Reopening: Health & Safety

The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

The following protocols and procedures will be in place in all district schools for the 2020-21 school year should in-person schooling resume. Anyone with questions or concerns should contact our COVID-19 safety coordinator, Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., at ctangorra@niskyschools.org or (518) 377-4666, ext. 50707.

For more information about how health and safety protocols and trainings will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

Staff training will be delivered via webinar, on the SafeSchools online platform and in live sessions. As the guidance evolves, supplemental district and departmental information will also be provided.

Health Screening

The district will develop resources to educate parents/guardians and staff members regarding the careful observation of symptoms of COVID-19 and health screening measures that must be conducted each morning before coming to school. The resources include the requirement for any student or staff member with a fever of 100°F or greater and/or symptoms of possible COVID-19 virus infection to not come to school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list of Coronavirus symptoms will be used to develop these resources.

The Niskayuna Central School District will implement the following practices to conduct mandated employee health screening.

Employee Health Screening

Prior to arrival each day, all employees will be required to complete a standardized digital health screening tool. This screening requires employees to take their own temperature each morning, as the screening tool includes a question about whether or not the employee has a fever of 100.0°F or greater. Failure to achieve clearance will result in the employee not being able to report to work (and potentially working remotely at the direction of their supervisor.) The school nurse may be consulted when circumstances warrant. The nurse will use Department of Health COVID-19 guidelines and requirements in making determinations. The screening tool will include other questions designed to assess risk of exposure to COVID-19. Failure to achieve clearance with the screening tool on a given day will result in an employee either not being able to report to work, or if they are on-site, being sent home immediately. Such individuals will be directed to contact their health care provider.

For those who do not have access to the digital format of the screening tool, a paper copy will be available for completion at the main/designated entrance(s). For those who neglected to take their temperature at home, a school nurse or designee will do a temperature check.

If an employee develops symptoms or if their answers to the questionnaire change during or outside school hours, they should notify their building principal, secretary, and nurse via district email or phone call.

The data collected through the screening tool will be stored in a secure location. The principal, secretary, and nurse will have access to the daily reports. The principal and/or their designee will review the reports daily. No personal health information will be collected.

Student Health Screening

The Niskayuna Central School District will implement the following practices to conduct mandated student health screening.

Prior to arrival each day, all parents/families will be required to complete a standardized, digital health screening tool. This screening requires parents to take their child’s temperature each morning, as the screening tool includes a question about whether or not the student has a fever of 100.0°F or greater. If the student’s temperature is 100.0°F or greater, they will not be able to come to school. The screening tool also includes questions designed to assess risk of exposure to COVID-19. Failure to achieve clearance will require a family to keep their child home or will have the school send them home upon arrival.
Students that were not screened at home will need to have their temperature checked upon arrival at school. (Recovering, Rebuilding & Renewing: The Spirit of NY Schools, p. 24). A nurse or designee will conduct temperature checks and appropriate supervision will be provided to ensure students maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet. School principals, nurses, and staff members will work with students whose families did not complete the screening at home in a way that maintains their confidentiality and privacy to the greatest extent practicable. Students whose temperature is 100.0 F° or greater will be placed in an isolated area and cared for until arrangements can be made with their families to bring them home.

Social Distancing, Face Coverings & Personal Protective Equipment

The district has developed a plan with policies and procedures for maintaining social distancing of all students, faculty, and staff when on school facilities, grounds and transportation.

Students, staff and visitors to our schools will be expected to wear face coverings indoors and outside, including on the school bus. Students and staff will be required to wear a face covering in classrooms, all common areas (e.g., entrances and exits) and when traveling around the school.Students will be allowed to remove face coverings during designated meal times and for specific instructional purposes as long as they maintain appropriate social distance. Students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering will not be required to wear one, but will be provided with a face shield.  Appropriate social distancing will be ensured. Generally, face shields are optional and can be worn with a masks but cannot be worn in place of a mask unless a medical condition requires this.

Face coverings will be provided to students and staff, if needed, at no cost. Acceptable face coverings for COVID-19 include, but are not limited to, cloth-based coverings and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose.

