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Reopening Schools Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below is general information and frequently asked questions in reference to our reopening schools in the fall. Please check here from time to time for new information. Please be aware that as of July 30, 2020, we continue to finalize our reopening plans. As we have experienced since our district closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, circumstances may change rapidly.

July 30, 2020

Lawrence Township Public Schools

General Information and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions re: the COVID-19 Pandemic and Reopening Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year

Health and Safety

  • Social and emotional strategies will be incorporated to support student and staff safety, health, and wellness.
  • LTPS has protocols for social distancing on buses and for students while awaiting pickup at bus stops.
  • LTPS will create contingency plans as needed for considering the needs of medically vulnerable students and learners with special needs when developing plans for hybrid virtual and in-person instruction.
  • We will develop plans to pivot to completely virtual learning to ensure a smooth transition, if necessary, and ensure students and staff have everything they need to transition on short notice.
  • LTPS will adopt a policy for screening students and employees for symptoms of COVID-19 and their history of exposure. All persons will strive for social distancing within the classroom and on school buses.
  • Physical distance of 6’ will be followed.
  • LTPS has adopted cleaning and disinfecting procedures that represent increases in frequency of cleaning, increases in thoroughness in areas cleaned.
  • School staff are required to wear face coverings unless doing so would inhibit the individual’s health. Schools and districts must allow for social distancing within the classroom to the maximum extent practicable. This can be achieved by ensuring students are seated at least 6 feet apart and considering the flow of student traffic around the room.
  • Students will be required to wear face coverings and are required to maintain social distancing from others. Should a mask not be allowed due to a medical concern, a note must be provided. Accommodations will be made, such as the requirement to wear a face shield.

Screening, PPE, and Response to Students and Staff Presenting Symptoms

LTPS will safely and respectfully screen students and employees for symptoms of and history of exposure to COVID-19. Students and staff with symptoms related to COVID-19 must be safely and respectfully isolated from others. If the district becomes aware that an individual who has spent time in a district facility tests positive for COVID-19, we will immediately notify local health officials, staff, and families of a confirmed case while maintaining confidentiality.

The policy for screening students and employees upon arrival for symptoms and history of exposure must include the following:

  • Staff will visually check students for symptoms upon arrival (which may include temperature checks) and/or confirm with families that students are free of COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Health checks must be conducted safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.
  • Results must be documented when signs/symptoms of COVID-19 are observed.
  • Any screening policy must take into account students with disabilities and accommodations that may be needed in the screening process for those students.

 Protocols include:

  • Establishment of an isolation space. Students and staff with symptoms related to COVID-19 must be safely and respectfully isolated from others. Students should remain in isolation with continued supervision and care until picked up by an authorized adult.
  • Follow current Communicable Disease Service guidance for illness reporting.
  • Adequate amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) available, accessible, and provided for use.
  • Methods to assist in contact tracing including records of groups/cohorts, assigned staff, and daily attendance.
  • Continuous monitoring of symptoms.
  • Re-admittance policies consistent with Department of Health guidance and information for schools and Department of Health/Communicable Disease Services Quick Reference Guidance on Discontinuation of Transmission-Based Precautions and Home Isolation for Persons Diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Written protocols to address a positive case.
  • Encourage parents to be on the alert for signs of illness in their children and to keep them home when they are sick.
  • School staff are required to wear face coverings unless doing so would inhibit the individual’s health or the individual is under two years of age.
  • Students must wear face coverings and are required to do so when social distancing cannot be maintained, unless doing so would inhibit the student’s health. It is also necessary to acknowledge that enforcing the use of face coverings may be impractical for young children or individuals with disabilities. Accommodations will need to be considered should medical documentation be presented to justify a modification to the district’s requirement for students to wear a mask.
  • Visitors will not be permitted into the buildings.

What happens if there is a suspected COVID-19 case?

  • LTPS will coordinate with local health officials. Once learning of a COVID-19 case in someone who has been in the school, immediately notify local health officials. Local health officials will help administrators determine a course of action.
  • Local health officials’ recommendations for the scope (e.g., a single school, multiple schools, the full district) and duration of school dismissals will be made on a case-by-case basis using the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the specific cases in the community
  • Consider dismissing students and most staff for 2-5 days. This initial short-term dismissal allows time for the local health officials to gain a better understanding of the COVID-19 situation impacting the school. This allows the local health officials to help the school determine appropriate next steps, including whether an extended dismissal duration is needed to stop or slow further spread of COVID-19.
  • Communicate with staff, parents, and students. Coordinate with local health officials to communicate dismissal decisions and the possible COVID-19 exposure.
  • In such a circumstance, it is critical to maintain confidentiality of the student or staff member as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
  • Clean and disinfect thoroughly.
  • Close off areas used by the individuals with COVID-19 and wait as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection to minimize potential for exposure to respiratory droplets. Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area. If possible, wait up to 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfection.
  • Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas (e.g., offices, bathrooms, and common areas) used by the ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.
  • If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Make decisions about extending the school dismissal. Temporarily dismissing schools is a strategy to stop or slow the further spread of COVID-19 in communities.
  • The school district may seek guidance from local health officials to determine when students and staff should return to schools and what additional steps are needed for the school community.
  • In addition, students and staff who are well but are taking care of or share a home with someone with a case of COVID-19 should follow instructions from local health officials to determine when to return to school.

