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).

This plan includes procedures that will be followed in both buildings of the Watervliet City School District for the 2020-2021 school year. Anyone with questions or concerns should contact our COVID-19 safety coordinator by email at dstevens@vlietschools.org or call 518-629-3456.

For more information about how health and safety protocols and trainings will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

Health checks

The district as 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 greater 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.

The Watervliet City School District will implement the following practices to conduct mandated health screening using the digital application: https://entry.neric.org/watervliet

This screening tool will be used to attest to the following questions prior to entering school facilities or transportation:

  1. Since your last day of work, or last visit here, have you had any of these symptoms?
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fever (temperature of greater than 100.0° F in the last 14 days)
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Gastrointestinal tract symptoms
  1. Note: Answer “yes” if the symptoms you have experienced in the last 14 days are of greater intensity or frequency than what you normally experience.
  2. Have you had a positive COVID-19 test within the last 14 days?
  3. Have you had close contact with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 case within 14 days?
  4. Have you traveled internationally or from a state with widespread community transmission of COVID-19 per the New York State Travel Advisory in the past 14 days?

For any individual who does not have internet access, a device will be made available at the entrance of each school building or phone calls will be made home to parents/guardians. A training video will be posted on the school website with instructions for parents/guardians on how to complete the health screening tool. COVID-19 Screening Procedures include the following:

  1. Daily temperature checks and completion of the screening questionnaire provided in the New York Forward Pre-K to Grade 12 School Guidelines for staff, contractors, vendors, and visitors will be completed by staff and visitors prior to arrival at school.
  2. Daily temperature check and completion of the screening questionnaire (mentioned above) for students will be completed by parents prior to arrival at school.
    1. All students will be treated equally; and students whose parent/guardian did not complete the screening will not be singled out.
    2. There will be multiple avenues of screening completion. The process will not be used as a basis to exclude students from school.
    3. All students who require screening to be completed at school will be treated in a confidential manner and the screening will be completed as quickly as possible to minimize time away from class.
  3. The COVID-19 Screening Attestation data will be collected and stored on the app. Data will not be cleared for purposes of contact tracing.
  4. The isolation from others and immediate dismissal from school if an individual has a temperature of 100°F or greater or has a positive response to a screening question.
  5. If a student/staff member develops symptoms or if their answers to the COVID-19 Screening/Attestation app change during or outside school hours, the district’s expectation is that the staff member or student will contact the district’s COVID-19 Safety Coordinator at 518-629-3456 or dstevens@vlietschools.org.
  6. Donald Stevens will be designated as the COVID-19 Safety Coordinator and will review the incoming report of screening by staff, parents/guardians, and visitors and will attest that they are completed. He will receive assistance from front door personnel and attendance aides.
  7. Donald Stevens will be the COVID-19 Safety Coordinator. He will be the contact person for staff and/or students to inform if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms later in the day.
  8. Students/parents/guardians will receive a daily reminder via our district’s notification system to complete the health screening prior to coming to school. The COVID-19 Screening/Attestation is  available on the district’s website.
  9. Random temperature checks will be conducted by medical professionals during the course of the school day.

    Social distancing, face coverings & PPE

    The district has developed a plan with policies and procedures for maintaining social distancing of all students, faculty, and staff when on school facilities, grounds and transportation.

    The district will mark seats on our buses to indicate socially distant arrangements for students. There will be indicators on the floor in both buildings to show a traffic pattern that will flow in 1 direction. Markings will be placed on the floor in every classroom indicating appropriate socially distant seating 6 feet apart. Signage is hung throughout the district including, but not limited to bathrooms, hallways, offices, entrances and exits. The signage describes how to appropriately use PPE, effective hand washing/respiratory hygiene, and social distancing guidelines.

    Face coverings must be worn at all times in the classrooms, hallways and school buses. Any students/staff who are unable to wear face coverings must have appropriate medical documentation and accommodations will be made to the greatest extent possible.

    Students will be allowed to remove face coverings during meals and for short breaks, as long as they maintain appropriate 6 feet social distance requirements.

    Students who refuse to wear face coverings will be asked to transition to remote learning to ensure the health and safety of all students, faculty, and staff.

    Face coverings will be provided to students and staff, if needed. An employee is allowed to wear their own acceptable face covering if they choose. Employees with healthcare provider documentation stating they are not medically able to tolerate face covering will not be required to do so.

    Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school, so there may be periods of time when mask breaks are offered.

    Face coverings should not be placed on:

    • Children younger than 2 years old
    • 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

    The district will instruct students, parents/guardians and staff, contractors and vendors on:

    • The proper way to wear face coverings
    • Washing hands before putting on and after removing their face covering
    • Proper way to discard disposable face coverings

    As mentioned earlier the district will have an ample supply of PPE for school personnel as well as students and health professionals.

    Infection control strategies

    • To limit the number of students arriving at any one time, there will be staggered arrival/dismissal times in both buildings.
    • Attendance staff are behind glass barriers in both buildings in the event a visitor arrives.
    • Hand sanitizer is available throughout the district.
    • Class sizes have been reduced to ensure students are a safe distance away from one another.
    • Extra tables, furniture and desks have been removed from classrooms to allow students to be socially distant.
    • Hallway markings will encourage students/staff to travel in the same direction.
    • Elevators will not exceed one (1) occupant at a time.
    • Students will be grouped by cohorts to prevent co-mingling. They will eat in their classroom, while remaining with their cohort.
    • Isolation rooms are set up for students/staff who present signs of COVID-19.
    • Anyone presenting signs is expected to report to the nurse’s office. Students will be supervised in an isolation area while awaiting parent/guardian pick up. If there are several students waiting, they will be spaced 6 feet apart in the isolation area.

    Training will occur with video presentations at public forums during the summer for students and their parents/guardians including live demonstrations in classrooms for students with in-person reminders from teachers and staff for students and their parents/guardians. Protocols and reminders will be reinforced daily during morning announcements for students. Training videos will be posted on the district website for students and their parents/guardians. Information will be mailed home in parents’ preferred language for students and their parents/guardians.

    Signage reminders will be posted throughout the school buildings, especially at the entrances of each building, for students and their parents/guardians.

    Facility Alterations and Acquisition

    Universal pre-kindergarten will utilize the gymnasium space at Watervliet Elementary School, as opposed to classrooms, in an effort to increase the square footage, ventilation and air circulation.

    Sixth grade will be relocated to the Watervliet Jr.-Sr. High School to allow additional space at the elementary school. This will afford students the opportunity to socially distance themselves from one another.
    Any space that is being utilized throughout the district will have appropriate lighting, ventilation, means of egress, and fire alarm coverage.

      Plumbing Facilities and Fixtures

      • All facilities will be equipped to adhere to social distancing guidelines as well as frequent cleaning of high-traffic areas.
      • Adequate toilet facilities and drinking fountains are available in both buildings, aligned to building code. Toilet facilities and drinking fountains will be disinfected throughout the school day.
      • Disposable cups will be used in primary classrooms equipped with drinking fountains.
      • Touch-free paper towel dispensers are available in every bathroom throughout the district.

      Ventilation

      Ventilation will be maintained/enhanced by opening classroom windows, as the temperature allows. The HVAC system in both buildings was recently updated during building projects. Filters in air handlers will be changed regularly. Bus windows and roof hatches will be opened if the temperature is above 45 degrees.

      Management of ill persons, contact tracing and monitoring

      The CDC provides guidance on an isolation plan if students/staff members arrive at school with symptoms of illness,  or become ill at school.

      The district requires students, faculty, or staff members who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to report to the nurse’s office. If students, or staff present to the health office with symptoms of illness, the procedure will be as follows:

      • Symptomatic students/staff will be immediately sent to a separate isolation room, apart from students who visit the health office regularly for care of chronic conditions, as well as being kept separate from students who require first aid treatment for injuries or bleeding-type wounds.

      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) should be added. When caring for a suspect or confirmed individual with COVID-19, gloves, a gown, and eye protection.

      The nurse may determine a 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 room until a parent/guardian arrives. Administration may need to assist with coordination of gathering student belongings and having the student exit the building.

      Isolation room will need to have cleaning and disinfection after every encounter of students requiring assessment, and staff will need to ensure that PPE/cleaning supplies are kept stocked. 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).

      The COVID symptoms isolation room at Watervliet Jr.-Sr. High School will be the ladies’ faculty room. This room has a bathroom and is located directly across from the nurse’s office. The nurse’s office will remain as the treatment/medication area.

      The COVID symptoms isolation room at Watervliet Elementary School will be in an office space located adjacent to the nurse’s office. The nurse’s office will remain as the treatment/medication area.

