Managing Allergies; An Elementary School Hack that Businesses Can Learn From

As a parent of elementary school children, I know first hand how challenging it must be for schools to manage all of the allergies children have these days.

I should know.  I have kids with allergies.

A Different Environment

It seems kids today have so many more allergies - often severe - than I had growing up.  Sure, I had a mild case of asthma that was triggered by cats and hay, but that was nothing compared to the allergies my kids face - one is allergic to egg and nuts.

And I know that I am not alone.  I have friends on my social media channels talk about their kids and the allergies they have - and frankly, I start to feel lucky that we know what my kids are allergic to and that they don’t have it as bad as some kids.

Just today a friend of mine posted a few pictures of her son’s new unknown rash that had appeared in the last hour.  They have no idea what caused it or how bad it will get, but at least it is on his face where everyone can see it.

The Challenge For Schools

With all of the allergies kids must deal with, schools are faced with an even bigger challenge: managing all of these allergies.

From school lunches, to class parties, to special food sales and candy treats, the schools must be careful to ensure that each allergenic child does not receive a dose of her poison while on school time.

Unfortunately, there are times when the schools mess up.

Like the time my child was given a home-made cookie with egg in it - even though we had made it clear that there was an egg allergy.  (Fortunately for us, this egg allergy only ever results in vomiting with no other problems.)

But I really don’t blame the school for one problem like this as accidents happen.  And it must be extremely difficult for teachers to manage this.  One year they don’t have any allergies while the next year they have a tree nut allergy, the following year an egg allergy, and the following year nothing.

This constant year over year change can cause a number of problems for teachers, at least from a logistic perspective.  Trying to manage 24+ classrooms, all with different allergies would be an overwhelming and daunting task.  

So what if there was an easier way?

The Hack to Manage Allergies

In my children’s elementary school, they have six grades all with four classes each.  This means that for any given year, the school must ensure they manage up to 24 different classrooms, assuming that each classroom has at least one student with an allergy.

But what if they only had to manage 6 classrooms?

This would reduce the number of classrooms with allergies by 4.

And this is exactly what my children’s school has started to implement.  Rather than trying to manage up to 24 different classrooms - all with potentially different allergies - my son's school is designating one classroom per grade level as an “allergy aware” classroom.

The “allergy aware” classroom is designed so that all children with allergies are placed in the same classroom.  The teacher - one who has received specialized training - can educate the children and their parents about the special allergy free rules for their classroom.

This system helps to ensure a number of things:

  • The teachers are properly trained. It is much easier to train and monitor six teachers than it is to train and monitor 24 teachers.
  • The children have a better environment.  Since the teachers are trained would presumably have an “allergy aware” classroom every year, this helps children with allergies to have a safer and more allergy-friendly environment. 
  • The parents can be better informed.  One of the challenges of being a parent is remembering what food the children in your child’s class is allergic too.  Was it peanuts or tree-nuts?  Having an “allergy aware” classroom that does’ allow any nuts helps to ensure that mistakes aren’t made.

Business Application

All businesses could benefit from this amazing system of implementing an “allergy aware” classroom for each grade level at my children’s school.

First, businesses can benefit from this type of system as training costs are reduced, yet more in-depth and effective.  Secondly, efficiencies are gained that ultimately result in reduced error and an overall effectiveness.  Finally, stress levels are reduces as it is easier to manage a smaller number of specialized units than it is to manage a large number of generalists.

A Question For You

What systems have you seen in businesses that are similar to the “allergy aware classroom” system at my children’s elementary school?