Health and Safety

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 for the 2020-21 school year should in-person schooling resume. Anyone with questions or concerns should contact our COVID-19 safety coordinator Stephen Nolan at 518-843-3180, Ext. 1012 or email at snolan@gasd.org

For more information about how health and safety protocols and trainings will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan at https://www.gasd.org/greater-amsterdam-school-reopening-plan-for-2020-21/communication-family-and-community-engagement/

Health checks

The district has developed resources to educate parents/guardians and staff members regarding the careful observation of symptoms of COVID-19 and health screening measures that must be conducted each morning before coming to school. The resources include the requirement for any student or staff member with a fever of 100°F 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 Greater Amsterdam School District will implement the following practices to conduct mandated health screening:

  • Screening may be conducted using an online management tool and a manual screening method. Parents are being asked to check their child(ren)’s temperature each morning before coming to school. Students will be further screened (infrared screening tool) and upon entrance to school buildings (infrared tool and or manual touchless thermometers).
  • Staff and students not able to complete screening at home will also have manual screening tools and documentation available upon entrance to each school building. Screening documents will follow local Department of Health guidelines. Records will remain private and will be released to DoH upon request for contact tracing.
  • Those individuals who are found to be showing signs of COVID-19 will be assigned to an alternate location in their particular building until they can safely leave the school. Parents and DoH will be notified and school personnel will follow DoH guidance.
  • Staff assigned to assist with screening will be provided training by school nurses and or DoH representatives.
  • Staff/students who exhibit signs during the school day will be provided a comfortable alternate location in the school and will be supervised by school personnel.
  • The school nurse, administration and other designated staff will be assigned the daily assignment of reviewing screening materials.
  • Staff or students who experience symptoms during the school day or at other times should inform the school nurse and the principal of their school building.
  • School administration will designate who will contact parents regarding a possible COVID case. In most cases that person will be the school nurse.

Social distancing, face coverings and PPE

The district has developed a plan with policies and procedures for maintaining social distancing of all students, faculty, and staff when on school facilities, grounds and transportation. These include:

  • Directional floor markings
  • Signs on entrance doors related to safety procedures
  • Bus seats marked for proper distancing
  • Cafeteria and gymnasiums marked for proper distancing
  • Wellness/Fitness centers posted occupancy and distance guides
  • Bathroom use procedures for staff and students (includes classroom procedures).

More information on this can be found in the Facilities section of this schools reopening plan at https://www.gasd.org/greater-amsterdam-school-reopening-plan-for-2020-21/facilities/

Proper face coverings must be worn in common areas such as hallways or school buses, and in classrooms and labs at all times. No bandanas or gator masks are allowed.

Students, staff and visitors to our schools will be expected to wear face coverings indoors and outside, including on the school bus and classrooms. Students will be allowed to remove face coverings during meals, and for short breaks during the school day. Students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering will not be required to wear one, but must social distance.

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, and in classrooms.

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.

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, so there may be periods of time when masks are not worn during scheduled  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 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 covering without assistance

Students and staff will receive guidance on proper screening, protective measures, social distancing and procedural requirements related to COVID-19, including:

    • Proper screening techniques for temperature taking
    • Hand Washing
    • Mask Wearing
    • Procedures for moving in the buildings
    • Identification of proper social distance
    • Procedures related to mask wearing requirements
    • Bus riding procedures
    • Guidance for social distancing while waiting in line for screening, food, bathroom, nurse and other related areas
    • Regular reminders on where COVID-19 education material and procedures can be found

Students and staff will be provided with a presentation on proper screening procedure

  • area of the school to enter
  • written directions for temperature taking
  • English and Spanish directions for all procedures and record keeping
  • English and Spanish directions for cleared individuals
  • English and Spanish directions for those individuals who do not pass screening

