GCSD 2020-21 Reopening Plan: Health & Safety

Back to Reopening Plan Homepage | Health Checks | Social Distancing, Face Coverings & PPE | Infection Control Strategies | Management of Ill Persons, Contact Tracing and Monitoring | Health Hygiene | Cleaning and Disinfecting | Vulnerable Populations/Accommodations | Visitors on Campus | School Safety Drills

The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school campuses. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

The following protocols and procedures will be in place in all district schools and district hosted YMCA before- and after-school care for the 2020-21 school year should in-person schooling resume. Anyone with questions or concerns should contact our COVID-19 safety coordinator, Neil Sanders at reopening@guilderlandschools.net or 518-456-6200, ext. 3125.

For more information about how health and safety protocols and training will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication and Engagement section of our reopening plan.


Health Checks

The district has resources to educate parents/guardians and staff members regarding the careful observation of symptoms of COVID-19 and requires health screening measures to be conducted each morning before coming to school. These resources reiterate the requirement for any student or staff member with a fever of 100°F/37.8 C or greater and/or symptoms of possible COVID-19 virus infection to not come to school.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list of Coronavirus symptoms was used to develop these resources.

The Guilderland Central School District will implement the following practices to adhere to mandated health screenings:

  • Staff and families will use a Health Screening App to complete a daily health screening questionnaire before they enter school buses or facilities.
  • A daily temperature check is required to complete the health screening questionnaire.
  • Whenever a student/family has not completed the questionnaire, school officials will work with the parent to provide adequate support and guidance to ensure that compliance is achieved in the future. Screening may also be completed on-site if needed and done so with complete confidence.
  • Isolation from others and immediate dismissal from school if an individual has a temperature of 100°F/37.8C or greater or has a positive response to a screening question.
  • Parents and staff will be required to notify the school nurse if they develop COVID-19 symptoms or if their answers to the questionnaire change during or outside school hours.
  • The district will assign staff person(s) to review the incoming reports of screening by staff and parent/guardians and attest that they are completed.
  • Weekly reminders of the health screening policy will be sent to staff and parents/guardians of students.

The School Nurse will follow temperature screening protocols and isolation procedures. Such procedures will follow social distancing guidelines and the use of PPE.

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Social Distancing, Face Coverings and PPE

The district has developed a plan with policies and procedures for maintaining social distancing and the wearing of face coverings for all students, faculty, and staff when on school facilities, grounds and transportation. Proper face coverings must be worn in common areas such as hallways, classrooms, or school buses. For those medically unable to wear face coverings, accommodations will be considered.

Plans and protocols regarding social distancing include:

  • Installation of CDC recommended signage on social distancing, handwashing and general COVID-19 information.
  • Usage of directional arrows that will tie into Fire Safety / Evacuation plans as well as social distancing reminders will also be placed on the floor in certain areas of potential congregation.
  • Maximum capacity signage for smaller spaces, break rooms as well as restroom facilities. 
  • All class sizes have been reduced to maintain six feet of distance in any instructional space and twelve feet of space for physical education, music, etc. Furniture not in use will either be removed or taped off.
  • Most classrooms will be reconfigured for the occupancy of 14 students.
    Implementation of staggered shifts, breaktimes and lunchtimes where applicable.
  • Reusable face coverings and face shields will be supplied to all staff members.
  • The district will have extra disposable masks available for students and staff when needed.

Plans and protocols regarding face coverings and PPE include:

  • Students, staff and visitors to our schools will be expected to wear face coverings.
  • Students will be allowed to remove face coverings during meals and for short mask breaks so long as they maintain appropriate social distance.
  • Accommodations will be made for students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering.
  • Because students and staff will need to be prepared to wear a face covering if another person unexpectedly cannot socially distance, they will be required to wear a face covering in all common areas (e.g., entrances and exits) and when traveling around the school.
  • Face coverings will be provided to students and staff, if needed, at no cost.
  • Acceptable face coverings for COVID-19 include, but are not limited to, cloth-based coverings and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose.
  • Bandanas, single-ply gaiters, and masks with an exhalation valve are not allowed.
  • An employee is allowed to wear their own acceptable face covering if they choose. Employees with healthcare provider documentation stating they are not medically able to tolerate face covering will not be required to do so.
  • Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school. Mask breaks will be provided, social distancing will be maintained during these breaks.

