Health and Safety

COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan Spring 2021

Jane Fremon, Strategic Planning Facilitator
Patrick Janssen, Director of Operations

Last Reviewed by the Board of Trustees:
May 6, 2021

 

I. Background

This COVID-19 Health & Safety Plan is a living document, the intention being to provide the RVWS community with a framework for operations within the ever-evolving pandemic landscape and to allow for revision as new conditions and protocols emerge.  This plan was originally drafted in May of 2020 and updated twice in August of 2020.  This document represents a fourth iteration.  While omitting sections that are no longer applicable, this version includes much of the original text as well as some new language, adopted from the most recent CDC  guidelines, to reflect changing circumstances and understandings.

From the outset of the pandemic, River Valley Waldorf School has in many ways been well-positioned to address the challenges posed by COVID-19.

  • As a small school, RVWS has been able to more nimbly adapt to changing circumstances than are larger independent or public schools.
  • Waldorf pedagogy lends itself naturally to conducting classes outdoors when weather permits.
  • Small class sizes allow for adequate social distancing when indoors.
  • The Waldorf practice of grouping students in grade-specific cohorts limits close interaction among children of different ages.
  • As a caring community, RVWS families have willingly adhered to the school’s protocols in order to ensure the safety of everyone.

Thanks to the clear guidance provided by previous versions of this Plan, combined with strong community adherence to its protocols, RVWS has managed to remain practically Covid-free throughout the current school year.  As we continue to uphold, monitor, and revise this Health & Safety Plan, the school has designated Pat Janssen, Operations Manager, as the point of contact for all Covid-related communications, questions, and concerns. He can be reached at pjanssen@rivervalleyschool.org.

II. Guiding Principles

As River Valley Waldorf School navigates the pandemic landscape in order to carry out its instructional program, we have adopted the following guiding principles.

  • The health and safety of our students, and by extension the health and safety of all River Valley families, is our highest priority.
  • At the same time, we hold that in-person, on-site instruction is also a high priority and should be provided for our students as much as possible during this time, and recognize that this involves some degree of risk for exposure and transmission of the virus.
  • River Valley will follow the dictates and guidelines set forth by the CDC, the State of Pennsylvania, and the Bucks County Health Department in establishing its Covid-related protocols, drawing as well on the experience and example of other public and independent schools.
  • This Health & Safety Plan will be reviewed regularly and revised accordingly given changing conditions and understandings.  Revisions will be communicated with the entire community as they are adopted.

III.   Strategies to Reduce Transmission

According to guidance issued by the the CDC as of April 23, 2021, five key prevention strategies are essential to safe delivery of in-person instruction and help to prevent COVID-19 transmission in schools:

  • Universal and correct use of masks
  • Physical distancing
  • Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
  • Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities
  • Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine

A.   Universal and Correct Use of Masks

  • It is expected that all students, teachers, and staff will wear well-fitting face masks throughout the day, indoors and outdoors.
  • Masks may be removed while eating snack or lunch, but this should occur outdoors only.  In the event of inclement weather and snack or lunch needs to be carried out indoors, students should be seated at least 6 feet apart and remain unmasked for fewer than fifteen minutes.
  • Teachers may permit periodic and brief “mask breaks” when students are seated or standing at a distance of 6 feet or more from others. Ideally these should be taken outside, but may be allowed indoors if necessary due to inclement weather.
Mask Breaks Indoor Outdoor
Less than 6 feet apart None None
Greater than 6 feet apart
  • Tented nap time in groups of 10 or less
  • Snack or lunch time in inclement weather
  • Staggered breaks in inclement weather for 10 minutes or less
  • Snack or lunch
  • Seated and with teacher permission
  • Visitors to the school are required to wear masks at all times, indoors and outdoors, and should maintain physical distance from others.
  • Mask use is required on buses to and from school.

State guidelines permit an exemption for students with a disability or medical conditions that contraindicate the use of masks. River Valley requires a note from a parent or guardian for any such exemption.

B.   Physical Distancing

  • The CDC in April 2021 changed its recommended distance between students in schools from 6 feet to 3 feet, except in times of high community transmission.   Because our space allows it, maintaining a 6-foot distance between individuals as much as possible will remain the school’s practice.
  • According to CDC guidelines, a distance of 6 feet should be maintained during activities when masks cannot be worn, such as eating.  A 6-foot distance should also be maintained during activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, and exercise. These activities should only be conducted outdoors or in a large, well-ventilated space.
  • Students should maintain a distance of 6 feet while riding buses.
  • As studies have found that transmission among staff is more common than transmission between students and staff, or among students themselves, adults should remain at a distance of 6 feet from one another.
  • Whenever possible, seating in classrooms is spaced at 6 feet apart and desks should face in one direction in the classroom rather than towards one another.  Each classroom is fitted with visual marks on the floor to show where desks can be placed, and where the teacher can instruct the class from a 6-foot distance.
  • Physical markers throughout the floors of the building remind students and staff to remain 6 feet apart. 
  • Where appropriate, a physical barrier such as a partition may be used where maintaining 6 feet of distance is difficult (such as at the reception desk).
  • The kitchen service line is equipped with a sneeze guard to protect food. Food service protocols are in place to keep all food behind the sneeze guard during lunch service.
  • In-person gatherings that involve any crossover between individual class “pods” or the presence of parents or others outside the school’s daily operations will be carried out outdoors.  
  • Meetings among adults within the immediate or extended school community will be carried out outdoors, indoors with appropriate ventilation and distancing, or virtually – as the number of participants dictates.
  • Visitors to the school will be limited to those deemed by the administration to be essential to the conduct of the school program, the functioning of the admissions department, or the recruitment of future faculty and staff.  All visitors are required to wear masks and maintain a 6-foot distance from all students and staff.

