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).

BUILDING CAPACITY

Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES (Herkimer BOCES) has reviewed and determined the number of students allowed to return for in-person instruction in each of its buildings. The capacity level was determined using the following factors:

  • Required six (6) foot distance between students during instruction

  • PPE and Face Coverings availability

  • Availability and capacity of transportation options (note that the districts handle the transportation of students)

  • Local hospital capacity

Each building was canvassed to identify existing and potential additional instructional spaces to maintain room occupancy that meets social distancing requirements. We are utilizing every space for instruction in order to meet the social distancing requirements.

Herkimer BOCES is making available personal protective equipment (PPE) including face coverings to its students, faculty, and staff. It is estimating the amount needed during in-person instruction using the NYS Education Department’s “PPE Burn Rate Calculator”. The calculator recommends one (1) disposable mask per week per student.

Transportation capacity was addressed by the local school districts who determined the number of students that could be safely transported on each bus, while wearing masks. Buses will be loaded from the back to the front and unloaded in reverse. While on the bus, one student will sit in each seat, unless students live in the same house together.

Herkimer BOCES has maintained a direct line of communication with Herkimer County Public Health Department to monitor the capacity of local and regional hospitals.

COMMUNICATION PLAN

Herkimer BOCES continues to communicate the importance of adhering to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the New York State Department of Health, as well as applicable protocols to students, parents, legal guardians of students, staff, and visitors.

This information is shared in variety of ways, including letters sent home, emails, social media posts, and through the use of the BOCES’ “all call” messenger system. Herkimer BOCES has also developed a COVID-19 Information website (/o/hfhoboces/page/coronavirus-information the topics covered in the communications and on the website will include:

  • Face Covering and Social Distancing requirements

  • Trainings the district will be providing related to COVID-19

  • Instructional support for parents

The communications will be sent prior to the first day of school and periodically throughout the 2020-2021 school year in collaboration with the local school districts. Specific messages related to potential changes to protocols/requirements will be sent as needed and added to the BOCES’ website.

Signage has been placed at the entrances to each of the district’s buildings regarding COVID-19 and face covering requirements. The BOCES has also placed posters in various, conspicuous locations in its buildings regarding; social distancing requirements, hand hygiene, face coverings, and COVID-19 symptoms.

SCHOOL HEALTH PROTOCOL

Herkimer BOCES has a written protocol in collaboration with its school health services and district physician to instruct staff on appropriate ways to observe for signs of illness in students and staff. This protocol also requires any symptomatic person to be sent to the school nurse.

The protocol directs staff to be aware that the currently recognized symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Fever (100.0°F or greater) or chills

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (including bluish lips)

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headache

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Sore throat

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

Students and staff exhibiting these signs with no other explanation for them will be sent to a designated school health office for an assessment by the school nurse. If a school nurse is not available, the school will contact the parent/guardian to come pick up their ill child or send the staff member home.

Additionally, staff will be instructed to be aware of these other signs of any type of illness such as:

  • Flushed cheeks

  • Glassy eyes

  • Rapid or difficulty breathing (without recent physical activity)

  • Fatigue, and/or irritability

  • Frequent use of the bathroom

SCREENING PROTOCOL & ASSESSMENT

Herkimer BOCES has a written protocol for daily temperature screening of all students and staff, and a daily screening questionnaire for faculty and staff.

Prior to the start of the 2020-2021 School Year an attestation will be sent to the parents/legal guardians of each student. The attestation will indicate that they agree to take the student’s temperature each day before they board the school bus and keep any student home who has a temperature greater than 100.0°F.

The BOCES has designated staff people to review the incoming reports of screening by staff and parent/guardians and attesting that they are completed.

All staff at Herkimer BOCES are required to complete a screening questionnaire and attest that their temperature was taken and is below 100°F each day before entering any school building. The questionnaire asks if the staff member, to the best of their knowledge, has:

  • Knowingly been in close or proximate contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 or who has or had symptoms of COVID-19

  • Tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in the past 14 days

  • Has 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.

