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What is the most effective wellness screening method? Lessons from the back to school season.

With many schools beginning to resume in-person instruction, their health and wellness plans are being put to the test.

At SchoolPass, we’ve been working closely with schools to adjust to the new unprecedented circumstances. And, we have good news to report: many schools across the country are rising to the challenge and successfully operating through COVID-19.

In this article, we’re going to share the COVID-19 screening methods that are working and tips to effectively implement them.

The three main COVID-19 screening methods being used

There are three main screening methods being used—manual temperature checks, automated temperature checks, wellness checks/surveys, or a combination of the three. Here are the pros and cons of each:

Manual temperature checks

Some schools have chosen to manually take the temperatures of everyone who comes onto their campus.

Pros:

  • A natural, relatively simple process
  • Generally cost-effective

Cons: 

  • Logistically challenging to temperature check hundreds of students in the morning 
  • Traffic grinds to a halt during parent dropoff
  • Discovering elevated temperatures on campus can expose other students. For example, students may have exposed other students on the bus.
  • The school employee taking temperatures may be at risk

Automated temperature checks

Other schools have installed temperature kiosks or thermal camera systems that automatically take the temperature of everyone who enters the building.

Pros:

  • A school employee doesn’t have to risk extra exposure
  • Temperature kiosks can be useful for general visitor areas
  • Thermal camera systems can process a high volume of temperatures quickly

Cons: 

  • Thermal camera systems can be expensive
  • Cameras and kiosks have a wide range in quality – low quality solutions are inconsistent enough that they defeat the purpose
  • Subjects wearing hats, height of subject, the ambient temperature of the room, multiple bodies in the field of view, and other issues can impact accuracy 
  • Discovering elevated temperatures on campus can expose other students

Wellness checks

The third main method being used is wellness checks. Wellness checks are a self-reporting online method where each staff member and student—or parent for younger students—must complete a wellness survey before arriving on campus. 

Pros:

  • Wellness checks are completed before arriving on campus
  • Reduces the operational burden on schools, especially during morning dropoff
  • Real-time data can enable an immediate response for potential COVID-19 
  • The most cost-effective “wellness automation” method available

Cons: 

  • Does rely on participation from parents and others in the school community
  • Requires staff and parents to adopt new technology

Which COVID-19 screening method is proving most successful?

Wellness checks have proven to be the most effective and viable screening method available to schools during their reopening. This is because potential COVID-19 cases can be identified before students arrive on campus while significantly reducing the operational burden on the school. 

In fact, SchoolPass Wellness Checks prevented over 17,000 students and staff who did not comply with the CDC guidelines from coming onto campus within the first few weeks of school reopening.

Additionally, some schools have chosen to supplement online wellness checks with thermographic cameras for an additional level of screening. 

Tips to implement an effective wellness check process

When implementing an effective wellness program, there are two key considerations: the wellness check experience and the verification of wellness checks.

The wellness check experience

Ease of use. When implementing wellness checks, ease of use is essential. You must adopt a wellness check solution that’s user-friendly and can be completed from a phone. Complexity will reduce adoption.

Customizable. Each school has a unique set of needs. It’s important to consider how you’ll need to customize for person type (young students, older students, visitors, parents, staff, etc) and division. For example, many schools are using customized question pools for these different use cases. 

Reminders. We all occasionally forget—even important things. Implementing a wellness check system that offers automated reminders is essential. 

Real-time wellness results. School nurses and administrators need a real-time dashboard and text messages/email notifications when wellness checks are flagged. This will enable them to proactively deal with flagged situations.

The verification of wellness checks

Next, you’ll want to consider how you’ll verify wellness checks that have been completed before students arrive. If a student boards a bus or arrives on campus after failing or not completing a wellness check, your staff needs to know immediately. This is the hard part.

Here are four ways schools are doing this:

License plate recognition. Leading school license plate reader cameras can integrate with your wellness check data to send alerts to wellness administrators when parents (driving younger students), high school students, or staff arrive on your campus without completing or after failing the wellness check.

Bus boarding verification. Wellness check solutions like SchoolPass can use wellness status to determine whether the student is allowed to board the bus. 

Classroom verification. Teachers have access to real-time wellness status for students in their classroom. 

Sign in systems. Additionally, schools can also put contactless sign-in systems at entrances that will deny entry to any student who hasn’t completed or who has failed the wellness check. 

Let’s tackle COVID-19 together

Keeping your students and staff healthy and safe is a challenge. You don’t have to do it alone. We’ve been relentlessly focused on this challenge since the outbreak of COVID-19 and have helped hundreds of schools reopen safely. 

With SchoolPass, you can create customized wellness checks, automate temperature monitoring with thermographic cameras, run contactless arrival and dismissal processes, and conduct contact tracing from a single platform. You can learn more about our Campus Wellness solution here.

Stay safe,
SchoolPass