New York State Releases Guidelines To Reopen Schools Statewide
State officials released guidelines New York schools must follow in order to reopen in the fall, including students wearing masks.
On Monday, state officials issued interim guidance for in-person instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 schools. Schools district must review the guidance and develop individual plans for reopening and operating during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Below is guidance given to schools to help districts form reopening plans according to the New York State Forward website:
• Responsible Parties must ensure that appropriate social distancing is maintained between individuals while in school facilities and on school grounds, inclusive of students, faculty, and staff, unless safety or the core activity (e.g., instruction, moving equipment, using an elevator, traveling in common areas) requires a shorter distance or individuals are of the same household.
• Any time or place that individuals cannot maintain appropriate social distancing, individuals must wear acceptable face coverings.
• Face coverings are strongly recommended at all times, except for meals and instruction with appropriate social distancing. However, Responsible Parties can require face coverings at all times, even during instruction; and it is strongly recommended in areas with higher rates of COVID-19 community infection.
• Responsible Parties requiring the wearing of face coverings by students at all times will need to consider and address developmental appropriateness, feasibility, and ability to implement such policy in a safe, consistent manner.
• Responsible Parties should develop plans for face-covering breaks for students when they can maintain social distance.
• All individuals in school facilities and on school grounds must be prepared to put on a face covering if another person unexpectedly cannot socially distance; and for this reason, individuals – including students – must wear face coverings in common areas, such as entrances/exits, lobbies, and when traveling around the school.
• Students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering, including students where such covering would impair their physical health or mental health are not subject to the required use of a face covering.
• Responsible Parties should consider assistance to students who may have difficulty in adapting to wearing a face covering.
• Responsible Parties must train all students, faculty, and staff on how to adequately put on, take off, clean (as applicable), and discard PPE, including but not limited to, appropriate face coverings. This training should be extended to contractors and vendors, if the Responsible Parties will be supplying the contractors and vendors with PPE.
Social Distancing for Certain Activities
• Responsible Parties should ensure that a distance of twelve feet in all directions is maintained between individuals while participating in activities requires projecting the voice (e.g., singing), playing a wind instrument, or aerobic activity resulting in heavy breathing (e.g., participating in gym classes).
• Responsible Parties are strongly encouraged to (1) modify or reconfigure spaces and areas, and/or (2) restrict the use of classrooms and other places where students, faculty, and staff gather (e.g., lockers, cubbies, entryways, hallways), so that individuals can be socially distanced (e.g., side-to-side and when facing one another), and are not sharing workstations, desks, tables, or other shared
surfaces without cleaning and disinfection between use.
• Responsible Parties should consider staggered arrival and pick-up times to facilitate proper social distancing, and assign lockers or other student storage areas by cohort or eliminate their use. However, students should not carry an unreasonable number of books or materials throughout the day.
• Responsible Parties must ensure social distancing between individuals while eating in school cafeteria. If not feasible, meals may be served in alternate areas (e.g., classrooms) or in staggered meal periods to ensure social distancing and proper cleaning and disinfection between students.
• While the goal is to return all students to in-person instruction, due to the dynamic nature and risk of community transmission of COVID-19, Responsible Parties should prepare for a combination of inperson instruction and remote learning to facilitate a phased-in approach or hybrid model, which may be necessary at various times throughout the 2020-2021 school year.In such approaches and
models, Responsible Parties may use video or teleconferencing in lieu of in-person gatherings.
• In cases where in-person instruction is not feasible, phased-in and hybrid models of education will need to consider if certain students will be prioritized for in-person instruction first or more frequently based on educational or other needs (e.g., early grades, students with disabilities, English language learners), and must balance this with equity, capacity, social distancing, PPE, feasibility, and learning considerations.
• If COVID-19 cases develop, Responsible Parties may consider restricting access within school facilities and across school grounds, particularly in affected areas to avoid full school closures. In such instances, Responsible Parties may choose to temporarily move classes where an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 to remote/virtual format until all contacts can be identified,
notified, tested, and cleared.
• To maximize in-person instruction, Responsible Parties should consider measures that can be implemented to decrease density and congregation in school facilities and on school grounds, when possible, such as:
o Finding alternative spaces in the community to allow for more in-person instruction;
o adjusting class or work hours, where appropriate and possible;
o limiting in-person presence to only those staff who are necessary to be at the school during normal school hours;
o maintaining or increasing remote workforce (e.g., administrative staff) to accommodate social distancing guidelines;
o staggering schedules and allowing more time between classes to reduce congestion in hallways, walkways, and buildings; and/or
o shifting design of class schedules to accommodate social distancing guidelines
Health Screening and Temperature Checks
• Responsible Parties must implement mandatory health screenings, including temperature checks, of students, faculty, staff, and, where applicable, contractors, vendors, and visitors to identify any individuals who may have COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
Positive Screen Protocols
• Any individual who screens positive for COVID-19 exposure or symptoms, if screened at the school, must be immediately sent home with instructions to contact their health care provider for assessment and testing.
• Students who are being sent home because of a positive screen (e.g., onset of COVID-19 symptoms) must be immediately separated from other students and supervised until their parent/legal guardian or emergency contact can retrieve them from school.
•Responsible Parties must immediately notify the state and local health department about the case if diagnostic test results are positive for COVID-19.
• Responsible Parties must require individuals to immediately disclose if and when their responses to any of the aforementioned questions changes, such as if they begin to experience symptoms, including during or outside of school hours.
• Responsible Parties must establish policies, 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. This returning to learning protocol must include at minimum documentation from a health care provider evaluation, negative COVID-19 testing, and symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive,release from isolation.
• Responsible Parties must designate a central point of contact(s), which may vary by activity, location, shift or day, responsible for receiving and attesting to having reviewed all screening activities, with such contact(s) also identified as the party for individuals to inform if they later experience COVID19-related symptoms or COVID-19 exposure, as noted on the questionnaire.
• Responsible Parties must notify the state and local health department immediately upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 diagnostic test result by an individual in school facilities or on school grounds, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
• In the case of an individual testing positive, Responsible Parties must develop plans to support local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual, in accordance with the protocols, training, and tools provided through the New York State Contact Tracing Program. Confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state law and regulations. Responsible Parties must cooperate
with state and local health department contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine efforts.
• If feasible, Responsible Parties may offer optional tracing and tracking technology to streamline contact tracing and communication process among their students, faculty, staff, parents/legal guardians of students, and community.
• Responsible Parties should partner with local health departments to train older students, faculty, and staff to undertake contact tracing efforts for populations in school facilities and on school
grounds, where feasible.
Quarantine, Isolation, and Return to School
• State and local health departments will implement monitoring and movement restrictions of COVID19 infected or exposed persons, including isolation or quarantine.
• Responsible Parties must ensure that reporting plans are in place for individuals who are alerted that they have come into close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19, and have been alerted to such exposure via tracing, tracking or other mechanism.