Face coverings should not be placed on:

  • Children younger than 2 years old.
  • Students where such covering would impair their health or mental health, or where such a covering would present a challenge, distraction, or obstruction to education services and instruction. Medical documentation will be required.
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious.
  • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.

The district will instruct students, parents/guardians and staff, contractors and vendors on:

  • The proper way to wear face coverings.
  • Washing hands before putting on and after removing their face covering.
  • The proper way to discard disposable face coverings.

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Infection control strategies

The district’s infection control strategies include:

  • Installation of polycarbonate separators will be installed where applicable.
  • Strategic placement of automatic hand sanitizer dispensers and manual pump operated dispensers in all school buildings.
  • Enforcement of social distancing policies.

Facility Alterations and Acquisition

The district’s current plan does not include reconfiguring these spaces for classroom use.

The district will comply with requirements for all spaces to be occupied by school district staff and students:

  • Code Review: Per statute, NYSED’s Office of Facilities Planning must review and approve the above types of projects to ensure that the proposed spaces meet the fire code.
  • Offsite Lease Requirements: For offsite facilities, the district or other applicable schools must contact their project manager at NYSED Office of Facilities Planning (OFP) and submit a Temporary Quarters (TQ) Project submission.

Plumbing Facilities and Fixtures

Plans for available facilities and fixtures in the district include:

  • No changes to the number of available toilet fixtures.
  • A daily disinfection schedule will be maintained and be recorded in a daily log.
  • There will be a rotation of bathroom closures throughout the day for disinfection.
  • The district has bottle filler fountains in all school buildings and these will be the primary source of water for students and staff to use.
  • All buildings will be flushed multiple times prior to occupancy and all outlets will be run manually for a period of time.
  • Restroom occupancy will be reduced and monitored when practical.

Ventilation

All ventilation systems will meet or exceed the requirements. Outside air dampers will be controlled through our building management systems and seasonally adjusted. Outdoor air will be increased to the extent possible.

A complete review of our filters is underway and we will increase the Merv ratings where possible.

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Management of ill persons, contact tracing and monitoring

The district requires students, faculty, or staff members who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to report to the nurse’s office. If there are several students waiting to see the school nurse, students must wait at least six feet apart. The district has designated areas that are close to each nurse’s office to separate individuals with symptoms of COVID- 19. Symptomatic students or staff will stage them away from others until they can go home or to a healthcare facility, depending on the severity of illness.

Below are the locations, by building, that are designated for individuals with symptoms of COVID-19: 

  • Guilderland High School: Room 25A
  • Farnsworth Middle School: Room 630 or Room 785
  • Guilderland Elementary School: Conference Room or Reading Recovery Room
  • Westmere Elementary School: Room 208
  • Pine Bush Elementary School: Room 602, 603 or 604
  • Lynnwood Elementary School: Reading Recovery Room or Room 116
  • Altamont Elementary School: Room 103

The nurse’s office will continue to be used to treat injuries, provide medications or nursing treatments, and the other area will be used for isolating and caring for ill students and staff. Both areas will be supervised by an adult and have easy access to a bathroom and sink with hand hygiene supplies.

The focus of the Guilderland Central School District contract tracing data gathering will be on maintaining accurate attendance records, schedules and visitor logs. If a positive case of COVID-19 is reported, the school district will contact the Albany County Health Department and the New York State Health Department and fully cooperate with their efforts.