 

Frequently Asked Questions re: LTPS Reopening Plan

Health and Safety

  • Are the children and staff going to be asked if anyone in the household has COVID-19 or pending COVID-19 testing?

All families will be asked to complete a daily health screening for each student.  If the answer is Yes to either, they will not be allowed to attend school.

  • How will social distancing be maintained in the hallways and during arrival and dismissal?

With reduced capacity, we will limit some hallways to one way, as well as place signage and barriers, as appropriate, to assist with hallway movements.

  • Will the bathroom be available for use and how will sanitary conditions be maintained?

Bathrooms will be available for use.  Instead of being cleaned once a day, bathrooms will be cleaned on an ongoing basis.  This may require rotating the lavatories within the school so that one is closed for cleaning while another is open for use.  By limiting evening and after school activities, we may be able to schedule additional members of our custodial team to the day shift to assist with the increased cleaning routines.

  • Will students be required to provide their own masks?

Families will be asked to send students with an appropriate mask.  The district will have additional masks to issue to students if they do not have an appropriate mask, if their mask gets wet or dirty, or if they do not have access to a mask.

  • For the hybrid model, how do you plan to ensure mask wearing and social distance for younger kids (e.g., on the playground, gym, even bathroom)?

Masks will be mandated. We will need to teach students of all grade levels the importance of mask wearing. Parents will also need to teach their children the importance of wearing masks, as well as building up student’s capacity to wear them. Ultimately, students that fail to comply with requirements will result in loss of in-person instruction. There may be individual student circumstances where medical needs override the ability to wear a mask. In such cases, a medical note will be required and accommodations will need to be considered. 

  • Will the students have lunch in school?

To begin the year, due to health and safety concerns, we do not plan to serve lunch in school.  Thus, we are planning a shortened day schedule of approximately four (4) hours of in-person instruction on days that students come to school.

  • Will students change classrooms every period?

At Lawrence High School and Lawrence Middle School there will be movement between periods. The elementary and intermediate schools will see much greater limitations in hallway movement due to the assignment to a specific classroom teacher.

  • We are concerned about the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission during any activity that elevates breathing rates. If you will be holding gym classes, and our children attend in person, can we opt out of gym?

If you select an in-person model, PE class attendance may be required as normally; however, we may offer PE as part of the instruction that will occur at home.  If we cannot do this, students seeking a medical exclusion would be determined by a medical note.  Where feasible, PE class may be held outdoors.  This is an evolving conversation.

  • What happens if a student in the class, or teacher, or someone who has been in contact with our child tests positive? Does the school close, are we instructed to quarantine?

Contact tracing and safety protocols will determine the extent of closure and notification.  However, due to the close proximity of students and staff and the reality that siblings and families could be impacted, the chance of a quick closure of facilities to ensure safety is highly probable.

  • Kids being kids, it's difficult to maintain social distancing, enforce mask wearing, hand sanitizers protocols, etc., how will these situations be handled?  

All staff and students will have a responsibility to one another to maintain social distancing, masking, etc. Staff members and parents will need to reinforce such responsibilities to students. We have a collective responsibility to uphold and adhere to these requirements.

  • If kids are coming to school, what precautions are taken to make sure the facility is well ventilated as well as being sanitized?

We are following the recommendations of the CDC and NJ Department of Health regarding ventilation and sanitation. We are currently creating a SOP (Standard Operating Protocol) with our Building and Grounds team regarding cleaning and HVAC maintenance schedules.

  • These recent months are very dramatic and a lot of changes are happening. We do not know what might happen in front of us and it is very hard to make a firm decision for fall semester. What would we do if we can no longer follow our decision for now in September?

Parents will need to contact their child’s building principal to discuss possible options.

  • If a situation were to arise where we, as parents, were no longer comfortable with this option due to increased COVID-19 risks, what is our recourse for withdrawing our students from the Hybrid In-Person option?

If statewide trends ramp up and the need to pivot the community to full virtual becomes apparent, the school district will be prepared to make a systemic determination to protect our students, families, and staff.  We will need to take direction from the Governor and the NJ Department of Education, but we believe that our Governor and Commissioner of Education will continue to support the school district with moving quickly to secure our students safety.

Learning Models

  • If we opt for the virtual/remote only option, will classes be similar to the spring semester of last year?

