What priorities are you using in developing the reopening plan?
Our top priority is to create conditions that are designed to ensure the physical and emotional health and safety of all students, staff, and the larger school community.
Our plan is intentionally designed to accomplish this priority while simultaneously achieving the following:
We are committed to providing each and every student with an exceptional educational experience while implementing strategies and procedures to ensure both the accessibility and equitability of instruction.
Please know that Northern Valley is willing and ready to refine any and all of these decisions when circumstances change, or we find specific procedures are not working. As you are already well aware, the reopening of our schools will include necessary limitations to protect the health and safety of our students and staff. Our plan is built upon this premise, but also with full recognition that we must be ready to adjust our educational models and safety protocols at any time.
What professional guidance are you using in your decision making?
The NJDOE has provided the Road Back as required guidance we must follow in order to get approval to reopen schools. This involves the need for us to submit a reopening plan to the Department of Education on July 31st for the initial review. Similar to the closing plan, we expect multiple additional requirements that will be made prior to asking for board approval. The guidelines outlined by the NJDOE are aligned with the Center for Disease Control recommendations on school reopening. Additionally, we will work closely with our local health department and be responsive to local outbreaks.
Who is on the Restart committee?
The reopening committee requirement is outlined in the Road Back guidance, and the committee is made up of BOE representation, students, administrators, and a diverse representation of staff members including; teachers, nurses, guidance department members.
Instruction and Learning
What requirements did Governor Murphy just release for virtual-only learning?
The entire guidelines can be referenced here. We will release to the community our plans for remote learning and in-person learning on or about August 3rd. This will allow parents the time necessary to plan as well as provide the administration time to ensure that the plans presented remain entirely aligned to these guidelines.
How will the schools cover the mandated curriculum? Will remote learning follow the same curriculum as the in-person instruction?
Our innovative staff and approach to curriculum and learning have positioned Northern Valley to seamlessly transition to virtual learning. For the past several years, we have focused on professional development related to effectively utilizing technology to personalize instruction and embed social-emotional learning into our pedagogical practices. We continue to provide this professional support on an ongoing basis to effectively equip our educators to meet the social, emotional, health, and academic needs of all students.
We will follow the same curriculum regardless of whether we are delivering these standards by way of virtual or in-person instruction. We are committed to continuing to provide our students with access to highly effective instruction in both virtual and in-person learning environments. As such, we continue to focus our efforts not only meeting but exceeding all of the major content outlined in the grade-level New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS).
This is a recommendation of the CDC and is based on following the successful reopening of schools in other countries. This step is intended to minimize instances for spreading germs while helping to ensure that if someone becomes ill, that it is isolated to only one cohort so that we may be able to quarantine only that group rather than the entire school. However, this may change as the state health department continues to revise school guidance as more information has been analyzed.
How long will the schedule you create last?
Our goal is to get students back to a regular schedule of full days when it has been deemed it is feasible to do so. What that means will be dependent on many variables. We will be constantly gathering feedback and using this to analyze and reevaluate our schedule. Our ultimate hope is that the school can open safely and stay open safely with the maximum number of students receiving in-person instruction.
How will my special education students receive all the services he/she is entitled to with modified schedules?
Consistent with guidance from the United States Department of Education, districts must “continue to meet their obligations to students with disabilities to the greatest extent possible”. Please review our plan for details on how this will be accomplished.
Will my child with an IEP still receive services if I choose the virtual option?
Yes. Case managers will contact families who select the virtual option to communicate how IEP services will be delivered.
What will the accommodations be for special education students?
All IEP and 504 mandated accommodations will be in place for students.
If, as a parent, I elect to send my child to school in September, can I later decide to switch to remote learning? And vice versa?
When making the choice for your son or daughter to access instruction virtually or hybrid/in-person, please know that this decision will be implemented on a marking period to marking period basis.
