Our goals for reopening in the Fall are to provide our students and families with a welcoming, yet safe experience.
The Carmel School is a small independent school located in Caroline County. In preparation for reopening, the school has created a task force to address four major areas:
- Health and Safety
- Teaching and Learning
- Student Life
These committees consisted of administrators and teachers that looked at current research and guidelines and provided recommendations that are included in this report. In each committee, CDC guidelines were referenced, the report from the Virginia Department of Education (Recover, Redesign, Restart), resources provided by our accreditation agency, SAIS, and the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA). The results and recommendations of this task force were used to format the responses to the following Guiding Principles.
1. Planning to Reopen
Our COVID-19 team within the school consists of the Heads of each division, the Athletic Director, Student Activities Director, and the Head of School will serve as the point person. As the school prepares to reopen, staff will be trained in specific COVID-19 mitigation strategies which include, but are not limited to, proper sanitation of desks and chairs, hand washing strategies, social distancing strategies, and proper classroom set up. Contact will be maintained with the Caroline County Department of Health located in Milford, VA (804-633-6237) to monitor the local spread of the virus and implement best practices suggested by the department. Face shields will be purchased for staff, signs will be displayed that address proper hygiene, stickers will be on the floor to indicate six-foot distances, and visitors will be restricted and, when allowed in the building, must wear cloth face coverings.
2. Promoting Behaviors that Reduce the Spread of COVID-19
Our teachers will wear face shields, and student classrooms will be set up to seat students six feet apart. Due to the small size of our school, there will be no class size that exceeds twelve students. Communication will be sent to all parents, students, and staff that will include the following changes to our campus:
- All surfaces in classrooms will be cleaned between transitions in Middle/Upper School
- All desks are facing front and six feet apart
- Students will report directly to classrooms instead of common areas
- Chapel and Club meetings will be held remotely
- The bell schedule will be amended to allow a smaller number of students to go to their lockers
- Hallways and stairways will be marked as one-way
- Touchless thermometers will be purchased and used for temperature checks
- Students traveling to school on the one bus we use will have to wear face coverings
- Buses will be disinfected between each use
- Lower School will begin the year eating lunch in their classrooms; Middle and Upper School will eat in the Multipurpose Room (capacity 500 with less than 75 students eating at one time) with adequate social distance. Lower School may transition to eating outside of classrooms depending on circumstances that allow social distance and containment to their building.
- Outside delivery of lunch will be suspended for the first month of school and then that practice will be re-evaluated. Students will bring their own lunch, snacks, and water.
- Educate students and families about COVID, especially younger children to enable teachers to speak from common ground to avoid any confusion from students
- Arrange a drop off time in July for any textbooks that have been at home to allow proper sanitation
- Priority will be given to sports activities in the fall that can practice social distancing such as Cross country, Track and Field and Tennis
- Lower School Physical Education should be done outside in groups of 10 or less; this includes recess
- Middle School Physical Education will not require students to change into uniforms and will be conducted outside whenever possible
- Events such as “Back to School Night” will be held virtually
3. Maintaining a Healthy Environment
To educate The Carmel School community on new safety guidelines, a video will be provided that will explain new procedures. In accordance with the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), The Carmel School will follow CDC requirements. If anyone enters the school with COVID, the school will automatically close for a minimum of two days to allow for cleaning. Other measures will be implemented as follows:
- Training will be on-going with a request to the Caroline County Health Department to send a representative for professional development when teachers return to the building the week of August 3.
- Drop off time for Lower School will be staggered to allow temperature checks. Parents will be given a pre-completed health screen form in the morning which will be made available online.
- Each classroom will be provided with disinfecting resources to clean between transitions
- Face coverings will be required anytime there is not 6-foot distance between students or teachers
- Additional janitorial staff will be hired to maintain the cleaning schedule
- A company will be hired to “fog” the Lower School weekly
- When picking up or dropping off students, parents will stay in their cars and students will be brought to and from the school
- In classes such as art, partitions will be erected on the tables used by students to avoid contact
- Middle School PE classes are small and will have Health first semester with a hope of a more traditional PE class in the Spring. If PE is held in the Fall, there will be no changing of clothes and activities will occur outside such as walking or conditioning/plyometric drills.
- Athletics will strictly follow the directives from the Governor, CDC, VISAA/NFHS
- Students will have their own dedicated supplies in Lower School. Middle/Upper School students are one-to-one with technology. Lower School will share technology among zones with adequate cleaning between transitions.
4. Maintaining Healthy Operations
New procedures will be in place and explained to our stakeholders before school starts. These procedures are outlined below:
- Screening questions for substitutes and visitors include:
- Have you been out of the country?
- Have you experienced any symptoms of COVID (with specific symptoms mentioned)?
- Have you been exposed to an individual with COVID?
- Only students and staff will be allowed in the building for the first two weeks of school. At that time, the policy will be re-evaluated
- Anyone with a temperature above 100 will not be allowed in the building. If a student or staff member has a fever above 100, a doctor’s note will be required before returning to school.
- Lockers will be assigned in such a manner as to avoid a cluster of students in any one area
- The Middle/Upper School bell schedule will have increased time in between classes to allow a staggered release from classes.
- Large gatherings will be avoided in compliance with the Executive Orders from the Governor
- Field trips will be avoided the first semester or until guidance is given with regard to the protocols to be followed
- Volunteers will not be allowed in the building for at least the first semester of school
- If a student has a COVID illness or another long-term sickness, their focus should be on recovery. If less than four classes are missed, teachers will work together to create an individualized plan to ensure the student has every opportunity to make-up their work. There are a variety of methods available to teachers to allow students to learn from home if they are well enough; however, severe illness or having to care for another may make remote learning impractical even though it is available. Teachers will give adequate attention and help to make sure no student is disadvantaged through illness.
- Sick leave policies are in place for staff to remain home if ill. Additional department members are trained to transition a substitute into a long-term situation if necessary.
5. Protecting Vulnerable Individuals
Fortunately, our faculty is under 65 and in good health. However, if that changes, The Carmel School will make every effort to find an alternative to minimize their risk. Possible solutions would be working from home and participating in virtual learning opportunities. The school already has a flexible leave policy which would continue. In order to return to work following a COVID-19 illness, an employee would need to present a doctor’s note releasing them to return and describing the scope of activity appropriate for their condition.
6. Preparing for When Someone Gets Sick
The following are policies in place to respond to illness:
- There are areas in each division that will be used to isolate a student that becomes ill during the school day.
- These areas are self-contained and would not expose other students.
- Parents will be required to pick up the student who will be walked to their car.
- We will use appropriate disinfectants to clean the areas in which the student was present and use additional cleaning measures such as a disinfectant fogger to further ensure safety.
- If a student has contracted COVID-19, the school will close for a minimum of two days for further cleaning.
- To be sure all appropriate spaces are cleaned, the staff will contact trace the student’s movements for further cleaning and disinfecting.
- The school calendar has been amended to allow school closure for four weeks if necessary, without moving to remote learning. Consequently, if two students are simultaneously diagnosed with COVID-19, the school would close for two weeks of self-quarantine.
7. Planning to Close Down, if Necessary, Due to Severe Conditions
A reduction of in-person classes would be triggered by several possible events. At that time, The Carmel School would pivot to remote, asynchronous learning. Such events could be:
- An Executive Order issued by the Governor mandating the closure of private schools
- If a cluster of students became ill with COVID-19, The Carmel School would follow the CDC guidelines for closing and cleaning