c) Some of these will not be possible in your teaching situation
d) The most important thing is that you do your best and implement what you are able
Here are some thoughts, suggestions, and ideas for keeping an orchestra classroom as safe from
COVID-19 (and the flu, and colds) as possible.
1. Preparing Your Room for Students.
To practice social distancing, you will need to arrange your room to accommodate spacing. What can be moved to make more room? Get rid of any tables, shelving, etc. possible to increase floor space.
Plan for student arrival and departure. If you are going to have them sanitize their hands first, make a station or stations to keep the students moving. Students must have dry hands (no sanitizer or alcohol products) before they are allowed to unpack their instruments or touch a school instrument.
Have a plan for the movement of students in your room so that they are not going to different stations before they sit.
Students should not move chairs or music stands.
2. Sanitizing Instruments
Any cleaner, sanitizer or product that contains alcohol will damage the varnish of string instruments.
The best and safest approach is to sanitize the student. Giant jugs of hand sanitizer, and supervision of how the sanitizer will be used, is the best approach.
KEEP IN MIND-HAND SANITIZER WILL DAMAGE VARNISH SO MAKE SURE HANDS ARE DRY BEFORE UNPACKING/PLAYING INSTRUMENT
There is no safe sanitizing agent for the wood of string instruments. The varnish on instruments could easily be damaged and will be very expensive to repair. Most of the modern Chinese and Eastern European instruments that we see in orchestra programs fall under this category.
Only teachers should use alcohol wipes or hand sanitizer on instruments. The teacher can use a paper towel to clean/sanitize the fingerboard/strings/chin rests/pegs and frog of the bow ONLY.
Never give your students alcohol-based sanitizers to apply themselves. Beware that some instruments have painted fingerboards, pegs, and chinrests and that paint will come off with alcohol or sanitizers of any kind.
Keep in mind that the frog, neck, strings, fingerboard, and chin rests are the most touched surfaces when handling and playing an instrument. Keeping these clean will go a long way towards keeping your classroom safe.
Good- Sanitize all touch surfaces on instruments at the end of every day
Better- Sanitize all touch surfaces between ever use
Best- Have each instrument reserved for a single student use
Remember- None of this will be easy or convenient
3. Sanitizing Orchestra Equipment
Spray down chairs, bass stools and music stands with Lysol, or another anti-bacterial spray, whenever possible.
Spray all doorknobs frequently
Do not allow sharing of daily items like rosin, rock stops, pencils, shoulder rests and method books.
If at all possible, no sharing of instruments.
Do not allow students to share music stands. Separate stands will allow for more social distancing.
Good- Spray anti-bacterial spray onto all chairs and music stands at the end of each day
Better- Spray chairs and bass stools twice a day, and require students to bring their own music stands
Best- Spray chairs between classes, do not allow any shared accessories or books at all
Remember-Some of these will not be possible in your teaching situation
4. Safety in the Classroom
Make hand sanitizer readily available in multiple places in the room. There are on-line resources for buying this in bulk.
Demonstrate how to use sanitizer to cover fingers and in between the fingers/thumbs.
At this point, the rapidly changing science points to the aerosol of breath being the most worrisome aspect of COVID-19 transmission. From the standpoint of combined breathing and possible surface contamination, violins and violas could be at a higher risk of harboring germs. Mask wearing by the musician would help cut this down immensely.
Do not allow students to congregate at the door, in the teacher’s office, or in storage rooms.
Good- Spread students out as much as possible and discourage contact with each other
Better- Encourage mask use
Best- Require mask use and make sure each student has their own assigned instrument, method book and supplies
Remember- None of this will be easy or convenient
5. Student/Staff Safety
Resource after resource states that the best approach to safety in the orchestra classroom is to sanitize the musician, rather than the string instruments. This will do the best job of keeping germs out of your classroom
Good- Provide hand sanitizer and encourage its use
Better- Recommend students wash their hands before class
Best- Require handwashing and hand sanitizer before each class
Remember- The most important thing is that you do your best and implement what you are able
6. Teacher Safety
Given the number of students you see in a day, or week, you must take every precaution to protect yourself from Covid-19.
Wear masks as much as possible
Use hand sanitizer liberally throughout the day
Maintain a stringent hand-washing routine
Resist touching your students
Sanitize objects on your desk such as drawer pulls, pens/pencils, your computer, regularly
Make sure you practice social distancing both in your classroom, in the hallways, during meetings and other places, when possible
Be extra cautious with doors in the school (outside of your classroom). When possible, push open with shoulder or foot. If you must use your hands, sanitize them as soon as possible and avoid touching your face.
Use caution taking items back and forth from school to home. (i.e. computers, tests to grade, lunch containers). Try to keep your home as free of potential contaminants as possible.
When you get home, change clothes and shower as soon as possible.
7. Final Thoughts...
Instrument Availability- The idea of one student per instrument is a difficult one to attain for most programs. Here are some ideas for getting more instruments for you students.
If you have the resources, rent some extra instruments for the year from your local music store
Ask your local music store/violin shop if they have any instruments that they would be willing to donate or lend to your program for the year
Put a call out to your community. Many people have instruments in their home they are not using. Ask if they will donate them or lend them to the program for a year.
(consult your local laws and school guidelines regarding liability)
We realize that many of these recommendations are impractical if not impossible. Their usefulness will depend on your orchestra size, the resources you have at your disposal and the support of your administration
However, the idea is to take these suggestions and implement the ones that you can.
Take them to your administration to show them what you are implementing in your classroom to keep your students safe.
Take them to your parents to show them how important the health of your students is to you.
And finally, use them to keep yourself safe.
Keep yourself safe. Without you, there would be no orchestra at all.