C.   Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette

Through ongoing lessons and reminders, students are taught proper handwashing techniques. 

  • Students and employees must wash hands frequently and for a duration of at least 20 seconds throughout the school day.
  • With the exception of two small classrooms (music and learning support) every classroom at RVWS is equipped with its own sink, allowing for frequent handwashing.
  • Teachers will emphasize handwashing for all students, in an age-appropriate way, that encourages confidence and care for the community rather than worry or fretting.
  • Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol will be available for teachers and students when outside or where sinks are not readily accessible.
  • Children will be encouraged to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue when not wearing a mask, to discard tissues immediately, and to immediately wash their hands after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.

D.   Cleaning and Maintaining Healthy Facilities/Materials

  • The school’s heating system was upgraded in 2019 to include increased circulation of fresh air to all classrooms.  The ventilation system in classrooms performs six complete fresh air changes per hour.
  • All classrooms have operable windows, and teachers are encouraged to keep windows and doors open as much as possible to increase the circulation of fresh air in classrooms and hallways.  Even just cracking windows open a few inches improves air circulation.
  • Teachers are encouraged to carry out as much of the instructional program as possible outdoors.  When indoors, air quality is maintained through the use of air purifiers with medical grade, H13 HEPA filters, placed in rooms that are not on the upgraded fresh air ventilation system and Early Childhood spaces where children will be napping and resting. Air purifiers should be placed in the center of the room and should run continuously when classes are in session.
  • The school’s cleaning staff will clean and disinfect bathrooms, common areas, and hallways daily. Individual classrooms will be cleaned and disinfected by school cleaning staff weekly, on a rotation. School staff will disinfect the bathrooms and “high touch” common areas at least once during school hours in addition to the daily cleaning. Teachers and students will clean and disinfect their own personal spaces (desks, seating, and personal items at desks) daily.
  • Students will be provided with their own school materials such as pencils, crayons, paintbrushes, etc., and will be housed in separate cubbies and bins. Items that must be shared will be disinfected between uses.
  • The school’s water system is monitored and tested professionally at least monthly by order of the State of Pennsylvania. The system is flushed regularly during testing and sample collection. 
  • In addition to the drinking fountain in the 8th grade classroom that is used only for filling personal water bottles, there are three additional “filling stations” located around the building, also used by students for filling personal water bottles brought from home. These stations are refilled and disinfected daily. 
  • The hot lunch program operates a licensed commercial kitchen under the Bucks County Board of Health and carries a ServeSafe certification.  Gloves and masks are used during food preparation. The school’s  lunch service currently meets CDC guidelines for students to bring their own lunches, or to be served individually in classrooms.  Plates and cutlery used for lunch service are hand washed in hot, soapy water, then disinfected using a commercial dishwasher.

