About Hill Top » Pandemic Response Plan

Pandemic Response Plan

Pandemic Response Plan
August 1, 2020
 

Introduction

The Health and Safety Plan is a requirement of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  “The plan should be tailored to the unique needs of each school and should be created with input from various representatives of the school community.  Given the dynamic nature of the pandemic, plans should incorporate sufficient flexibility to adapt to changing conditions.” (PA DOE).   The considerations of our plan should not be considered exhaustive but provide direction and guidance.

Since the initial closing of schools which was mandated by the Governor on March 13, 2020 the administration at Hill Top Prep has continued to receive informational emails and text messages from:

  • Pennsylvania Department of Education
  • Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools
  • Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • Webinars each week from sources from all over the country also provide information that can be helpful to manage all aspects of our community.
  • Papers and Announcements from organizations such as CDC, American Assoc. Of Pediatrics, World Health Organization, Harvard College of Public Health
 

The Pandemic Response Planning Committee

Created just after commencement in the middle of June 2020 the committee met weekly.  In the beginning the meetings were virtual and then as the summer progressed into July they met each week on the campus.  The 7 sub-committees met often more than once each week to accomplish their assignments.  Representing many different areas of the school, the committee consisted of:

Brian Betteridge – Technology

Susan Butler – Nurse

Michael Cohen – Middle School

Cindy Falcone – Academic

Marla Mathis – Clinical Support

Tom Needham – Headmaster and Chair

Robert Sager – Trustee and Technology

George Sedgewick – Upper School

Dave VanDyke – Student Life

Jim Woodcock – Supt. Of Buildings and Grounds

 

Parent Survey Results

As part of their work, a survey was sent to all returning parents to allow for input and interests that they might have as they considered a return to school in the fall, 2020.  The summary of results below was found to be helpful.

From the 65 Responses:

  • Comfortable returning if we were in the Green Phase …92%
  • Comfortable returning if we were in the Yellow Phase...70%
  • Important that masks are worn by students and teachers…50%
  • Positioning of desks are important…75%
  • Daily Temp checks on all entering the building….75%
  • Importance of quick cleaning of high touch areas….80%
  • Importance of daily sanitizing of rooms….80%
  • Importance of prohibiting non-essential visitors 60%
  • Transportation to school seen as a barrier….82% said not a concern or just a possible barrier to attending school

 

Attendance of Students and Faculty/Staff

Hill Top has very clear policies regarding attendance for both students and our faculty/staff.  The information on either group can be found in the appropriate handbook. 

This year is anticipated to be extremely unusual with not only when we are on campus or involved in distance learning.  Our faculty and staff will be a full strength, with “all hands on deck” to support the mission of Hill Top Prep in a very different environment in which we have taught in almost 50 years.

Student attendance will be counted by participation and presence of a student in the class activity and not necessarily whether a student is present in the actual classroom.  We all acknowledge the benefits for all students to be in the class for social interaction.  However, we also know that given the current circumstances, there will be students with pre-existing conditions that will put their health and safety at risk to attend school in-person.  Therefore, students who are quarantined for an extended period of time or merely for the 5-day precaution, video connections to each class will be available.  If the child is in the class whether virtually or in-person, he/she will count as being present for the purpose of attendance.

Faculty and staff are expected, by contract, to be present and on campus unless it has been determined that the campus needs to close.  However, Hill Top recognizes that quarantine situations as well as occasional illnesses are to be expected in the coming school year.  While equity is as important as safety, cases will be handled on an individual basis by the Headmaster

 

Student Travel

Travel for school programs with students will be limited considerably to only essential circumstances until there is a confidence in the health of the community that we are not putting the health and safety of students or faculty/staff at risk.  Student transport in Hill Top vehicles will be limited to fifty percent capacity.  Hill Top will continue to pick up and drop off at Bryn Mawr train station each day but we will double the number of vans to allow for greater distancing between students.

