BOE Acknowledgement: August 23rd, 2021
In July of 2020, the Board of Education approved a comprehensive school district reopening/reentry plan that detailed how the district would safely return students to school and provide high quality instruction during a public health crisis. That comprehensive plan was designed with the assistance of our district Return to School Transition Team and school-based Pandemic Response Teams. The plan was approved by the New Jersey Department of Education and guided our work last year as we provided high-quality instruction during the pandemic.
The district now acknowledges that with public health conditions improving, the Department of Education has ended the waiver for virtual instruction, and the district has been directed to plan to provide full-day, full-time, in-person instructional and operations for the 2021-22 school year. Consequently, we will continue to modify and adjust our Reopening Plan to provide for the safe and healthy return of all students and staff for fully in-person instruction in September of 2021.
Our Return to School plan is a “living document,” and this amendment to our plan reflects our work in revising and revamping our plan to make our anticipated normal, traditional opening as safe and healthy as possible. We have worked with our stakeholders with relevance and knowledge, and consulted expert advisors, all while closely evaluating public health developments, in developing this addendum.
The Ewing School district has emphasized the importance of vaccines and worked hard to obtain vaccines for all eligible school community members since they became available. This includes collaborating with local medical groups and neighboring school districts to put together large scale vaccine clinics for our staff and eligible students. Through these efforts, a significant percentage of our eligible school community has received one of the three available vaccines for COVID-19. The district has followed the recommendation of the Department of Education and strived to determine staff and students that have been vaccinated.
Although COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and accessible, not all school-aged children are currently eligible to be vaccinated. Most K-12 schools will have a mixed population of fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated individuals at any given time, thereby requiring the layering of preventive measures to protect individuals who are not fully vaccinated. The Ewing Schools has a system in place to determine the vaccination status of students and staff, but acknowledges that if we are unable to determine the vaccination status of individual students or staff, those individuals should be considered not fully vaccinated. Public confidence in immunization is critical to sustaining and increasing vaccination coverage rates and preventing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. The Ewing Schools has actively promoted vaccination for all eligible students and staff. As vaccine eligibility expands, we will consider school-wide vaccine coverage among students and staff as an additional metric to inform the need for preventive measures such as physical distancing and masking.
The Ewing Schools and local health departments maintain close communication with each other to provide information and share resources on COVID-19 transmission, prevention, and control measures. The entities have also collaborated to establish procedures for Local Health Department (LHD) notification and response to COVID-19 illness in school settings. Understanding that COVID-19 may impact certain areas of the state differently, NJDOH provides information on COVID-19 transmission at the regional level, characterizing community transmission as low (green), moderate (yellow), high (orange), and very high (red). The Ewing Schools evaluates this information carefully and uses it to make informed decisions regarding COVID-19 protocols.
Wearing masks is an important prevention strategy to help slow the spread of COVID-19, especially when combined with everyday preventive actions and social distancing in public settings.
Effective Monday, August 9, 2021 all students, faculty, staff and visitors to any of our school buildings will be required to wear a mask.
This is in accordance with Governor Murphy’s Executive Order No. 251 announced Friday, August 6th.
If the Governor’s Executive Order mandating mask wearing is lifted, the school district will explore implementing the following approach to mask wearing:
When the New Jersey Department of Health’s COVID-19 Activity Level for Mercer County is YELLOW (moderate), Orange (high) or Red (very high) we are expecting all individuals to wear a mask while indoors, unless there is an extenuating medical or psychological reason that they cannot do so.
If the New Jersey Department of Health’s COVID-19 Activity Level for Mercer County returns to the Green (Low) category, the Ewing Schools will implement the following approach: Masks will be optional for vaccinated individuals, and strongly encouraged for unvaccinated individuals while indoors. Masks will remain required for all individuals during transportation.
This includes both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
Acknowledging that all students under the age of 12 are not vaccinated, mask wearing and physical distancing must be emphasized in the elementary schools.
The schools will look to give mask breaks during the day, either outside or when adequate physical distancing can be provided.
According to CDC requirements, masks must be worn on the bus by all individuals.
The administration will consistently monitor local health developments and has the flexibility to adjust make wearing stipulations if appropriate.
The following principles apply to the use of masks in the Ewing Schools:
Masks and/or barriers do not preclude an individual from being identified as a close contact to a COVID-19 case.
The most effective fabrics for cloth masks are tightly woven such as cotton and cotton blends, breathable, and in two or three fabric layers. Masks with exhalation valves or vents, those that use loosely woven fabrics, and ones that do not fit properly are not recommended.
