Reopening of School Facilities
for In-Person Instruction
Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES (HFHO BOCES) is prioritizing efforts to return all students to in-person instruction in the safest, most equitable manner possible. Following guidance received from the New York State Department of Education that is based on recommendations from the United States Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, HFHO BOCES is implementing a layered approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in its school buildings; by combining these layers of protection HFHO BOCES has more flexibility depending on the situation which makes full-time, in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic possible and safer.
Based on the dynamic nature of local community transmission of the COVID-19 virus and local vaccination rates these efforts may change throughout the year. Transmission thresholds can be found here: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/operation-strategy.html and the county’s current rate can be found here: covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.
HFHO BOCES will consider factors such as ability to maintain appropriate physical distance, personal protective equipment (PPE) use, local medical capacity, and availability of safe transportation.
Full-time, in-person instruction in each of its programs is a priority for HFHO BOCES. The capacity level of the BOCES’ buildings was determined using the following factors:
Appropriate physical distancing for everyone
PPE & Face Coverings use
Local hospital capacity
Each building was canvassed to identify existing and potential additional instructional spaces to maintain room occupancy that meets physical distancing requirements.
HFHO BOCES is making available PPE and 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.
HFHO BOCES has maintained a direct line of communication with the local health department to monitor the capacity of local and regional hospitals.
HFHO BOCES has developed a written protocol to ensure all persons in school buildings maintain appropriate social distancing keep social distance of at least three (3) feet whenever possible.
The guidelines for distancing, as of August 2021 are, in general, three (3) feet in all directions in classrooms, but may be increased or decreased based on the availability of other strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. BOCES has also determined that according to the CDC a distance of six (6) feet in all directions is to be maintained as much as possible between individuals while participating in activities that require projecting the voice (singing, etc.), playing a woodwind or brass instrument, or aerobic activity resulting in heavy breathing (gym classes, etc.) and in cafeterias. This distance may change throughout the school year based on various factors, including the level of community transmission and local vaccination rates.
BOCES will maximize the amount of space to greatest extent possible when individuals are eating in a school cafeteria and prohibit the sharing of food and beverages. Eating may be restricted to classrooms at times throughout the year based on various factors, including level of community transmission and local vaccination rates.
Gatherings in small spaces (elevators, supply rooms, faculty offices, conference rooms, etc.) shall be limited and all individuals in the space at the same time must wear acceptable face coverings.
HFHO BOCES has a plan for ensuring that an appropriate supply of face coverings is available for its students, faculty, and staff. Guidance from both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics as recommended by the NYS Education Department states: The wearing of face masks will be required at all times in all school buildings, in both classroom and non-classroom settings; except during meals and official mask breaks. Based on the layered approach HFHO BOCES is using: removal of masks may also be permitted based on other forms of mitigation, such as appropriate social distancing. Students who are unable to medically tolerate a mask, including students where such mask would impair their physical health or mental health are not subject to the required use of a mask.
HFHO BOCES will train all students, faculty, staff, contractors, and vendors on how to adequately put on, take off, clean, and discard PPE.
Hygiene/Cleaning, and Disinfecting
HFHO BOCES has developed a written protocol 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. The school day schedule will allow for hand hygiene. 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 able
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.
HFHO BOCES will ensure adherence to cleaning and disinfection recommendations from the CDC. Most surfaces and objects in school buildings will just need normal routine cleaning. Frequently touched surfaces and objects like light switches, doorknobs will need to be cleaned once a day to further reduce the risk of germs on surfaces and objects.
If someone in the school building has tested positive for COVID-19 and been in the building within the last 24 hours, any spaces they were in will be cleaned and disinfected to further reduce the risk of germs in those spaces.
Students will not be present when disinfectants are in use and will not participate in cleaning and/or disinfection activities.
Alternate plans will be created in consultation with school health personnel on how to meet the needs of a 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
Any modifications will be made with the intent to minimize the COVID-19 exposure risk for students, faculty, and staff, to the greatest extent possible.
In order for full-time, in-person instruction to take place, BOCES will be following the transportation procedures of its component BOCESs. Additionally, at the WEB, Technical Education students may be permitted to drive to school, based on permission from their home BOCES.
HFHO BOCES will continue to provide school breakfast and/or lunch to students who were previously receiving school meals.
HFHO BOCES will provide meals while maintaining the maximum physical distancing between students as possible. While eating on-site, students do not need to wear masks when seated and eating.
HFHO BOCES faculty and staff will stress the importance of proper hand hygiene before and after eating. Sharing of food will be prohibited. If HFHO BOCES can utilize a common area to eat, it will be cleaned and disinfected according to CDC and APA guidelines.
All food service activities in the school buildings will operate in accordance with the latest guidance.
Mental Health/Behavioral/Emotional Support Services and Programs
The mental health and well-being of the students, faculty, and staff of HFHO BOCES are of the utmost importance, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic and as the BOCES transitions back to full-time, in-person learning.
HFHO BOCES will communicate the importance of adhering to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as applicable protocols to students, parents, legal guardians of students, staff, and potential visitors.
This information will be shared in variety of ways, including letters sent home, emails, social media posts, and through the use of the BOCES’ “all call” messenger system. HFHO BOCES has also developed a COVID-19 Information website www.herkimer-boces.org/page/covid-19info
Signage has been placed at the entrances to each of the BOCES’ 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.
HFHO BOCES has designated a BOCES employee as a COVID-19 Safety Coordinator with identified responsibilities that includes assuring continuous compliance with all activities of HFHO BOCES’ reopening plans.
The COVID-19 Safety Coordinator is a BOCES administrator. The COVID-19 Safety Coordinator will coordinate activities with the local Public Health Department and the HFHO BOCES’ component BOCESs to insure consistency across the region.