Operating a school during a pandemic is a challenging experience for all. However, I believe that our status as a small school enables us to be agile enough for the task.
When our school suddenly shifted to distance learning last March, our staff did weekly iterations, improving upon what we had accomplished the week before. Out of that experience, and with the help of the recommendations from the CDE, we have created a plan for safely reopening our school this Fall.
To create a high-quality learning environment that contributes to student, staff, and community health.
Our school is particularly prepared to meet the needs of students during a world-wide pandemic.
We have several recommendations which can be seen below.
Our county has a variance which can be seen https://www.suttercounty.org/doc/government/depts/cao/em/coronavirus/CoronavirusAttestation
For some time, I have been part of the communications between the Yuba/Sutter counties health officer, Dr. Luu. She has graciously joined us for Zoom chats where we could ask her questions. Joe Hendrix has kindly included my school in the group emails updating us on whatever we need to know for our county and state. My school has had the opportunity to be part of a group google doc where we ask questions and Dr. Luu provides answers. In addition, the Northern California conference keeps all of the principals in its area updated on what the state is doing.
We have an onsite preschool, called Kidz Time. They have reopened under the protocols that exist for preschool.
See #10 below.
When a student has been identified as “at-risk”, one of our staff will communicate with the parents to create a collaborative plan to reduce the student risk. This could include increased monitoring of student health factors, increased social distance, providing hybrid in-person/distance education, or temporarily providing individual distance education. These possibilities have to be practical when taking in consideration teacher time and energy. Our staff need to be protected too.
Our classrooms will be set up to make hand washing and hand sanitization practical. They are ready furnished with a sink and paper towels where students can wash their hands. This will reduce the need to congregate in the bathrooms while hand washing. We will include ethyl-based hand sanitizer on our list of classroom supplies for students ages 10 and up. For younger students, the teacher will have appropriate hand sanitizer available for students to use under her supervision. At the beginning of the year, teachers will train students in proper hand washing and hand sanitization techniques. We will have soap, no-touch trash cans, and tissues available like we usually do. Posters will be put up in the classrooms to remind staff and students of these practices.
Our teachers will be encouraged to create and teach hand washing routines before and after eating and after being outside. They will teach students to wash their hands after sneezing or coughing as well as before and after using the bathroom.
Our parents will receive a school supplies list, requesting that they supply their child with individual tissues that they can keep at their desk.
We will put up signs promoting the use of face coverings. On our school supplies list, we will include cloth masks. We will keep some disposable masks on hand for students and staff who don’t have a cloth mask or face shield available. Office workers will be provided with disposable gloves. We don’t have a cafeteria. We also don’t have buses.
Our classroom drinking fountains will be covered over to prevent repeated touching of surfaces.
Staff will be encouraged to provide for the cleaning and disinfecting of the frequently touched surfaces in the room in which they work. These surfaces would include things like door handles, light switches, counters, sink handles, teacher and office desks, tables, student desks, and chairs.
Classroom teachers will be encouraged to coordinate use of play structures and play equipment in order to limit shared contact with surfaces.
Disinfectants will be provided for supervisory staff to use on play structures and equipment.
Our office and custodial staff will be provided with a copy of the CDE guidelines for cleaning supplies so they can order supplies that meet the appropriate needs. Our custodian will be asked to oversee the creation of a cleaning schedule.
In general, cleaning supplies are kept in the janitor’s closet. However, each room will have supplies for that room. These will be under the supervision of the staff in that room.
We do not need to disinfect buses as our school does not have any buses.
Staff will be encouraged to open their windows when practical and to air out the space after daily cleaning.
As a small school, we don’t have many families. We currently have fewer than 15. Parents currently sign their children in each day. We will put markers on the walkway for standing locations to promote social distancing while parents sign their children in.
We do not need a plan for distancing in buses as we do not have any school buses.
As a small school, we are already setup to have 10-15 students in a classroom. Classes generally stay with the same teacher all day.
