GSM reopening plan 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up our regular school life in its very core. Friday, March 13, 2020, became the first day of remote learning for us at the German School Manhattan (GSM) in an attempt to exercise extra precaution during a time of unprecedented and incomparable uncertainty and anxiety for everyone in our community. As we navigated through remote learning ever since that day in March, there were many more moments of further uncertainty with regards to reopening as we continued on. Now, at the time of this document, some level of uncertainty remains as we are awaiting final guidance by the New York State authorities whether all schools across New York, GSM included, will be allowed to reopen their school buildings on September 8th. While this big unknown continues to accompany us, the GSM leadership has inspected the school building, measured exact class room sizes with the anticipated 6ft. distance requirements in mind, and has started to upgrade its ventilation air filter system. While we will be doing our absolute utmost to ensure the safety and health of our students and staff, we will highly rely on the GSM families to work with us hand in hand on many levels. Most importantly, we need the GSM families to strictly adhere to a new sick policy with no exception that helps us protect our community.
This reopening plan is in close adherence of the reopening plan structure and guidelines as given by the New York Department of Health and the New York State Department of Education, including the specific guidelines for independent and religions schools. The GSM faculty has been closely involved in the development of the reopening plan and all GSM families have received a copy of the reopening plan for the Department of Health before its submission on July 31 and will be provided with a copy of this plan too.
The big caveat for all reopening plans remains: the final green light on reopening by NY State in August, and the general developments in this fast-evolving situation around the COVID-19 pandemic.
GSM is a very young, bilingual private school that opened only in 2018 with an inaugural Kindergarten class, growing each year by one class into a full K-5 lower school program. In the school year 2020/2021, GSM will have three classes, i.e. Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, with the following (at the time of writing this plan) anticipated student numbers:
Kindergarten 11 students
2st Grade 12 students
2nd Grade 8 studentsConsidering the still small student numbers GSM will have in 2020/2021, we have taken the exact measurements in three classrooms in our school building that will be at our availability, with the following conclusion: current numbers, and the space and layout of the three classrooms, will enable GSM to maintain a 6 ft. distance in all directions between each class table for all students on a 5 days per week in-person instruction basis.
Personal protective equipment such as masks for all persons in the school building shall be made available by each individual/family. We will maintain a stockpile of extra masks for when someone requires a replacement.
Social distancing as mandated by the NY State government refers to 6 ft. of space in all directions between individuals.
These are the variety of approaches to enable social distancing at GSM:
- Pick up and drop off Drop off and pick up for students will happen outside of the building, where a staff member greets the students and leads them into the building through the main door. Adhering to social distancing will be supported by distancing markers on the floor and reminding language on posters will be installed where possible. If students have to be picked up outside the regular designated time, GSM staff will bring them outside. Exceptions may be granted on a case by case basis, for the children that are newly admitted to GSM and present detachment issues at drop off. After an adjustment period, all GSM students must be admitted to school by a staff member and no caregiver may enter the premises. Staff members will be prepared and trained to guide students through the transition and feel comfortable inside the building.
- Staggering schedules Drop off and pick up schedules will be adjusted by assigning a 15-minute arrival and dismissal time frame for each grade. Our class schedules are geared towards minimal density and minimal teacher transitions, with some remote components staying in place.
- Signs to enable social distancing Floor decals and signage posted throughout the school will remind everyone of social distancing, frequent hand washing, proper mask wearing and age-appropriate ways to move and socialize with each other within the confinements of the school building.
- Visitor policy In person meetings with caregivers and staff will be avoided as possible. Video conferences will be offered for all parent teacher meetings.. Adult caregivers must not enter the building, unless an exception has been granted for a medical or otherwise severe reason.
- Limitation on gatherings Events and gatherings are permitted only to the extent that distancing and proper hand hygiene can be maintained, which means that children will stay with their grade and assigned teachers. The school will not hold any large-group gatherings until further notice. After school enrichment will be offered remotely for the time being. No students of other schools will be admitted at any time.
