Engaging in Health Conscious Practices
Daily Health Assessment
We each play a role in reducing the risk of Covid-19 entering our in-person learning spaces. Therefore, each day whenever in-person school is happening, prior to boarding the school bus or arriving at school, students and staff will be asked to complete a daily wellness checklist to assess their current health. Upon completing the checklist, if a staff member or a student is showing Covid-19 related symptoms, we ask that they not come to work or school and to report their absence noting that it is due to Covid-19 related symptoms. They will need to contact their doctor for next steps relative to getting a Covid-19 test or waiting the appropriate time frame without symptoms before they can return. In each case, for students the report will be given to the school nurse and for staff to the building principal.
Please see the SPS COVID-19 Operations Manual for signs of illness indicating that a student or staff member should stay home, and for other details regarding health conscious practices.
Below is an example of the CDC guidelines related to operating schools during Covid-19. Our District guidelines will be similar, and in some cases exceed CDC guidelines, to ensure that we are mitigating the potential risk within the context of our own community. [Considerations for Schools from the CDC]
- Staff and students must perform a daily wellness check at home before arriving at school. Self-screening should include checking temperatures (temperature 100.0 F and above is considered a fever) and checking for symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal symptoms, abdominal pain, unexplained rash, loss of taste / smell, muscle aches, or any other symptoms that feel like a cold. Staff members with a temperature need to stay home for at least 72 hours after the fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medications).
- Staff must actively monitor children throughout the day for symptoms of any kind, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, abdominal pain, and unexplained rash. Children who appear ill or are exhibiting signs of illness must be separated from the larger group and isolated until able to leave the facility.
- School nurses will perform temperature checks as needed if a student or staff member is sick, and each school will have at least one dedicated isolation room.
- Our guidelines for returning to our classrooms will likely involve a temperature check and Covid-19 test as part of the Virus Surveillance Testing Plan currently under development in partnership with the Somerville Board of Health and other community health agencies.
The Environmental Health and Safety Committee, composed of health providers, parents, and school and city members, are currently drafting the health assessment tool and protocols. This information will be shared publicly with the SPS community by the end of August and will complement the CDC guidance.
Wearing face masks covering the nose and mouth, is a key practice in preventing the spread of Covid-19. All adults and students (Pre-K to 12th Grade) are required to wear masks while in school buildings or involved in outdoor activities on school campus, except during mask breaks, during meals, and for medical exemptions. Special accommodations will be made for students with sensory impairments and students or staff with medical conditions that might preclude them from safely wearing a face covering. We are supporting this practice in multiple ways:
- All SPS staff will be required to wear face masks. The district will provide face masks to any staff who does not prefer to wear their own washable, fabric masks. Masks should be worn as soon as staff enter school property.
- Adults and students are expected to wear and provide their own face masks. In the event that someone does not have a mask or proper face covering, one will be provided. SPS has acquired a supply of disposable masks to aid in this process. Masks will not be required when students are eating and drinking or napping or sleeping.
- Signs instructing that masks are mandatory in school buildings will be displayed at all entrances. Signs reminding all to wear a mask will also be placed throughout our school buildings.
- Signs guiding how to properly wear and remove masks will be displayed throughout our school buildings. We are in the process of making instructional videos to aid students in proper mask practices. For younger students, the use of mirrors and guided instruction to learn proper techniques will be available.
- Time for mask breaks will be scheduled throughout the school day. Designated spaces for mask breaks where students and staff can safely social distance a minimum of 6 feet, will be established for each school building and district site. Outdoors spaces will also be utilized for mask breaks.
Handwashing and Hand Sanitizing
Frequent handwashing and hand sanitizing is one of the key practices in preventing the spread of Covid-19 as handwashing with soap and water removes pathogens from the surface of the hands. We are supporting this practice in multiple ways:
- During in-person learning, students and staff are asked to engage in frequent hand washing throughout the day and schedules will allow for time to engage in such practices.
- When hand washing is not available, hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% ethanol or at least 70% isopropyl) will be used. Hand sanitizer will be available in every classroom and in common areas throughout the school buildings.
- Signs guiding proper handwashing techniques will be displayed throughout our school buildings and we are in the process of making instructional videos to aid students in effective handwashing and hand sanitizing practices.