Teachers will be encouraged to organize their classrooms in such a way as to maximize distancing and reduce face to face contact as much as is practical. They will be offered resources such as floor markings and partitions to assist in their classroom organization. They will be encouraged to think about how their play spaces can be structured to promote distancing. Teaching staff will brainstorm ways to reduce contact while turning in assignments.
If a student has exposed their cohort to Covid-19, that cohort will switch to distance learning while they quarantine at home for 14 days.
Reduce in-person classroom visits by volunteers and other as much as practical.
Teachers will be encouraged to organize their usage of non-classroom spaces (such as the kitchen, the music room, and the gym) in such a way that classes are not in a shared location at the same time. When the weather is suitable, students can eat outdoors.
We don’t have hallways. Students go to their classrooms on sidewalks.
Teachers will be encouraged to create individually labeled spaces for students to place their belongings. They will be asked to think about how to minimize sharing of high-touch materials and how they can disinfect items that need to be shared.
We are applying for a grant so we can have a 1:1 ratio of digital devices. That would limit sharing of electronic resources.
We will dedicate time at staff meetings to train staff enhanced cleaning, physical distancing, face coverings, and screening practices, and Covid-19 symptoms. They will be informed how to use, remove, and wash cloth face coverings. Staff meetings will generally have 5 or fewer participants.
We will send parents an educational letter about enhanced cleaning, physical distancing, face coverings, and screening practices, and Covid-19 symptoms. They will be informed how to use, remove, and wash cloth face coverings.
The Principal will communicate with students, staff and parents about cases and exposures at the school, consistent with privacy requirements such as FERPA and HIPAA, through our Student Information System.
We will dedicate time at staff meeting to discuss strategies to prevent discrimination against people with Covid-19.
We will include in our parent letter our stance that people with Covid-19 should be treated with respect and compassion.
A designated staff member will screen staff and students as they arrive. We already have a no-touch thermometer. We will acquire more, if needed, for our low student population. The staff member will have a checklist reminding them to look (for visual symptoms), test (their temperature), and ask (if they or anyone in their household has had any symptoms in the last 24 hours.) If a student doesn’t pass the checks, they will be sent back with the parent/caregiver who brought them (students do not arrive on buses). Parents will be asked to have their child tested for Covid-19. Deborah Judson and Peggy Whiteman will be the designated persons to support contact tracing and to notify the local health department of any exposed students or staff.
Staff and parents will be informed of screening practices at the beginning of the school year by staff meeting and parent letter.
Teachers will be informed that our policy is not penalizing students for missed work due to Covid-19. Students may demonstrate competency at a different time or in a different way. Or they may be excused from that assignment altogether as needed.
The best option, of course, is for staff, students, and visitors to self-quarantine if they have symptoms of Covid-19. We will encourage this possibility through parent education, student education, and providing stay-at-home options for learning and instruction while students and/or staff are quantifying.
The next best option is to catch a person during their screening in the morning before they are allowed to enter. With this option, the person can most likely go straight back home since we do not bus students to school.
Of course, it is possible for staff or students to acquire symptoms while there. If that happens, or if the person cannot immediately return home, the potentially sick person will wait in an isolation area until he or she can be transported home or to a healthcare facility. If possible, the isolation area will be left vacant for 24 hour before being disinfected, The area will remain unused until it is disinfected.
If the school is informed that a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, we will notify appropriate parties immediately while maintaining privacy as required.
Families will be informed how students can continue education via distance learning while in quarantine. Families will receive instructions to stay home until they have met the current CDC criteria for isolation.
We already maintain a roster of substitute personnel. We will arrange for training to prepare to work on a COVID-19 environment.
We are such a small school that we have very few staff. The first liaison will be the Principal. If the Principal is sick or otherwise unavailable, the second person will be the administrative assistant.
We already are regularly in contact with our local health officer and local school district. We will adjust operations as needed.
If a person has exposed people at school to Covid-19, we will communicate with our local health officer to see what her recommendations are. The people in the exposed office or classroom will most likely be quarantined. We are preparing for that possibility by training staff and students how to continue teaching and learning via a remote learning platform.
We will disinfect exposed rooms before using them again.