Anyone who has a temperature of 100°F or greater or has a positive response on the screening questionnaire should not report to school and will be isolated from others and sent home immediately. Students will be supervised in a previously identified isolated area while awaiting transport home. Prior to being sent home, any ill students or staff will be assessed by the school nurse. Staff will be instructed to follow-up with their healthcare provider.

Herkimer BOCES will provide staff and parents/guardians periodic reminders of the requirement by:

  • Automated telephone message, email, or text

  • Weekly written notices to homes in the parent/guardian’s native language where it is known that families cannot access the information through the other methods

ISOLATION PROTOCOL

Herkimer BOCES requires any students or staff with a temperature, signs of illness, and/or positive response to the district’s screening questionnaire to be sent directly to a pre-determined, supervised isolation area, separate from the school’s regular health office.

This isolation area will be monitored by a nurse (LPN or RN) or a trained aide while it is occupied by students. That staff will be outfitted with appropriate PPE (surgical mask, face shield, gown, gloves, etc.). Students in the isolation area will have access to rest rooms.

Students should be escorted from isolation area to the parent/guardian. The parent or guardian will be instructed to call their health care provider, or if they do not have a health care provider, to follow up with a local clinic or urgent care center.

VISITOR/GUEST/CONTRACTOR/VENDOR PROTOCOL

We will limit any non-essential visitors/guests from needing to come into the buildings; however, we realize that some may need access. Herkimer BOCES requires all visitors, guests, contractors, and vendors to complete a screening questionnaire and attest that their temperature was taken and is below 100°F each day before entering any school building. If they cannot attest that their temperature has been taken, staff will take their temperature. The questionnaire will ask if the visitor, guest, contractor, or vendor, to the best of their knowledge, has:

  • Knowingly been in close or proximate contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 or who has or had symptoms of COVID-19

  • Tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in the past 14 days

  • Has 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.

  • Travel throughout the BOCES’ buildings by visitors, guests, contractors, and vendors will be limited to minimize interaction with students and staff. While in the district’s buildings, visitors, guests, contractors, and vendors must wear an acceptable face covering. The district will provide a face covering if they do not have one.

PARENTS/LEGAL GUARDIANS OBSERVING FOR SIGNS/SYMPTOMS

Herkimer BOCES will instruct parents/legal guardians to observe for signs of illness in their child that require them to stay home from school. This will be done prior to the 2020-2021 School Year and periodically throughout the school year.

Parents/legal guardians will be instructed to look for the following symptoms/signs:

  • Fever (100.0°F or greater) or chills

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (including bluish lips)

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headache

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Sore throat

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

Parents/legal guardians will be instructed to keep their children until at least 24 hours after their fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines, and/or 10 days have passed since symptoms onset.

HAND & RESPIRATORY HYGIENE

Herkimer BOCES has developed plans to instruct staff and students in appropriate hand and respiratory hygiene. This protocol will be reinforced with signage in various, conspicuous locations in its buildings.

Students and staff will be instructed on how to practice good hand hygiene to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. BOCES will plan time in the school day schedule to allow for hand hygiene, especially at the start of school day, after using the restroom, before/after eating, and before leaving school. Hand hygiene includes:

  • Traditional hand washing (with soap and warm water, lathering for a minimum of 20 seconds)

  • Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (60% alcohol or greater) when soap and water are not available, and hands are not visibly dirty

  • Providing hand sanitizer throughout common areas (e.g. entrances, cafeteria), near high touch surfaces, and use touch free dispensers when possible

  • Signage will be placed near hand sanitizer indicating visibly soiled hands should be washed with soap and water

  • Students or staff who are unable to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers for health reasons will be permitted to wash their hands with soap and water

Additionally, since COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes, students and staff will be instructed on how to practice good respiratory hygiene to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. This includes:

  • Instructing students and staff cover their mouths or noses with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of the tissue appropriately

  • Providing a supply of tissues and trash cans nearby should be available in each room

If no tissue is available, students and staff will be instructed to use the inside of the elbow (or shirtsleeve) to cover the mouth or nose and to always perform hand hygiene after sneezing, coughing and handling dirty tissues or other soiled material.