An employee is allowed to wear their own acceptable face covering if they choose. Employees with healthcare provider documentation stating they are not medically able to tolerate face covering will not be required to do so.
If a child refuses to wear a mask (except those medically unable to do so), teachers and administrators will work with parents and students to support and redirect students. If support and redirection are unsuccessful and a child continues to refuse to wear a mask, it will be necessary to move the child to a virtual program.

All rules regarding appropriate attire in school apply to face masks.

Face coverings should not be placed on:

  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Students where such covering would impair their health or mental health, or where such covering would present a challenge, distraction, or obstruction to education services and instruction
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
  • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance

The district will instruct students, parents/guardians and staff, contractors and vendors on:

  • The proper way to wear face coverings
  • Washing hands before putting on and after removing their face covering
  • Proper way to discard disposable face coverings

All classrooms and rooms used by students, faculty and staff will be supplied with a stock of 30 disposable masks to have available at all times. Rooms for individual use will have a daily stock of 10 disposable masks. High traffic areas (main office, entrance sign in areas, library media, nurses offices) will be supplied with 50-100 disposable masks. Additional PPE such as gloves, disposable gowns,face shields, thermometers, and barriers, will be provided to all nursing staff, staff who take temperatures, and staff who work with students in need of physical care/toileting.

Prior to the reopening of school, the district will utilize a centralized process to do an initial bulk order of the required PPE for all buildings using a current data sheet listing all rooms and personnel in need of these supplies, types and quantities of PPE. This document will be updated on an ongoing basis.

Building principals and their designees will receive this guidance document such that future supplies can be monitored and ordered as needed to ensure there are no shortages.

Infection Control Strategies

Social distancing will be maintained within all areas of the school buildings, including classrooms. Per New York State Education Department (NYSED) guidance, social distancing of 6 feet will be maintained between students and staff throughout the day. Within classrooms, student desks will be arranged in a grid with a minimum of 6 feet distance between them in all directions. Class sizes will be reduced to accommodate the extra space required to properly space the desks with social distancing in mind.

Facility Alterations and Acquisition

To reduce the number of students who are together at one time and ensure social distancing, class sizes will be smaller. K-6 classes will be split in half. Given the increased number of groups, spaces such as gyms, cafeterias and libraries will be used for instruction. A floor plan of the entire room showing the furniture layout with egress aisles shall be submitted to the NYSED Office of Facilities Planning. Lighting, ventilation, means of egress, and fire alarm coverage must be indicated. No facility expansion or acquisition of additional space is planned at this time.

Plumbing Facilities and Fixtures

We currently have an adequate number of bathroom facilities in our buildings for both the student and staff population. All bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected several times daily, and a log will be maintained documenting the time and staff responsible for that facility. At the end of each day all bathrooms will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected for the night and locked.

Signage will be installed detailing proper hygiene and hand washing practices and social distancing. Barriers will also be installed if necessary to maintain social distancing.

All air dryers will be removed and paper towel dispensers will be installed in their place.

The district currently has a mixture of traditional and bottle fill drinking water dispensers. Where practicable, traditional units will be replaced with bottle fill units. Where a bottle fill unit cannot be substituted, the traditional fountain may be taken out of service.

District buildings are currently undergoing their scheduled summer cleaning. Because of this, water at each building is being used daily keeping the service as well as supply lines flushed. Every sink and fountain will be run for the required amount to properly flush that fixture.

Ventilation

Our ventilation systems are maintained on a regular basis by trained staff as well as mechanical contractors. The maintenance staff is currently checking all air units to ensure that they are properly functioning. We currently have our contractor performing routine maintenance on all of our large air handlers. They are also in the process of determining which units if any can accept higher MERV filters without causing restriction in air flow and damage to the unit itself.

All of our air units are controlled by a building management system that is readily accessible by all maintenance staff and that can be adjusted as needed.

We will follow all NYSED and Office of Facilities Planning codes and recommendations in reference to doors and windows being opened.