PPE requirements for school health office staff caring for sick individuals includes both standard and transmission-based precautions. In areas with moderate to substantial community transmission, eye protection (e.g., goggles or face shield) should be added. When caring for a suspect or confirmed individual with COVID-19, gloves, a gown, eye protection, and a fit-tested N-95 respirator will be used, if available. If an N-95 respirator is not available, a surgical face mask and face shield will be used.
School health office cleaning will occur after each use of cots, bathrooms, and health office equipment (e.g., blood pressure cuffs, otoscopes, stethoscopes). Health office equipment will be cleaned following manufacturer’s directions.
Disposable items will be used as much as possible (e.g., disposable pillow protectors, disposable thermometers, disposable thermometer sheaths or probes, disposable otoscope specula).

Aerosol Generating Procedures

Respiratory treatments administered by nurses generally result in aerosolization of respiratory secretions. These aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) potentially put healthcare personnel and others at an increased risk for pathogen exposure and infection. The district requires the following PPE to be worn during AGPs: gloves, N-95 or a surgical mask with face shield, eye protection and a gown. PPE will be used when: suctioning, administering nebulizer treatments, or using peak flow meters with students who have respiratory conditions.

Treatments such as nebulized medication treatments and oral or tracheostomy suctioning will be conducted in a room separate from others with nursing personnel wearing appropriate PPE. For nebulizer treatments, if developmentally appropriate, the nurse will leave the room and return when the nebulizer treatment is finished.

Cleaning of the room will occur between use and cleaning of the equipment should be done following the manufacturer’s instructions after each use.

If Students or Staff become Ill with Symptoms of COVID-19 at School

The district requires students or staff with a temperature, signs of illness, and/or a positive response to the questionnaire to be sent directly to a dedicated isolation area where students are supervised, prior to being picked up or otherwise sent home. Students will be supervised in the isolation area while awaiting transport home and will be separated by at least 6 feet and wearing a mask. Students will be escorted from the isolation area to their parent/guardian. Students or staff will be referred to a healthcare provider and provided resources on COVID-19 testing.

Return to School After Illness

The district has established protocols and procedures, in consultation with the local health department(s), about the requirements for determining when individuals, particularly students, who screened positive for COVID-19 symptoms can return to the in-person learning environment at school. This protocol includes:

  1. Documentation from a health care provider following evaluation
  2. Negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result
  3. Symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation

The district will refer to DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Public and Private Employees Returning to Work Following COVID-19 Infection or Exposure” regarding protocols and policies for faculty and staff seeking to return to work after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or after the faculty or staff member had close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19.

The district requires that individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus complete quarantine and have not developed symptoms before returning to in-person learning. The discharge of an individual from quarantine and return to school will be conducted in coordination with the local health department.

COVID-19 Testing

The district will coordinate with the district physician, Dr. Silverman, and/or the Department of Health to coordinate COVID-19 testing.

In the event that large-scale testing will need to be conducted at the school, the district administration will work with the following providers:

  • GCSD Medical Director, Dr. Warren Silverman
  • Albany County Department of Health

Contact Tracing

The district will notify the state and local health department immediately upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 diagnostic test result by an individual within school facilities or on school grounds, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors of the district.

To assist the local health department with tracing the transmission of COVID-19, the district will work the DOH to develop and maintain a plan to trace all contacts of exposed individuals in accordance with protocols, training, and tools provided through the New York State Contact Tracing Program.

Districts will assist with contact tracing by:

  1. Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members.
  2. Ensuring student schedules are up to date.
  3. Keeping a log of any visitor which includes date and time, and where in the school they visited.
  4. Assisting the local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual in accordance with the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYS Contact Tracing Program.

If/when COVID-19 cases are discovered in the school, in consultation with the local health department, the district will comply with their guidance.

Confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state laws and regulations. School staff should not try to determine who is to be excluded from school based on contact without guidance and direction from the local health department.

School Closures

Closure refers to contingency plans, protocols, and procedures for decreasing the scale or scope of in-person education and/or closing the school. The district will collaborate with the local health department to determine the parameters, conditions, or metrics (e.g., increased absenteeism or increased illness in school community) that will serve as early warning signs that positive COVID-19 cases may be increasing beyond an acceptable level.

