To help inform our initial reopening plan framework, the White Plains City School District (WPCSD) has sought feedback and input from stakeholders, including administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents/guardians of students, local health department officials and health care providers, employee unions and community groups. Engagement efforts included, stakeholder meetings, committee planning, online surveys, virtual forums and one-on-one conversations.
The district’s reopening plan is available to all stakeholders via the district website at www.whiteplainspublicschools.org and will be updated throughout the school year, as necessary, to respond to local circumstances. The link to the plan appears on the website homepage and is directly available at, https://www.whiteplainspublicschools.org/Page/22200 . Every effort has been made to ensure that the plan is accessible to all individuals in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A/AA. The plan can also be translated into other languages, via the G-Translate feature available on the district website.
As part of its planning for the reopening of schools and the new academic year, the WPCSD has developed a plan for communicating all necessary information to district staff, students, parents/guardians, visitors and education partners and vendors. The district will use its existing communication channels – including the district website, K12 Alerts, Facebook and home mailings – as well as appropriate signage and training opportunities to support the dissemination of consistent messaging regarding new protocols and procedures, expectations, requirements and options related to school operations throughout the pandemic. Information is available to all stakeholders in alternate languages.
Reopening of in-person instruction
The WPCSD remains committed to establishing and maintaining regular channels of communication and has reviewed and determined which methods have proven to be the most effective in communications with our school community. The district will rely on the district website, K12 Alerts, Facebook and home mailings to communicate news, requirements and updates related to reopening and in-person instruction, including social distancing requirements, proper wearing of face coverings and proper hand and respiratory hygiene. The information that we will share will be based on state guidance and collaboration among stakeholder groups during the on-going planning and review processes.
Access to instruction
In support of remote learning, the WPCSD will make computer devices (iPads) available to students and teachers who need them. Students and employees will receive their devices through their schools/departments. The WPCSD will provide students and their families with multiple ways to contact schools and teachers during remote learning, including email, school-based text messaging and remote leaning platforms such as Seesaw and Schoology. The WPCSD will also take all appropriate steps to ensure that all students have access to the internet to facilitate engagement in remote learning activities.
The WPCSD will use existing internal and external communications channels (as described earlier) to notify staff, students and families/caregivers about in-person, remote and hybrid school schedules with as much advance notice as possible.
Training and public health education
The WPCSD remains committed to ensuring that all its students and their families are taught, and re-taught new expectations related to all public health policies and protocols. As part of this continuous training, the district will assess the best approach to communicating the information for each students’ age group and will provide frequent opportunities for students to review these policies and protocols. This targeted education will help ensure that all students and their families know what is expected of them as they successfully return to the school setting.
These trainings will cover:
- Proper Hand Washing
- Proper face covering procedures (how to wear and remove)
- Social/Physical Distancing
Ensure that social distancing (of at least 6 ft. or a physical barrier) is maintained between individuals while in school facilities and on school grounds, including in the cafeteria, unless safety or the core activity (e.g. moving equipment, using an elevator, traveling in common areas) requires a shorter distance or individuals are of the same household. If social distancing is not possible, individuals must wear acceptable face coverings; excluding students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering.
- Identifying Symptoms
Use a daily screening questionnaire for faculty and staff reporting to school; and periodically use a questionnaire for students, particularly younger students, who may require the assistance of their parent/legal guardian to answer. The questionnaire should determine whether the individual has: a) Knowingly been in close or proximate contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 or who has or had symptoms of COVID-19; b) Tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in the past 14 days; c) Has experienced any symptoms of COVID-19, including a temperature of greater than 100.0°F, in the past 14 days; and/or d) Has traveled internationally or from a state with widespread community transmission of COVID-19 per the New York State Travel Advisory in the past 14 days. Any individual who screens positive for COVID-19 exposure or symptoms, or who presents with a temperature greater than 100.0°F, must not be allowed to enter the school if screened outside, and must be immediately sent home with instructions to contact their health care provider for assessment and testing. Students to be sent home because of a positive screen must be immediately separated from other students and supervised until picked up.
All districts must post signs throughout the school and should regularly share similar messages with the school community, consistent with DOH COVID-19 signage regarding public health protections against COVID-19. Districts must encourage all students, faculty, staff, and visitors through verbal and written communication (e.g., signage) to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DOH guidance regarding the use of PPE, specifically acceptable face coverings, when a social distance cannot be maintained. NYSED’s 7/16/20 guidance indicates that signage should be placed in highly visible areas such as:
- Cafeteria or other dining areas
- Administrative offices
- Janitorial staff areas
The WPCSD will create and deploy signage throughout the district to address public health protections surrounding COVID-19. Signage will address protocols and recommendations in the following areas:
- Proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Acceptable face coverings and requirements related to their wear
- Hand washing
- Adherence to social distancing instructions
- Symptoms/prevention of COVID-19
In addition to signage, the district will encourage all students, faculty, staff and visitors through verbal and written communication to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NYDOH guidance regarding the use of PPE available on the district’s website.
