2021 Covid Operating Plan

2021 Covid Operating Plan


2021-2022 COVID-19 Operating Plan for Parents, Student and Teachers
Version: November 15, 2021

Updates in green text

Preamble, Purpose and Goals

This plan outlines the general protocols and procedures that must be followed across all facilities and programs within the Orange Southwest School District (OSSD) and are based upon the current guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Vermont Department of Health (VTDOH), and the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE). These protocols are designed to keep students and staff safe as we re-engage in full in-person instruction this fall.

Since vaccination is the best way to move forward in this pandemic and the best way for our schools to return to normal, our district and districts across the state are working with local agencies to provide vaccination clinics. We strongly urge every eligible person to become vaccinated, as this will become especially important when the first vaccine is approved for ages five-to-eleven. Information on vaccination sites and how to get the COVID-19 vaccine can be found on the state health website:

DOH Vacinne Information

COVID Coordinators

The district has two health professionals acting as its COVID Coordinators, Beth Osha and Sadie Lyford. It is their role, in conjunction with the superintendent, to coordinate all activities as they relate to the district’s COVID response:

  • Interpret and communicate new guidance as it evolves
  • Manage student and staff questions
  • Coordinate contact tracing with the Department of Health and CICManage cases affecting the schools
  • Determine who must stay home and when they can return
  • Coordinate surveillance testing and school-based vaccination clinics: surveillance testing, “test to stay” antigen testing, in-school PCR response testing, and take-home PCR testing.
  • Assist in providing training to staff and students
  • Establish each school’s vaccination rate

The COVID coordinators have the final say when it comes to the day-to-day management and response to the virus.

COVID Guidance Updates

As the passage of time provides health scientists with more information about the virus, the guidance on how to respond to it will inevitably change. Once that guidance is vetted by the State, the district will change its protocols to ensure we are doing what is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools. Any major changes in protocols will be communicated to the community via our email systems. This handbook will also be updated regularly and will be available via the district website.

At Home in the Morning
The first step each day is for parents to check in with their children to ensure they are healthy and feeling well before allowing them to head to school. Students and staff who are sick, must stay home.
All students and staff must stay home if they:

  • Show any COVID symptoms (see Sick at School below for a list of symptoms) regardless of vaccination status.
  • Have a fever (temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Are currently required to quarantine due close contact with an individual with COVID-19 or due to testing positive for COVID-19.

If you are unsure, please contact a COVID Coordinator before entering onto school grounds:

For high school or technical center students, Ms. Lyford can be reached at 728-3397.
For elementary aged students, Ms. Osha can be reached at 728-9555.

Please ensure that you child is leaving home with a mask and the expectation that they will put it on before entering a school bus or before entering onto school grounds. The district will turn away those who attempt to enter our busses or facilities without following the protocols outlined in this guide – especially those around masking.

Universal Masking

The OSSD requires universal masking inside its buildings at least through January 18, 2022. Universal masking will remain in effect until further notice and the continuation of this protocol will be based on the current guidance from the State of Vermont which includes at least 80% of a school’s population demonstrating reliable evidence (see definition below) of vaccination. Reaching the 80% threshold does not guarantee that masks will no longer be needed in that school, it will also depend on how active the virus is in our district and local community. The 80% threshold is also important because it changes how contract tracing is conducted.

  • Masks are not generally required outdoors; unvaccinated individuals should wear masks in crowded outdoor setting during activities that require sustained close contact.
  • Masks may be removed for instructional and operational purposes if required.
  • Masks must be worn by all passengers on the district’s school busses and when using district vehicles.
  • Masks should not be used by anyone who has a medically documented condition where mask wearing is contraindicated: developmentally, medically, or behaviorally.

Reliable Evidence and 80% Vaccination

The district will only count valid vaccination cards/certificates towards establishing the vaccination rate of its schools. The district will not compel parents or staff to provide such evidence but will accept it if offered freely.

Those willing to provide evidence of vaccination so the district can calculate its vaccination rates should provide that documentation to the COVID Coordinators.