 

Processes for Monitoring Students and Staff for Symptoms and History of Exposure 

It is important that Hill Top Prep monitor the possible symptoms of COVID-19 and history of any exposure to COVID-19 in and out of school with both students as well as faculty/staff.  In order to prevent a possible infection from presenting, Hill Top will use a daily symptom tracking device created by a company called Ruvna. Through this program the parent/guardian of students and each faculty/staff member will complete a digital health monitoring assessment from their own devices before reaching school in the morning. This process will take less than one minute.  Assessments will include symptoms, travel, and household infections.  Ruvna will recommend actions to be taken in real time. Recommendations can be customized by Hill Top. Recommendations regarding symptoms and household infection will follow the Chester County Health Department (CCHD) COVID-19 School Guidance protocols. Recommendations regarding travel will follow the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADoH) restrictions.  Quarantine may be recommended following travel to restricted states.

Upon arrival to school all students and faculty/staff will have their temperature taken by designated administrators. Guidelines for temperature monitoring will follow CCHD protocols. A temperature in excess of 99.5 degrees is likely to result in a return to home.  PPE for the designated temperature takers will be provided by the School and they will adhere to PADoH recommendations.

If someone becomes sick or shows symptoms while at Hill Top, we have designed policies to isolate the individual while waiting to go home and to document exposure.

An isolation room has been identified for the assessment of students or faculty/staff who complain of illness. Anyone presenting with suspected COVID-19 symptoms will remain in the room until transport home or to a healthcare facility. References for symptoms follow CCHD, PADoH, CDC guidance. All assessments are documented in the Hill Top health log. Recommendations for an individual presenting with COVID-19 symptoms will follow CCHD guidance.

Exclusion from and return to school requirements will follow Chester County Health Department School Guidance. The CCHD issued requirements for exclusion from school for 5 scenarios: COVID-19 symptoms, positive COVID-19 PCR test with symptoms, positive COVID-19 PCR test without symptoms, close contact of COVID-19 with symptoms, close contact of COVID-19 without symptoms. Return to school guidance is recommended for each scenario. A return to school following all scenarios will require a COVID-19 test. 

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that requires reporting to the county health department. Chester County Health Department will be notified of confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Hill Top. Confidentiality will be strictly maintained. The CCHD will conduct contact tracing.

 

Guidelines for Policies on Maintaining Adequate Hygiene for the Purpose of Safety 

It is important that all members of the Hill Top Prep community will follow all policies for personal health and safety so that they will not contract the virus or transmit it to anyone else.  We require that all Hill Top Prep families follow the same policies at home to ensure that healthy individuals are coming to school every day.  Signs will be present throughout the school on how to stop the spread of the virus as well as students will be instructed as to correct procedures.  Our school nurse will also be supporting students each day throughout the year which any difficulties that need to be addressed.

All students, employees and essential visitors to school will need to wear a mask for the safety of both the wearer and the community at large.  There will be times for “mask breaks” when the students are learning outside if they can be safely and appropriately distanced.  Certainly when students have snacks or lunch they will also be able to remove their masks. As the data has grown this summer supporting the use of masks we will need to require everyone to follow this requirement.

Gloves will NOT be required to be worn at all times.  However, anyone who chooses to wear protective gloves may choose to do so.  Members of faculty or staff may be required to wear gloves to perform certain tasks.

 

Procedures for Cleaning, Sanitizing, Disinfecting and Ventilating all Hill Top Prep Spaces 

  • Sanitization prior to school opening

Full cleaning and disinfecting of all areas of the school, classrooms, offices, hallways, dorms, bathrooms, and gym areas.

All carpets in all buildings have had a deep cleaning.

 

Flushing the water system empty buildings, prior to school opening.

 

  • General on going sanitization

 

  1. i) Clean and wipe flat surfaces and objects with soap and water prior to disinfecting.

 

  1. ii)Spray disinfectant, using misting sprayer, Rejuvanal #16 on all surfaces and wipe clean, after 30 seconds.

 

iii)   Using Protex Electrostatic System, if/when available, with Purtabs 3.3g Effervescent Disinfecting & Sanitizing Tablets (EPA registered sanitizer &

disinfectant tablets that readily dissolve in water)

 

(a)  All heavy touch areas in Classrooms and Hallways will be disinfected 2x’s daily. A schedule will be put in place to determine when certain classrooms and hallways will be cleaned so as not to disrupt normal school routine.

