COVID-19

Opening schools in September 2021:

Health & Safety Protocols & Procedures

Introduction

The purpose of the plan outlined here is to ensure the collective health and safety of the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES students and staff in the 2021-22 school year. The health and safety of our students, staff, and their families is our top priority and we remain committed to doing our part to minimize the potential health and safety impact of COVID-19. 

This plan incorporates the latest guidance, recommendations, and requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the New York State Education Department (NYSED), and the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department. It is a living resource and is subject to change based on new and evolving guidance. The level of infection, the spread of the virus, and response to the disease in our community will be at the forefront of our decision-making throughout the school year.

St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES will offer in-person instruction to all students five days a week, per the regular school schedule, in the 2021-22 school year.  The Assistant Superintendent Darin Saiff will serve as the BOCES’s COVID-19 Safety Officer for the 2021-22 school year.  He will serve as a central contact for schools, stakeholders, families, staff, and other school community members and will ensure the BOCES is in compliance and following the best practices per state and federal guidelines.

Content Outline

  • Health checks & screenings
  • Physical 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
 

The BOCES has developed resources to educate parents/guardians and staff members regarding the careful observation of symptoms of COVID-19. The screening will be conducted safely and respectfully and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.

Families should be reminded and encouraged to be mindful of indications their children may exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 and to schedule an appointment with their health care provider or get tested for COVID-19 when such symptoms are present. The CDC maintains a list of COVID-19 symptoms on its website.  Parents of students attending BOCES programs will be responsible for the daily screening of their own children for COVID-like symptoms.  BOCES will continue to promote information regarding this process and the symptoms that parents should be screening for.  Any student with a COVID-like symptom, regardless of vaccination status should stay at home and seek medical attention. 

BOCES has an electronic COVID screening (tool) process in place for employees that requires them to report COVID-like symptoms, contacts with a COVID positive person, or a positive COVID diagnosis.  Any positive response to a question will automatically be flagged and the supervisor will be notified via email. The employee will then follow proper protocol based on their individual condition and vaccination status.

The BOCES has developed a plan for maintaining physical distancing of all students, faculty, and staff when on school facilities, grounds, and transportation.

The CDC recommends that schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing, to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. A distance of at least 6 feet is recommended between students and teachers/staff and a minimum 6 feet is recommended between one adult and another.  When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully reopen while maintaining these distances, it is important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as cohorting. 

The CDC states that cohorting can be used to limit the number of students, teachers, and staff who come in contact with each other, especially when it is challenging to maintain physical distancing, such as among young children, and particularly in areas of moderate-to-high transmission levels. The use of cohorting can limit the spread of COVID-19 between cohorts but should not replace other prevention measures within each group. Pursuant to the CDC's Order, physical distancing is not required on school buses, however, masks should be worn properly at all times while on the bus.

Students, staff, and visitors to our schools will be expected to properly wear face masks indoors, including all common areas and on the school bus.  This is especially important when appropriate physical distancing is not possible. Students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering will not be required to wear one.

Face masks will be provided to students and staff, if needed, at no cost. An employee or student is allowed to wear their own acceptable face mask if they choose.  Acceptable face masks for COVID-19 include, but are not limited to, cloth-based coverings and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose.  This link will provide additional information on acceptable types of masks and how to wear them properly.  CDC Mask Guidance

Face masks 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 covering would present a challenge, distraction, or obstruction to education services and instruction
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
  • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face masks without assistance

The BOCES will instruct students and staff on:

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

Certain individuals who work with our most fragile students and clients may be required to wear additional PPE such as gowns, face shields, and gloves.  The BOCES will provide these individuals with the appropriate PPE to reduce the risk of transmission of the COVID virus.

The CDC has recently updated its guidance on masks due to emerging evidence that demonstrates that the Delta variant of COVID-19, currently the predominant strain in the United States, is more infectious and has led to increased transmissibility when compared to other variants, even in vaccinated individuals.

The CDC states that unvaccinated people remain the greatest concern. Although breakthrough infections in vaccinated people happen much less often than infections in unvaccinated people, individuals infected with the Delta variant, including fully vaccinated people with symptomatic breakthrough infections, can transmit it to others. Thus, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status and community transmission level.

A layered mitigation approach will be implemented. This includes the following measures: 

  • Handwashing
  • Physical distancing 
  • Vaccination
  • Covering coughs
  • Properly wear masks 
  • Disinfecting and cleaning 
  • Staying home when sick and getting medical attention

The BOCES requires students who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to report to the nurse’s office.  Staff members who develop symptoms while at work should report to their supervisor, leave or be picked up from their worksite, and seek medical attention with their health care provider. 

If there are several students waiting to see the school nurse, students must wait appropriately physically distanced. The BOCES has designated areas to separate individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 from others until they can go home or to a healthcare facility, depending on the severity of illness. One area will be used to treat injuries, provide medications or nursing treatments, and the other area will be used for assessing 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.