As per the NY State Department of Health interim guidelines, face coverings will be required at all times, except for meals and instruction/activities/breaks with appropriate social distancing. Students, staff and visitors should bring their own masks, while the school will have some on hand for emergencies.
Any time or place that individuals cannot maintain appropriate social distancing, students, staff and visitors must wear acceptable face coverings, including but not limited to:
- At drop off and pick up outside the building
- In the GSM lobby
- In all of the buildings’ staircases and hallways
- At the park, if social distancing rules are not possible/respected
Students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering, including students where such covering would impair their physical health or mental health, are required to communicate this with the head of school in due course and before the first day of in-person instruction.
Due to the severity of the health risk, the proven effectiveness of mask-wearing in curbing the spread of COVID, and as a matter of equal treatment and respect towards all, the school highly encourages the adherence to the face covering rules. Families of students that are medically or emotionally hindered to wear face coverings may also consider the temporary participation in remote learning.
GSM will train all students, faculty, and staff on how to adequately put on, take off, clean (as applicable), and discard PPE, including appropriate face coverings.
At the time of this reopening plan, subject to developments in this fast evolving situation and subject to the final announcement by New York State authorities on school reopening, GSM intends to reopen the school building on the first day of school, September 8, for in-person instruction for all GSM students on a 5 days per week basis. To reduce contact density, the school day will be slightly shortened and after care won’t be available to the families for the time being.
As outlined above, the available space and student numbers at GSM will allow for a 5 day/week model, complying with the mandated social distancing guidelines. We will be planning in class cohorts and there will be no mixing of classes. School hours will be reduced to around 70% of the regular, past schedules. Focus, particularly at the beginning of the school year, will be on helping students ease back into the school environment, on their mental and emotional well-being, and on reviewing current progress after the remote learning that started in March.
BREAKFAST AND LUNCH BREAKS
Students will have their lunch breaks at their tables. No shared facility will be used for the lunch breaks. Lunch will be packed by parents including filled water bottles. Teachers refill those bottles in the school with precautionary measures in place (e.g. no contact of bottle heads).
In the past, all students of the school have spent the lunch break, after eating, with their teachers in the Washington Market Park in the school’s direct vicinity. As in-person instruction commences, GSM will discontinue this practice in the beginning, and in its place spend a reduced time after lunch in their classrooms with some movement exercises, observing social distancing guidelines. The reason for the temporary discontinuation is solely an abundance of care and proactiveness as we enter this new territory of in-person instruction during a health emergency. The students’ age would not allow us to walk to the park, safely observing the mandated social distancing guidelines. As we acknowledge that parents (and students!) have always highly appreciated the park time, we vow to make up for it with targeted movement exercises in the classrooms in a safe and precautionary manner. The temporary discontinuation of the daily park time will be reviewed after 4 full weeks into in-person construction and families will be kept abreast of it as in all decisions impacting the students’ school day.
Besides the school’s lobby, the school doesn’t entertain shared spaces for neither the students nor the staff.
Restrooms shall be used as per class, as follows:
Kindergarten: two upstairs restrooms in the classroom.
1st grade: one restroom in the lobby
2nd grade: one restroom behind their classroom.
All restroom doors will feature large signs dedicating them as per class and as a reminder for all people present in the building. The 1 class-1 restroom rule will be strictly enforced at GSM in the coming school year. Non-adherence will be treated as a breach in our safety protocol.
Teachers and staff shall either use the restroom of their respective class or alternatively the dedicated staff restroom in the basement of the building.
Parents or other people present on the premises shall not use the restrooms available in the school. The hand-washing upon arrival of students in the morning shall take place in their respective restrooms.
The teachers lounge will need to be maintained for printing, the teacher’s material storage, as well as for their breaks. Teachers will be obliged to use the space only one person at a time with no exception. Regular GSM staff meetings will be held virtually for the time being until decided otherwise.
SCHOOL EVENTS AND PARENT TEACHER CONFERENCES
At the time of this plan, GSM doesn’t plan to hold in-person events for parents or other stakeholders at the school building. The regular parent teacher conferences shall be held virtually for the time being. Timings to be determined.