The WPCSD is committed to creating a learning environment that protects student and staff health, safety and privacy. Our district will operate under a standard procedure for addressing situations in which an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 or appears symptomatic. These procedures include:
School Health Offices
- When a student, faculty or staff develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day, they will be moved to an isolation room and assessed by a registered nurse for any immediate medical needs. The health staff will be wearing proper PPE. If it is a student who is ill, the parent will immediately be called and asked to pick student up as soon as possible. When the parent picks up the student, written instructions will be provided. If it is faculty or staff, and the person is medically stable they will be sent home with instructions. If the faculty or staff member is too ill a family member will be called to pick them up. Instructions given to faculty, staff and students will ask them to stay home, isolate and call their medical practitioner as soon as possible. The instructions will also include a list of testing sites and the health offices phone number in case they have questions once they get home.
- If a faculty or staff member screens positive upon arrival and are well enough to leave they will be asked not to enter the building. A written set of instructions will be given to them at the door. If the faculty, staff are too ill or if a student has a positive screen, they will be brought into an isolation room to be evaluated by a registered nurse. The health staff will be wearing appropriate PPE including an N95 mask, gloves, and protective eye wear. The immediate medical needs will be taken care of by the nurse. Parent or family of staff member will be contacted to pick up the ill person. Instructions will be given to parent or ill staff member before they leave with sick child or staff member.
- Parents/guardians picking up a sick or symptomatic child will be asked to wait outside. The nurse or health aide will escort sick child out to the parent with written instructions. The parent/guardian will be asked to contact their health care provider as soon as possible. The child will not be able to come back to school until at least 10 days from the first time they began experiencing symptoms, and they are fever free for 72 hours without the use of fever reducing medication, and all other symptoms have improved. If the child is tested for COVID-19, they will require two negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart. If they are not tested a doctor’s note would be needed to return to school.
- Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 will not be permitted to return to school unless they have undergone isolation and are fully recovered. A symptomatic COVID-19 positive person will also need two negative tests in a row, at least 24 hours apart. A person who tested positive for COVID-19 with no symptoms will need a doctor’s release before returning to school, as per the DOH and CDC guidelines.
- Individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 will not be permitted to return to school unless they have undergone isolation and are fully recovered. Individuals with exposure to COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for 14 days. They will be able to return to school after 14 days unless the person becomes ill and develops COVID-19 symptoms, then they will follow the instructions for infected individuals.
Hygiene, Cleaning and Disinfection
- The district will adhere to and promote the hygiene, cleaning and disinfection guidance set forth by DOH and CDC, including strategies for cleaning and disinfection of exposed areas and appropriate notification to occupants of such areas. Areas in contact with ill persons will be closed and well staff and students moved to a clean area for the rest of the day.
- The district will support local health departments in contact tracing efforts using the protocols, training and tools provided through the New York State Contact Tracing Program, an initiative between the Department of Health, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Vital Strategies. WPCSD, health staff will be trained in contact tracing and will assist in contact tracing when there is exposure within our schools. We will rely on local health department officials, as directed, to contact anyone who needs to be notified in the event of a possible exposure.
- In the event that a student or staff member is sick or symptomatic, notification to exposed individuals will occur pursuant to the state’s contact tracing protocols as implemented by the local health department. The district will not notify the wider community unless specifically directed to do so by local health officials.
The district is preparing for situations in which one or more school buildings need to close due to a significant number of students or staff testing positive for COVID-19 or a considerable regional increase in COVID-19 cases.
Each medical office will keep track of the amount of ill staff and children who go home. If there is an increase in illness and absenteeism within the school, the nurses will make the district health office aware and their building administrator. The nurse coordinator will notify superintendent and DOH. Decisions for closures will be made with the guidance of the local health department. The district may choose to modify operations in one or more schools prior to closing to help mitigate a rise in cases. The district will consult its nurse coordinator– medical director in collaboration with the district superintendent and the local health department when making such decisions.
School building administrators will communicate with each other regularly and, if needed, will consult with the nurse coordinator, district superintendent and local health department to consider closing school if absentee rates impact the ability of the school to operate safely.
Identifying positive COVID-19 cases
Nurse Coordinator, Maggie Racioppo will serve as the district’s COVID-19 Coordinator. Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Joseph Ricca will work closely with our local health department and will be responsible for the day to day communication. He, or his appropriate designee, will serve as a central contact for schools and stakeholders, families, staff and other school community members and will ensure the district is in compliance and following the best practices per state and federal guidelines.
Screening, testing, tracing and tracking
The district will immediately notify the state and local health department of any and all confirmed student, staff or visitor cases of COVID-19. The district medical office will be notified when there is a positive case in any of our buildings within the district. Only nurses and health aides that have contact tracing training will be given information for the sole purpose of disseminating information to affected individuals as quickly and efficiently as possible. The ill person’s information will be kept confidential.
Other communications requirements
The district will follow its existing engagement and communication protocols with parents regarding the provision of special education services for their child. The goal of the special education reopening plan is to ensure that students with disabilities have equitable and continuous access to the learning community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As reopening occurs, the special education plan will guide district-wide efforts to ensure that students with disabilities continue to receive access to a deliberately designed, rigorous and enriching curriculum that challenges them and meets their individual need, regardless of whether instruction is delivered virtually, in person, or through a hybrid model.