Masks should be washed after every day of use and/or before being used again, or if visibly soiled or damp/wet.
Disposable face masks should be changed daily or when visibly soiled, damp or damaged. Students, teachers, and staff should have access to additional disposable or cloth masks in case a back-up mask is needed (e.g. mask is soiled or lost during the day).
The district will provide masks to staff and students and have extras available in the schools.
Clear masks that cover the nose and wrap securely around the face may be considered in certain circumstances including for the teaching of students with disabilities, young students learning to read, or English language learners.
The Ewing Schools acknowledges that physical distancing recommendations will not prevent a school from offering full-day, full-time, in person learning to all students for the 2021-2022 school year.
However, the Ewing Schools will be implementing physical distancing measures as an effective COVID-19 prevention strategy to the extent that we are equipped to do so while still providing regular school operations to all students and staff in-person. During periods of high community transmission or if vaccine coverage is low, if the maximal social distancing recommendations below cannot be maintained, LEAs should, where possible, prioritize other prevention measures including masking, screening testing, and cohorting.
The Ewing Schools will consider implementing one or more of the following strategies to maximize opportunities to increase distance between students:
Maintaining three feet of distance between students in classroom settings to the extent possible while offering full-time, in-person learning to all students.
Structural interventions within classrooms to aid with social distancing.
Maintaining cohorts or groups of students with dedicated staff who remain together throughout the day, including at recess, lunchtimes, and while participating in extracurricular activities
Avoiding grouped seating arrangements.
Arrange participants of early childhood programs head-to-toe during scheduled naptimes (refer to CDC Guidance for Operating Childcare Programs).
Outside of the classroom LEAs should consider approaches to implement physical distancing in the following areas that may pose greater risk of transmission:
In common areas and spaces where students may gather such as hallways and auditoriums.
When masks cannot be worn.
When masks may be removed, such as during outdoor activities.
During indoor activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band practice, sports, or exercise (even if masks are worn.
Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
The Ewing Schools will teach and reinforce hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol will be used (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer).
The Ewing Schools will encourage students and staff to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue if not wearing a mask. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hand hygiene as outlined above should be performed immediately.
The Ewing Schools will maintain adequate supplies including soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer), paper towels, tissues, and no-touch trash cans.
The Ewing Schools will emphasize that hand hygiene should take place:
Upon arrival at school.
Before and after meals and snacks.
After going to the bathroom.
Before leaving for the day.
After blowing nose, sneezing, or coughing into tissue.
When hands are visibly soiled.
Young children will be assisted/observed to ensure proper hand washing
For meals offered in cafeterias or other group dining areas, where masks may not be worn constantly and consistently, the Ewing Schools will implement other layered prevention strategies to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The Ewing Schools has added outdoor tented spaces to provide flexibility for outdoor eating and instructional space.
These strategies could include:
Maintaining physical distancing between students and staff, if possible.
Considering alternatives to use of group dining areas such as eating in classrooms or outdoors.
Staggering eating times to allow for greater physical distancing.
Maintaining student cohorts and limiting mixing between groups, if possible.
Avoiding offering self-serve food options.
Discouraging students from sharing meals.
Encouraging routine cleaning between groups.
Cleaning and Disinfection
The Ewing Schools has a dedicated custodian and maintenance staff that works hard to make sure our schools are as clean and sanitary as possible. The district follows standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting with EPA-registered products for use against SARS-CoV-2. This means at least daily cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, faucet handles, phones, and toys.
If a person exhibits COVID-19 compatible symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19 within 24 hours of being in the school building, the school staff will clean and disinfect the spaces occupied by the person. Once the area has been appropriately disinfected, it can be re-opened for use.
The district will close off areas used by any person who is sick or positive for COVID-19 and will not use those areas until after cleaning and disinfecting. The district will also:
Wait as long as possible (at least several hours) after the person has exited a space before cleaning and disinfecting.
Open doors and windows and use fans or HVAC settings to increase air circulation in the area.
Use products from EPA List according to the instructions on the product label.
Wear a mask and gloves while cleaning and disinfecting.
School buses are considered school property for the purpose of determining the need for prevention strategies.
Masks must be worn by all passengers on buses, regardless of vaccination status per CDC’s Federal Order.
If occupancy allows, we will maximize physical distance between students.
When possible, we will open windows to increase airflow in buses and other transportation.
The district will regularly clean high touch surfaces on school buses.
Staff and students are expected to screen themselves daily each and every day for COVD-19 symptoms and potential exposure.