Infection control strategies

  • Daily health screenings for employees and students.
  • All building entrances will be equipped with sanitization stations
  • Classrooms and offices will have sanitization materials and PPE available to all staff
  • Students will be spread over all usable areas of each building to promote social distancing
  • Secondary students will be following an alternate schedule which limits the number of students in the high school and middle school
  • Classroom occupancy will follow NYSED guidelines in terms of number of students per square foot to promote social distancing
  • Maintenance staff will have a regular cleaning schedule to follow which includes disinfecting spray, wipes, foggers and other applicable materials
  • Classrooms and offices have been cleared of materials the DoH has determined a potential risk factor
  • HVAC units will be examined and retrofitted with materials that will limit the potential for the spread of germs. Filtration and ventilation will meet or exceed minimum requirements.
  • Shared books and supplies will be minimized and where used, books (e.g., library books, trade books) supplies (e.g., science lab materials) will be disinfected or allowed to remain untouched for 3 days between use (or length specified by CDC).
  • School visitors will be restricted to those required for school business.
  • Students and staff will be trained on proper hand hygiene practices.
  • Teachers will be encouraged to have windows open and instruct parts of classes outdoors, where feasible.
  • School lockers will not be used by students at this time.
  • Students will be asked to carry a reduced number of materials with them on a daily basis.
  • When possible, utilize virtual meetings/phone conference instead of in-person

Facility Alterations and Acquisition

  • To increase instructional space during the school day, cafeterias and auditoriums will be used. These areas will be sanitized between student cohort use. 
  • District may need to expand the physical footprint or adjust space utilization – i. e. (facility use of gyms, etc. for classrooms). This will or may require Office of Facilities Planning approval to ensure fire/building code guidelines being met. The district has requested a utilization review by the district’s architects to determine modular classroom capacity, etc.
  • Use of outside tenting is also being considered for additional spacing

Plumbing Facilities and Fixtures

  • In-class bathrooms will be closed and students/staff will utilize the master/main bathrooms. The master/main bathrooms will be checked periodically throughout the day for soap and paper towels. Hand air dryers will be disconnected and paper towel dispensers will be installed.
  • Water fountains will be made available and will be regularly sanitized

Ventilation

  • Proper ventilation options are being reviewed and will be followed to ensure proper air circulation, etc. windows and doors should be open when possible to increase air circulation.
  • To the extent possible, room doors will be kept open to allow for increased air flow throughout the building.
  • When temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, school buses will transport passengers with roof hatches or windows slightly opened to provide air flow.
  • Recent building project upgrades at Lynch Literacy Academy will increase the amount of ventilation in some areas.

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 6 feet apart. The district 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 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.

COVID symptoms isolation areas and the treatment/medication areas for each building are being determined.

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).

A description of the Covid-19 testing and tracing procedures in Montgomery County

Presented by Montgomery County Public Health Director: Sara Boerenko, LCSW

The Montgomery County Department of Public Health asks all residents to continually self-monitor for Covid-19-like symptoms (the biggest being fever/chills, cough and shortness of breath/difficulty breathing) and stay home if they have these and other symptoms (fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea).

If students and/or staff are experiencing any of these types of symptoms at school, the school district will put them in an isolation area away from others, call a student’s parents/guardian to pick them up immediately or send their staff home immediately. Once they get home they should call their primary care doctor for an assessment and evaluation. Based upon the physician’s recommendation they are going to recommend that person be tested for Covid-19 or the doctor is going to send a note saying that person is fine or may have another type of virus. The school district must get this in writing from the family or if they have a negative Covid-19 test they can return to school as well.

If someone tests positive for Covid-19, it goes to the residency of that individual and the county where they live. If it’s someone who lives in Montgomery County, the Health Department will get that report of the positive test from the testing lab. Once the county Health Department receives that report it works with the school district to identify “close contacts” of the student or staff member. A close contact is defined as a person or persons that the infected person has been in contact with 6 feet or less for greater than or equal to 10 minutes at a time. If it’s a classroom setting where the close contact occurred than the entire class may be quarantined. Next, the Health Department asks the school district for a contact list. The Health Department will call all of those individuals on the list (tracing) to let them know they were in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 and they need to quarantine for 14 days, self-monitor and look for any symptoms of Covid-19 in themselves. The Health Department will also ask them to contact their physician and get tested if the situation calls for it. Whenever a person tests positive for Covid-19 that person is isolated for 10 days.

