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Our Pandemic Preparedness Plan

 

The purpose of this plan is to provide procedures for mitigating the consequences of a pandemic affecting The Episcopal Day School and all its constituents. 

Influenza is a highly contagious viral disease. Pandemics occur because of the virus’ ability to change into new strains or types. People may be immune to some strains; however, depending on how much the virus has changed, people may have little or no immunity to the new strains. Small changes can result in localized epidemics. If a novel and highly contagious strain of the influenza virus emerges, an influenza pandemic can occur and affect populations around the world. 

The outbreak of infectious diseases around the world has aroused and generated concern about the possible significant impact on our health, livelihood, economy, and education system as well as that of the world. No one knows when or how severe a pandemic outbreak might be. In this way, planning for a pandemic is like planning for a tornado or fire. First, in a pandemic, there will be some warning, which could range from weeks to five to six months while there is no warning for tornados. Second, a pandemic could last anywhere from months to a year or more, while a tornado is short lived. 

Influenza symptoms are familiar to most persons in the United States - fever, headache, sore throat, cough, muscle aches and fatigue - usually lasting between two to seven days. 

The flu is too often associated with a serious winter cold, a vaccination shot, or an illness that is life threatening only to young children and the elderly. However, pandemic history has shown that during the “Spanish Flu”, the highest mortality rates were among young adults. 

The important thing is that schools and departments take steps now to protect staff and students from a possible influenza outbreak of any kind. Education and outreach are critical to preparing for a pandemic. Understanding what a pandemic is, what needs to be done at all levels to prepare for pandemic influenza, and what could happen during a pandemic helps us make informed decisions both as individuals and a school.

This action plan includes guidelines and provides steps our schools and various departments should take when specific triggers and events occur. Research regarding ongoing events worldwide and nationally may cause alteration of the plan to meet the School’s needs. 

*This guidance document has been updated in response to COVID-19 on July of 2020.  Changes to the public health situation may necessitate changes to this Preparedness Plan.

The virus that causes COVID-19 can infect people of all ages, and school system leaders should do everything feasible to keep students, teachers, staff, and our communities safe. That said, research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), among others, has found that while children do get infected by COVID-19 and some severe outcomes have been reported in children, relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalized or have severe symptoms. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that COVID-19 risks must be balanced with the need for children to attend school in person, given that lack of physical access to school leads to a number of negative consequences, placing “children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity, and in some case, mortality.” While it is not possible to eliminate all risk of furthering the spread of COVID-19, the current science suggests there are many steps schools can take to reduce the risks to students, teachers, staff, and their families significantly. 

It is likely that there will be situations that we will need to temporary close our school due to positive COVID-19 cases.  EDS will work with families closely in the event that this occurs.

How EDS will Prevent, Respond and Mitigate the Virus

PREVENT: Practices to Prevent the Virus from Entering the School

Screening Questions for COVID-19 before Campus Access

1. EDS will require teachers and staff to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms before coming onto campus each day. Symptoms are listed at the end of this document. The self-screening should include teachers and staff taking their own temperature. Teachers and staff must report to the School Health Professional SHP or Head of School HOS if they themselves have COVID-19 symptoms or are lab-confirmed with COVID-19, and, if so, they must remain off campus until they meet the criteria for re-entry as noted below. Additionally, they must report to the SHP or HOS if they have had close contact with an individual who is lab-confirmed with COVID-19, as defined at the end of this document, and, if so, must remain off campus until the 14-day incubation period has passed.

2. Parents must ensure they do not send a child to school on campus if the child has COVID-19 symptoms (as listed in this document) or is lab-confirmed with COVID-19, and instead should opt to receive remote instruction until the below conditions for re-entry are met. Parents may also opt to have their students receive remote instruction if their child has had close contact with an individual who is lab-confirmed with COVID-19 until the 14-day incubation period has passed. EDS may consider screening students for COVID-19 as well. Screening is accomplished by asking questions by phone or other electronic methods and/or in person. The screening questions should also be asked of a student’s parent if that parent will be dropping off or picking up their child from inside the school. Regularly performing a forehead temperature check of otherwise asymptomatic students in school is not recommended, but the practice is also not prohibited by this guidance. 

3. Excluding parental drop-off and pick-up as discussed above, before visitors are allowed onto campuses, EDS will screen all visitors to determine if the visitors have COVID-19 symptoms (as listed in this document) or are lab-confirmed with COVID-19, and, if so, they must remain off campus until they meet the criteria for re-entry as noted below. 