      Aerosol Generating Procedures

      Respiratory treatments administered by nurses generally result in aerosolization of respiratory secretions. These aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) potentially put healthcare personnel and others at an increased risk for pathogen exposure and infection. The district requires the following PPE to be worn during AGPs: gloves, N-95 or a surgical mask with face shield, eye protection and a gown. PPE will be used when: suctioning, administering nebulizer treatments, or using peak flow meters with students who have respiratory conditions.

      Treatments such as nebulized medication treatments and oral or tracheostomy suctioning will be conducted in a room separate from others with nursing personnel wearing appropriate PPE. For nebulizer treatments, if developmentally appropriate, the nurse will leave the room and return when the nebulizer treatment is finished.

      Cleaning of the room will occur between use and cleaning of the equipment should be done following manufacturer’s instructions after each use.

      If Students or Staff become Ill with Symptoms of COVID-19 at School

      The district 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 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

      The district 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:

      1. Documentation from a health care provider following evaluation
      2. Negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result
      3. Symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation

      The district will refer to DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Public and Private Employees Returning to Work Following COVID-19 Infection or Exposure” regarding protocols and policies for faculty and staff seeking to return to work after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or after the faculty or staff member had close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19.

      The district 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.

      COVID-19 Testing

      Plans to share safety measures taken by the school during containment (positive or presumed positive cases) will be in conjunction with guidance from the local Albany County Health Department and the New York State Department of Health.

      In the event that a large-scale testing will need to be conducted at the school, the district administration will work with the following providers:

      • Whitney Young Health Center
        1804 Second Ave. #2818
        Watervliet, NY
        (518) 833-6900

      Contact Tracing

      The district will ensure compliance with the New York State Contact Tracing Program

      The district will notify the state and 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 the district.

      To assist the local health department with tracing the transmission of COVID-19, the district 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:

      1. Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members
      2. Ensuring student schedules are up to date
      3. Keeping a log of any visitor which includes date and time, and where in the school they visited
      4. Assisting the local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual in accordance with the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYS Contact Tracing Program

      If/when COVID-19 cases are discovered in the school, the Watervliet City School District will consult with the local Albany County Health Department and the New York State Department of Health. The process for closing school and/or classrooms will be dependent upon many variables such as the nature and size of the outbreak, as well as the number of positive cases.

      Confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state laws and regulations. School staff should not try to determine who is to be excluded from school based on contact without guidance and direction from the local health department.

      For more information about how COVID-19 containment efforts will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

      School Closures

      A closure refers to contingency plans, protocols, and procedures for decreasing the scale or scope of in- person education and/or closing the school. The district 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.

      Conditions that may warrant reducing in-person education or closing the school, in consultation with Albany County and New York State health departments may include:

      • The Watervliet City School District will close if the regional infection rate rises over 9% after Aug. 1. Schools will close if the 7-day rolling average of the infection rate is above 9%.
      • Schools in regions in Phase 4 can reopen if the daily infection rate remains below 5 percent using a 14-day average, unless otherwise directed by the Albany County Health Department.
      • If the infection rate rises about 9%, schools must wait until the 14-day average is below 5%
      • Once schools open at Phase IV below 5% for a 14-day rolling average, schools can remain open even if the rate continues to rise about 5% until it reaches 9% for the 7-day average.
      • The Watervliet City School District will consult with Maribeth Miller from the Albany County Department of Health on the situation.
      • School administrators will consider closing school if absentee rates impact the ability of the school to operate safely.
      • The Watervliet City School District may choose to modify operations prior to closing to help mitigate a rise in cases. If infection rates are rising above 5%; consider modifying school operations for medically vulnerable students and staff if they are participating in in-person activities.
      • The Watervliet City School District will consult with their community based health center, Whitney Young Health, as well as the Albany County Health  Department and the New York State Department of Health.
      • The Watervliet City School District will determine which operations will be decreased, or ceased and which operations will be conducted remotely with guidance from the county and state departments of health.

      For more information about how school closure information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

      Health hygiene

      The district will emphasize healthy hygiene practices for students and staff by providing initial and refresher education in hand and respiratory hygiene, along with 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:

      1. Stay home if they feel sick.
      2. Cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering except during meals and/or mask breaks..
      3.  Properly store and, when necessary, discard PPE.
      4. Adhere to social distancing instructions.
      5.  Report symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.
      6. Follow hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection guidelines.
      7. Follow respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.

