Key Medical Terms
Close Contact:Being within 6 feet of a confirmed COVID-19 infected person, for at least 15 minutes, starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
Containment: Multi-tiered approach to mitigate spread of COVID-19 in school and keep our children, educators and their families safe. Involves contact tracing, cohorting of students, symptom screening, and personal protective equipment.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Face masks, face shields, gloves, and other equipment that protects individuals from spreading and/or contracting COVID-19.
Redesigning our Learning Space
We have retained the services of The Whalen Berez Group (thewbg.com), a highly regarded interior environment design firm, that is helping us redesign our current indoor and outdoor spaces, develop appropriate signage, and recommend other modifications, such as partitions, to enable our students and educators to learn and teach in a safe environment, conducive to an enhanced educational experience.
Our Great Outdoors
Our plan for next year, consistent with our overarching value of “More to Explore,” involves the use of our vast outdoor space for everything from arrival and dismissal and lunch to STEM and SEL. Both the amount of space and the kind of space we have will be invaluable in enabling students of all ages to learn, play, and interact with each other during class, recess, and specialties. We will take advantage of every opportunity to use our campus to deepen the educational experience and embrace an attitude of mindfulness and calm during this stressful time.
Cohorts are a key method of preventing virus spread. The advantage of cohorts is that if a child tests positive for COVID-19, it will be easier to determine who else, if anyone, is affected. We anticipate cohorts will be between 10-15 students depending on the size of a given classroom (at WDS most classrooms have different dimensions) and will have 1-4 teachers over a given time period (more in the middle school). Desks will be 6 feet apart (closer if partitioned) and will all face the same direction (a more traditional set-up than many of our current classrooms where desks are grouped together). Cohorts will stay together for the entire year. Teachers will move from classroom to classroom. In order to enable cohorts in a given grade to interact with each other, we will provide closely-monitored social distanced opportunities during the week, as well as opportunities to interact online.
Sinks, soap dispensers, and hand sanitizers
We are adding automatic soap and hand-sanitizer dispensers throughout the school and additional washing stations, if necessary. Where possible, sinks will be automated as well. Classroom doors and windows will remain open, weather and noise permitting.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning
We have engaged an outside company to analyze our HVAC system and are making the recommended modifications to mitigate any potential virus spread through the ducts. In addition, we are looking into ways to pump more fresh air into hallways, inner offices, the gym and other areas that do not have outside access.
We are in discussions with our security team regarding how the various precautions impact the safety of our students and how to mitigate security risks when a health-based protocol seems to impact previous security protocols (e.g., classroom windows and doors will stay open to increase airflow). We will still be conducting fire drills and lockdown drills throughout the year as those are integral to safety.
Protocols for COVID-19 Symptoms and Positive Tests
Later in the summer, we will share the full protocol that is being developed by our Medical Committee in conjunction with NYS guidance. Considerations include: designating a room where a student or educator can be isolated (students will always be with an adult and that adult will follow precautionary protocols), communication with a student’s family, retrieval of belongings, exit from the school, clearance from pediatrician or General Practitioner, COVID-19 test if recommended, notification of DOH if test is positive, communication with families in cohort and school, 14-day quarantine, contact tracing, 14-day quarantine of others identified through contact tracing, and monitoring other cohort members and other students.
Children will naturally contract other common illnesses (cold, earache, upset stomach, Strep Throat, Flu, etc.) and will infect others, as has always happened, and we will all need to work on resisting the urge to indiscriminately presume a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Masks and Social Distancing
All children and adults at WDS will be required to wear masks and social distance while at school. We know this is difficult for everyone, especially for children. For our Ganon students, consistently wearing a mask is our goal, and we understand that it will take time to achieve that goal. The best way to make that happen is for families to start conditioning children to wearing masks this summer if they haven’t done so already. We will share resources - videos, books, posters - that will assist you. We will spend considerable time reinforcing the concept and benefits with children and will always redirect in a positive manner. Because we know that Ganon children will have difficulty, educators will wear masks and shields as a precaution, small group play will be varied and for limited periods of time, and there will be frequent hand washing and sanitizing. Students throughout the school will spend as much time as possible outside and socially distant to enable students and educators to take mask breaks. We are designing outdoor class spaces spread across our entire campus for that reason. If sufficiently social-distanced, there will be mask breaks indoors as well. Students will remove masks for lunch and snack. For children and adults for whom a mask could exacerbate a medical or auditory processing condition, we are considering shields as an alternative. Parents will be asked to provide (appropriate) masks for their children. We will come out with guidelines (as part of dress code) and, in the meantime, if you have questions about a particular mask, please contact the school office.
Signage, Hallways, and School Supplies
There will be appropriate signage all around the campus that will encourage the various necessary precautions. In order to decrease interaction between cohorts, where possible, some hallways will be designated one-way. All children will have their own school supplies that won't be shared. We will send out that list as soon as possible. Ganon and Kindergarten will also have communal materials that will be sanitized throughout the day.
Facility Cleaning and Disinfecting
We are working with our maintenance staff to ensure that necessary precautions are being implemented and the most effective and safe cleaning products are used. All products will be EPA approved. Prior to the first day of school, every room will be emptied, cleaned, and disinfected. We are increasing the size of our cleaning staff during the day, as well as every night. Our facility will have increased daily cleaning/disinfecting. The school will be installing protective barriers in certain areas of the school and using electrostatic sprayer machines so classrooms and outdoor equipment can be safely, quickly, and efficiently disinfected.
COVID-19 Testing Prior to the First Day of School
Unless mandated by NYS, we will not be requiring students or educators to be tested for COVID-19 prior to the first day of school because testing only reflects infection on the day of the test.
Visiting Other States
Over the summer and at any point during the year, families that visit a state for which New York State requires quarantining upon return, will be required to self-isolate before re-entry to WDS. Please make sure to return home 14 days prior to Student Orientation.
Every morning, before leaving the house, parents and educators must fill out a quick e-form on an app verifying that their child (or themselves) has no COVID-19 symptoms. We are working with a new health software provider which will simplify the process. Every person entering school must submit the e-form by 7:30am and will also have their temperature checked. The temperature threshold will be 100.4 for kids and 100 for adults. If your child wakes up with any ailments, including a common cold, please keep them home.