New Technology for Air Purification

There is no current plan to use any new technology for air purification. If we do however decide to look at this as an option we will contact the NYSED Office of Facilities Planning or use a product currently approved and update this plan accordingly.

Management of Ill Persons, Contact Tracing and Monitoring

The district requires students, faculty, or staff members who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to report to the nurse’s office. If there are several students waiting to see the school nurse, students will wait at least 6 feet apart. The district has designated areas to separate individuals with symptoms of COVID- 19 from others until they can go home or to a healthcare facility, depending on severity of illness. One area will be used to treat injuries, provide medications or nursing treatments, and the other area will be used for assessing and caring for ill students and staff. Both areas will be supervised by an adult and have easy access to a bathroom and sink with hand hygiene supplies. Consideration should be given to proximity to an outside door to facilitate parent pick-up.

Covid Isolation Area and Treatment/Medication Area by School:

This information will be identified and communicated to all students and staff.

  • Birchwood: Treatment/Medication – Nurse’s Office / Isolation – Cafeteria Stage
  • Craig: Treatment/Medication – Nurse’s Office / Isolation – Room 16
  • Glencliff: Treatment/Medication – Nurse’s Office / Isolation – Social Worker’s Office, Room 213
  • Hillside: Treatment/Medication – Nurse’s Office / Isolation – To be determined
  • Rosendale: Treatment/Medication – Nurse’s Office / Isolation – 117A
  • Iroquois: Treatment/Medication – Nurse’s Office / Isolation: Room 250
  • Van Antwerp: Treatment/Medication – Nurse’s Office / Isolation – Media Classroom
  • High School: Treatment/Medication – Nurse’s Office / Isolation: Room E273

PPE requirements for school health office staff caring for sick individuals includes both standard and transmission-based precautions. In areas with moderate to substantial community transmission, eye protection (e.g., goggles or face shield) will be added. When caring for a suspect or confirmed individual with COVID-19, gloves, a gown, eye protection, and a fit-tested N-95 respirator will be used, if available. If an N-95 respirator is not available, a surgical face mask and face shield will be used.

School health office cleaning will occur after each use of cots, bathrooms, and health office equipment (e.g., blood pressure cuffs, otoscopes, stethoscopes). Health office equipment will be cleaned following manufacturer’s directions.
Disposable items will be used as much as possible (e.g., disposable pillow protectors, disposable thermometers, disposable thermometer sheaths or probes, disposable otoscope specula).

Aerosol Generating Procedures

Respiratory treatments administered by nurses generally result in aerosolization of respiratory secretions. These aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) potentially put healthcare personnel and others at an increased risk for pathogen exposure and infection. The district requires the following PPE to be worn during AGPs: gloves, N-95 or a surgical mask with face shield, eye protection and a gown. PPE will be used when: suctioning, administering nebulizer treatments, or using peak flow meters with students who have respiratory conditions.

Treatments such as nebulized medication treatments and oral or tracheostomy suctioning will be conducted in a room separate from others with nursing personnel wearing appropriate PPE. For nebulizer treatments, if developmentally appropriate, the nurse will leave the room and return when the nebulizer treatment is finished.

Cleaning of the room will occur between use and cleaning of the equipment should be done following manufacturer’s instructions after each use.
If Students or Staff become Ill with Symptoms of COVID-19 at School

Faculty and staff are asked to call the school nurse if students are reporting flu-like symptoms. The student will see the school nurse and subsequently be sent to the isolation area if deemed necessary. All students with flu-like symptoms will be screened by a school nurse.

The district requires students with a temperature of 100.0°F or greater or a positive response to a screening question to be sent directly to a dedicated isolation area where students are supervised, prior to being picked up or otherwise sent home. Students will be supervised in the isolation area while awaiting transport home and will be separated by at least 6 feet. Students will be escorted from the isolation area to their parent/guardian. Students will be referred to a healthcare provider and provided resources on COVID-19 testing.

The district requires staff with a temperature of 100.0°F or greater or a positive response to a screening question to be sent home immediately. Staff should contact their immediate supervisor, by phone, text, or email (and ensure receipt of the communication), rather than in person. Staff will be directed to contact their healthcare provider.