      Hand Hygiene

      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 completely after washing. Use paper towels to dry hands if available instead of a hand dryer.
      • 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 going to the restroom or after assisting a student with toileting.
      • 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.

      Respiratory Hygiene

      The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. Therefore, the district 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

      The district 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. Cleaning and disinfection logs will be maintained that include the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection.

      Examples of facility types where cleaning and disinfection frequency will be distinguished include:

      • Bathrooms
      • Athletic training rooms, locker rooms
      • Health offices, isolation rooms
      • Administrative offices (main office, reception area)
      • Frequently touched surfaces in common areas (door handles, elevator buttons, copy machine keypads, etc.)
      • Breakrooms
      • Cafeterias/Kitchens
      • Computer labs
      • Science labs
      • Classrooms
      • Maintenance offices and work areas
      • Bus Garage
      • Buses, school vehicles
      • Libraries
      • Large meeting areas (auditoriums, gymnasiums, music rooms)
      • Playgrounds (cleaning only)
      • Outdoor seating areas (plastic or metal)

      Students, faculty, and staff will be trained on proper hand and respiratory hygiene, and such information will be provided to parents and/or legal guardians on ways to reinforce this at home.

      The district 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.

      Regular cleaning and disinfection of the facilities will occur, including more frequent cleaning and disinfection for high-risk and frequently touched surfaces. This will include desks and cafeteria tables, which should be cleaned and disinfected between each individual’s use. Cleaning and disinfection will be rigorous and ongoing and will occur at least daily, or more frequently as needed.

      The district will ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of restrooms. Restrooms should be cleaned and disinfected more often depending on frequency of use.

      For more information about how cleaning and disinfection information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement sectionof our reopening plan.

      Vulnerable populations/accommodations

      We recognize that some students and staff members are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, live with a person who is at an increased risk, or simply do not feel comfortable returning to an in-person educational environment. It is our goal that these individuals are able to safely participate in educational activities.

      If students are at an increased risk for COVID, or simply do not feel comfortable returning to in-person education, they will be offered a remote option for learning with a rigorous curriculum. Any staff members who have the appropriate medical documentation stating they may not return to work will be handled on a case-by-case basis. The district will offer appropriate accommodations in an effort to ensure everyone is safe to the greatest extent possible.

      Visitors on campus

      Visitors will not be allowed in school buildings, except for official purposes or for reasons related to the safety and well-being of students. Parents/guardians will report to the main entrance vestibule and not go beyond unless it is for the safety or well-being of their child. Essential visitors to facilities will be required to complete the district’s attestation and self-screening application, sign-in with contact information, wear face coverings and will be restricted in their access to our school buildings.

      Visitors must follow all safety protocols as listed above.

      School safety drills

      The district will conduct fire (evacuation) drills and lockdown drills as required by education law and regulation and the fire code without exceptions. Schools must continue to conduct mandatory fire and lockdown drills according to the existing statutory schedule. Drills will be conducted in a manner that maintains social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students to respond in emergencies.

      • Fire Code Section 404 requires that schools maintain Fire Safety, Evacuation, and Lockdown Plans and these plans include how lockdown and evacuation drills are conducted.
      • The district will conduct fire (evacuation) drills and lockdown drills as required by education law and regulation and the fire code without exceptions. Drills will be conducted in a manner that maintains social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students and staff to respond during emergencies.
      • Education Law § 807 requires that schools conduct eight (8) evacuation and four (4) lockdown drills each school year.
      • The district will conduct fire (evacuation) drills and lockdown drills as required by education law and regulation and the fire code without exceptions.
      • Drills will be conducted in a manner that maintains social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students and staff to respond during emergencies.
      • Evacuation drills can be staggered across sections or rooms in a school to enable groups to leave the building without compromising social distancing.
      • When that is done, the school population on that given day will all be required to participate.
      • Lockdown drills, in spaces where getting out of sight of the door window may compromise social distancing, can be more instructional in nature.
      • Students and staff will be reminded that if the drill were an actual emergency that required evacuation or lockdown, the most imminent concern would be to move to safety.
      • Where schools re-open with a “hybrid” in-person model, such as one where students attend school on alternate school days, all students that attend school in-person need to receive instructions about emergency [procedures and to participate in drills.