Tech Valley High School has been working over the summer to update its plan for the opening of school in September 2021. This document outlines our COVID protocols and procedures based on guidance and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State Education Department, and New York State Health Department.
In addition to reviewing feedback from state and federal agencies Tech Valley High School continues to meet with representatives from Questar III and Capital Region BOCES and we remain in contact with our local health departments.
We will open the new school year continuing to use the layered mitigation strategies that allowed us to remain open last school year. The health and safety of our students, staff, and families remains our top priority and we remain committed to doing our part to minimize the impact of the virus within our facilities.
We recognize the magnitude, complexity, and significance of this work to safely keep 0ur schools open amid the spread of the Delta variant. We will continue to plan, implement, evaluate, and adapt to the best of our ability to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff – and the best opportunity for our students to learn. This remains a balancing act with very high stakes – and while we continue to work closely with our local districts and health departments, there is no one-size-fits all strategy to open our schools.
Much of this plan is based on protocols implemented last school year with great success. The biggest change for instructional programs will be the allowance to reduce physical distancing in the classrooms. We ask families and staff to please complete the daily health screening online prior to coming to school or work (and to stay home if you are sick).
This plan is designed to be a fluid document that changes as the state or federal government updates its guidance. Looking ahead, we expect that the pandemic will require us to continue to think and work differently – and to remain flexible, adaptive, and patient. The real value of any plan is consistency and the planning process itself.
Thank you for taking the time to read this plan and for your continued assistance in following our protocols. Any questions or concerns may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Communication/Family and Community Engagement
- Health & Safety
- Health checks
- Social distancing, face coverings & PPE
- Infection control strategies
- Management of ill persons, contact tracing and monitoring
- Health hygiene
- Cleaning and disinfecting
- Vulnerable populations/accommodations
- Visitors on campus
- School safety drills
- Social Emotional Well-Being
- School Schedules
- School Activities
- Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism
- Technology and Connectivity
- Teaching and Learning
- In-person Instruction
- Remote/Hybrid Instruction
- Special Education
- Bilingual Education and World Languages
- Teacher and Principal Evaluation System
- Certification, Incidental Teaching and Substitute Teaching
Communication/Family and Community Engagement
To help inform our reopening plan, Tech Valley High School has sought feedback and input from stakeholders, including administrators, faculty, staff, parents/guardians of students, local health department officials, health care providers, employee unions and our sending districts
Tech Valley High School 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 school’s website at www.techvalleyhigh.org, and will be updated throughout the school year, as necessary, to respond to local circumstances. The link to the plan appears on the website homepage and 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.
As part of its planning for the reopening of schools and the new academic year, Tech Valley High School has developed a plan for communicating all necessary information to Tech Valley High School staff, students, parents/guardians, visitors, and education partners and vendors. Tech Valley High School will use its existing communication channels including e-mail, School Messenger phone system, website, and social media outlets, 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. If translation of materials needs to occur please reach out to Lorinda Jensis at either 518-862-4960 or email@example.com to set up a call with the administration to discuss your specific needs.
Health & Safety
The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe, returning to school campuses. 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 at our school for the 2021-22 school year. Anyone with questions or concerns should contact our COVID-19 safety coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (518) 862-4960.
Tech Valley High School has developed 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 higher 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 was used to develop these resources.
We will be utilizing the Covid-19 Health Self-Assessment application supplied by Capital Region BOCES. This is an electronic screening tool that will be to indicate if one has any COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone (teachers, parents, students, and guests) who is scheduled to enter our buildings is required to complete this screening before entering the facility. Based on their response, they would be informed if they could safely report to work, school, or enter our facilities. The data reported would be limited to whether the individual has completed the screening and whether it was a pass/fail outcome. No sensitive health-data will be retained in compliance with HIPAA regulations. If a family has indicated that the student failed the health screening, the school nurse will call with a wellness check during the school day. School staff and administration nurse will collaborate to review the screening information and make phone calls before student arrival.
If a student or staff member does not have home internet access, they will be asked to review a screening checklist for specific symptoms involved with COVID-19 and complete the screening upon arrival.
If families do not have thermometers to complete an at-home health screening, we will provide them. Please reach out to Ms. Whalen at Tech Valley High School, 246 Tricentennial Drive Albany, NY 12203, Phone: (518) 862-4962 Fax: (518) 437-8677 or at email@example.com
Students or staff who fall ill during the school day will be required to go to the nurse for health assessment. Students who show COVID-19 symptoms in school will be immediately isolated and parents will be contacted to pick up the student. If staff or students fall ill at home, they will communicate with the attendance secretary or the nurse why they will not report to school.