Adults and children are required to cleanse their hands when the following criteria are met:
- upon entry into and exit from school spaces
- before entering or exiting a school bus
- when coming into the school from outside activities
- before and after eating and/or handling or preparing food
- after sneezing, coughing, or nose blowing
- before putting on or removing a face covering/mask
- before touching one’s eyes or face
- after using or assisting someone going to the bathroom and/or diapering
- after touching or cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated
- after using any shared equipment or classroom materials
- after assisting children with handwashing
- before and after administration of medication
- before and after changes of gloves
- after touching garbage
Physical distancing is critical in preventing the spread of Covid-19. Somerville Public Schools has chosen to adopt a minimum 6-foot social distancing requirement at all times in our school buildings and campuses, vs. the 3-foot minimum offered by DESE. We are supporting a 6-foot minimum social distancing practice in multiple ways:
- Classrooms are arranged to provide 6 feet of space between occupied desks while allowing for students and teachers to have safe passage. Non-essential items will be removed from classrooms to create additional space.
- Students will be provided with assigned seats and additionally for younger cohorts in grades PK-2, students will have defined individual spaces in classrooms as appropriate. Activities (such as a coloring station or reading area) will be spread throughout the classroom and limited to a small number of students at a time.
- Schedules will reflect staggered start and end times to limit the number of students, staff, and families during these times.
- Each school building will have clear movement protocols to avoid crowding, maintain cohorts, and minimize person-to-person interactions. Stairwells and hallways will be clearly marked with directional arrows (for one-way movement pathways) and floor markers encouraging 6-foot distances will be displayed throughout school buildings. Instruction on procedures to guide movement in the buildings will be provided to staff and students to facilitate safe movement practices. Clear protocols for arrival and dismissal times, transitions between classes and spaces,and bathroom breaks are being developed for individual sites. Principals will work with their reopening committees to review these protocols and make appropriate adjustments as needed.
- Students will be placed into two cohorts for the in-person component of the Phased Hybrid Learning Model. Standard classrooms will have roughly half the number of students in each cohort, with approximately 10-12 students per class. This reduces the number of individuals in a building during a given time and also reduces the amount of exposure between populations of students.
During in-person learning students will be limited in the sharing of materials. Students in PK-2 will have individual bins to store their own set of materials (such as crayons, coloring pages, stickers, blocks) to be kept in the classroom. They will also have a dedicated set of outdoor play materials assigned by the classroom that can be used during recess. For students in grades 3 and up, individual items such as books, art materials, and classroom supplies will also be provided. In the instance that materials are shared, students and staff will follow a clear protocol for handwashing or the use of hand sanitizer prior to and after object use.
Students will keep their belongings separate from the belongings of others. Students will be provided individual containers or areas to store their belongings.
The 6-foot social distancing protocol will be upheld in bathrooms. Each bathroom will be clearly marked with the number of students permitted at a time with a maximum of two students at a time (if the size allows for 6 feet of separation). To keep the social distance, certain stalls will be taped off and marked as not accessible. Signs will be posted in bathrooms to remind students to wash their hands after using the bathroom and to encourage proper handwashing techniques. As feasible, hand dryers will be replaced with disposable paper towels. Trash cans will be placed near exits to allow students to use paper towels to open the door. Students will receive disposable passes to use the bathroom. Reusable passes will no longer be acceptable. Staff will be asked to keep a bathroom log to note dates and times of student bathroom use to be referred back to as needed. Building administrators will develop a plan to supervise bathrooms to ensure students follow guidelines with the correct number of students in the bathroom at a given time.
It is important that we maintain low numbers of people in our school buildings to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19, therefore the number of visitors allowed into the building will be greatly limited. Adherence to safety guidelines will be strictly enforced, this includes the wearing of masks at all times for visitors on school grounds.
We are in the process of modifying our visitor policy so that only staff and students enter the school buildings. Student drop-off and pick-up will take place outside in front of the school in a designated area for each school site. Visitor admittance will only be allowed for meetings that cannot take place virtually or if a parent/guardian needs to pick up a child that is sick. Please note that all staff, parents, and guardians are required to wear face masks while they are on school grounds (including in the school yard and parking lot).
Visitors to the building will enter and exit through designated points and engage in a screening process to verify they do not have Covid-19 symptoms. Visitors may be limited to times when there are fewer staff and students in the buildings. All visitors will be logged, recording entry and exit time and areas of the building visited. When possible, meetings with visitors will occur outdoors or virtually.
Flow of Traffic in School Buildings
Controlling movement in school buildings will be important to bringing students and staff back into in-person learning. To facilitate the process of planning for movement in school buildings SPS formed a Reopening Student Movement Protocol Guide to provide support for school-based administrative teams in planning for safe movement in school buildings while adhering to social distancing requirements. The district acknowledges that school movement plans will differ between school settings, therefore the guide provides district alignment while allowing principals flexibility in crafting their own detailed and flexible plan for a safe and secure school environment. Allowing building based teams to develop movement plans specific to individual building designs and the school community’s needs. The guide details arrival & dismissal, hallways & stairwells, bathroom access, mask breaks, entry & exit points and classes/cohorts using school grounds.