  • A photocopy in a sealed envelop can be delivered to your school’s front office
  • A picture or scan of the vaccination card can be emailed to bosha@orangesouthwest.org or to slyford@orangesouthwest.org

Handwashing

Schools will promote regular handwashing with students. Soap and water should be readily available and used as the most effective choice - while not as effective, hand sanitizer (60% alcohol or greater) can be used when soap and water are not accessible.

Social Distancing

Students should not be excluded from in person learning to keep minimum distance requirements, when possible:

  • Unvaccinated individuals should maintain six feet of social distancing in school.
  • Classrooms and school spaces should be set up to maximize social distancing.

Refusal to Wear a Mask

Refusal to wear a mask when required will be treated as any other violation of our safety rules and may result in progressive disciplinary consequences. Reasonable accommodations can be made for those with disabilities.

District Transportation

Masks are required for all passengers on public (i.e. district) transportation (busses, school-owned vehicles) per federal regulation regardless of age or vaccination status.
Bus drivers will establish assigned seats and ensure that students sit where assigned to assist with contact tracing. Seating charts will be provided to the school nurses to assist in contact tracing when necessary.
Bus windows should remain open as much as possible to allow for increased ventilation.

Lunch Times
Because students must unmask to eat, each school will put into place protocols to maximizing social distancing as much as possible during lunch times:

  • Lunches should be eaten outside as much as possible.
  • Students should not directly face other students while eating.
  • Three to six feet of spacing should be utilized – six feet is the ideal if possible.

While student must unmask to eat, they must wear their masks when moving through the food service line and must immediately re-mask when they are done eating. Assigned seating should be used during lunches for elementary aged students.

While there is no current guidance from the state to social distance, it is established as good practice by the American Academy of Pediatrics during lunch periods in so far as it does not significantly disrupt a school’s operation.

Extracurricular Activities and Field Trips (does not include athletics)

Extracurricular activities and local field trips are encouraged and permissible as long as masks are worn in indoor spaces. Only vaccinated students and personnel should attend out of state or overnight school sponsored events. This protocol can be reviewed if the infection rates in the area to be visited are low.

Volunteers, Visitors and Parents

Volunteers and potential visitors (e.g. guest speakers) to our schools must provide proof of vaccination before entry and must comply with all local Covid protocols including masking. Parents attending indoor meetings must follow all masking requirements. Parents may request to meet remotely if desired.

Sick at School

Staff should immediately send students who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms at school to the school nurse for evaluation. Healthy students for whom the cause of illness is known to be other than COVID (allergies, asthma) should not be sent to the nurse.

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Symptomatic students will be isolated and sent home as quickly as possible. Symptomatic students waiting to be picked up must remain under the visual observation of staff. Parents should follow the recommendations of the COVID coordinators when it comes to testing and quarantine. Students who are sent home due to COVID-like symptoms cannot return to school until cleared by a COVID coordinator.

Seating Charts, In-Out Logs

To aid in identifying potential close contacts should exposure to COVID occur, teachers should maintain seating charts for all students and students should be required to sit in their assigned seats. Staff whose services are delivered via visitation (guidance, social workers, special education teachers) should maintain strict time logs with students signing-in when they arrive and signing-out when they leave. These charts and logs are crucial to effective contact tracing should exposure occur.

Contact Tracing
When a positive case is identified in any of the district’s schools, the COVID coordinators will conduct internal contract tracing in partnership with the Health Department. The coordinators will:

  • Verify the student or staff was at school while infectious.
  • Identify all close contacts in the school setting.
  • Notify close contacts at the school of their exposure using the Vermont Department of Health’s quarantine letter and provide testing and quarantine guidance as needed. The VT Health Department will not follow up with close contacts that the school notifies unless there is a need identified by the school for specific scenarios (e.g., need for translation services, family or staff unwilling to share vaccination status with school, etc.).
  • Provide a line list to the Health Department with information about all close contacts identified.

