Palm Valley School's Re-Opening Plan 2020-2021
Amidst the current climate and changes created by COVID-19, our school has worked hard to develop a strategy to safely reopen to our Firebird Families. With small class sizes and a spacious 40 acre campus, we are looking to the future. In-person education is where we believe children learn the best. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 760-328-0861. We are here for you and we have a plan!
Palm Valley School
2020 – 2021
At Palm Valley School, we believe that the best way to accomplish our mission to educate, nurture, and challenge each student is to provide in-person instruction. We also desire to strongly support both our students’ and staff’s social/emotional and physical health. In order to resume educating our students in person, we are implementing protocols and procedures to ensure that compassion, human connection, and the health of our entire school community remain our primary concerns. This document outlines our plan for the safe reopening of our school campus. It is guided by four important principles:
1) To protect the health and well-being of our students, staff, and school community
2) To meet or exceed current guidelines established by local, state, and federal authorities such as the CDC and the California Dept of Public Health
3) To maintain the high quality of a Palm Valley School education
4) To remain up-to-date and institutionally nimble to respond to changing conditions or guidelines
This document is the result of several weeks of extensive research, strategic conversations with community stakeholders, the perspectives of medical experts, and collegial partnerships with other private schools in the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) organization.
We recognize that in a diverse school community such as ours, there are a wide variety of viewpoints and concerns. The conversations surrounding these decisions and procedures are rooted in what we believe is best for our students in light of our ever-changing environment.
We further recognize that no plan is without risk. The procedures contained herein represent our best attempt at minimizing risk while still delivering a high-quality education for our students.
The responsibility to keep our community safe and healthy is one that we all share. Our school policies and protocols are best supported by families committed to aligning with and upholding health standards and expectations both at school and when away from school. Open communication, understanding, and flexibility are important components to the success of any health strategy.
Flexibility and a Diverse Approach
We are preparing our campus for the opening of school and the physical return of our students for in-person instruction. We also recognize our need to remain ready to pivot in response to temporary or abrupt changes to environmental conditions or health official’s guidance. We also acknowledge that our campus is composed of a wide breadth of ages, from infants to adolescents, on four distinct “campuses within a campus”. It is best to consider each division individually and to ascribe age-appropriate procedures in each case. This is clearly also the case when considering Distance Learning. Differing levels of maturity and supervision require sensitivity and a diverse approach. In addition, individual personality and family differences mean that students respond differently to various educational modalities.
As a school leadership team, we have worked hard to take these multiple factors into consideration when designing our reopening procedures. What has resulted is our best attempt to meet the varying needs of all of our Palm Valley families.
HyFlex Instructional Platform
When given the opportunity to open for in-person instruction, we are committed to offering our students in grades 2 - 12 an online alternative via our HyFlex Learning Platform. This option is synchronous, online instruction provided through in-class technology. Our Hyflex Learning Platform will be bolstered by daily office hours for Hyflex students to work directly with their teachers.
While most would agree that learning remotely is not the best scenario for the vast majority of our students, the reality of our current circumstances dictate that we spend time planning and designing the most appropriate and best remote learning program that we can. Learning and growing from our recent experiences this past spring, we have enhanced our Distance Learning program to include more structure, better content delivery and improved support. It will include both times of class instruction as well as individual time with each teacher.
In Person Instruction
When we are allowed by our local health officials to re-open our campus to in-person attendance, the following protocols will be strictly adhered to:
Active Screening Procedures
When our campus opens for in-person instruction, our school will look and operate very differently than in the past. Besides limiting our class sizes even further, we have instituted daily screening procedures to dampen the risk of virus transmission. These measures include daily temperature and symptom checks for all employees and students and the wearing of masks by all adults (employees and parents) while on campus. Temperature checks and active screenings will take place at the beginning of each day and at the conclusion of each day. Any student not passing screening requirements (elevated temperature above 100.3, symptomatic, etc.) will be immediately isolated and parents will be requested to pick them up. They will not be allowed to return until symptom free for 24 hours and able to pass screening protocols. Any employee not passing screening checks will be sent home to self-monitor and an evaluation will be done regarding the ability to work/teach from home. We will also be following physical distancing protocols whenever possible and severely limiting access to buildings and classes to only essential personnel.
While we recognize that coronavirus testing has many hurdles, it is part of our overall plan to keep our employees and school community healthy. Following health official recommendations, we plan on surveillance testing all employees on an ongoing basis with 25% of employees being tested every two weeks. Privacy laws prohibit us from sharing personal health details. However, any teacher that tests positive will result in their classes pivoting to remote learning for two weeks or until a doctor gives medical clearance to allow the teacher to return to the classroom.
Masks, Face Coverings, and Face Shields
Face coverings (masks or clear face shields) have been shown to provide the best line of defense against coronavirus transmission. Therefore, they must be worn by all adults at all times, unless they are eating or drinking. When eating or drinking, individuals must maintain a physical distance of 6 feet. We will follow and enforce CDPH face covering guidelines at all times. Students older than Kindergarten will also be required to wear face coverings.
