Reopening: Health Screening, Hygiene and Safety

The health and safety of our students and employees, and their families, is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school campuses.

Our 2020-21 Reopening Plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department.

The following protocols and procedures will be in place in all district schools and buildings, including district-run before- and after-school programs, for the 2020-21 school year should in-person schooling resume.
 
Anyone with questions or concerns should contact our COVID-19 safety coordinator, Dr. Laura Staff, at the Health Services Office, (518) 475-6730, or at lstaff@albany.k12.ny.us.
 
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 this plan.


Health checks

The district has developed resources to educate parents, guardians and employees 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 employee with a fever of 100°F or greater, or symptoms of possible COVID-19 virus infection, to stay home and not come to school. The district used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list of Coronavirus symptoms to develop these resources.

The district will implement the following practices to conduct mandated health screening:

  1. District personnel will perform mandatory daily temperature checks for all students before entering the building, and completion of the screening questionnaire provided in the New York Forward Pre-K to Grade 12 School Guidelines will be required each day for staff, contractors, vendors and visitors prior to entering the building. Access to the building will be denied for a temperature greater or equal to 100°F, or for any of the screening questions answered in the affirmative. Emergency services personnel will be admitted without screening.
  2. Parents, guardians and students will need to complete the screening questionnaire daily for the safety and well-being of all students and employees.
    • Parents, guardians and students will complete the screening questionnaire prior to sending the student to school
    • All students will be treated equally and students whose parent or guardian, or themselves, did not complete the screening will not be singled out
    • Multiple avenues of screening completion (electronic, paper, verbal based on paper questionnaire) will be accepted
    • Students who require screening to be completed at school will be treated in a confidential manner and have the screening completed as quickly as possible to minimize time away from class
  3. Screening data will be maintained as “Passed Screen” or “Failed Screen.”
  4. Students who fail the screen (answering any screening question in the affirmative) or have a fever greater than or equal to 100°F should be kept outside the building. If this is not possible, they will be isolated from others as arrangements for immediate dismissal from school are being made with the parent or guardian.
  5. Employees and students should notify the school when they develop symptoms, or if their answers to the questionnaire change during or outside school hours. Employees should inform their supervisor. Parents, guardians and students should notify the school nurse.
  6. Human Resources personnel, the district’s health services coordinator and the district’s medical director will be notified of a failed employee screening questionnaire.
  7. If students or employees develop symptoms of COVID-19 while at school, they should alert the school nurse. In addition, employees are to notify their supervisor.
  8. Employees, parents, guardians and students shall be reminded of the health screening policy via written notices home, phone calls as necessary, SNN announcements, electronic updates and signage.

Temperature screening will include:

  • Employee supervision of students who are waiting their turn
  • Employees, students and visitors standing apart via 6 feet social distancing requirements
  • Training sessions for employees who perform temperature screenings
  • Maintenance of sufficient supplies for taking temperatures
  • Use of PPE and/or barriers for employees while conducting screenings

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.

Proper face coverings must be worn in common areas such as hallways or school buses. For those medically unable to wear face coverings, a face shield will be provided. 

Students, staff and visitors to our schools will be expected to wear face coverings indoors and outside, including on the school bus. Students will be allowed to remove face coverings as authorized during meals and based on authorized specific instructional requirements while maintaining social distancing. Students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering may not be required to wear one; however, the building administrator will work with families and the medical director to determine the best options for the students, faculty and staff in alignment with the guidance from the health department.

Students and employees will need to be prepared to wear a face covering in all common areas (e.g., entrances and exits) and when traveling around the school.

Parents and guardians are asked to provide masks or face coverings for their student. The district will provide replacement face coverings to students, 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. The district will provide masks or face coverings for employees. Employees with acceptable healthcare provider documentation stating they are not medically able to tolerate a 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.

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 a face covering without assistance

The district will instruct students, parents and guardians, employees, contractors and vendors on:

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

The district will maintain adequate supplies of cloth face coverings and PPE as required by law.


Infection control strategies

Hand sanitizer dispensers are being installed throughout each building, with particular attention to those areas that may not have ready sink access, such as entrances, offices, gyms, cafes, etc., to provide that alternative for employees and students with staff supervision.

We have purchased polycarbonate to separate employees in areas where they are unable to continuously socially distance. Additionally, we are procuring dividers better known as “sneeze guards” for use in office, reception areas, etc., to provide a protective barrier, beyond the requirement to wear a mask, for these employees who have routine contact with other employees and visitors.

There will be signage throughout the buildings, including signs about wearing masks at the points of entry, social distancing signage throughout the building, and handwashing signage in bathrooms and near sinks throughout the schools.

Additionally, we have reduced the desk count in classrooms to allow for students to remain 6 feet socially distanced in their classrooms. The placement of desks will be marked with colorful tape so it is possible to readily see if students may not be remaining socially distanced.

It is our intent for students to remain in their classroom for meals as well to minimize movement or gathering of students during the day. We will repurpose other spaces within the schools, such as libraries, gyms and cafeterias, for instructional use. The district’s architect has prepared the required floor plans and supplemental information for submission to the New York State Education Department Office of Facilities Planning. This is more fully addressed in the Facility Accommodations heading  found in the Facilities section of our plan.

For additional information about how we will implement infection control strategies around cleaning and sanitizing, building entry and exit, handwashing and hygiene, and other areas, please refer to the Cleaning and Disinfecting section of our plan.

The district also is prepared to implement social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, and other procedures on buses that transport students to school. For more information around those procedures, please refer to the Transportation section of this plan


Health hygiene

The district will emphasize healthy hygiene practices for students and employees by providing initial and refresher education in hand and respiratory hygiene, along with providing adequate supplies and time for frequent hand hygiene.

The district will post signs throughout all buildings (e.g., entrances, restrooms, cafeteria, classrooms, administrative offices, auditorium, custodial staff areas, etc.) 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. At times other than meals, cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering when unable to maintain social distance from others or in accordance with any stricter policy implemented by the school.
  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.
  8. Follow cleaning and disinfection guidelines. 

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.

Handwashing 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 via respiratory droplets. Therefore, the district will emphasize the importance of respiratory hygiene.

Students and employees must carry out the following respiratory hygiene practices:

  • Face coverings are protective. Wearing a face covering will keep the respiratory droplets adn aerosols from being widely dispersed into the air
  • 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 this plan.


Aerosol generating procedures

Respiratory treatments administered by nurses generally result in aerosol 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 KN-95 mask with face shield, eye protection and a gown.

PPE will be used when suctioning, administering nebulizer treatments, and when 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 shall be done following manufacturer’s instructions after each use.  


School safety drills

School safety drills will be conducted on a staggered schedule where classrooms evacuate separately rather than all at once, and appropriate distance will be kept between students to the evacuation site. 

Staggering by classroom will minimize the contact of students in hallways, stairwells and at the evacuation site. Based on this staggered schedule, the drill will be conducted with all students in the building on that school day.

In addition, in a hybrid model all students will receive instruction in all emergency procedures and will participate in drills while they are in attendance in-person.

Finally, schools will modify lockdown drills in the classroom setting while maintaining social distancing and using masks. Again, lockdown drills will be conducted on a staggered schedule with smaller numbers of students present to maintain social distancing. 

Based on this staggered schedule, the drill will be conducted with all students in the building on that school day. Lockdown drills will be conducted in the classroom without hiding or sheltering in place, but teachers will provide an overview of how to shelter or be secure in the classroom.