Health & Safety for In-Person School
- Will AF be providing masks for scholars who do not have them?
We expect that all staff and scholars will have their own masks. AF schools will provide 2 reusable masks for any scholars and 1 reusable mask for staff members who do not have them. We will also have disposable masks available in case of an emergency.
- Will scholars and staff receive regular temperature checks?
We are set up to do regular temperature checks. We have purchased touch-free thermometers. The CDC and other public health guidance recommends that families do symptom checks at home before leaving for school, and submit via an online portal. This suggestion is based on the need to limit exposure and maximize efficiency, and to be able to check for symptoms beyond temperatures. Additionally, research shows that you can have/spread the virus without having a fever (and that most children are asymptomatic), and that doing temperature checks would likely lead to congregation and increased exposure. We are reviewing the research and will decide whether this is a measure that will increase the safety of our community. Regardless of where it happens, all scholars and staff will need to report temperatures (and potentially other symptoms) before entering the building.Regardless of whether we do temperature checks at the school site, families must check temperatures if they are concerned about their child and/or if the child has other symptoms before sending them to school. If children are presenting with ANY of the symptoms including a fever above 100 degrees fahrenheit, families must keep the scholar home (and join virtual instruction only if they are well enough to do so).
- Where does the 100.0℉ criteria come from?
This guidance comes from the medical community about what technically constitutes a fever in adults. The traditionally-held notion that all people have a body temperature of 98.6℉ isn’t accurate – that’s the average, so using 98.7℉ or above or 99℉ or above doesn’t fully take into account the nuance of individual body temperatures. For that reason, the NY state master guidance on school openings has set 100.0℉ as the threshold.
- Are health forms (physical, immunization, etc) required to go back to school?
Yes. Families will receive information from their schools regarding proof of immunizations and annual physicals. In order to attend in-person instruction, a student must be up-to-date with their immunizations, unless they qualify for an allowable exemption; otherwise, they must participate in virtual instruction.
- Will COVID-19 testing be required prior to returning for scholars and staff? Will scholars and staff be tested for COVID-19 periodically?
We are looking into potentially offering testing for staff. We are not a medical facility, so we cannot administer the tests ourselves. In accordance with public health guidance, we are currently not requiring scholars to be tested before they return to school.
In NY, the state is currently able to test any resident within 1 – 2 days simply by calling their hotline or going to their website and signing up: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-testing
- What happens if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?
If a student or staff member contracts COVID-19, we will immediately notify public health officials and follow their guidance on contact tracing. Right now, guidance in all of our regions is that anyone who has been in sustained close contact with an individual who tests positive needs to quarantine for 14 days. Close contact is defined as within 6 feet of distance for 10-15 consistent minutes.
- What if scholars/families are ideologically opposed to wearing masks, but don’t want to be remote?
We are requiring masks in order to attend in-person instruction. If a child is not willing to wear a mask, then they would need to participate in remote instruction. We are developing our practices around mask use (e.g. how to appropriately wear, when and how to take breaks) and will be sharing resources for families and staff to help scholars adjust.
- Do we know how many medical personnel we will have (ie: nurses)?
Our CT/RI schools should have nurses on-site (with the exception of Bridgeport ES/MS that has a rotating scheduling) and we’re awaiting more information from the NYC DOE.
Building and Cleaning
- What does the cleaning schedule actually look like? Who is the owner? How often will cleaning happen both during school hours and beyond?
Our teams have reviewed guidance from CDC, NYC DOE, CSDE, RI DOH, and have already begun following recommendations and guidance across the network. We are expanding the scopes for our custodial contracts in private buildings to increase cleaning frequency, and disinfect. The scope and schedule of expanded daytime and evening cleaning is still being finalized for each building. We are still working on full guidance for staff about cleaning within their classrooms. We will ask staff members to clean high-touch surfaces (doorknobs, light switches, etc.) every time a person enters or leaves a room, to wipe down any supplies between uses (though we strongly advise that scholars never share items), and to wipe down desks before and after meals. We also plan to create a short asynchronous training about proper cleaning procedures in the classroom, that all teachers will experience in August.
- Will teachers be expected to clean? If so, how will they be trained?
We are still working on guidance for staff about cleaning within their classrooms. We will likely ask staff members to clean high-touch surfaces (doorknobs, light switches, etc.) every time a person enters or leaves a room and to wipe down any supplies between uses (though we strongly advise that scholars never share items), as well as desks before and after meals. We also plan to create a short asynchronous training about proper cleaning procedures in the classroom, that all teachers will experience during August.
- Will schools be allowed to run air-conditioning in classrooms?
We are still finalizing the ventilation plans for each of our buildings, intending to maximize fresh airflow throughout the building. Classrooms will be able to run window air-conditioners but will need to also open windows to increase airflow.
- Are we assigning staff bathrooms and kid bathrooms based on grade?
Where possible, schools will assign bathrooms to specific groups of scholars/staff. Given the number of bathrooms in our buildings, this will not always be possible. Schools will limit the number of scholars in a bathroom at a time and will emphasize with students to wear masks and follow proper hand hygiene after using the restroom. We will also increase the frequency of cleaning during the day.
- If a child needs to be picked up for any reason by a family member, how is this visitor’s policy impacted?
This plan is still in process, but the plan would likely be to have the family call/text as soon as they arrive outside and have a staff member escort the child down to the front entrance to hand off the scholar to a parent/guardian outside.
- Are there any circumstances where we will be able to have in-person family meetings?