Additionally, EDS will screen to determine if visitors have had close contact with an individual who is lab-confirmed with COVID-19, and, if so, they must remain off campus until the 14-day incubation period has passed. When practical, screening questions could be supplemented with temperature checks of adults. 

Individuals Confirmed or Suspected with COVID-19 

  1. Any individual who themselves either: (a) are lab-confirmed to have COVID-19; or (b) experience the symptoms of COVID-19 (listed below) must stay at home throughout the infection period, and cannot return to campus until the school system screens the individual to determine any of the below conditions for campus re-entry have been met: 
  2. In the case of an individual who was diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual may return to school when all three of the following criteria are met: 
  • at least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications); 
  • the individual has improvement in symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and 
  • at least ten days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

 

In the case of an individual who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and who is not evaluated by a medical professional or tested for COVID-19, such individual is assumed to have COVID-19, and the individual may not return to the campus until the individual has completed the same three-step set of criteria listed above. 

  • If the individual has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and wants to return to school before completing the above stay at home period, the individual must either (a) obtain a medical professional’s note clearing the individual for return based on an alternative diagnosis or (b) receive two separate confirmations at least 24 hours apart that they are free of COVID via acute infection tests at an approved COVID-19 testing location found at https://tdem.texas.gov/covid-19/

 

Identifying Possible COVID-19 Cases on Campus

Schools must immediately separate any student who shows COVID-19 symptoms while at school until the student can be picked up by a parent or guardian. 

Schools should clean the areas used by the individual who shows COVID-19 symptoms while at school (student, teacher, or staff) as soon as is feasible. 

Students who report feeling feverish should be given an immediate temperature check to determine if they are symptomatic for COVID-19.

RESPOND: Practices to Respond to a Lab-Confirmed Case in the School

Required Actions if Individuals with Lab-Confirmed Cases Have Been in a School

If an individual who has been in a school is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19, the school must notify its local health department, in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, including confidentiality requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). 

The school will close off areas that are heavily used by the individual with the lab-confirmed case (student, teacher, or staff) until the non-porous surfaces in those areas can be disinfected, unless more than 3 days have already passed since that person was on campus. 

Consistent with school notification requirements for other communicable diseases, and consistent with legal confidentiality requirements, schools must notify all teachers, staff, and families of all students in a school if a lab-confirmed COVID-19 case is identified among students, teachers or staff who participate on any on campus activities.

MITIGATE: Practices to Mitigate the Likelihood of COVID-19 Spread Inside the School

Operational Considerations: 

Health and Hygiene Practices: General

1. EDS will have hand sanitizer and/or hand washing stations with soap and water at each entrance. The school will also provide hand sanitizer and/or hand washing stations with soap and water in every classroom. 

2. Students, teachers, staff, and campus visitors should be encouraged to sanitize and/or wash hands frequently. 

Students will engage in supervised handwashing for at least 20 seconds at least two times each day, in addition to being encouraged to wash hands after using the restroom and before eating. 

Teachers and staff will teach students good handwashing techniques. 

Students, teachers, staff, and campus visitors will be encouraged to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and if not available, covered in their elbows. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash, hands should be washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or hand sanitizer should be used. 

3. EDS will engage in frequent cleaning practices, including additional cleaning by janitorial staff, as well as provide the opportunity for children to clean their own spaces before and after they are used, in ways that are safe and developmentally appropriate. 

The school will arrange for additional cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces that are touched in common throughout the day. This would include objects such as door handles, common tables/desks, shared supplies such as art supplies, and high touch devices such as shared laptops or tablets. 

The school will arrange for cleaning of commonly-touched surfaces in classrooms between different class groups, if the same room will be used by multiple class groups.

The CDC has provided guidance on cleaning community buildings to prevent COVID-19 spread. 

4. Whenever possible, classrooms should open windows or otherwise work to improve air flow by allowing outside air to circulate in the building. 

5. On the first day a student attends school on campus, EDS will provide instruction to students on appropriate hygiene practices and other mitigation practices adopted in by EDS

Health and Hygiene Practices: Masks 

1. For the purposes of this document, masks include non-medical grade disposable face masks, cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth), or full-face shields to protect eyes, nose, and mouth. Face shields may be superior to cloth face coverings in many circumstances, given improved ability to see mouth movements and improved air circulation.