Return to School after Illness

The district has established protocols and procedures, in consultation with the local health department(s), about the requirements for determining when individuals, particularly students, who screened positive for COVID-19 symptoms can return to the in-person learning environment at school. This protocol includes:

1. Documentation from a health care provider following evaluation
2. Negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result
3. Symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation

The district will refer to DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Public and Private Employees Returning to Work Following COVID-19 Infection or Exposure” regarding protocols and policies for faculty and staff seeking to return to work after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or after the faculty or staff member had close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19.

The district requires that individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus complete quarantine and have not developed symptoms before returning to in-person learning. The discharge of an individual from quarantine and return to school will be conducted in coordination with the local health department.

COVID-19 Testing

In the event that students or staff are experiencing COVID-like symptoms, they will referred to their healthcare provider for follow-up, including the potential for testing based on the guidance from a healthcare provider or public health agency. As noted above students who experience symptoms at school will be taken to an isolation area and a parent/guardian will be called. Students will be referred to a healthcare provider and provided resources on COVID-19 testing. COVID-19 testing of students and/or staff may also result from the contact tracing protocols outlined below, based on the direction of public health authorities.

In the event that a large-scale testing will need to be conducted at the school, the district administration will work with the school district physicians in conjunction with county health departments.

  • School Physicians, Dr. Steffani Cotugno and Dr. Arthur Lee, CapitalCare Family Practice, Phone: (518) 346-9682
  • Schenectady County Public Health Services, (518) 386-2824 (COVID-19 Hotline)
  • Saratoga County Public Health Services, 518-885-2276 (COVID-19 Hotline)
  • Albany County Department of Health, (518) 447-4580

Contact Tracing

The district will notify the state and local health department 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 to the district.

To assist the local health department with tracing the transmission of COVID-19, the district has developed and maintained a plan to trace all contacts of exposed individuals in accordance with protocols, training, and tools provided through the New York State Contact Tracing Program.

Districts may assist with contact tracing by:

1. Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members.
2. Ensuring student schedules are up to date.
3. Keeping a log of any visitor which includes date and time, and where in the school they visited.
4. Requiring a student sign-out log in the event students need to leave the classroom.
5. Assisting the local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual in accordance with the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYS Contact Tracing Program.

If a COVID-19 case or cases are discovered in the school, the district will consult with the local health department and follow their guidance when determining if any closure(s) or modifications to school operations are necessary.

Generally, if someone in the household of a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the student or staff member should quarantine for 14 days.

Confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state laws and regulations. School staff should not try to determine who is to be excluded from school based on contact without guidance and direction from the local health department.

For more information about how COVID-19 containment efforts will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

School Closures

A closure refers to contingency plans, protocols, and procedures for decreasing the scale or scope of in-person education and/or closing the school. The district will consult with the local health department to determine the parameters, conditions or metrics (e.g., increased absenteeism or increased illness in the school community) that will serve as early warning signs that positive COVID-19 cases may be increasing beyond an acceptable level.

At a minimum, the plan will incorporate the following:

  • Schools will close if the regional infection rate rises over 9% after Aug. 1.
  • Schools will close if the 7-day rolling average of the infection rate is above 9%.
  • Schools in regions in Phase 4 can reopen if the daily infection rate for the region remains below 5 percent using a 14-day average, unless otherwise directed by the state or local health department.
  • If the infection rate rises about 9%, schools must wait until the 14-day average is below 5%.
  • Once schools open for in-person learning, they can remain open even if the rate continues to rise about 5%, but not if it reaches 9% for the 7-day average.
  • The school superintendent/designee will consider closing school if absentee rates impact the ability of the school to operate safely.
  • The district may choose to modify operations prior to closing to help mitigate a rise in cases. If infection rates are rising above 5%. In particular, the district may consider modifying school operations for medically vulnerable students and staff if they are participating in in-person activities.
  • Schools will consult their medical director and/or the local department of health when making such decisions.
  • The superintendent will determine which operations will be decreased, or ceased and which operations will be conducted remotely, including a process to conduct orderly closures which may include phasing, milestones, and involvement of key personnel.