SOCIAL DISTANCING PROTOCOL

Herkimer BOCES expects all persons in school buildings keep social distance of at least 6 feet whenever possible. The protocols will ensure that student groupings are as static as possible by having the same group/cohort of students stay together.

The size of the groupings/cohorts will be determined by the number of students who can be in each classroom while maintaining six (6) feet social distancing. BOCES also determined that a distance of twelve (12) feet in all directions is maintained between individuals while participating in activities that require projecting the voice such as singing or during aerobic activity resulting in heavy breathing. Movement in-school will be reduced as much as possible.

BOCES will ensure social distancing at all times when individuals are eating in a school cafeteria and prohibit the sharing of food and beverages including: buffet style meals and snacks unless among members of the same household. Many of our classes will eat lunch in their classrooms to minimize movement within the building as well as contact with other cohorts of students.

Gatherings in small spaces (elevators, supply rooms, faculty offices, conference rooms, etc.) shall be limited to at most 50% of the maximum capacity of the space and all individuals in the space at the same time and everyone must wear acceptable face coverings.

In addition, we will be taking the following actions to assure social distancing:

  • Stagger arrival and/or dismissal times to allow increased social distancing entering the building

  • We are using three different points of entry to separate student programs

  • We have a designated areas for student drop-off and pick-up, which limits contact and entry of parents/guardians into the building

  • Desks (including teachers’) will face in the same direction rather than facing each other to reduce transmission caused by virus-containing droplets (e.g., from talking, coughing, sneezing)

  • Open windows to improve ventilation when there is no safety risk (such as allergies)

  • Keep individual student belongings separated. Limit use of shared supplies to one group of students, clean between use by cohorts of students

  • We are using visual aids (e.g., painter’s tape, stickers, posters, cones etc.) to illustrate traffic flow and appropriate spacing to support social distancing

  • We are using alternate spaces (classrooms) for eating lunch and breakfast

  • Limit gathering in small spaces (e.g., elevators, faculty offices) by more than one individual at a time, unless all individuals in such space are wearing acceptable face coverings

  • Wash hands before and after touching play structures and keep 6 feet of space from other children as much as possible. When possible, build in visual cues that demonstrate physical spacing

  • We have canceled student assemblies, school-wide parent meetings. Instead, we will use free field trips and video conferencing with parents

HIGH RISK ACCOMMODATIONS

Herkimer BOCES will provide accommodation to all students and staff who are at high-risk or live with a person at high risk. Currently, the CDC considers the following to indicators of being at high risk for COVID-19:

  • Individuals age 65 or older

  • Individuals with the following health conditions:

  • Cancer

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant

  • Obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher)

  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies

  • Sickle cell disease

  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

  • Children who are medically complex, who have neurologic, genetic, metabolic conditions, or who have congenital heart disease are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 than other children.

Alternate plans will be created in consultation with the parents and school physician on how to meet the needs of the child at higher risk, while keeping social distancing which may include:

  • Additional PPE for staff caring for such students

  • Assigning only one staff member to care for the student

  • Decreased students in a classroom, alternating schedules, and provision of related services to an individual instead of group setting

  • The option for the student to participate in the class remotely for parents/guardians who choose not to send their child back to school.

  • Staff who are at high risk or live with a person at high risk will be considered under 504 regulations as well as other possible options specific to COVID situations.

STAFF/VISITORS/STUDENTS FACE COVERING

Herkimer BOCES requires all employees, adult visitors, and students to wear a cloth face covering whenever social distancing cannot be maintained. An acceptable face covering is defined by Centers for Disease Control as:

  • Fitting snugly but comfortably against the side of the face

  • Completely covering the nose and mouth

  • Is secured with ties or ear loops

  • Includes multiple layers of fabric

  • Allows for breathing without restriction

  • Can be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

All individuals in school facilities and on school grounds must be prepared to put on a face covering if another person unexpectedly cannot socially distance. According to the NYS Department of Health face shields worn without other face coverings are not considered adequate protection against COVID-19 and should not be used alone. All students and staff at Herkimer BOCES must wear cloth face coverings:

  • Whenever they are within 6 feet of someone

  • In hallways

  • In restrooms

  • In other congregate settings, including buses.