2. EDS is required to comply with the governor’s executive order regarding the wearing of masks. 

3. In addition to the executive order, EDS may require the use of masks or face shields for adults or students for whom it is developmentally appropriate. 

4. It may be impractical for students to wear masks or face shields while participating in some athletic or other extracurricular activities. When it is impractical for students to wear masks or face shields during those activities, EDS will require students, teachers, staff, and visitors to wear masks or face shields when entering and exiting facilities and practice areas and when not actively engaging in those activities. EDS may, for example, allow students who are actively exercising to remove masks or face shields, as long as they maintain at least six feet of distance from other students, teachers, and staff who are not wearing masks or face shields. However, EDS will require students, teachers, and staff to wear masks or face shields as they arrange themselves in positions that will allow them to maintain safe distancing.

Student-Teacher Groupings

Where feasible without disrupting the educational experience, encourage students to practice social distancing. 

1. In classroom spaces that allow it, student desks will be placed a minimum of six feet apart when possible. 

2. In classrooms where students are regularly within six feet of one another, more frequent hand washing and/or hand sanitizing is required as well as increasing airflow from the outdoors is possible. 

Use of Non-Classroom Spaces

1. When feasible and appropriate (for example, in physical education classes as weather permits), it is preferable for students to gather outside, rather than inside, because of likely reduced risk of virus spread outdoors.

2. EDS will continue to offer extracurricular activities consistent with the guidance in this document.

3. A plan for entry, exit, and transition procedures that reduce large group gatherings (of students and/or adults) in close proximity. Staggering school start and end times, assigning students to entries to ensure even distribution of students entering/exiting at each door, providing guidance to students to enter one at a time and wait six feet apart outside the entrance, and, where appropriate, encouraging parents to remain outside during drop-off and pick-up. 

4. Students will bring their own lunch and eat lunch at their desks. 

Visits to Schools

  • Parents and other adults can visit schools, as permitted. During these visits, parents and other visitors must follow virus prevention and mitigation requirements of the school. 
  • EDS will restrict visits in to only those essential to school operations. 

 

Teachers/Staff

1. Employees of EDS, like employees of any organization, must continue to meet the work expectations set by their employers, subject to any applicable employment contract terms.  

2. School teachers and staff will be trained specifically on the protocols outlined in this document and the practices adopted by their school system. Additionally, while not developed with this exact guidance in mind, Texas Agri-Life Extension offers a free online course on Special Considerations for Infection Control During COVID-19 (2hrs). This course is intended for frontline childcare workers, but the principles of the course apply equally to those working in school settings. 

3. EDS will reduce in-person staff meetings or other opportunities for adults to congregate in close settings. When those meetings are necessary and cannot be done via electronic means, everyone must follow the mask protocols in this guidance, remain at least 6 feet apart where feasible, consider the use of dividers, and consider whether increased airflow from the outdoors is possible in those areas.

COVID-19 Symptoms

In evaluating whether an individual has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, consider the following questions:

Have they recently begun experiencing any of the following in a way that is not normal for them? 

  • Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache and/or Chills 
  • Sore throat
  • Shaking or exaggerated shivering
  • Significant muscle pain or ache 
  • Diarrhea 

 

Close Contact

This document refers to “close contact” with an individual who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19. Close contact is determined by an appropriate public health agency. For clarity, close contact is defined as: 

  • being directly exposed to infectious secretions (e.g., being coughed on while not wearing a mask or face shield); or 
  • being within 6 feet for a cumulative duration of 15 minutes, while not wearing a mask or face shield; 

 

If either occurred at any time in the last 14 days at the same time the infected individual was infectious. 

Individuals are presumed infectious at least two days prior to symptom onset or, in the case of asymptomatic individuals who are lab-confirmed with COVID-19, two days prior to the confirming lab test.

Screening Questionnaire Information

1. When asking individuals if they have symptoms for COVID-19, school systems must only require the individual to provide a “Yes” or “No” to the overall statement that they are symptomatic for COVID-19, as opposed to asking the individual for specific symptom confirmation. School systems are not entitled to collect information during screening on the specific health information of an individual beyond that they are symptomatic.

2. Once it is determined that individuals who responded “Yes” to either of these questions have met the criteria for re-entry, school systems must destroy those individuals’ response