E. Contact Tracing, Isolation, and Quarantine 

  • Parents/caregivers are expected to monitor their children’s health closely, taking temperatures each morning before sending their children to school, and keeping children home who are exhibiting any symptoms associated with COVID-19. River Valley will  follow current CDC guidelines and will collaborate with the Bucks County Health Department, to the extent allowable by privacy laws, to confidentially provide information about people diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19.
  • At present these are the protocols that River Valley has adopted in the event of possible Covid-19 infection.
If Then
A student develops flu-like symptoms overnight at home
  • Student stays home from school
  • Family consults with their health care provider for evaluation and determination if COVID-19 testing is recommended
A student shows symptoms of COVID-19 at school
  • Teacher removes student from classroom and notifies administration
  • Administration team member takes student to infirmary until transportation can be arranged to send student home or seek emergency medical attention
  • Parent(s), guardians or caregiver(s) of ill student notified to pick up student
  • Family consults with their health care provider for evaluation and determination if testing is recommended
  • Exposed areas are cleaned and disinfected
A student shows symptoms of COVID-19 and receives a negative COVID-19 test result
  • Student returns to school when fever free for at least 24 hours with no fever-reducing medication and once symptoms have improved
Parents report that their child has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Teachers report to Pat unless the family has already done so.
  • Pat will follow up with family to learn what has been recommended by their healthcare professionals and their local Department of Health.
  • If exposure to classmates has happened, Pat will issue the letter from Bucks County Health Department announcing that the student’s class will enter a period of quarantine. Families will also be urged to consult with their family doctors.
  • RVWS will collaborate with Bucks County Health Department on any additional and necessary contact tracing.
  • Following recommended Health Department protocols, all potentially affected classrooms will be disinfected before once again receiving students.
  • With support of the LC, arrangements will be made for remote instruction during the quarantine period, and these will be communicated to affected families.
  • A communication will be issued to the entire school community informing parents of the Covid-19 diagnosis and the steps that are being taken.
  • According to the Bucksto Bucks County Health Department, students must quarantine for 10 days from the established date of exposure, unless they are asymptomatic for 7 days and test negative on Day 5 or later after exposure (thus returning on Day 8).
  • If split instruction is necessary – some remote and some in-person – the teacher, with support of the LC, will determine how to proceed.  Communication with families will follow.
Parents report that a family member of an RV student has tested positive for Covid-19
  • All positive COVID-19 test results are sent to the local health department of the family’s residence.
  • The RV student should follow the directive of the student’s local county health department.
  • The health department will determine based on exposure and case investigation information gathered as to how long the student should be kept out of school under quarantine.
Parents report that an RV student has been exposed (or may have been exposed) to Covid-19 outside of school
  • Parents are urged to consult with their healthcare provider to determine next steps.
  • If testing is recommended, the student should remain at home until results are in.
Parents report that a family member of an RV student has been exposed (or may have been exposed) to Covid-19
  • Parents are urged to consult with their healthcare provider to determine next steps.
  • If testing is recommended, the student should remain at home until results are in.
A student asks about a classmate who has been absent for several days
  • The teacher will use discretion in responding, being mindful not to violate FERPA regulations (i.e. do not disclose personally identifiable information).
A student reports to the class that a peer has Covid-19, or is in quarantine because a s/he or a family member has been exposed to or diagnosed with Covid-19
  • The teacher will use discretion in responding, being mindful not to violate FERPA regulations (i.e. do not disclose personally identifiable information).
A student returns from domestic or international travel
  • Quarantine for 10 days or until receipt of a negative test result taken within 3-5 days of travel, in which case quarantine may be reduced to 7 days
A teacher tests positive for Covid-19
  • The same protocol will be carried out as if a student in the class has tested positive.
  • Substitute coverage for remote instruction will be arranged for the teacher as necessary.
The family member of a teacher tests positive for Covid-19
  • The same protocol will be carried out as if a family member of a student in the class has tested positive.
  • The definition of a close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period. The definition of a close contact applies regardless of whether either person was wearing a mask. Students sitting less than 6 feet next to another student or person diagnosed with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more should quarantine at home and be referred for testing.
  • Quarantine should be used for students, teachers, and staff who might have been exposed to COVID-19. Close contacts, identified through contact tracing, should quarantine unless they are fully vaccinated, or have tested positive in the last three months, and do not have symptoms.

IV:  Additional Notes

A.    Care of the Community

  • Staff and students at higher risk for illness will be offered options that limit their exposure or risk, such as modified job responsibilities or remote teaching/learning.
  • A hybrid learning model is offered to students whose families choose to elect it, for any reason. The hybrid options allow for students to limit their exposure by attending only part-time in-person, and completing their school work remotely.
  • Employees who need an accommodation of their work responsibilities or a remote work option can contact the Leadership Council. The Leadership Council will work with employees to modify job responsibilities or provide a remote option if necessary.
  • CDC guidelines suggest leave time should be flexible and not penalize people for taking time off, and should allow sick employees to stay home and away from fellow co-workers. Leave policies should also account for employees who need to stay home with children or to care for sick family members. RVWS’s leave policy will adhere to these recommendations.
  • Teachers will facilitate age-appropriate conversations within their classrooms to encourage students to voice concerns. It is our hope that putting into place social distancing protocols for in-person learning along with opportunities for the children to speak their minds and to raise questions, will enable us all to feel, once again, the life-affirming strength of our RVWS community.

B.   Ongoing Review of the Plan

  • Staff will be trained on and will periodically review all elements of this Health & Safety Plan and are encouraged to reach out to Pat with any questions or concerns.
  • Despite the fact that field trips and all-school gatherings pose more health risks to the community than eliminating these events altogether, it is acknowledged that the carrying out of certain capstone events and celebrations is foundational to the RVWS experience.  The school’s administration is charged with the review of proposed events and the implementation of procedures that will ensure maximum safety for all concerned.  Anyone wishing to schedule an event on campus that does not adhere strictly to the guidelines listed within this Plan should issue a request in writing, with proposed safety protocols included, to Pat at pjanssen@rivervalley.org.
  • This plan will be reviewed monthly by the school’s administration, and will be updated in light of evolving guidance from the CDC, the State of Pennsylvania, and the Bucks County Health Department.

C.     Resources and References

River Valley Waldorf School
1395 Bridgeton Hill Rd
Upper Black Eddy, PA 18972
610-982-5606
Contact River Valley

© River Valley Waldorf School