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Fall Reopening Information from Superintendent Smith - June 25, 2020

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June 25, 2020

Dear Newport School District Students and Parents,

As many of you know, the Office of the Superintendent of Public instruction (OSPI) released guidance on Reopening Washington Schools 2020: District Planning Guide. While there is a great deal of information covered in this document, the key areas for consideration as we look to open our schools in the fall are:

  • Health and Safety Requirements,
  • Key Statutory Requirements, and
  • Scheduling Concepts.  

First, it is important that you know, we will be starting in the fall, with all of our students returning to school.  Our students need to be at school receiving instruction but, as a district, we need to take necessary steps to make this happen.  These steps, and/or health and safety requirements as well as statutory requirements, are key and an absolute must in order for us to have state approval to bring our students back to the campus.  With that understanding, the following paragraphs contain the key health and safety requirements directed by the Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH), which must be in place for all school districts.  These requirements are not locally determined and must be adhered to by law.  See Reopening Washington schools: Q&A for School Districts on Reopening Schools Guidance  for detailed information.

 

Physical Distancing:

For us to receive approval from OSPI, we must provide six feet of social distancing within each teaching space/classroom.  This has implications across our district due to the fact that we will be reducing the number of students in individual classrooms. In order for us to accommodate the six-foot distancing requirement, we will be maximizing all spaces in our buildings for classes and will be utilizing classrooms and alternate schedules to provide meals to our students.  While OSPI and the DOH fully understand that it will be entirely impossible to social distance all students at all times, specific plans must be in place to ensure that we can social distance.

 

Is six feet of physical distancing required as part of a school reopening plan?

Yes. Districts must arrange their physical spaces to accommodate six feet of distance when all students and staff are seated.

 

With respect to physical distancing, DOH says, “as much as possible,” and L&I says, “to the maximum extent feasible.” Do these terms have different meanings for schools?

No. For the purposes of school facilities, districts must have a plan to maintain six feet of distance when all students and staff are seated. Both DOH and L&I recognize that some tasks and movements will require proximities closer than six feet, including passing in the hallway or a teacher moving around in the classroom.

 

When students are wearing face coverings, is six feet of distance still the expectation?

Yes. Face coverings combined with physical distancing increases health and safety; both are DOH requirements.

 

Can we install Plexiglas or other partitions to reduce the six-foot physical distancing requirement?

No. The six-foot planning framework is a mandate, regardless of other health mitigation strategies that a district may choose to add.

Grouping of Students:

In order to reduce transmission of the virus from student to student, eliminating the mixing of students is a strategy that schools are being asked to highly consider.  In order for us to reduce the mixing of students, traditional meal-time procedures within the building will be altered for the 2020-21 school year.  The middle school and high school schedules will be adjusted to minimize the movement of students in hallways.  

 

Health Screening Upon Entering the School:

All students and staff will receive a temperature check upon entering the school building.  We have purchased several no-contact thermometers for each building and will be providing specific instructions for each school as to how students will enter the building.  Our goal will be to provide enough human resources so that our students can gain entry into the buildings quickly.  

 

Do all students and staff members need to be screened for illness each day?

Yes. Both DOH and L&I require students and staff to receive a health screening before entering a school. DOH and L&I follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which allows for health screening to be performed at home before school or on-site. If health screenings are done at home, the process needs to include an attestation confirming the child or staff member does not have fever, shortness of breath, or cough. Whether screenings occur at home or on-site, school personnel should always be looking for visual signs of illness (flushed cheeks, rapid or difficulty breathing, fatigue, and cough) throughout the school day. Reopening Washington Schools: Questions & Answers for School Districts Page | 2

 

Is there a preferred screening methodology?

No. There is no specific screener required by DOH or L&I. School districts should review the general screening procedures included in the guidance (pages 17–18) along with the CDC examples, and develop procedures appropriate for the grade band, school schedule and delivery model, facility configuration, and other local factors or considerations. 

 

Are temperature checks a required element of screening?

Yes. Whatever screening methodologies are used by a school district, they must include a temperature check-in, the attestation, or the on-site screening.

 

Face Coverings:

Once again, I want to reiterate that wearing masks or face shields by students, staff, and parents entering the building is mandatory and required by the department of Health and Labor and Industries. Students riding the bus to school are also required to wear a face covering while being transported. Students have the option of wearing a face shield or a face mask while at school. Teachers will be able to wear a face shield during instruction and a cloth face covering any time out of the classroom.  Our district will be purchasing three cloth face masks for each student as well as extra paper masks for our buses in the instance a student has forgotten his or her mask at home.  Our teachers are currently evaluating procedures for distributing, maintaining, and laundering masks when needed.  Although we will have plenty of masks available for students, it is highly recommended that you find a comfortable face mask or face shield that your student prefers to wear.  In addition, our district will have neck-buff face masks with our grizzly logo that students can purchase for a very low price.  There are a few exemptions for some staff or students who may have a disability or physical/medical reason and cannot wear a mask.  The DOH does have specific guidance regarding students or staff who may be exempt from wearing masks.  

 

Are face coverings required to be worn at school by students and staff?

Yes. DOH requires everyone in a school building or on a school bus to wear a face covering, with specific exemptions identified in the guidance. 

 

Can students use a face shield instead of a cloth face covering?