There will no longer be an online screening process to be completed daily, but the following inventory must be complete prior to staff or students arriving at school:
COVID Screening Form
Have you experienced any of the following symptoms that are not attributed to a chronic or known condition?
* Sore throat
* Muscle aches
* Loss of smell or taste
* Shortness of breath or Difficulty breathing
Ο Yes Ο No
Have you had close contact with or cared for someone who is currently sick?
Ο Yes Ο No
Have you or someone in your household, been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
Ο Yes Ο No
Is there any reason to believe anyone in your household may have COVID-19?
Ο Yes Ο No
Do you have a temperature above 100.4?
Ο Yes Ο No
If any indicator is checked, that individual should not report to school/work.
Parents/caregivers should be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of illness every day as they are the front line for assessing illness in their children.
Students who are sick should not attend school. The Ewing Schools will strictly enforce exclusion criteria for both students and staff.
The Ewing Schools will use existing outreach systems to provide reminders to staff and families to check for symptoms before leaving for school and provide clear and accessible directions to parents/caregivers and students for reporting symptoms and reasons for absences.
The Ewing Schools will ensure that procedures are in place to identify and respond to a student or staff member who becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms. The district will do the following:
Designate an area or room away from others to isolate individuals who become ill with COVID-19 symptoms while at school.
Establish an area separate from this area to be used for routine visits such as medication administration, injuries, and non-COVID-19 related visits.
Ensure there is enough space for multiple people placed at least 6 feet apart.
Ensure that hygiene supplies are available, including additional cloth masks, facial tissues, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
School nurses will use Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions based on the care and tasks required. Staff assigned to supervise students waiting to be picked up do not need to be healthcare personnel but will follow physical distancing guidelines.
Exclusion and Quarantining
Again, parents should not send students to school when sick or if identified as potentially being exposed to a COVID case.
When illness occurs in the school setting, children and staff with COVID-19 symptoms will be separated away from others until they can be sent home.
Students who are sick and not already wearing a mask will be provided one to wear unless the student has a contraindication to doing so. If a mask is not tolerated by the ill student or staff member, other staff should be masked and follow maximum physical distancing guidelines (at least 6 feet away).
The district will ask ill student (or parent/guardian) and staff whether they have had potential exposure to COVID-19 in the past 14 days meeting the definition of a close contact. Individuals will be sent home and referred to a healthcare provider. Persons with COVID-19- compatible symptoms should undergo COVID-19 testing.
If community transmission is low, ill individuals without potential exposure to COVID-19 should follow the NJDOH School Exclusion List. No public health notification is needed UNLESS there is an unusual increase in the number of persons who are ill (over normal levels), which might indicate an outbreak.
If ill students have potential COVID-19 exposure OR if community transmission is moderate or high, they should be excluded according to the COVID-19 Exclusion Criteria.
The Ewing Schools will notify LHDs when students or staff:
Are ill and have potential COVID-19 exposure;
When we see an increase in the number of persons with COVID-19 compatible symptoms.
Test positive for COVID-19
The Ewing Schools will be prepared to provide the following information when consulting with the LHD:
Contact information for the ill persons;
The date the ill person developed symptoms, tested positive for COVID-19 (if known), and was last in the building;
Types of interactions (close contacts, length of contact) the person may have had with other persons in the building or in other locations;
Names, addresses, and telephone numbers for ill person’s close contacts in the school;
Vaccination status if known
Any other information to assist with the determination of next steps.
Regardless of vaccination status, if a student or staff experiences COVID-compatible symptoms, they should isolate themselves from others, be clinically evaluated for COVID-19, and tested for SARS-CoV-2.
Ill individuals with COVID-19 compatible symptoms who have not been tested or individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 should stay home until at least 10 days have passed since symptom onset and at least 24 hours have passed after resolution of fever without fever reducing medications and improvement in symptoms.
Persons who test positive for COVID-19 but who are asymptomatic should stay home for 10 days from the positive test result.
An alternate diagnosis (including a positive strep test or influenza swab) without a negative COVID-19 test is not acceptable for individuals who meet COVID-19 exclusion criteria to return to school earlier than the timeframes above.
The COVID-19 Exclusion Table described in NJDOH guidance for Local health departments can be used to determine the need for and duration of school exclusion based on the level of COVID-19 community transmission in their region.