Further information and form templates can be found at: https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19/your-community/prek-12-schools

In schools where the entire student population is eligible for vaccination and the school’s fully vaccinated rate is 80% or more, the protocol for responding to a positive case is outlined below:

  • The school should not conduct contact tracing.
  • Once the school identifies areas where exposure may have occurred (e.g., in a classroom or on a sports team), a communication will be sent to those individuals letting them know there are positive case(s) in their class, team or group.
  • The communication will include a strong recommendation that unvaccinated, or vulnerable populations get a PCR test three-to-five days after the possible exposure.
  • Symptomatic students and staff must quarantine and seek testing as soon as possible.
  • Vaccinated students and staff do not need to get a test, but may choose to if desired.
  • The school will share information on where exposures have occurred with the Health Department to support investigations of potential outbreaks.

**NOTE: Any unvaccinated student or staff member who was exposed to a positive case of COVID outside of school and who is deemed a close contact cannot attend school and must follow the quarantine guidance of the Vermont Department of Health.

Definition of a Close Contact

A student close contact is defined as anyone who was within 3 feet of an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). An infected person can spread SARS-CoV-2 starting from 2 days before they have any symptoms (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date), until they meet criteria for discontinuing home isolation.

  • Exception: In the K–12 indoor classroom setting, anyone who spent four or more hours together with an infected individual, even if masked and more than three/six feet apart, is considered a close contact. They district may use this rule if contact tracing using the 3ft//6ft/15min standard is restrictively difficult.

The rules for teachers, staff, or other adults in a classroom setting remain 6ft/15min in a 24-hour period or more than four hours in the same space with an infected individual.

Outdoor Exposure: schools will not contract trace for exposures that occurred outdoors, nor will they send exposure letters in these cases.

School Busses: schools will only contract trace the seatmate of a COVID positive individual. Busses will maintain assigned seating.

Protocol for Identified Close Contacts

Fully vaccinated close contacts should be referred for COVID-19 testing. If asymptomatic, fully vaccinated close contacts do not need to quarantine at home following an exposure (they can continue to attend school in-person and participate in other activities). In addition to correctly wearing masks in school, they should wear a mask in other indoor public settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.

Close contacts who are not fully vaccinated should be referred for COVID-19 testing. Regardless of test result, they should quarantine at home for 14 days after exposure. Unvaccinated close contacts can shorten their quarantine period to 7 days if they can provide proof of a negative test result following a seven-day quarantine.

Close Contact from Out of School Source - Any unvaccinated staff or student identified as a close contact outside of school will need to remain in quarantine based on the guidance given to them by the Health Department. They cannot attend school until they meet the requirements to end quarantine.

Surveillance Testing

The district has opted to participate in the State’s surveillance testing program. Each Tuesday, staff and students (with parental permission) who have opted into the program can receive COVID testing at school. Results will generally be available within 24 hours via the State/CIC portal; those who test positive will receive a call from the state or their surrogate CIC Health.

The link to sign up and consent to surveillance testing is below:

Surveillance Testing

Note: those who submit a sample on a testing day will receive an email to set up a Binx account – this account, once created, will allow access for folks to see their test results.

Test to Stay

This is an opt-in program for unvaccinated, asymptomatic individuals identified as close contacts of an in-school positive case. These individuals may continue to attend school if they remain symptom free and take a rapid COVID test (negative result) each morning before entering school until seven days since exposure have elapsed. To opt-in, parents must confirm consent through the following internet link: (link has not yet been made available to districts).

Students and staff who opt-in to this program by completing the consent form, will follow the general procedures outlined below:

  • Students drive or are driven to school by their parents in the morning to the testing location. Staff members arrive at the testing location. Individuals being tested must not interact with any other school community members each day until a negative test result is confirmed.
  • A school nurse will administer and log the test. Results will be available in about fifteen minutes.
  • Individuals who test negative may enter school and ride the bus home that afternoon.
  • Individuals who test positive are sent home with instructions to quarantine and seek a PCR test (if kits are available, the school nurse will collect the PCR sample right then and there and send it off for analysis).