At a minimum, the plan will incorporate the following:

  • Schools will close if the regional infection rate rises over 9% after Aug. 1.
  • Schools will close if the 7-day rolling average of the infection rate is above 9%.
  • Schools in regions in Phase 4 can reopen if the daily infection rate remains below 5 percent using a 14-day average unless otherwise directed from the Albany County health department.
  • If the infection rate rises by about 9%, schools must wait until the 14-day average is below 5%.
  • Once schools open at Phase IV below 5% for a 14-day rolling average, schools can remain open even if the rate continues to rise by above 5% until it reaches 9% for the 7-day average.
  • Schools will be notified by the Albany County Department of Health on the situation.
  • School administrators should consider closing school if absentee rates impact the ability of the school to operate safely.
  • Schools may choose to modify operations prior to closing to help mitigate a rise in cases. If infection rates are rising above 5%; consider modifying school operations for medically vulnerable students and staff if they are participating in in-person activities.
  • Schools will consult their medical director and/or the local department of health when making such decisions.

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Health hygiene

The district will emphasize healthy hygiene practices for students and staff by providing initial and refresher education in hand and respiratory hygiene, along with providing adequate supplies and time for frequent hand hygiene. Signs will be posted throughout the school (e.g., entrances, restrooms, cafeteria, classrooms, administrative offices, auditorium, custodial staff areas) and regular messaging will be shared with the school community. Signage will be used to remind individuals to:

  • Stay home if they feel sick.
  • Cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering as described previously.
  • Properly store and, when necessary, discard PPE.
  • Adhere to social distancing instructions.
  • Report symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.
  • Follow hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection guidelines.
  • Follow respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.

Hand Hygiene

Students and staff must carry out the following hand hygiene practices.

  • Wash hands routinely with soap (any kind) and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Dry hands completely after washing. Use paper towels to dry hands if available instead of a hand dryer if they are available.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizer should be rubbed on the hands until it is completely absorbed. DO NOT dry hands if sanitizer is used.

Hand washing should occur:

  • Before and after eating (e.g. snacks and lunch).
  • After going to the restroom or after assisting a student with toileting.
  • After using a tissue.
  • Before and after using shared materials.
  • Before and after putting on or taking off face masks.
  • After coming in from the outdoors.
  • Anytime hands are visibly soiled.

Respiratory Hygiene

The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. Therefore, the district will emphasize the importance of respiratory hygiene.

Students and staff must carry out the following respiratory hygiene practices.

  • Cover a cough or sneeze using a tissue. If a tissue is used, it should be thrown away immediately.
  • If you don’t have a tissue when sneezing or coughing, sneeze into your elbow.
  • Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.
  • Face coverings are protective. Wearing a face covering will keep the respiratory droplets and aerosols from being widely dispersed into the air.

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Cleaning and disinfecting

The district will ensure adherence to hygiene and cleaning and disinfection requirements as advised by the CDC and DOH, including “Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection of Public and Private Facilities for COVID-19,” and the “STOP THE SPREAD” poster, as applicable. Cleaning and disinfection logs will be maintained that include the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection.

Examples of facility types where cleaning and disinfection frequency will be distinguished include:

  • Bathrooms
  • Athletic training rooms, locker rooms
  • Health offices, isolation rooms
  • Administrative offices (main office, reception area)
  • Frequently touched surfaces in common areas (door handles, elevator buttons, copy machine keypads, etc.)
  • Breakrooms
  • Cafeterias/Kitchens
  • Computer labs
  • Science labs
  • Classrooms
  • Maintenance offices and work areas
  • Bus Garage
  • Buses, school vehicles
  • Libraries
  • Large meeting areas (auditoriums, gymnasiums, music rooms)
  • Playgrounds (cleaning only)
  • Outdoor seating areas (plastic or metal)

Students, faculty, and staff will be trained on proper hand and respiratory hygiene, and such information will be provided to parents and/or legal guardians on ways to reinforce this at home.

The district will provide and maintain hand hygiene stations around the school, as follows:

  • For handwashing: soap, running warm water, and disposable paper towels.
  • For hand sanitizing: an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol for areas where handwashing facilities may not be available or practical.
  • Accommodations for students who cannot use hand sanitizer will be made.