Excluded individuals who are close contacts of staff or students who tested positive for COVID-19 may be considered for a reduced exclusion period based on community transmission levels as follows: High (orange) exposed close contacts should be excluded from school for 14 days. Moderate or Low (yellow or green) exposed close contacts should be excluded from school for 10 days (or 7 days with negative test results collected at 5-7 days)
The Ewing Schools embraces the following COVID quarantining guidelines as recommended by public health experts and entities:
For anyone believed to be in “close contact” with a positive COVID case or placed into quarantine by a district or public contact tracer…
Quarantine can end after 10 days without testing and if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring.
When COVID-19 testing resources are sufficient and available, persons exposed to COVID-19 should consider testing. Quarantine can end after Day 7 if the test result is negative and if no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring. The specimen should be collected between day 5-7 (not earlier than day 5), but quarantine cannot be discontinued earlier than Day 7. We should require PCR tests for those who want to test out of quarantine.
Persons who clinically recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months and those who are fully vaccinated (defined as ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2- dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine) do NOT need to quarantine after having close contact with someone with COVID-19, as long as they remain asymptomatic (see exceptions for high-risk congregate care settings).
The CDC is still recommending that unnecessary travel be avoided, and that individuals should defer travel until they are fully vaccinated.
Quarantine is not required after visiting Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware or Connecticut.
If you do have to travel outside of these states, and you are not fully vaccinated, the following is recommended:
∙ Before travel, get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before the trip
∙ Get tested 3-5 days after travel
∙ Stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if the post-travel test is negative. If not tested after travel, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
Persons who have clinically recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months and those who are fully vaccinated-Testing and quarantine for these individuals is no longer recommended for domestic travel.
International travel poses additional risks and even fully vaccinated travelers are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants. Testing before arrival into the U.S. is required (or documentation of recent recovery), and testing after arrival is recommended for fully vaccinated persons, but quarantine after arrival for these groups is no longer recommended. Pre- and post-travel testing and quarantine is still recommended for unvaccinated persons.
Programs in the Ewing Schools serving medically complex or other high-risk individuals should use a 14-day exclusion period for the exclusion of these individuals or those who work closely with them when identified as close contacts in all levels of community transmission.
Exposed close contacts who are fully vaccinated and have no COVID-like symptoms:
Do not need to quarantine, be excluded from school, or be tested following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
Should still monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following an exposure.
If they experience symptoms, they should isolate themselves from others, be clinically evaluated for COVID-19, including SARS-CoV-2 testing and inform their health care provider of their vaccination status at the time of presentation to care.
Contact tracing is a strategy used to determine the source of an infection and how it is spreading. Finding people who are close contacts of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, and therefore at higher risk of becoming infected themselves, can help prevent further spread of the virus.
The Ewing Schools has a team of trained, certified contact tracers who immediately begin investigatory work and implement controls upon receiving notification of a positive COVID-19 case.
This team of contact tracers will identify school-based close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases in the school.
As with any other communicable disease outbreak, the Ewing Schools will assist in identifying the close contacts within the school and communicating this information back to the LHD.
With guidance from the LHD, the district will be responsible for notifying parents and staff of the close contact exposure and exclusion requirements while maintaining confidentiality.
At all levels of community transmission, the Ewing Schools will work with the impacted students, families and/or staff as well as the local health departments to identify rapid viral testing options in their community for the testing of symptomatic individuals and asymptomatic individuals who were exposed to someone with COVID-19.
The Ewing Schools is committed to moving forward with our extracurricular program, as we recognize the significant benefits they have on our student’s academic growth and social-emotional wellness. We anticipate offering our usual programming in athletics, activities and the arts with standard COVID-19 precautions and protocols.
Remote Instruction/180-Day Requirement
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:7F-9, it is acknowledged that the Ewing Schools must be in session for 180 days to receive state aid. The statute requires that school facilities be provided for at least 180 days during the school year. Section (b) notes that where a district is required to close the schools of the district for more than three consecutive school days due to a declared state of emergency, declared public health emergency, or a directive and/or recommendation by the appropriate health agency or officer to institute a public health-related closure, days of virtual or remote instruction commensurate with in-person instruction will count towards the district’s 180-day requirement. The Ewing Schools may be confronted with the incidence of COVID-19 positive cases amongst staff and/or students. If the school district is required to exclude a student, group of students, a class, or multiple classes as a result of the scenarios listed above, while the school itself remains open for in-person instruction, the LEA should be prepared to offer virtual or remote instruction to those students in a manner commensurate with in-person instruction to the extent possible. In circumstances when the school facilities remain open and in-person instruction continues in those classrooms that are not required to quarantine, those days in session will also count towards the district’s 180-day requirement in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:7F-9.