If students, [or staff] present to the health office with symptoms of illness, the
procedure should be as follows:
- Symptomatic students/staff should be immediately placed in a separate ‘isolation’ area, that is separate from students that visit the Health Office for other reasons.
- The Nurse will don the appropriate PPE to assess the ill student/staff in the ‘isolation’ area, attending to appropriate hand hygiene, and donning techniques, as well as donning PPE and hand hygiene upon exiting the isolation area.
- Likely, the Nurse may determine the student with symptoms of illness will need to be dismissed to home, and will contact the parent/guardian for prompt pick up of the student. Staff who are ill/symptomatic will also be encouraged to contact their Supervisor and go home.
- Students with illness awaiting pick up from school will remain in the ‘isolation area’ until parent/guardian arrival. Administration may need to assist with coordination of gathering student belongings and student exiting the building.
- Isolation area will need to have cleaning and disinfection after every encounter of students requiring assessment and staff will need to ensure that PPE supplies and cleaning supplies are kept stocked.
Social distancing, face coverings & PPE
- To the greatest extent possible, individuals will maintain physical distancing of 3 feet.
- Masks will be worn at all times when in school except for short breaks and when eating.
- ENGAGEMENT WITH VISTORS:
- Visitors will follow the social distancing guidance and follow regulations for wearing face coverings to limit the spread of illness.
- Nonessential visitors will be limited to the school building. Visitors will be limited to school business.
- Parent meetings and other meetings can be held as phone/virtual conferences.
Students, staff, and visitors to our schools will be expected to wear face coverings indoors, including on the school bus. Students will be allowed to remove face coverings during meals and short breaks so long as they maintain appropriate social distance. Students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering will not be required to wear one. For those medically unable to wear face coverings, a medical note must be provided.
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 medical procedure masks that cover both the mouth and nose.
Face coverings should not be placed on:
- 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
Students and staff who forget to bring a mask to school will be provided with a paper mask.
Infection control strategies
Tech Valley High will implement a variety of Infection Control Strategies, including:
Cleaning and Sanitizing
- Alcohol-based hand rub dispensers are available in the hallways and each classroom.
- Touchless Bottle filling water dispensers are available for students to fill their own water bottles. In addition, disposable cups will be provided to students.
- Chairs are set at 3 foot distancing in the classroom
- PE classes will occur outdoors when possible
Plumbing Facilities and Fixtures
- All of the toilet fixtures that have been available for use in a building will continue to be available with social distancing being adhered to. Monitoring of the bathrooms will assure students are maintain social distancing. Tape will be on the floor showing the distance they must stand apart.
- Hand dryers in the bathrooms have been shut off and paper towel dispensers have been installed.
- Drinking water facilities: Tech Valley High School has disabled the drinking fountains except for bottle fillers, and students will be encouraged to bring a fillable water bottle to school. Disposable cups or bottled water will be provided as needed.
Adequate, code required ventilation (natural or mechanical) will be maintained as designed. Ventilation with outdoor air will be encouraged to the greatest extent possible while HVAC units will be serviced including proper filtration requirements considering the capability of the system.
Management of ill persons, contact tracing and monitoring
Tech Valley High School requires students, faculty, or staff members who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to report to the nurse’s office. If several students waiting to see the school nurse, students must wait at least 6 feet apart. The school 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 the 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 have easy access to a bathroom and sink with hand hygiene supplies.
At Tech Valley High School, we will use the nurse’s office 111 as the treatment and medication area for non-COVID related matters. Room 103E will become the isolation area for COVID-19 suspected symptoms
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, 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).
If Students or Staff become Ill with Symptoms of COVID-19 at School
Tech Valley High School requires students or staff with a temperature, signs of illness, and/or a positive response to the questionnaire to be sent directly to a dedicated isolation area where students and staff 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 or staff will be referred to a healthcare provider and provided resources on COVID-19 testing.
Return to School after Illness
Tech Valley High School 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:
- Documentation of a negative COVID PCR Test Result
- Documentation of a negative COVID PCR Test Result and an alternate diagnosis
- Documentation of a positive COVID PCR Test Result and clearance by the local department of health
Tech Valley High School 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.
Tech Valley High School administration will work with the Albany County Department of Health if a positive or presumed-positive case of COVID-19 is encountered in our school. All further actions will be under the direction of the Albany County Department of Health.
Tech Valley High School will notify the 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 assist the local health department with tracing the transmission of COVID-19, Tech Valley High School 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:
- Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members
- Ensuring student schedules are up to date
- Keeping a log of any visitor which includes date and time, and wherein the school they visited
- Assist the local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual according to the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYS Contact Tracing Program
If/when COVID-19 cases are discovered in the school, in consultation with the local health department, the school will do the following:
- Work with the health department and share the attendance records of all students and staff members that had come into contact with the individuals with COVID-19 and other cohorts of students and teachers that have been in the building when the individuals with COVID-19 were in the building.