Field trips are suspended until further notice. The teachers will look into subsidizing it with virtual alternatives for field trips, complementing the classes curricula, such as a virtual visit to the museum, which could be implemented in and from the respective classrooms.
The conduction of an after school program is still to be worked out, and will have to comply with all the safety and precautionary measures that will be in place throughout the school day. In normal circumstances, after schools are not organized in cohorts/per classes and rather bring all classes together. It will still have to be decided whether the current capacities will allow for after school organized around cohorts, or whether after schools might not be possible in the first phase (Sep-Dec) of the in-person instructions.
VULNERABLE POPULATIONS AND THE OPTION OF REMOTE LEARNING FOR ALL
GSM will provide families with the opportunity to opt out of in-person instruction for their child should they or their close family members be among a particularly vulnerable group, including for families that don’t feel comfortable to take part in in-person learning from the start of the school year, by offering them an alternative schedule remotely. The offer and the planning for it will stand until further notice and may be changed within the first few months of reopening in-person instruction and after a review of the usefulness and effectiveness of a combination of in-person and remote learning.
Given the available resources at GSM, including personnel, the remote learning alternative, while GSM is back in in-person instruction, will likely be implemented as follows:
- Learning material will be provided to the respective families either by postal/electronic mail or to be picked up at the school building at a set time.
- Teachers will prepare detailed instructions and provide families with those in due course at the start of the school year. The school will do everything in its capacity to limit any delays in the provision of the material.
- The school is considering the possibility of offering virtual sessions from school to the homes of those who opt out or quarantine, likely morning circles, start of the respective lessons, and similar, recording the respective class teacher. As this concept will be very new to all involved, the school reserves the right to make changes to the remote learning alternative, should the school decide that certain related procedures have not proven effective or doable. Should the school decide to discontinue the virtual lessons, families will be asked to work with the learning material provided and given instructions. As teachers will be in in-person instructions, an in order not to overload the teachers with plenty of messaging work after the in-person school day in communication with the remote-learning families, the school will establish a set schedule for talking to teachers virtually, for any related questions, and the school will ask the remote learning families to respect those indicated times and the teachers’ responsibilities in times of already very heightened stress. In order to allow for sufficient planning, parents are requested to inform the school by August 15 whether they want to and will take part in full remote learning from September 8, or in parts of it (day-wise), as adequate. A change to full in-person learning will be possible and needs to be communicated to the school at least one week prior to the intended change.
In due course, and in connection with its new sick policy, GSM will provide the families with details on the anticipated procedures should another temporary school closure be necessary, in which case all students would switch back to remote learning and/or self-quarantine for a determined, temporary period.
GSM doesn’t qualify yet for a school busing service provided by the NY State Department of Education. However, the school will encourage GSM families to organize carpooling (as far as possible and reasonable as per respective class cohort), walk/bike to school if feasible, and will furthermore provide parents with the contact of selected and recommended small bus services for the parents to self-organize, particularly for families whose residential addresses in New York City constitutes for one geographical area which would make the organization of a mutually used school bus practical.
The GSM school management is developing communication plans for students, parents/legal guardians of students, staff, and visitors that include applicable instructions, training, signage, and consistent means to provide individuals with information.
GSM will dedicate the preparations week with staff to update and train staff on the new COVID-19 guidelines. The first days back to school, all students are taught and trained how to follow new COVID-19 protocols safely and correctly, including but not limited to hand hygiene, proper face covering wearing, social distancing, and respiratory hygiene, in an age appropriate and positive manner.
The school will encourage all students, faculty, staff, and visitors through verbal and written communication (e.g., signage) to adhere to CDC and DOH guidance regarding the use of PPE, specifically acceptable face coverings, when a social distance cannot be maintained.
The school building will undergo a thorough disinfection before reopening. The professional cleaning service will disinfect all surfaces with high-exposure on a daily basis with hospital-level disinfectants. Teachers and staff will be provided with the same efficient disinfectant cleaners and will wipe highly exposed surfaces on a regular basis.
The school’s central air conditioning system will be equipped with new filters in all AC entities and will likely install HEPA or high-efficiency filters (MERV 16) depending on what functions with the school’s system.