  • BOCES staff will schedule “mask breaks” for students as needed throughout the day.

BOCES will provide acceptable face covering to all staff (and students if they forget their own) and have an adequate supply on hand to replace staff and student face covering as needed.

As per NYS Department of Health guidelines, face coverings will 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; or

  • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.

BOCES 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

Students and staff may use alternate PPE (face coverings that are transparent at or around the mouth) for instruction or interventions that require visualization of the movement of the lips and/or mouths (like speech therapy). These alternate coverings may also be used for certain students (hearing impaired) who benefit from being able to see more of the face of the staff member.

SUPPLY OF CLOTH FACE COVERINGS

Herkimer BOCES has a plan for ensuring that an appropriate supply of face coverings is available for its students, faculty, and staff. BOCES is estimating the amount needed during in-person instruction using the NYS Education Department’s “PPE Burn Rate Calculator”. The calculator recommends one (1) disposable mask per week per student. BOCES is working with NYS to obtain an appropriate supply of face coverings at the best price possible.

PROTOCOL FOR CONFIRMED COVID-19 CASE

Herkimer BOCES has a written protocol for steps to be taken if there is a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 in the school. The protocol centers around both cleaning/disinfecting areas, cooperating with the Herkimer County Public Health Department, and following NYS Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control guidance.

When Herkimer BOCES district receives word that a student or staff has received a laboratory confirmed positive COVID-19 test, BOCES will take the following steps regarding the area used by the person with the confirmed case such as offices, classrooms, common areas, etc.:

  • Close off areas used by a sick person and not use these areas until after cleaning and disinfection has occurred.

  • Increase air circulation by opening windows/outside doors.

  • BOCES staff will wait as long as possible (ideally 24 hours) and then begin cleaning and disinfection as per Centers of Disease Control guidelines.

  • Once the area has been appropriately cleaned and disinfected it can be reopened for use.

  • Individuals without close or proximate contact with the person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 can return to the area and resume school activities immediately after cleaning and disinfection.

  • BOCES will cooperate with any and all contact tracing activities coordinated by the Herkimer County Public Health Department. This includes:

  • Notifying the local health department to determine what steps are needed for the school community.

  • Forwarding all appropriate sign-in/sign-out screening logs to the Public Health Department.

Due to HIPPA protections and NYS Education Department guidelines, BOCES will not notify the community of a positive COVID-19 test in BOCES programs. Any announcement or notification will come from the Herkimer County Public Health Department.

RETURN TO SCHOOL/WORK PROTOCOL

Herkimer BOCES has a written protocol, that complies with Centers for Disease Control and NYS Department of Health guidance, for the return to school/work for students and staff following a positive screen for COVID-19 symptoms, illness, or diagnosis of confirmed case of COVID-19, and following a quarantine due to contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

The duration of any quarantine will be determined by the local health department and the district will follow the local health department’s guidance.

If a student/staff is not diagnosed by a healthcare provider (physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant) with COVID-19 they can return to BOCES:

  • Once there is no fever, without the use of fever reducing medicines, and they have felt well for 24 hours

  • If they have been diagnosed with another condition and has a healthcare provider written note stating they are clear to return to school or work.

  • If a student/staff is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a healthcare provider based on a test, or their symptoms, or does not get a COVID-19 test but has had symptoms, they should not be at BOCES and should stay at home until:

  • It has been at least ten (10) days since the individual first had symptoms

  • It has been at least three (3) days since the individual has had a fever (without using fever reducing medicine)

  • It has been at least three days since the individual’s symptoms improved, including cough and shortness of breath.

  • Prior to being sent home, any ill students or staff will be assessed by the school nurse. Staff will be instructed to follow-up with their healthcare provider.