Those who do not opt-in to the program must quarantine at home, take a PCR test (negative result) on day seven of quarantine, and be cleared by a COVID Coordinator before returning to school.

**When an individual is identified as a close contact, the school nurse will provide the family with an information sheet that outlines where and when to show up each morning for test-to-stay testing.

**TTS is for unvaccinated individuals only

Athletics Protocols
The athletics department will follow the guidance of the Vermont Principal’s Association. Currently, their guidance is to follow the same protocols being put into place for schools, hence:

  • All athletes, coa
  • ches, referees and spectators (if allowed to attend) must be masked when inside of school facilities.
  • Athletes participating in wrestling, gymnastics, and cheering may remove their masks during events.
  • Unvaccinated athletes in these programs should be tested weekly for COVID. Students can sign up through the district’s surveillance testing program that is run each Tuesday – see Surveillance Testing above.
  • Students participating in the Test to Stay (TTS) program may attend practice and afterschool activities if students from other schools are not present. Such students may not compete in events that include students from other schools even if it is a home event.
  • All passengers riding in district vehicles must be masked.
  • No one should be present on school grounds if they have symptoms associated with COVID-19. Coaches should immediately notify a parent or guardian and send students home who are symptomatic or become symptomatic and must provide this information to the athletic director and a COVID Coordinator as soon as possible.
  • Any team that must suspend practices and competitions due to COVID cases will be able to return to their regular routine once cleared by the Vermont Department of Health.
  • There will be no spectators allowed for indoor practices or events until further notice.
  • Masking is strongly suggested for unvaccinated spectators at outdoor events given the potential for crowding.

Spectators at Indoor Events

Spectators will be allowed during the winter sports seasons:

  • There is no limit on capacity as long as compliance with masking and distancing is maintained.
  • Masks will remain on at all times. OSSD staff will not be placed in harm’s way when it comes to enforcing mask compliance. If spectators are unwilling to follow masking requirements, the district will have little choice but to limit or exclude spectators from future events.
  • There will be signs to identify sections for seating, this is to help with notification should a COVID exposure occur – please take note of your section whenever attending an event.
  • Home team rules apply to spectators.
  • Given the fluidity of how the COVID pandemic is unfolding, these protocols may change as necessary to protect our students and spectators.

Full or Partial School or Program Closures – Including Athletics

The basic principle for determining if a school or program that experiences a positive COVID case should close has to do with confidence – are we confident that all medically defined close contacts have been identified and are not entering onto school grounds during their quarantine period? If so, then the district will continue to operate normally; if not, there may be temporary closures until the necessary confidence is gained. The district will only the close the portion of a school, class, or program that has been affected and only for the time necessary to clear quarantine.

If a class or program needs to quarantine for multiple days, the first day will be used by the teacher to prepare to transition to remote learning. Remote learning will begin on the second day of quarantine and continue until at least 50% of the class or program has cleared quarantine.

The state no longer allows the remote or hybrid modalities to be used on a schoolwide basis; therefore, if an outbreak is severe enough, a school may be shut down for the period of time needed to allow for an effective quarantine period. This should be an extremely rare occurrence. Such “COVID” days will be administered in the same manner as snow days, with the school making up the time missed at the end of the year.

Use of Facilities

Beginning September 1st, and until further notice, district facilities may not be used by outside programs or agencies. This will be reassessed when all students become eligible for vaccination.

Cleaning and Disinfecting of Facilities

Normal daily cleaning is sufficient to remove potential virus on most surfaces. High touch surfaces should be disinfected as part of the daily cleaning routine.

Any spaces that contained someone who tested positive for COVID-19 within the prior 24 hours should be cleaned and disinfected before being put back into use.

HVAC and Ventilation

Facilities will immediately notify a building principal if the ventilation system fails in a classroom. The classroom will be shut down and the students moved to an alternate location until the ventilation system is restored or a work around is put into place: window fans (preferably blowing into the classroom), or a standalone filtration system appropriate for the square-footage of the room.