Yes, though cloth face coverings have a superior ability to capture more droplets from speaking, coughing, sneezing, etc. 

 

Can staff use a face shield instead of a cloth face covering?

Yes, in certain circumstances. L&I has updated their guidance to allow staff to wear face shields when a face covering reduces the effectiveness of instruction (for example, during speech therapy, demonstrating enunciation, or language instruction). This is determined by the educator leading the instruction. For all other activities (staff meetings, hallway monitoring, playground or cafeteria monitoring, etc.), staff must wear a cloth face covering unless they fit into one of the exemption categories.

 

What is a cloth face covering?

According to DOH, a cloth face covering is fabric that covers the nose and mouth. It can be:

  • A sewn mask secured with ties or straps around the head or behind the ears;
  • Multiple layers of fabric tied around a person’s head;
  • Made from a variety of materials, such as fleece, cotton, or linen;
  • Factory-made or made from household items.

Confirmed case Processes & Virus spread

With the return of students to campus, we must be prepared to act in the instance that one of our students or their immediate family, or staff member becomes infected with the virus.  In that instance, the family should notify the school immediately and our local health authority will be notified.  The local health authority will advise the district on the next step, and it is likely that many of the other students or staff who were in close contact with the infected individual will need to self-quarantine for 14 days.  It will be the goal of our district to collaborate with Tri-County Health in the coming weeks to establish more finite procedures around how we will respond to, not only confirmed COVID cases but also, instances where individuals who may have been infected. With the return of school, comes the mixing of germs followed by colds and flus. District staff will be prepared to provide immediate instructional support through Canvas and parents will need to be flexible and use extreme caution when evaluating whether or not they should have their son or daughter attend school.  

 

District Planning and Future Steps:

As mentioned previously, there are multiple layers of logistics that need to be addressed in order for us to open our schools safely and also meet specific state requirements.  The purpose of this letter today is to inform you that yes, we will be bringing all of our students back on the first day of school, but with that, the critical health and safety components that will have an immediate and noticeable effect on our return.  

Planning for all of our students to return and being able to meet the multiple state requirements has been the task of our Fall Reopening Focus Group. This group met on June 22nd and 24th to evaluate all of the requirements and the implementation of those guidelines within our district, knowing that our plan is for all students to attend school in the fall.  For the immediate future, it is important to know that you will be provided with specific information far in advance before school starts to include dates set aside for students and parents to attend scheduled informational meetings with their teachers prior to school starting.  Future communications will also detail the steps we are taking to support our students that may be forced to quarantine, who are ill, or who do not feel safe returning to school in the fall.  It is our goal that students do not experience any loss of instruction for any of these reasons.     

With the coming weeks we anticipate that we will be receiving further guidance and clarification from OSPI, the State Board of Education, and DOH.  This information will no doubt have an impact on our future planning and will allow us to bring more clarity to our plans.  I know that you will be anticipating that vision for what our schools will look like in the fall for your children.  Please know that, as a district staff, our goal is to provide as much normalcy to the learning environment as we can.  We know that our students want their schools back and they want to socialize and be kids in their schools.  We will do everything in our power to make this happen because as a K-12 staff, we all want that as well. For an athletics update, please see below for further information.  

 

Take care and we will send out additional information no later than August 3rd.   

-The Newport School District Administration

  

Athletic Update

On June 22nd, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) in coordination with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), WIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committees (SMACs), Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Governor's Office published guidance for middle and high school sports beginning this summer and throughout the 2020-2021 school year.  The WIAA released general fall sports and sport specific Return-to-Activity Guidelines with remaining sports yet to be published.

 

The Newport School District athletic department and coaching staff are currently working to develop plans that fit within these guidelines.  The guidelines are based upon each school's geographic county phase of Safe Start Washington Plan.  If our county regresses or advances, we will have plans to meet those phased guidelines.  If school is closed due to an outbreak of COVID-19, all athletics will also be cancelled.  Currently, Pend Oreille County is in Phase 3, which allows us to begin working with our kids in a limited capacity.  It is our hope that we are able to provide an on-site summer condition program starting at some point in July.  In order to provide this program, and sports moving forward, we will be required to fulfill at least the following:

  • Health screenings for all coaches and athletes prior to practice/workout.
  • Hygiene practices utilized by hand sanitizing stations with frequent handwashing.
  • Hydration - athletes will need to provide their own water bottles; drinking fountains will NOT be available. 
  • Sanitation - Any and all equipment will be sanitized prior to use by each athlete.
  • Social distancing of students and athletes.
  • “Pod” groupings of athletes between 5-10 students per pod.  These pods will not be mixed at any time. 

At this point, masks are not required while exercising or participating in an activity though masks will still be required to enter the building.

 

Competitions

These guidelines present many challenges as we move into the fall sport season.  Competitions for most sports will not begin until our county and the opposing teams’ counties reach Phase 4 and those competitions will most likely come with restrictions regarding fans and team personnel.  The WIAA will continually adjust and release updated information as it relates to seasons.  At Newport School District, it is our goal to provide athletic experiences to the fullest extent that guidance allows as approved by our local school board, department of health, and risk management organization.  Our first and foremost responsibility is the health and safety of all athletes and coaches. We will be updating plans throughout the summer to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year.