An even stricter, and even more frequent, hand-washing policy will be introduced from day one. Hand sanitizers will be available in each classroom and the usage of it will be highly advised particularly when hand-washing is not possible.
HEALTH, HYGIENE, CLEANING AND DISINFECTION
GSM staff will teach children the symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if they feel sick. They will also teach disease-prevention strategies including not sharing food or drink; a hand washing method lasting at least twenty seconds (e.g. accompanied by a song); the occasions when hand washing is required; the importance of using a tissue to wipe the nose, and to cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inside of the elbow. Staying home when feeling unwell will be reinforced.
Regular and thorough hand washing is deemed a highly effective defense against any virus and proper hand hygiene will be required at all times. Classroom procedures will determine regular procedures throughout the day for students and staff to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Students and staff may use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol for in between hand washing, which will be available in all classrooms and throughout the building.
At GSM, all people present in the building will be asked to strictly observe hand hygiene, through hand-washing or the use of an adequate hand sanitizer, at the following times:
- Before entering GSM facility
- Before and after eating or drinking
- After coughing, sneezing or touching the eyes/nose/mouth
- After playing outside
- After using the restroom
Hand washing signs will be posted around the school. Staff will continually reinforce correct and proper hand washing instructions to students.
RESPIRATORY HYGIENE PROCEDURES
U.S. and international health experts have advised that the COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. It is therefore of utmost importance that students and staff cover their mouths or noses with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of the tissue appropriately and thoroughly wash/disinfect their hands immediately. A supply of tissues and no touch/floor pedal trash cans will be available in each room. If no tissue is available, using the inside of the elbow (or shirtsleeve) to cover the mouth or nose is preferable to using the hands. Students and staff should be reminded to avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth and to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze or use the inside of their elbow during any time facial coverings are not worn.
The safety and health of our employees and students is our top priority. In addition to the thorough cleaning of the office and school before employees and students return, the cleaning steps outlined below are to be taken to disinfect workplace surfaces, chairs, tables, etc. to protect employees and reduce the risk of spread of infection. We will require employees to maintain this safety standard by continuously cleaning and disinfecting based on the frequency stated below.
|Workspaces||Classrooms, Offices||At the end of each use/day|
|Appliances||Refrigerators, Microwaves, Coffee||At the end of each use/day and/or between use|
|Electronic Equipment||Copier machines, Shared computer monitors, Telephones, keyboards||At the end of each use/day and/or between use|
|General Used Objects||Handles, light switches, sinks, restrooms||At least 4 times a day/At the end of each use|
|Common Areas||Classrooms/Offices||At the end of each use/day; between groups|
MENTAL HEALTH, BEHAVIORAL AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL STAFF
Staff will receive professional development during the week of August 31-September 4th and throughout the academic year in areas including:
- Taking care of your own mental and physical health (along with weekly check-ins with administrators).
- How to talk with and support students during these times (ongoing coaching from school leadership).
- How to support the social/emotional development of students in a remote platform (with guidance from Responsive Classroom resources, and Connected and Respected Curriculum).
- Coping and resilience skills (with guidance from Responsive Classroom resources, and Connected and Respected Curriculum).
SUPPORT FOR ALL STUDENTS
- Before the school year begins, the school will send home resources on how to best get students ready for the transition to the new school year.
- Students will continue to have support from our Responsive Classroom practices such as morning circle, reflections of the week, and other best practices, to build community and connection with peers and teachers.
- Students will work through the Connected and Respected Curriculum with Grade level teachers.
- Students will receive live instruction each day, and teachers will keep a close eye on each individual student’s participation and attendance and offer one on one support if necessary.
SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS HAVING DIFFICULTY TRANSITIONING BACK TO THE CLASSROOM
- Classroom teachers will identify students who are having trouble transitioning to our new school routines.
- Teachers and school administration will also be in close contact with families so they can help support the transition at home.
SUPPORT FOR ALL FAMILIES
- GSM will offer monthly, virtual town hall meetings, in cooperation with the Parents Association.
