2020-21 School reentry plan: Communication/Family and Community engagement

To help inform of our reopening plan, Middleburgh Central School District 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 online surveys, virtual forums/meetings and one-on-one conversations. The district will provide students and their families with multiple ways to contact schools and teachers during remote learning including email, the district’s online learning platform, and phone directories.

The district remains committed to communicating all elements of this reopening plan to students, parents and guardians, staff and visitors. The plan is available to all stakeholders via the district website at www.middleburghcsd.org, and will be updated throughout the school year, as necessary, to respond to local circumstances. The link to the plan appears on Reopening MIddleburgh Schools for the 2020-21 school year. 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 district 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, social media outlets, and the district app – 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.

The district is 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, social media outlets, the district app, and local news channels  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, state and local health departments, and the Middleburgh COVID-19 Task Force.

In support of remote learning, the district will make computer devices available to students and teachers who need them. Parent/guardian surveys, as well as request documentation will be made available prior to the start of the school year to ensure every student has accessibility to technology.  The district will provide students and their families with multiple ways to contact schools and teachers during remote learning, including email, the district’s online platform, and phone directories.

The district will use existing internal and external communications channels to notify staff, students and families/caregivers about in-person, remote and hybrid school schedules with as much advance notice as possible. Those channels will include district email, the district app and posts on the website and social media.

The district will follow its existing engagement and communication protocols with parents regarding the provision of special education services for their child. The district’s Director of Pupil Personnel Services will be the point of contact for families regarding special education services.

In addition, the district will make every effort to ensure that communication to parents/legal guardians is in their preferred language and mode of communication. Those channels will include district email, the district app and posts on the website and social media.

The district is committed to ensuring that all of 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:

Hand hygiene

Students and staff must carry out the following hand hygiene practices:

●       Wash hands routinely with soap (any kind) and water for at least 20 seconds.

●       Dry hands completely after washing. Use paper towels to dry hands if available instead of a hand dryer if they are available.

●       If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizer should be rubbed on the hands until it is completely absorbed. DO NOT dry hands if sanitizer is used.

Hand washing should occur:

●       Before and after eating (e.g. snacks and lunch).

●       After going to the restroom or after assisting a student with toileting.

●       After using a tissue.

●       Before and after using shared materials.

●       Before and after putting on or taking off face masks.

●       After coming in from the outdoors.

●       Anytime hands are visibly soiled.

Students will spend time learning these procedures during the first days of school along with other changes in routine as related to COVID-19.  This information will also be shared with parents via the district website.

Proper face covering procedures (how to wear and remove)

Middleburgh students will be expected to wear masks while riding school buses, when moving throughout the building, and any time social distancing of at least 6 feet cannot be maintained.  Once in classrooms and receiving instruction, students may remove their masks if they remain 6 feet apart.

Students will spend time learning these procedures during the first days of school along with other changes in routine as related to COVID-19.  This information will also be shared with parents via the district website.

Social distancing

Pursuant to NYSDOH Guidance, MCS will ensure that appropriate social distancing (i.e. 6 feet/barriers) is maintained between individuals while in school facilities and on school grounds (inclusive of students, faculty, and staff), unless safety or the core activity requires a shorter distance. Schools will maintain protocols and procedures for students, faculty, and staff to ensure appropriate social distancing to protect against the transmission of the COVID-19 virus when on school grounds and in school facilities, including the responsibility to configure spaces so individuals can maintain social distancing. MCS will also be utilizing signage, hallway directions and protective barriers when appropriate.

Respiratory hygiene

The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. Therefore, the district will emphasize the importance of respiratory hygiene.

Students and staff must carry out the following respiratory hygiene practices:

●       Cover a cough or sneeze using a tissue. If a tissue is used, it should be thrown away immediately. 

●       If you don’t have a tissue when sneezing or coughing, sneeze into your elbow.

●       Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.

●       Face coverings are protective. Wearing a face covering will keep the respiratory droplets and aerosols from being widely dispersed into the air.

Identifying symptoms

The district, along with the local department of health and guidance from the CDC, will provide information about the symptoms of COVID-19 to students and their parents/guardians through information posted on the district website and mailed home along with health screening information.  Contact information will be provided for the person in each building for parents to notify if their children are exhibiting symptoms.  Parents will also receive regular emails and robo-calls with reminders about completing health screenings and temperature checks to ensure proper screening protocols are established and understood by all.

The district 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 DOH guidance regarding the use of PPE through additional means such as regular reminders via email, 1:1 conversations, and reminders during meetings when appropriate.

The district 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 are outlined in the Health & Safety section of our reopening plan.

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. 

School Closures

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.

Middleburgh Central School District will work in conjunction with the Schoharie County Department of Health if there is an increase in cases of COVID-19 to ensure everyone’s health and safety.  This may include determining a metric to use when cases may be deemed increasing at a level beyond acceptable to continue current operations at the schools. 

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 local health department when making such decisions. 

School building administrators will communicate with each other regularly and, if needed, will consider closing school if absentee rates impact the ability of the school to operate safely. The district will consider the implications of student and staff absenteeism and how to ensure the safety of everyone in the schools while complying with state regulations. 

If Middleburgh Central School District needs to close at any time, information will be shared on the district website, through robo-calls, emails, district app and local news outlets when applicable.  That information will include how to access remote learning for those students who were not already using that model.  It is likely that if one building in Middleburgh needs to shut down, the other building will as well due to the use of shared transportation and staff members who travel between buildings.