class in the same manner as with other students (distancing requirement, etc. depending on age group).
  • Other students and staff outside the cohort/class should maintain a distance and follow the infection control measures as described in the guidelines.
  • Students who are unable to observe the infection control recommendations are still allowed to attend school.

Special schools:
In special schools, some students will require physical contact, including personal care. To prevent the needless quarantining of large numbers of staff and students at the same time and to reduce the potential spread of the infection, students should be split into smaller groups/cohorts.

  • The cohorts should consist of fixed groups of students and staff.
  • On the yellow level, a cohort can comprise, for example, up to 10 students and, on the red level, up to five. If there are students who require more than one assistant, the cohort size should be reduced accordingly.
  • Students do not need to keep a distance within the cohort.
  • Employees should maintain a distance from other employees to the extent possible.
  • Personal care and the demands associated with caregiving for the individual student are to be carried out by staff members in the same cohort. Protective gear other than normally used for caregiving is not needed.

Young people with a chronic disease

It is quite rare that children and young people become severely ill as a consequence of the coronavirus. This also applies to children and young people with an underlying chronic disease or condition. However, there may be several young people with a serious disease or conditions who will be advised against attending school as a precaution.

In coordination with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Norwegian Society of Pediatricians has prepared a list of various diagnoses in children and young people that may have to be taken into special consideration. The Norwegian Society of Pediatricians believes that the majority of children with a chronic disease or condition can and should attend kindergarten or school.

Children and young people with a chronic disease/condition who can attend school as usual include the following:

  • Children and young people with diabetes
  • Children and young people with well-controlled asthma
  • Children and young people with an allergy
  • Children and young people with epilepsy
  • Children and young people with Down’s syndrome
  • Children and young people with a heart defect without heart failure
  • Children and young people with an autoimmune disease undergoing immune-suppression treatment and with a stable condition
  • Premature children without significant pulmonary disease
  • Children and young people with obesity

A list of children and young people with a chronic disease/condition who can be evaluated individually to determine whether there is cause to keep the child/young person at home and/or for the school to offer adapted education can be found on the Norwegian Society of Pediatricians website.

The school and parents/guardian should discuss with the school whether it is possible to make adaptations that enable the child to attend school. The best interests of the child must be the focus of the assessment to determine whether and how the education and instruction can be carried out .For example, a deciding factors may be that the advantages of receiving adapted instruction at home outweigh the disadvantages for these young people in terms of relinquishing important social and academic development. In cases in which the need for adapted instruction is under consideration, the treating doctor must be consulted.

Generally speaking, there are no grounds for the siblings of these children/young people to be kept at home.

Adult education

Those who are enrolled in adult education by virtue of the Education Act or Introduction Act/Integration Act should primarily follow the recommendations and provisions of these guidelines. Adult education programmes are usually subject to the same level of measures as the closest upper secondary school.

All sections of these guidelines, with the exception of sections 2.2.2 Home-school cooperation and 2.5 Follow-up of vulnerable young people also apply to adult education. In practice, this means that the school owner, students/participants and staff must follow the same education-related recommendations for adults as for upper secondary schools.

The same infection prevention measures also apply to adult education, but differ slightly from the recommendations for upper secondary schools in terms of social distancing measures. Since the adult education programmes are attended by participants from a larger geographic area, in addition to the other recommendations, social distancing must be facilitated in all situations. If local adaptations are needed and other issues arise, we recommend consulting the local infection control authorities.

The following apply to adult education:

  • Everyone must maintain a distance of at least one metre in all situations, also on the yellow level.
  • Participants who belong to a group with a higher risk of contracting a severe case of Covid-19 should be assessed individually to determine whether adapted instruction is appropriate. The participants to which this applies require a medical certificate. See the recommendations and information for risk groups (FHI).
  • Participants should have assigned seats in the classroom. A classroom map is recommended to provide an overview of who seats where if contact tracing becomes necessary.

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