- Teachers will send a weekly update to families and be available for individual conferences.
STUDENTS AND STAFF SHOWING SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19
Any student or employee who demonstrates symptoms of COVID-19 upon arrival or during the school day will immediately separate from others and be isolated in the room designated by the Head of School. The Head of School will assess the student/staff member. A member of the school leadership team will also be consulted. Employees will remain in self-isolation until they feel well enough to leave the school. The school will contact parents/caregivers immediately to arrange for students to be picked up from school quickly.
If a student shows signs of illness which indicates that they might be infected with COVID-19, they will be isolated in a dedicated room and supervised by a staff member maintaining distancing. The student’s caregiver will be notified immediately and asked to pick up the child. If an individual’s symptoms are severe, such as high fever or difficulty breathing, medical care may be sought immediately; all areas used by that individual will be closed and then cleaned and disinfected after a waiting period of 24 hours or as long as possible.
RETURN TO SCHOOL AFTER ILLNESS
GSM will follow CDC guidance for allowing a student or staff member to return to school after exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
If a healthcare provider (physician/nurse practitioner, or physician assistant) has ruled out COVID-19, they can return to school after meeting the requirements below:
- Once there are no symptoms and no fever without the use of fever reducing medicines, and they have felt well for at least 48 hours
- If they have been diagnosed with another condition and have a written note from a healthcare provider stating they are cleared to return to school
If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a healthcare provider, they must stay at home until all requirements below are met:
- It has been at least 14 days since the onset of first symptoms
- Symptom-free for 48 hours
- Cleared to come to school by a physician
PROCEDURE IN THE EVENT OF COVID-19 EXPOSURE
The GSM Head of School will notify the State and City Health Departments immediately upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 diagnostic test result by an individual within school facilities or on school grounds, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
In the case of an individual testing positive, families, employees, building partners and outside providers will be informed via email about the positive case of COVID-19 in the community. Further steps and quarantine procedures will be outlined in the email. Confidentiality will be maintained as required by federal and state law/regulations. The entire school premises will be thoroughly cleaned according to official guidelines.
GSM will support local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual, in accordance with the protocols, training, and tools provided through the New York State Contact Tracing Program. GSM will cooperate with all state and local health department contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine efforts and follow the below steps.
- Verify attendance dates for the sick student.
- Identify those who have had close contact with the individual at any time within 48 hours (during school hours) before the individual’s onset of symptoms until the individual has left school property. Individuals will be required to self-quarantine and closely monitor symptoms for 14 days from their last exposure to that individual.
- Implement CDC guidelines for cleaning protocols.
- Remind teachers/staff that were in direct, prolonged contact with the sick individual to contact Head of School immediately.
- Communicate the information to the impacted classroom teacher(s) and include/cc staff.
- Head of School will compile a parent email list and send out a statement as notification of a positive COVID-19 test and include/cc staff in the communication. Quarantine procedures will be provided. Head of School will communicate and coordinate with the New York City Health Department.
- The Head of School will send a return to class communication to all staff/families.
Our school will closely follow the guidance of the The New York State Education Department and the State Department of Health on school closures.
GSM will close (at least for 24 hours until further advice and guidance from state and local health department):
- If a student or staff member is confirmed as a positive COVID-19 patient.
- If a household member of a student or staff (family, roommates) is confirmed as a positive COVID-19 patient.
- If a person frequenting the building is confirmed as a positive COVID-19 patient.
If GSM closes because under the circumstances mentioned above, the following steps will be taken:
- Families will be informed and updated via Edsby and email.
- Staff will be informed and updated via Edsby staff and WhatsApp.
- GSM will be closed for a min. of 24 hours pending investigation. GSM may be closed for a longer pending direction from the Department of Health.
- GSM will cooperate with and follow the Department of Health guidelines, sharing information with the Department as needed, and instituting quarantines for staff members where recommended.
- GSM will clean and disinfect the school building in accordance with New York State Department of Health guidelines.
- The school will not reopen until the disinfection is complete and the Department of Health has determined that it is safe to reopen.
- Families will be notified in advance of the reopening time.
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