Regular cleaning and disinfection of the facilities will occur, including more frequent cleaning and disinfection for high-risk and frequently touched surfaces. This will include desks and cafeteria tables, which should be cleaned and disinfected between each individual’s use. Cleaning and disinfection will be rigorous and ongoing and will occur at least daily, or more frequently as needed.

The district will ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of restrooms. Restrooms should be cleaned and disinfected more often depending on the frequency of use.

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Vulnerable populations/accommodations

We recognize that some students and staff members are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, live with a person who is at an increased risk, or simply do not feel comfortable returning to an in-person educational environment. It is our goal that these individuals are able to safely participate in educational activities. The Guilderland School District recognizes that certain students and staff will need extra precautions against infection. As prescribed in the governor’s reopening guidance, the district will provide a full-time remote option for students. This option is available for students who need extra precautions due to medical risk and others who are concerned about the potential risk. Faculty and staff who may be at an increased risk from a COVID-19 illness should contact the Human Resources Officer to discuss appropriate accommodations. 

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Visitors on campus

No outside visitors or volunteers will be allowed on school campuses, except for the safety and well-being of students. Parents/guardians will report to the designated area and not go beyond unless it is for the safety or well-being of their child. Essential visitors to facilities will be required to wear face coverings and will be restricted in their access to our school buildings.

Visitors must follow all safety protocols as listed above.

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School safety drills

The district will continue to conduct fire (evacuation) drills and lockdown drills as required by education law and regulation and the fire code without exceptions. Schools must continue to conduct mandatory fire and lockdown drills according to the existing statutory schedule. Drills will be conducted in a manner that maintains social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students to respond in emergencies.

All schools including those with a hybrid approach to instruction mixing live and remote learning will receive instruction on emergency procedures including:

  • Fire Code Section 404 requires that schools maintain Fire Safety, Evacuation, and Lockdown Plans and these plans include how lockdown and evacuation drills are conducted. Methods to promote and provide for social distancing during the evacuation drills are ultimately the district’s or other applicable school’s decision and responsibility. Those changes must be included in the Fire Safety plans.
  • Education Law § 807 requires that schools conduct eight (8) evacuation and four (4) lockdown drills each school year. When planning drills, consideration should be given to how a school may modify their drill procedures to minimize risk of spreading infection. Conducting drills is an important part of keeping students and staff safe in an emergency; however, steps should be taken to minimize the risk of spreading infection while conducting drills. As such, it may be necessary for schools to conduct drills in the school year using protocols that are different than they are used to.
  • Regardless of the modification used when conducting a drill, students should be instructed that if it was an actual emergency that required evacuation or lockdown, the most imminent concern is to get to safety; maintaining social distancing in an actual emergency that requires evacuation or lockdown may not be possible and should not be the first priority.

The school district may modify evacuation drill protocols to include:

  • Conducting drills on a “staggered” schedule, where classrooms evacuate separately rather than all at once, and appropriate distance is kept between students to the evacuation site. Staggering by classroom minimizes contact of students in hallways, stairwells, and at the evacuation site. If conducting drills using a modified procedure, it is required that the drill be conducted with all students in the school building on that school day, it may be necessary to do so during a class period that is extended for this purpose.
  • If schools reopen with a “hybrid” in-person model, such as one where students attend school alternate school weeks to reduce the occupancy of the school building, schools must be certain that all students are receiving instruction in emergency procedures and participating in drills while they are in attendance in-person.

Modifications to Lockdown Drills may include, but are not limited to:

  • Conduct a lockdown drill in a classroom setting while maintaining social distancing/using masks.
  • Conducting lockdown drills on a “staggered” schedule with smaller numbers of students present to maintain social distancing, however, schools must be certain that all students are receiving instruction in emergency procedures and participating in drills while they are in attendance in-person.
  • Conduct lockdown drill in the classroom without “hiding”/ “sheltering” but provide an overview of how to shelter or hide in the classroom.

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