Infection Control Guidelines for Upper Secondary Schools

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.

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