2021 Covid Operating Plan

2021 Covid Operating Plan


2021-2022 COVID-19 Operating Plan for Parents, Student and Teachers
Version: August 31,2021

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, 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
  • 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 will require universal masking inside its buildings beginning on August 30, 2021. Masking until that date is strongly recommended. Universal masking will remain in effect until at least 80% of a school’s population has shown reliable evidence (see definition below) of vaccination and through at least October 4, 2021 (AOE advisory 9.8.21)..

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.

  • 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.

Since students under the age of twelve are not currently eligible for the vaccines, student under the age of twelve will remain masked indoors.

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.

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.

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.
  • Meet with the Health Department to review the situation, conduct an exposure risk assessment and discuss close contact determinations.
  • Notify close contacts at the school of their exposure 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

CDC Definition of a Close Contact

A close contact is defined as anyone who was within 6 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: 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 six feet apart, is considered a close contact.

This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.

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.

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.

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, coaches, and spectators (if allowed to attend) must be masked when inside of school facilities.
  • 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.

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.