In other words, once a parent requests that his or her child receive fully remote instruction, that decision may only be changed at predetermined times.
Conversely, a parent may choose to transition his or her child from hybrid/in-person learning to fully remote learning at any time by contacting a building assistant principal in writing. These requests will be accommodated as quickly as possible, but in some cases, the school district may require a period of up to thirty calendar (30) days to process these requests as they may necessitate a change in instructional staff and instructional staff support, educational technology and student schedule. Additionally, any such changes will be implemented for the duration of the marking period before they can be changed.
Will my child be at a disadvantage if they elect the remote learning option?
Students will not be at a disadvantage if they select remote learning. Students choosing the virtual learning option will have opportunities to participate in live streaming with their peers who are participating in person. Students will also be able to meet virtually with their teachers for extra support as needed.
How will students be able to socially distance in class? How many students will be in each class?
Desks will be spaced with students generally sitting 3 feet apart. Students will be expected to wear masks. Schools will also use outdoor space, weather-permitting, to enable social distancing.
Health and Safety
How will you protect all students, including those with and without medical issues?
According to the CDC, currently, the most effective way to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is using multiple mitigation strategies in combination. This may include students, teachers, and staff staying home when sick; appropriately covering coughs and sneezes; wearing cloth face coverings; social distancing; cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces; and washing hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (cdc.gov).
What other measures are you taking within the classrooms?
Student desks will be thoroughly sanitized during the nightly process that will be conducted by our custodial staff. We are also eliminating the use of shared materials to reduce the chance of passing germs among students. Additionally, each classroom will be supplied with sanitizing materials so that they are available at all times for staff and students.
How frequently will classrooms be cleaned?
Classrooms will be cleaned and sanitized daily at the end of the school day by the custodial staff. High touch areas will be cleaned throughout the day on a regular and frequent basis, according to state health and safety guidelines. Deep cleaning will take place daily by the custodians. Disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizers also will be available in classrooms for staff and students.
What other areas will be cleaned during the day?
Frequently touched areas such as door handles, push plates, hand railings, water filling stations, and bathrooms will be cleaned several times during the day. Water fountains will be closed, but hands-free water bottle fillers are available throughout the buildings. Students are encouraged to bring a filled reusable water bottle to school that is clearly marked with their name.
How do the new cleaning procedures differ from the old procedures?
Our cleaning and disinfecting procedures of high touch areas identified above will be conducted several times throughout the day versus only once a day. Those disinfecting procedures that are typically done weekly will now be done daily.
How is air circulated in each of our buildings?
Each of our schools is air-conditioned. All classrooms in all schools have fresh air circulation, and dampers will remain open for fresh air circulation in all classrooms. As per NJ QSAC, we meet all state-mandated requirements for fresh air supply. Filters have been and will continue to be changed frequently.
In what ways will you increase air circulation within classrooms?
We plan to use classrooms that have windows and encourage air exchange by leaving windows open regardless of outside temperatures. Our HVAC units do exchange air within the classroom and the outside and will be run in compliance with the state requirements for the Road Back.
Will masks be required?
Masks are a required means of cutting down risk. As such, unless the individual has a documented medical reason for not doing so, they are required of all staff and students when indoors.
Students and employees may bring their own masks.
The school district will provide masks to any students without them and staff who need them.
Each mask and shield must be appropriate for a school setting.
Students and staff members shall not wear a shield without a mask.
Not wearing a mask while on school property will be considered a student conduct violation.
Any student who does not wear a mask will not be allowed into the building and will be required to participate in digital distance learning.
Many of our shared office space including guidance and the nurse’s suite will be utilizing additional forms of plexiglass protection in addition to office staff members wearing masks.
Face shields are available for all teachers and support staff.
What PPE will be available for the teachers?
All staff members will be wearing face coverings and will have ready access to both gloves and hand sanitizer. Depending on his or her job duties, enhanced PPE will be made available to staff members according to the following guidelines.