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 the 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).

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

The BOCES requires students or staff with a temperature, or COVID-like symptoms to be sent directly to a dedicated isolation area.  Students will be supervised in the isolation area while awaiting transport home and will be separated by at least 6 feet.  Students will be escorted from the isolation area to their parents/guardians. Staff will report symptoms to their supervisor, leave the workplace, and seek medical attention and testing.  Any individual that is exhibiting COVID-like symptoms should be referred to their healthcare provider and provided resources on COVID-19 testing.

The CDC created a flowchart to assist schools in decision making if a student becomes sick or reports a new COVID-19 diagnosis at school.

Return to School after Illness

The BOCES and sending school districts have 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 (Home District or BOCES)
  2. Negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result (Home District or BOCES)
  3. Symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation (Home District or BOCES)

The BOCES will refer to the New York State Department of Health and the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department 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 BOCES requires that unvaccinated individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus complete quarantine, as directed by the public health department, 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.

Consistent with CDC guidance, all “close contacts” with someone with COVID must quarantine unless they are fully vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 unless they also present possible symptoms of an infection; however, they should be tested 3-5 days after exposure and must wear a mask indoors for 14 days or until they receive a negative diagnostic test result.

COVID-19 Testing

In the event that large-scale testing will need to be conducted at the school, the BOCES administration will work with the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department. 

As stated in the CDC guidance, COVID-19 screening testing identifies people infected with COVID-19, including those with or without symptoms, who may be contagious. In K-12 schools, COVID-19 screening testing can promptly identify and isolate cases, help quarantine those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 who are not fully vaccinated, and identify clusters where the virus exists. Further information on quarantine can be found on the CDC website. 

For COVID-19 Testing in schools the CDC recommends screening testing: 

  •  In areas with substantial or high community transmission levels;
  •  In areas with low vaccination coverage; 
  • For certain higher-risk activities; 
  •  In schools where other prevention strategies are not implemented; and 
  •  For participants who are not fully vaccinated and seek to participate in sports, extracurricular activities, or other activities with elevated risk (such as activities that involve singing, shouting, band, and exercise that could lead to increased exhalation)



COVID-19 Vaccinations

Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.” Furthermore, many schools serve children under age 12 who are not eligible for vaccination therefore, reflecting CDC guidance, St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies (i.e., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) to protect students, teachers, staff, visitors, and other members of their households. The guidance from the CDC in many instances varies based on the vaccine status of individuals. This includes, but is not limited to, physical distancing, mask recommendations, and isolation/quarantine requirements.

 

Verifying Vaccinations

 CDC guidance states

  • Administrators who maintain documentation of students’ and workers’ COVID-19 vaccination status can use this information, consistent with applicable laws and regulations, including those related to privacy, to inform prevention strategies, school-based testing, contact tracing efforts, and quarantine and isolation practices.
  • Schools that plan to request a voluntary submission of documentation of COVID-19 vaccination status should use the same standard protocols that are used to collect and secure other immunization or health status information from students.
  • The protocol to collect, secure, use, and further disclose this information should comply with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements, including Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) statutory and regulatory requirements.
  •  Policies or practices related to providing or receiving proof of COVID-19 vaccination should comply with all relevant state, tribal, local, or territorial laws and regulations.

Contact Tracing

The BOCES 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 BOCES.

To assist the local health department with tracing the transmission of COVID-19, the BOCES has developed and maintained 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.  

The BOCES may 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

 

Schools can monitor levels of community transmission by contacting their local health departments (LHD) or by using the CDC COVID Data Tracker.

Confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state laws and regulations. School staff should work in collaboration with either or both the state and local health departments when determining who should be excluded from school based on close contact with a positive case of COVID-19.

School Closures

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

The BOCES 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:

  1. Stay home if they feel sick.
  2. Cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering when indoors, or at any other times as mandated by the schools or the BOCES.
  3. Properly store and, when necessary, discard PPE.
  4. Adhere to physical distancing instructions.
  5. Report symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.
  6. Report positive COVID-19 test results.
  7. Follow hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection guidelines.
  8. 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 BOCES 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.

The BOCES 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 includes 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
  • Classrooms
  • Maintenance offices and work areas
  • 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 BOCES will provide and maintain hand hygiene stations around BOCES buildings, 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. Cleaning and disinfection will be rigorous and ongoing and will occur at least daily, or more frequently as needed. 

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

We recognize that some students and staff members are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness and live with a person who is at an increased risk. As a BOCES we will work with individuals who are part of the vulnerable population. It is our goal that these individuals are able to safely participate in educational activities.
All visitors will be required to sign a visitor log when entering BOCES buildings.  Anyone exhibiting any COVID-like symptoms should not enter BOCES buildings.  Parents/guardians will report to the front office 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 when entering our school buildings. Visitors must follow all safety protocols as listed above.