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Supt. Bongiovi Letter to HCSD Community - July 15, 2020

Dear Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers:

I hope that this correspondence finds you well and in good health.  I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the almost 500  parents who responded to our survey regarding your thoughts about our reopening school in September.  I want to assure you that your thoughts and ideas, as well as the thoughts and ideas of our staff, have been considered.  At the present time, we are well into the planning process.  As we move forward, I intend to provide you with frequent updates as to our reopening plan. 

On Monday, July 13th, the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) and the New York State Department of Health (NYDOH) issued guidance about reopening schools.  Those guidance documents are posted on the District website.  I would encourage you to review them as they are the guiding documents for our reopening plan.

In developing our instructional delivery plans we address three possible scenarios: fully in-person, hybrid (partially in-person and partially virtual), and fully virtual.

The NYDOH guidance outlines several critical areas that all schools must attend to in planning for reopening.  I will describe the requirements below and then outline how we are currently addressing the requirement. 

Face Coverings: The guidance requires that we “ensure that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is used to protect against the transmission of the COVID-19 virus when on school grounds and in school facilities.  Specifically, appropriate PPE means, at least an acceptable face covering which is strongly recommended to be worn by all individuals at all times but is required to be worn any time or place that individuals cannot maintain appropriate social distancing.”

To implement this, we are purchasing a supply of face masks  for our entire staff, as well as an ample supply of face coverings for our students.  Staff and students will be trained on the appropriate way to use face masks.

Social Distancing: The guidance requires that we maintain protocols and procedures for students, faculty, and staff to ensure appropriate social distancing.  Appropriate social distancing requires six feet of space in all directions.

In determining the maximum occupancy of every instructional site, we are removing all excess furniture and equipment and locating all classroom furniture in such a way to ensure the maximum available space between occupants. 

Spaces: The guidance suggests that to reduce social density we consider repurposing available indoor and outdoor spaces where health and safety conditions allow for such potential usage.

To this end, we are in the process of examining which of our non-instructional spaces (cafeterias, meeting rooms, etc.), can be repurposed to spread our students out even further where and when additional spaces are needed.   

Screening:  The guidance directs that we must implement mandatory health screenings, including temperature checks of students, faculty and staff, and visitors each day.  Additionally, the guidance mandates a daily screening questionnaire be administered to all faculty and staff reporting to school and periodically to students.  The guidance mandates that anyone with a temperature greater than 100.0 degrees be denied entry.  It is critically important that students and staff who are sick do not come to school. 

We will have a temperature check and screening process in place for the return to school in accordance with Department of Health protocols and guidelines.

Ventilation: The guidance mandates that we increase ventilation with outside air to the greatest extent possible. 

We are presently working to see how this can be accomplished using our current air handling systems.  We will also require that classroom windows be opened and that hallway doors be left open.   

Hygiene, Cleaning, and Disinfection:  The guidance mandates that all students, faculty, and staff be trained on proper hand and respiratory hygiene.  Additionally, the guidance requires that we clean and disinfect all surfaces daily and high touch surface on a regular basis throughout the school day.

            We will be following all required protocols for hygiene,  cleaning and disinfecting as per Department of Health protocols and guidelines.

We still have much work to do.  We must plan for every scenario.  We must be able to answer every, “What happens if….” question.  There are literally hundreds of such questions, and of course, conditions and guidance can change over the next six weeks.

The safety of our students, staff and community will of course be our top priority.  I will be in contact with an update in the next few weeks.

Thomas M. Bongiovi

Highland Central School District

Supt Bongiovi Letter - July 15, 2020
NYSED Reopening Guidelines - July, 2020
NYS DOH Reopening of Schools Guidelines