Last spring, as a district and as a community, we were responding to emergency circumstances.  As we have been able to learn from our time in extended closure, our ability to implement virtual learning has grown.  Our use of digital tools and live, synchronous instruction has grown as well.  Through professional development and experiences last Spring, we are confident to meet our students' learning needs virtually.  

  • Will there be more interaction between the student and teachers during virtual instruction?

It is our expectation that much greater interactions take place during the 2020-2021 school year.  Regardless of the model selected, all students should expect participation in virtual classes to apply learning.

  • What online platform will be used for instruction, Zoom versus Google Meet?

The district is currently evaluating three virtual tools. A decision will be made and a license will be purchased for individual staff members so that they will have increased functionality.

  • Do you envision live streaming the classroom with the teacher teaching the in-person students? How will the virtual students interact with the teacher in this situation?

This is a possibility, but the details will be further worked out in the weeks ahead. Each instruction model will be impacted greatly by the numbers of families that select virtual versus in-person and the corresponding schedule we can then finalize.

  • Online versus in-person, will grading be different?

We value quality learning experiences and plan to deliver those experiences to students in both the virtual and hybrid environments. Those experiences include measuring students’ progress in mastering standards. This will be equivalent for virtual and hybrid students. Grades will be issued and our Genesis gradebook will be open.

  • Will the option of changing the choice of option be offered at semester?

Due to capacity limits on both the school buses (if needed) and in classrooms, options will be allowed based upon the availability of seats. Requests must be given at least four weeks prior so that we can attempt to meet families’ requests without deviating from guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the New Jersey Department of Education. Further, the decision parents make for the first semester is binding as all of our scheduling ratios will be contingent upon those selections.

  • What happens if after two weeks, a month, etc. we decide we want, or need, to go virtual?

Decisions regarding moving from an in-person experience to a hybrid experience or vice-a-versa will be predicated on available capacity for both classrooms and transportation. The letter preceding the survey requests a binding semester determination with four weeks advance knowledge of a requested change. 

  • Will remote teaching follow the same instructional format as it did during the spring? How will the instructional approach of the in-person format differ?

The instructional approach will be different. What you experienced in the spring was crisis teaching.  The experience we hope to provide in the fall will be virtual/hybrid instruction. Planning is underway to support a more comprehensive model for the 2020 – 2021 school year. There is a full expectation of much more robust remote learning experiences.

  • If a student has to be absent because they are in quarantine, symptomatic, sick, etc. can they jump into the virtual classes?

Instruction and work will be provided to the students should they not be able to attend.

  • Are the choices we’re making only limited to the first semester? Will there be a chance to change the model we chose after the first semester?

Parents can request a model change with four weeks advanced knowledge to the building administration. Based upon building and transportation capacity, parents will be informed if such a request can be honored at that time.

  • For the All Remote/Virtual Model, is it taught by the same teacher as the in-person class? Is the daily schedule the same as the in-person class?

Depending upon the selection of families, different scheduling configurations are possible. Ideally, the same teacher will teach students in both environments or work in partnership with a colleague to co-plan and share similar students for a variety of grouping and learning strategies.

  • If we choose the hybrid model, would we be able to switch to the all remote/virtual model if there is any concern? How does the switching process work?

Decisions regarding moving from an in-person experience to a hybrid experience or vice-a-versa will be predicated on available capacity for both classrooms and transportation. The letter preceding the registration questionnaire requests a binding first semester determination with four weeks advance knowledge if a change is requested. 

  • If parents fail to decide on an option by July 27, what will happen to those students?

Anyone that does not decide on an option by July 27 will be opted into the In-Person Hybrid Model, as the expectation of the NJ Department of Education is for in-person education to occur in September 2020.

  • The two models are not friendly to working parents, especially those who have to work on-site full time. What should we do if both parents have to work full time on-site?  

The district is keenly aware that the schedules as presented may pose conflicts for working parents or parents without extended family support structures. The district is working to determine if we can support on-site childcare services for families that opt to enroll their children.

Curriculum and Instruction

  • Unlike the Spring, will there be graded assessments in the fall? If so, will only in-person assessments be graded, or how will remote students be graded?

We value quality learning experiences and plan to deliver those experiences to students in virtual and hybrid environments. Those experiences include measuring students’ progress in mastering standards. This will be equivalent for virtual and hybrid students. Grades will be issued and Genesis will be open. Clearly assessments will look different in both hybrid and in-person environments. We are currently working through what that will look like in order to ensure a fundamental fairness between the different models. No student should be disadvantaged in grades/GPA due to the selection of one option over another.

  • What will the instructional approach be for physical education, band classes and exposure during classroom changes for students attending in-person?

The models for the specific opportunities for these programs are still being determined as we are very cognizant of potential safety concerns.