CLEANING & DISINFECTING PROTOCOL

Herkimer BOCES has a written protocol to clean and disinfect schools following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance. The protocol reflects the CDC principles that:

Normal routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease how much of the virus is on surfaces and objects, which reduces the risk of exposure.

Disinfection using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 can also help reduce the risk. Frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people is important.

When EPA-approved disinfectants are not available, alternative disinfectants can be used (for example, 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70% alcohol solutions).

Staff will always wear gloves appropriate for the chemicals being used when cleaning and disinfecting. Additional personal protective equipment (PPE) may be needed based on setting and product.

Most surfaces and objects in school buildings will just need normal routine cleaning. Frequently touched surfaces and objects like light switches, doorknobs, and shared equipment will need to be cleaned and then disinfected to further reduce the risk of germs on surfaces and objects. Students will not be present when disinfectants are in use and will not participate in cleaning and/or disinfection activities.

Herkimer BOCES has identified cleaning and disinfection frequency for each facility and area type in the district:

  • Classrooms: Cleaned every night

  • Identified High Touch Areas: Cleaned every three (3) hours during school hours and disinfected nightly after school

  • Offices: Cleaned every night

  • Common Areas: Cleaned every night

  • BOCES will follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfection of electronic devices such as laptops, iPads or Chromebooks, keyboards and computer mice, etc., between use.

  • School Health Office cleaning will occur after each use of:

  • Cots

  • Bathroom

  • Health office equipment (e.g. blood pressure cuffs, otoscopes, stethoscopes, etc.) should be cleaned following manufacturer’s directions.

  • District outdoor areas, like playgrounds in schools and parks generally require normal routine cleaning, but do not require disinfection, but will be cleaned on a regular, established basis. Shared athletic/gym equipment (e.g., balls, protective gear) will be cleaned between use per manufacturer’s directions.

Custodial staff will maintain logs that include the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection in a facility or area. In order to disinfect areas frequently, additional staff may need to be trained in cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

SAFETY DRILLS

Herkimer BOCES will conduct required safety drills with modifications that will ensure social distancing and the use of appropriate face coverings. NYS Education Department requires that schools conduct eight (8) evacuation and four (4) lockdown drills each school year. This regulation has not been modified during the current Public Health Emergency.

The district will modify the ways drills are conducted. Modifications to evacuation drills will include:

  • Conducting drills on a “staggered” schedule, where classrooms evacuate separately rather than all at once, and appropriate distance is kept between students to the evacuation site.

  • Staggering by classroom, minimizes contact of students in hallways, stairwells, and at the evacuation site.

  • Modifications to Lockdown Drills will include (Add district-specific modifications to evacuation drills):

  • Conducting lockdown drills in classroom setting while maintaining social distancing and using masks

  • Conduct lockdown drill in classroom without “hiding”/ “sheltering” but provide an overview of how to shelter or hide in the classroom (appropriate for first Lockdown Drill of the school year).

  • Conducting lockdown drills on a “staggered” schedule with smaller numbers of students present to maintain social distancing

However, all drills conducted using a modified procedure, will be completed on that same school day and will include all students in the school building on that school day.

COVID-19 SAFETY COORDINATOR

Herkimer BOCES has designated a district employee as a COVID-19 Safety Coordinator (could designate one per building) with identified responsibilities that include:

Continuous compliance with all activities of Herkimer BOCES’ reopening plans

Phased-in reopening activities necessary to allow for operational issues to be resolved before activities return to normal or “new normal” levels.

The COVID-19 Safety Coordinator is a district administrator. The COVID-19 Safety Coordinator will coordinate activities with the local Public Health Department and the Herkimer BOCES Safety Service to insure consistency across the region. The COVID-19 Safety Coordinator will also be:

  • The main point of contact upon identification of positive COVID-19 cases and responsible for subsequent communication

  • Responsible for answering questions from students, faculty, staff, and parents/legal guardians regarding the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and plans implemented by the school.