- Share the log of any visitor that was in the building and specifically in the rooms and area where there could have been a potential exposure.
Confidentiality will be maintained as required by federal and state laws, and regulations. School staff should not determine who is to be excluded from school based on contact without guidance and direction from the local health department.
A closure refers to contingency plans, protocols, and procedures for decreasing the scale or scope of in- person education and/or closing the school. Tech Valley High School will collaborate with the local health department to determine the parameters, conditions or metrics (e.g., increased absenteeism or increased illness in school community) that will serve as early warning signs that positive COVID-19 cases may be increasing beyond an acceptable level.
Health Department Contacts:
Tech Valley High School is located in Albany County but serves many other counties. The Department Of Health contact information for the counties currently participating in the Tech Valley High School program are:
- NYSDOH Covid – 19 Hotline; (888) 364-3065
- Albany County Department of Health; Phone (518) 447-4580
- Rensselaer County Health Department; (518) 270-2655
- Schoharie County Health Dept.; (518) 295-8365
- Columbia County Department of Health; (518) 828-3358
- Greene County Department of Health; (518) 719-3600
- Saratoga Department of Health; (518) 885-2276
Tech Valley High School will emphasize healthy hygiene practices for students and staff by providing initial and refresher education in hand and respiratory hygiene, and 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:
- Stay home if they feel sick.
- Cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering when unable to maintain social distance from others or in accordance with any stricter policy implemented by the school.
- Properly store and, when necessary, discard soiled PPE.
- Adhere to social distancing instructions.
- Report symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.
- Follow hand hygiene and cleaning and disinfection guidelines.
- Follow respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.
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 thoroughly 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 using the restroom.
- 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.
The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. Therefore, the school 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.
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
Tech Valley High School 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.
Students, faculty, and staff will be trained on proper hand, and respiratory hygiene. Such information will be provided to parents and/or legal guardians on ways to reinforce this at home.
The school 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.
Tech Valley High School will ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of restrooms. Restrooms should be cleaned and disinfected more often, depending on the frequency of use.
School meals will continue to be available to all students, including those attending school in-person and those learning remotely.
For information about how meal information will be communicated, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.
For students onsite, meals will be provided while maintaining appropriate social distancing between students. Students do not need to wear face coverings when seated and eating as long as they are appropriately socially distanced and being respectful of their peers and teachers.
Students will either bring their meals from home and get it out of their backpack or have the school lunch option that will follow applicable health and safety guidelines. The nurse and food service will work to protect students with food allergies while eating.
Students will perform hand hygiene before and after eating following the guidelines put forth from the CDC Guidelines.
The Capital Region BOCES will ensure compliance with Child Nutrition Program requirements. If parents have any questions about the free/reduced application process/program etc. please contact Claire Groudine at 518-862-4937.
The students will follow the transportation guidelines of their home school district. Tech Valley High School will stagger entry to and exit from the building. Social Distancing during arrival and dismissal will be enforced.
Social Emotional Well-Being
We recognize that the social emotional well-being of our students and staff during these challenging times is critically important. Tech Valley High School has made available resources and referrals to address mental health, behavioral, and emotional needs of students, faculty, and staff when school reopens for in-person instructions. Students will have access to both the administration, guidance counselor and school social worker. Staff will have access to the Employee Assistance Program through Questar III BOCES: ESI group. https://www.theeap.com/. Staff can access an informational brochure about the EAP services provided here: https://sales.theeap.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/TotalCareEAP-EmployeeBrochure.pdf. EAP phone contacts are: (800) 252-4555 or (800) 225-2527
The School Culture Committee will work with the Parent Activity Council (PAC) to organize activities that are appropriate for promoting social-emotional health of our students while in remote learning. Tech Valley High School plans to continue to hold mixed-grade advisory sessions for students to interact in small groups with their faculty advisor. The PAC is already planning whole-school events that can build and preserve our culture in a remote environment.
As part of our orientation and advisory programs, we will make students aware of the counseling services available through our school social worker, Scott O’Leary: firstname.lastname@example.org 518-862-4987 and our school counselor, Laura Lee: email@example.com 518-862-4961. Our comprehensive developmental school counseling program plan has been reviewed and updated to meet current needs.
Tech Valley High School addresses professional development opportunities for faculty and staff on how to talk with and support students during and after the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as provide support for developing coping and resilience skills for students, faculty, and staff. This is addressed by professional development that will be led by our counseling and administrative team prior to the students arriving back to school. We are fortunate that Tech Valley Staff is back to work the two weeks prior to when school begins. In addition, we will look at articles that talk about the mental health and reentry of students. This will be an on-going focus throughout the year.