There is also paperwork the Health Department provides. Anytime a quarantine or an isolation is called for there is a three-page legal document issued by Montgomery County with the name of person, where they must quarantine and the dates they must quarantine. If a person tests positive for Covid-19 in Montgomery County the first thing they will do when they get that phone call is get a letter by email or regular mail clearly stating that they have tested positive for Covid-19 and must remain on mandatory quarantine at their home. The Health Department also has a travel letter for those who have traveled to Covid-19 “hot spots.” When this occurs, the Health Department gets travel logs and notifications for airlines, cruiselines and such that a person from the county has made such travel and has returned to the area. That person will get a notice from the county Health Department along with the governor’s executive order on travel and must quarantine for 14 days. At the end of this quarantine they are issued a release letter. Your employer (in this case the school district) will need to see these papers as well before allowing that person to work again or return to school.

If a family member has tested positive for Covid-19, that student or adult is considered a close contact, so he or she would be isolated and/or quarantined as well. The county would take over and manage that case. The county Health Department cannot force anyone to get tested but the agency can make them quarantine or isolate. Contact the Montgomery County Department of Public Health at (518) 853-3531.

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 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. 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

In the event of a positive COVID-19 test of a student or faculty member, parents in the building will be notified with a letter sent home and/or email alert. An alert will also be issued to parents on the district website and School Messenger system.

In the event that large-scale testing will need to be conducted at the school, the district administration will work with the following providers the Montgomery County Public Health Department and local media to notify district stakeholders.

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 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.  

Districts 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

If/when COVID-19 cases are discovered in the school, the district will consult with the Montgomery County Public Health Department for guidance and instructions on how to proceed.

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.

For more information about how COVID-19 containment efforts will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan at https://www.gasd.org/greater-amsterdam-school-reopening-plan-for-2020-21/communication-family-and-community-engagement/

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 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.

These conditions may warrant reducing in-person education or closing the school, in consultation with state and local health departments:

  • Schools will close if the Mohawk Valley regional infection rate rises over 9 percent after Aug. 1.
  • Schools will close if the 7-day rolling average of the infection rate is above 9 percent.
  • Schools in regions in Phase IV can reopen if the daily infection rate remains below 5 percent using a 14-day average, unless otherwise directed from the Montgomery County Public Health Department.
  • If the infection rate rises about 9 percent, schools must wait until the 14-day average is below 5 percent
  • Once schools open at Phase IV below 5 percent for a 14-day rolling average, schools can remain open even if the rate continues to rise above 5 percent until it reaches 9 percent for the 7-day average.
  • School will be notified by the Montgomery County Department of Public Health  on the situation.
  • School administrators will monitor the absentee rates in the building in conjunction with information from the Montgomery County Department of Public Health to determine if closure is necessary.  

For more information about how school closure information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan at https://www.gasd.org/greater-amsterdam-school-reopening-plan-for-2020-21/communication-family-and-community-engagement/

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:

1.      Stay home if they feel sick.

2.      Cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering at all times when in school accept during meals and scheduled classroom breaks.

3.      Properly store and, when necessary, discard PPE.

4.      Adhere to social distancing instructions.

5.      Report symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.

6.      Follow hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection guidelines.

7.      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 percent 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.

For more information about how hygiene information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan at https://www.gasd.org/greater-amsterdam-school-reopening-plan-for-2020-21/communication-family-and-community-engagement/

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 percent 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 such as 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 frequency of use.         

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. Accommodations will be made where possible.

Visitors on campus/Non-school visitations and deliveries

    • School visitors will be restricted to those required for school business that cannot be done remotely.
    • The district will utilize outside secure lockboxes for dropping off paperwork where appropriate.
    • Nurse will meet parents at front door for medications
    • All people entering school district buildings will be screened according to DoH guidance
    • Deliveries will be made to central loading dock and processed accordingly
    • Visitors to school buildings will follow all protective procedures.

School safety drills

The district will 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.

Modifications to lockdown drills may include, but are not limited to:

  • Conduct lockdown drill in the classroom without “hiding”/ “sheltering” but provide an overview of how to shelter or hide in the classroom.
  • In the event of of a hybrid instructional model, safety drills will be conducted on a staggered schedule so that all students participate in it.