Bilingual education and world language
The district will make every effort to ensure that communication to parents/legal guardians is in their preferred language and mode of communication. The district remains committed to sharing information in preferred home languages and will continue to do so moving into the 2020-2021 academic year.
Nutrition (meal provisions)
The district is dedicated to ensuring continuity of and access to student meal programs and will communicate pertinent food services related news and information through the district’s communication platforms (e.g. website, district reopening plan, K12 Alerts, etc.).
The social emotional well-being of students and staff is a priority for the district, especially throughout this pandemic. The return to school this year will bring unprecedented challenges regarding the emotional wellness of students and staff. It is critical that our school community focus on strengthening our emotional competencies in order to support equitable learning environments where all students and staff can heal and thrive. To accomplish this, White Plains City School District is aligning the SEL work to the CASEL Five Core Competencies that research has shown us to be critical to the development of emotionally healthy and competent adults. Attention to the emotional wellbeing of all members of the WPCSD will be an on-going commitment throughout the academic year.
Bus drivers, in conjunction with WPCSD personnel, will provide training in September, for student riders regarding social distancing and mask wearing on school buses.
In order to maintain social distancing and reduce the potential for the spread of COVID-19, district buses will need to operate at reduced capacity, where possible and students and the driver/monitors will need to utilize Personal Protective Equipment.
The following phases for reopening are contained in CDC Guidance for Schools. Each phase must be planned for in advance by the school as it may be necessary to move between phases based on current health conditions.
The core objectives of this CDC guidance includes:
- Safety actions to implement Non-pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs)
- Promote healthy hygiene practices
- Intensify cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation
- Ensure physical distancing
- Limit sharing
- Train all staff, students, and parents on NPIs and modified operational procedures
- Health monitoring and screening
- Check for signs and symptoms
- Plan for when a staff, child, or visitor becomes sick
- Maintain healthy operations to monitor risk-reduction strategies are in use
Step 1 - Substantial Spread: Schools Closed (Remote Instruction)
Schools that are currently closed remain closed. E-learning or distance learning opportunities should be provided for all students. The district will support the provision of student services such as school meal programs as feasible. Daycare may be provided to children of essential workers and who live in the local geographic area only.
In Step 1, the district will:
- Implement distance/remote learning and provide essential meal services (see Food Service)
- Restrict only essential staff to report in-person to carry out functions that are deemed essential by the Superintendent, consider having all staff report if school is closed for students, provide day care and remote learning access to home schools for staff’s children
- Leverage virtual tools and platforms wherever possible to conduct essential business functions and keep in-person reporting to an absolute minimum
- Coordinate with local and state Department of Health officials
- Participate in contact tracing efforts and specimen collection efforts as directed by local health officials (to the extent feasible)
- Close off affected areas of the school building and if possible, wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting
Step 2 - Schools Open: Minimal/Moderate Spread (Enhanced Distancing)
In Step 2, the district will:
- Remain open with enhanced social distancing measures
- Reduce building density to allow for adequate social distancing
- Use a Hybrid instruction Model (See Instruction)
- Cancel most extracurricular activities (e.g., sports, assemblies, dances, etc.)
- Establish and maintain communication with local and state health officials
- Participate in contact tracing efforts to the extent feasible as directed by local health officials (See Contact Tracing)
- Isolate and disinfect impacted classrooms and spaces (See Cleaning and Disinfecting)
Step 3 - Schools Open: Low/No Spread (Cohort Groups)
In Step 3, the district will:
- Utilize normal class sizes but limit the interaction of classes with other groups (cohorts)
- Limit gatherings in shifts - recess, cafeteria, and hallway passing
- Assess group gatherings and events on an ongoing basis to consider if any events might put students, staff, or their families in close proximity to others and should be canceled. The district will consult with local health officials to help determine the best approach
- Establish and maintain communication with local and state health officials
- Participate in contact tracing efforts to the extent feasible as directed by local health officials (See Contact Tracing)
The district will implement the following actions:
As we plan for the reopening of schools in September and the return of our instructional staff the district anticipates there will be a number of staff members who may be dealing with symptoms associated with Covid-19 or have childcare issues and who will be eligible for benefits under state and federal laws or may request workplace accommodations as permitted under ADA. The Human Relations office will follow and implement state and federal guidelines related to emergency paid sick leave and family medical leaves options as detailed under the law. This will include flexible leave options where appropriate. Employees may also be eligible for additional benefits through their collective bargaining agreements with the district.
Employees seeking benefits under one of the aforementioned options will be required to submit documentation from a health care provider, or in the case of childcare, the childcare provider supporting the need for the leave or accommodation. These documents will be reviewed by the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and, if necessary, the districts medical professional to determine the appropriate course of action.
It will also be important for the district to provide employees with the opportunity to update their contact information and health records with the district to the extent they are willing to do so. Confidential surveys will be developed to assist the district with these tasks.
In anticipation of the need to replace employees who qualify for extended leaves, the district will need to increase the number of substitute employees in all categories of employment.
- Proper Hand Washing