This is based on our host districts’ guidance, so we’ll see how it changes over time. In order to minimize exposure, we will likely ask families to participate in meetings and classroom visits via Zoom.
- Will there be bussing? What will the procedure look like?
Our local districts determine bussing availability and eligibility for our New York and Connecticut schools. We will continue to work with them to get clarity on whether or not bussing will be provided. In the case it’s not provided, or it will be provided in a limited capacity, we are also working with them to determine what alternative options, if any, exist. As we wait for a response, we are concurrently thinking through what changes need to be made to the bussing process (seating arrangements, pick-up, drop off, etc.). In Rhode Island, we anticipate there will be bussing but service may be limited due to the number of children who can be on a bus while maintaining social distance.
We’ll continue to update families as we get more clarity from our local districts / bus providers. We highly encourage families to start considering back-up transportation options for your scholar, in case bussing is unavailable, or cannot be offered safely.
- Will students eat in the cafeterias or will meals be served in classrooms?
We are planning for scholars to eat meals in the classroom to minimize hallway traffic throughout the day, and to potentially repurpose large spaces for instructional use. We are working with our food service providers on how this will work logistically, and will share more information as we approach the start of the school year.
- Will students who elect to join remote school have access to school-based meals?
Yes, students will have access to meals. We are currently working with our local districts and food service providers to determine how families will access meals, and will share more details as we approach the start of the school year.
- Will families/schools be able to move scholars from remote to in-person (and vice versa) during each of the windows (9/1-10/31, 11/1-12/18)?
To plan appropriately for the number of students in-person, we will need families to make decisions by the deadlines provided before each of these windows. If an emergency comes up where a family may need to switch from remote to in-person school (or vice versa), they should reach out to the Director of School Operations to problem solve. We want to support families as much as possible during this time, but may have space restrictions.
- Will the hybrid model be in place for the entire school year 20-21? What will happen after January 1st?
We don’t know. We will follow guidance from our states to make these decisions and also lead from our values.
- What is the school schedule?
School schedules vary slightly; please contact your school directly.
- What about scholars who have IEP services (Speech, Occupational Therapy, Counseling)? Will those services still be provided?
Yes, those services will be provided and planning has already begun to secure and schedule providers. Services will be available regardless of whether a family chooses to join in-person or remote school.
- What emotional and mental support can/are we providing for students?
We are partnering with an external organization (Ramapo for Children) to train teams of people from each school in what it means to have a trauma-informed approach. Additionally, social workers are partnering with community-based organizations to connect families and staff with services when needed. We will continue to monitor what supports our schools need and will find ways to support.
- Will there be opportunities for movement/ physical activity and less structured times like recess?
Yes, we believe it’s important for our students to have less structured times and opportunities for movement. We are working within health guidelines to find times to go outside when possible and create opportunities for physical activity within our buildings- while still maintaining social distancing.
- Will Chromebooks be distributed to all students? How will Chromebooks be distributed to new students?
Yes, all students will be given an AF Chromebook. The plan for all regions is for students to physically pick up a Chromebook at their school building during the first week of school. For NY, we are planning for pickups prior to the start of remote learning on 9/1.
- I don’t have access to internet in my home right now. Will low-cost internet options or MifI’s be available?
- Scholars: Families who do not have reliable access to high-speed wireless internet will first be asked to consider the free or low-cost internet options in their region. Click here for NY | CT | RI options.
- If none of the cable providers is an option, AF will provide a MiFi. Students and families can request a MiFi here. Once we receive the request, Team IT will supply the mifis to the school and families can pick-up the device once it’s ready.
- Staff: We are asking staff who do not have reliable access to high-speed wireless internet to consider the free or low-cost options in their region. Click here for NY | CT | RI options.
- Our current policy is that AF does not provide staff members with long-term internet solutions at home. There are legal and financial roadblocks preventing us from doing this: we cannot currently provide a long-term internet solution for staff members (i.e., allow a staff member to keep their mifi for a prolonged period of time, or reimburse internet bills). It’s not something AF can realistically commit to given significant budget cuts across our regions and restrictions on how public dollars are used. Like all policies, we will continue to review as things change.
We understand that there will be staff members who will experience unexpected internet connectivity issues, so Team IT is attempting to bridge the gap with the following:
- Temporary mifi access for a month while staff members figure out a long-term solution (and a possible month extension in certain situations – we understand that every situation will be different).
- For staff members with AF cellphones (usually the LT), hotspot functionality should be included in the current package and can be added to older cellphone packages. If you need assistance with this, please send an IT Ticket.
- Please visit our technology resources hub for additional information and to submit questions via our ticket system.
Student Uniforms & Materials
- Will students be given individual materials to reduce the spread of germs?
Yes, we are working to provide each student with a materials kit. We will also partner with families to provide individual materials when possible.
- Will there be changes to our attendance policy to make sure students are not incentivized to come to school sick?
Yes– we are finalizing a 20-21 attendance guide that de-emphasizes attendance incentives and asks schools to ensure that scholars who have symptoms are encouraged to stay home and recover.
- If scholars have temperatures check above 100℉, will those absences be excused?
Yes– all illness-related absences will be considered excused so as to avoid encouraging scholars to come in sick. We are still finalizing guidance on when a scholar who is sent home in the morning with a fever is expected to attend remote instruction, but do not expect to ask anyone who is sick to attend school.
School Staff Expectations
For FAQs about 2020-21 school staff expectations, please see here.