 

  1. iv) Teachers will need to wipe down high-touch

surfaces and objects, such as light switches, doorknobs and desks, using Rejuvanal #16 spray, in between classes.  This will be supported by adding time for students to pass in the hallways in between classes.  Students will wait to enter each classroom for the teacher to wipe down the 4 or 5 desks.

 

  1. v) Ventilation in all of the classrooms should be done in between classes by teachers.  After students leave at end of each period, turn on fan in front of open window, while wiping down all of the high-touch areas, and then turn fan off prior to students returning to room. Fans and cleaning supplies will be provided by the School.

 

  1. vi) Microwaves will have canisters of sanitary wipes to utilize with each use. Student and employees are encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles from home. School water dispensers will have canisters of sanitary wipes to utilize before each use to help with safety.

 

  • Safe Transportation Vehicles

All vehicles will be disinfected prior to each trip.  The Maintenance Department requests a one day notice, when possible, for use of vehicles to insure disinfecting.

 

Daily Hybrid Schedule, Policies on Safe Distancing During the Day, and Social Oriented Programs Such as Social Activities, Sports, Recess/Breaks, and Lunch 

A new and creative daily schedule has been adopted for the coming school year.  This schedule incorporates such things as fewer transitions through the school day, passing time, longer class periods, semester-long blocks to reduce the number of courses required by each student per semester.  In addition, considerations for physical space in classrooms for social distancing and traffic flow between classes were employed as well to minimize contact with others. 

The schedule is designed to work well for on-campus instruction with the option of some students learning from home. The schedule was designed to also be workable in the event that we need to return to online learning for a period of time.  In addition to schedule considerations, Hill Top has employed the use of technology, individualized materials to reduce the need for sharing (i.e. math kit and art kits) and outdoor spaces to allow for teacher/student mobility.

Physical Education classes will be held outdoors whenever possible.  PE materials used by more than one class will be cleaned by the teachers between classes. 

Breaks will allow for students to be outside whenever possible and students will be appropriately distanced.

Lunch will be brought to school by our students to reduce exposure for our student body.  Students who qualify for free lunches will be contacted by our Asst. Head of Student Life. 

At the end of August, prior to the start of school, teachers will receive a review of this plan, training and support on keeping their classes safe and a review of appropriate protocols.

Hill Top Prep has done its best to provide individuals with the tools that they need in order to teach and learn effectively and safely.

 

Residential Program

Given the information to date regarding Covid-19, the Hill Top Preparatory School Boarding Program will operate on a reduced enrollment of six students (2 students per room) to start the year.  Furthermore, the following mitigation efforts and policies will be implemented to decrease the likelihood of contamination in the dorm.

  • Proper hygiene (regular hand washing, showering, laundering and changing of clothing and bed sheets) will be strictly enforced.Masks will not be required in the dorm but will be required any time residents leave the dorm
  • At present, not more than two students may share a room.Students will not be permitted in dorm rooms that are not their own.
  • Students will follow the same pre-arrival screening that will be required of day students before entering the school.
  • Prior to returning to the dorm each afternoon, students will again be screened for symptoms and remove/disinfect shoes.
  • Dorm activities and off campus trips will be restricted to only those that can be done safely.
  • All areas of the dorm will be disinfected daily by dorm staff after students leave each morning and additional cleaning of high touch surfaces will occur each evening.
  • Meal prep will be done by dorm staff only to begin the year. Dishes, pots, pans and utensils will be carefully cleaned by hand or dishwasher after each use with soap and hot water.
  • Appropriate ventilation will be maintained in each room.
  • No visitors will be permitted to enter the dorm at any time.
  • In the event that a resident experiences symptoms associated with Covid-19, they will be quarantined and sent home.Before returning to the dorm, they will be tested, and if positive, will remain at home until cleared to return according to the Chester County Department of Health guidelines.  Remaining students and staff will be monitored and treated according to the Chester County Department of Health guidelines.

 

Technology at Hill Top Prep 

The use of technology will continue to grow again this year to make learning even more flexible and student focused than in previous years.  Faculty/staff have been trained throughout the summer on a myriad of programs that can be used this coming year.  We are also implementing a new data system for all information to be managed. 