What type of health screening will you use and how often?
Quarterly Attestation: Parents (on behalf of their child) and staff members will be asked to complete a COVID-19 attestation quarterly, attesting to inform the school nurse if they (staff members or students) have symptoms of COVD-19, have been exposed to COVID-19 and are not vaccinated or have not had COVID-19 in the past 90 days, or have traveled and are not vaccinated or have not had COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Parents are expected to screen their child for symptoms of COVID-19 prior to arrival at school, and staff are expected to self-screen for symptoms of COVID-19 prior to arrival at school.
Any student or staff member who is symptomatic should stay home.
Why not just test all students and staff for COVID-19?
The CDC only recommends that those showing symptoms be tested. Testing only indicates infection at that given point in time.
What will happen if students traveled to states that require quarantine immediately prior to school?
All parents and staff will complete the COVID-19 Attestation form prior to returning to school in September 2021. We are going to follow the NJ guidelines on quarantining and will exclude students from in-person learning if they are required to quarantine. Instead, students will participate in virtual learning for the required quarantine period.
The current states that require quarantine are located here for your reference.
Will students have lockers?
Yes, students will be issued lockers.
Have you thought about having classes outside in tents?
We know that it is much safer for students to be outdoors in the fresh air. Outdoor learning spaces will be utilized when possible and when appropriate for the learning environment. However, tents need fire department access and need to be fire retardant (New Jersey Division of Fire Safety), so this is not a viable option for our high schools.
Will there be emergency drills that potentially expose students to COVID?
The NJDOE has recently released guidance allowing schools to modify their emergency drills to prevent exposing students to risk. While there will still be monthly drills, only those that are deemed safe to conduct will be permitted.
What about handwashing?
We routinely review proper handwashing procedures with all students, and there will be requirements put into place that require student handwashing whenever they return from outside or go to the bathroom.
Hand sanitizer will be available throughout each building and in classrooms. Hand sanitizing dispensers will be installed at school entrances, nurse offices, hallways, and common areas such as the cafeteria and multipurpose rooms. In addition, every classroom will be provided with an adequate supply of hand sanitizer. Proper handwashing with soap and water will be encouraged.
What happens when a student or staff member is sent home with symptoms? How will sick students be discharged from the building?
According to the NJDOE’s Road Back, students and staff with symptoms related to COVID-19 must be safely and respectfully isolated from others. Students who are showing signs of illness upon the screening taking place upon entering the building will be sent to the designated isolation room. Parents/ Guardians/Emergency contacts of these students will be notified to retrieve the student immediately at the door closest to each of these designated isolation areas. If students do not get picked up immediately they will remain in this isolation area. The school nurse or designee will escort students to the door to meet their parent/guardian/emergency contact. The parent/guardian will be required to sign the student out, as per the school’s sign out protocol.
Parents/Guardian/Emergency contacts of these students will be notified to pick their child immediately at the door closest to each of these designated isolation areas. If students do not get picked up immediately they will remain in the isolation room. The school nurse or designee will escort students to the door to meet their parent/guardian/emergency contact. The parent/guardian will be required to sign the student out, as per the school’s sign out protocol.
Before returning to school, the student/staff member must present a medical clearance note from a doctor AND be fever free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications.
What happens when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?
If a school district becomes aware that an individual who has spent time in a district facility tests positive for COVID-19, district officials must immediately notify local health officials and follow all contact tracing protocol.
Based on current information provided by the Bergen County Department of Health, if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19, the specific class and the teacher (first degree of contact), and any other contact will self-quarantine for two weeks. To prevent the spread of the virus, all areas used by the infected person will be immediately closed down for at least 24 hours before cleaning as per CDC guidelines. After 24 hours, windows will be opened to increase air circulation and all areas will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
When returning after illness, a virtual visit with the school nurse will be conducted before returning. The virtual visit will be scheduled one day prior to return.