Maintenance of Physical Distancing
Physical Distancing of six feet will remain a priority at all times. In the classroom, desks will be set 6 feet apart with additional individual student partitions in most classrooms. During student pick up after school, students will be seated at least 6 feet apart while awaiting pick up.
Staggered Entrance, Egress, and Pick Up Procedures
In an effort to reduce foot traffic and congestion and to limit the number of people on campus at any one time, we have introduced staggered drop off times and locations throughout our campus. In addition, all access doors in each building will be fully utilized to promote ventilation as well as reduce congestion during times of transition. As we enjoy an expansive campus landscape with exterior doors in every classroom, we are able to transition students using outdoor pathways when needed. Similar to our Drop Off procedures, Pick Up protocols each afternoon will follow a staggered timeline with diverse locations throughout our campus, but within close proximity of each division. Additionally, parents and non-essential personnel will not be allowed to enter school buildings. Please see our Divisional Handbooks for all drop off and pick up times and locations.
Identification and Tracing of Contacts
We will strive to identify, isolate, and trace any and all known contacts of individuals within our school community related to a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis. Each case will be individually assessed for communication and notification. Following health department guidelines, we will be using a general rule of 6/15/48: Close Contacts are defined as people that have been within 6 feet proximity for 15 minutes or more in the last 48 hours with both people wearing face coverings OR any contact less than 6 feet with one or more people not wearing a face covering. As a school community, we are encouraging all members of our school to consider downloading the NOVID App (www.novid.org). It is a free app that requires no user information, but runs in the background on your cell phone. It will be a valuable resource in our attempt to contact trace, should we have the need.
In the event of a confirmed positive diagnosis, members of our school community that have had close contact with the individual will be notified as soon as possible and will shift to remote learning. We will notify and work closely with local health officials in any and all contact tracing efforts.
We also ask that families that travel outside of the state notify school officials upon their return to aid in transmission reduction and proper contact tracing. Families that travel may be subject to quarantine restrictions and remote learning (Hyflex) upon their return under the school’s discretion.
Cleaning and Disinfection
Our campus will be regularly cleaned and disinfected by school personnel. High touch areas such as light switches, door handles, etc. will be cleaned and sanitized regularly throughout the day. Each evening, our campus will undergo a deep cleaning by our maintenance staff, focusing on both classrooms and high-touch common areas of our campus. Our maintenance staff have been trained with enhanced, deep-cleaning procedures to help keep our classrooms and buildings disinfected. We have also placed disinfecting stations throughout our campus for use throughout the day. In addition, classroom items such as markers, pencils, etc. will not be shared between students.
Healthy hygiene practices
All students will be instructed in healthy hygiene habits including proper hand-washing techniques, coughing into a tissue or an elbow (including when outside), and using a sleeve or tissue when opening doors. Lower school classrooms are equipped with hand washing sinks and proper hand-washing techniques will be promoted and incorporated into daily routines. In addition, water fountains will be disabled and covered with the exception of touchless water filling stations that are placed throughout campus. We ask that parents support our efforts by reinforcing these healthy hygiene habits at home and by sending refillable water containers with their students each day.
Small, stable cohorts
Our small class sizes and ample space allow for our students to be kept in small, stable cohorts during the instructional day. Our Kindergarten, 1st/2nd grades, and 3rd – 5th grades have their own separate classrooms and fenced off play areas and will stay together in cohorts for all activities.
At the present time, outdoor sports activities can only be done with the maintenance of proper physical spacing. No indoor sports activities are allowed. School sports seasons have been delayed well into the winter months by the sports governing authorities. While Distance Learning, we will be offering outdoor afternoon activities for our students that will be supervised, only outdoors, and using proper physical distancing.
Shift to Remote Learning Criteria
Classes will be shifted to Distance Learning if a teacher or a student within the specific cohort tests positive, someone in their family tests positive or they have been in close contact (see 6/15/48 rule above) with someone with a confirmed positive COVID 19 diagnosis.
The Head of School will communicate with students, staff, and parents about cases and relevant exposures at the school. However, under no circumstances will the school report any individual health information due to strict FERPA and HIPAA privacy laws.
Triggers for School Closure
Following health department guidelines, we will close our school and revert to our Distance Learning format in grades 2 – 12 if 5% or more of our students/staff tests positive for the coronavirus over any 14 day period.
At this time we are not utilizing any parent volunteers in an attempt to significantly reduce the number of people on campus at any one time.
We are suspending any and all field trips until further notice.
We recognize that no document, regardless of its length or depth, can answer any and all questions pertaining to the educational process amidst our current conditions. However, it is our hope that these pages address the majority of questions and concerns from our Palm Valley families. We must work together (distanced, yes, but nevertheless together!) to be successful during this crucial time in the history of our school and nation.