In order to facilitate hybrid learning for students who opt for distance learning, all teachers and students will be provided with headsets. This will allow students participating from home to join a class via Google Meet without having to watch a livestream or participate from an ineffective perspective. It will allow students to see each other up close, regardless of their location. Class instruction can be projected onto the SmartTV both in the classroom and on student laptops at home. Furthermore, this approach will allow for maximum flexibility, as teachers and classes will be able to relocate as needed for safety while maintaining the same classroom environment.

 

For teachers, Bluetooth enabled headsets will allow them to converse with students at home and in person while moving about the room and conducting instruction as usual. Students will have the choice to either use a headset that is comfortable for them, or they will be provided with a wired headset for their use. This will have the added benefit of filtering out background sounds for any student participating from home, which will in turn reduce distractions. The school has also purchased spare headsets, adapters (in case of laptop damage or failure), and charging cables for staff.

 

All faculty members will be expected to use Google Classroom to administer assignments and class announcements, and share materials. In conjunction with this, Hill Top Prep is implementing a new Rediker Student Information System (SIS) and Gradebook/Portal software for the 2020-2021 school year. This transition will address a number of staff and parental concerns, and permit more streamlined communication home in the event of distance learning. Most importantly, the Rediker Gradebook will allow staff to integrate Google Classroom fully into their gradebooks, making it easier for students to remain on top of their work while also reducing staff workload. Staff will be trained on using their new Gradebook Portals during September Faculty Orientation. Other new features they will have access to include online quizzes/assessments, class emailing functionality, and mobile Rediker apps for all parties.

 

Other applications faculty and staff will have access to include: Google Jamboard (virtual whiteboard), Flipgrid, Geogebra, virtual field trips, Kahoot, AnswerPad, and a variety of screen casting tools.

 

Communication

Hill Top will continue to utilize phone calls, emails, social media and group announcement via cellphones and computers through the year.  The method selected for distribution of information will be determined by many factors such as the size of the audience, the speed at which information needs to be disseminated, and the sensitivity of the information.  Obviously we will need to continue to be sensitive to not disclosing personal information to our community.  However, we do want to keep people informed of how things are going at Hill Top Prep.

While we will not be holding a Community Meeting in person each day, we will continue to send home daily the Parents’ Notes as we have done for years.

Additionally, Hill Top Prep will use a new notification and announcement application for employees and families by Rediker called APNotify.  We will use this to send emails, automated phone calls, and automated text messages to parents and staff when needed. To facilitate Covid-specific communication between families, staff, and administration, the school will utilize Ruvna’s symptom tracking application for instant, daily feedback regarding student and staff health.

 

Closing Comments

First, we want to thank the Pandemic Planning Committee for their many hours of sub-committee work over the past several months.  It hasn’t been easy to cover so much content that often seemed to change from day to day and week to week.  While we expect that information will continue to change, we feel that this plan, which is based on the data available at the time of this writing, will provide us with guidelines to begin the school with all the safety that is possible for all involved.

We do need help from parents prior to the start of the school year to insure maximum safety for your own families and those of our employees:

  • Please have your student practice wearing a mask at increasing amounts of time each day both inside and when you are out and about.
  • To insure that all students are virus free prior to the start of school we request that all families complete their travel prior to August 24th. But staying home following this date will provide a two-week self-quarantine and significantly reduce the possibility of transmission of a virus to others.
  • Once school begins, students who have regularly showered and wear clean clothes and a mask will be safer to all those around them.
  • Hill Top is planning to initiate conversation around the proper methods for washing hands, wearing a mask, self-distancing, etc. Any work that each family can do on these topics prior to school would be greatly appreciated.
 

At the time of this writing, we are currently in the “Green Phase” but this continues to represent a NEW normal, not as it was before March 13th, 2020.  We need to acknowledge that while we have used the information and data available at the time of our work, our status in the Delaware Valley area as it relates to the Coronavirus is very fluid and we know we are likely going to need to make changes from time to time in order to follow best practices and to keep our entire community safe.

Lastly, as we have been saying since mid-March in all of our communications, “We are all in this together”.  Please understand that all aspects of this plan are not offered lightly or impulsively.  We know that there is no way that we can assure our community with 100 percent accuracy that no one will contract the virus at Hill Top Prep.  However, this plan has been created to do everything in our power at this time and with the information we have before us to educate about, to inform how and to guide throughout this difficult time with as much safety as possible.