Among those at highest risk of respiratory illnesses are children younger than five years old as well as their caregivers. Infants under six months are at highest risk.
Montessori schools, especially those with programs for children five and younger, should examine and, if necessary, revise their crisis plans. Contingency plans should be put in place in case of excessive staff absences. Sick leave policies might need to be reviewed, allowing for staff members to have an adequate recovery period for themselves and to stay home with sick family members if needed.
Here are some recommendations to safeguard your Montessori community, based on the guidelines issued by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC):
Influenza in Montessori Schools – Tips for a Flu Free, Stay Healthy Plan
- Get vaccinated against seasonal flu.
- Teach and encourage proper hygiene:
- Wash hands often with soap and warm water.
- Keep hands away from the face.
- Cover noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing, using a shirt sleeve or elbow if no tissue is available. (Children should be taught not to cough or sneeze into their hands.)
- Clean the environment and materials regularly. Areas and items that are dirty should be cleaned immediately. All areas should be cleaned and disinfected with 3% hydrogen peroxide or a bleach solution daily, especially materials and high-use areas.
- Stay home when sick. Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. Other respiratory illnesses may have additional or other symptoms. Children and caregivers with flu-like illnesses should remain at home and away from others until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100° F [37.8° C] or greater when measured orally) or signs of a fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications. (The CDC recommends, with severe flu, keeping sick children home for 7 days after the onset of symptoms.)
- Observe children for changes in behavior or other signs of illness.
- Separate ill children (and staff) until they can be sent home.
- Get early treatment for flu-like symptoms. Treatment within 48 hours of the onset of illness can decrease the risk of severe illness from influenza.
- Encourage keeping children at home if there are others in the household with the flu.
Administrators should also consider what they will do should a virus becomes more wide-spread or dangerous. You may need to close your school if your program cannot maintain normal functioning. For example, you may need to close your Montessori early childhood program if too many of your staff members are away due to illness. Should you need to close your school, it is recommended you do so for at least 5-7 calendar days, with infant rooms closing longer. You should also encourage and work with parents in your Montessori community to develop alternate childcare plans in case you need to close the school.
Recipe for Bleach Disinfecting Solution
(For use in bathrooms, diapering areas, etc.) Note: Please use protective gloves when handling any bleach solution.
- 1/4 cup bleach
- 1 gallon of cool water
- 1 tablespoon bleach
- 1 quart cool water
(For use on toys, eating utensils, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon bleach
- 1 gallon cool water
Centers for Disease Control
For more information on Montessori health and hygiene activities, see NAMC's curriculum:
- Early Childhood curriculum - Practical Life
- Lower Elementary curriculum - see Introduction to Health Sciences, Art & Music manual
- Upper Elementary curriculum - see Health Sciences manual
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, September 9, 2009.