For more information about how school closure information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

Health Hygiene

The district will emphasize healthy hygiene practices for students and staff by providing initial and refresher education in hand and respiratory hygiene, along with providing adequate supplies and time for frequent hand hygiene. Signs will be posted throughout the school (e.g., entrances, restrooms, cafeteria, classrooms, administrative offices, auditorium, custodial staff areas) and regular messaging will be shared with the school community. Signage will be used to remind individuals to:

1. Stay home if they feel sick.
2. Cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering when at school and on the bus.
3. Properly store and, when necessary, discard PPE.
4. Adhere to social distancing instructions.
5. Report symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.
6. Follow hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection guidelines.
7. Follow respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.

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 a staff member assists 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.

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 a tissue is not available, an individual will cough or sneeze into their elbow.
  • Wash hands after sneezing or coughing.
  • Face coverings are protective. Wear a face covering to keep respiratory droplets and aerosols from being widely dispersed into the air.

For more information about how hygiene information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

The district will ensure adherence to hygiene and cleaning and disinfection requirements as advised by the CDC and DOH, including “Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection of Public and Private Facilities for COVID-19,” and the “STOP THE SPREAD” poster, as applicable. Cleaning and disinfection logs will be maintained that include the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection.

Regular cleaning and disinfection of the facilities will occur, including more frequent cleaning and disinfection for high-risk and frequently touched surfaces. This will include desks and cafeteria tables, which should be cleaned and disinfected between each individual’s use. Cleaning and disinfection will be rigorous and ongoing and will occur at least daily, or more frequently as needed.

The district will ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of restrooms. Restrooms will be cleaned and disinfected more often depending on frequency of use.

Examples of facility types where cleaning and disinfection frequency will be distinguished include:

  • Bathrooms
  • Athletic training rooms, locker rooms
  • Health offices, isolation rooms
  • Administrative offices (main office, reception area)
  • Frequently touched surfaces in common areas (door handles, elevator buttons, copy machine keypads, etc.)
  • Breakrooms
  • Cafeterias/Kitchens
  • Computer labs
  • Science labs
  • Classrooms
  • Maintenance offices and work areas
  • Bus Garage
  • Buses, school vehicles
  • Libraries
  • Large meeting areas (auditoriums, gymnasiums, music rooms)
  • Playgrounds (cleaning only)
  • Outdoor seating areas (plastic or metal)

Students, faculty, and staff will be trained on proper hand and respiratory hygiene, and such information will be provided to parents and/or legal guardians on ways to reinforce this at home.

The district will provide and maintain hand hygiene stations around the school, as follows:

  • For handwashing: soap, running warm water, and disposable paper towels.
  • For hand sanitizing: an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol for areas where handwashing facilities may not be available or practical.
  • Accommodations for students who cannot use hand sanitizer will be made.

For more information about how cleaning and disinfection information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

School Safety Drills

The district will conduct fire (evacuation) drills and lockdown drills as required by education law and regulation and the fire code without exceptions. Drills will be conducted in a manner that maintains social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students to respond in emergencies.

The school district modifications to evacuation drill protocols may include, but are not limited to:

  • Conducting drills on a “staggered” schedule, where classrooms evacuate separately rather than all at once, and appropriate distance is kept between students to the evacuation site. This minimizes contact of students in hallways, stairwells, and at the evacuation site. If conducting drills using a modified procedure, it is required that the drill be conducted with all students in the school building on that school day.
  • The district must be certain that all students are receiving instruction in emergency procedures, and participating in drills while they are in attendance in-person.

Modifications to Lockdown Drills may include, but are not limited to:

  • Conducting the drills in a classroom setting while maintaining social distancing and mask use.
  • Conducting lockdown drills on a “staggered” schedule with smaller numbers of students present to maintain social distancing. All students will receive instruction in emergency procedures and participate in drills while they are in attendance in-person.
  • Conducting lockdown drills in a classroom without “hiding”/ “sheltering” but providing an overview of how to shelter or hide in the classroom.