JULY 2, 2020 - HEALTH AND SAFETY SUBCOMMITTEE MEETING
Health and Safety Subcommittee Meeting
July 2, 2020
Members in attendance: Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Director of Business Services/Safety Officer, Administrators, Coordinator of Health Services, Director of School Facilities, Director of Transportation, Teachers, Doctors/Parents, Parents, Board of Education Member, School Nurse, Students and Security Staff
Superintendent: Thank you and welcome to all who have joined for this very important subcommittee, Health and Safety. It is the intent for the chairs and administrators to be in listening mode, understanding ideas, and processing them. Notes will be taken.
Doctor/Parent: I have two kids in the Clarkstown school system and work at Good Samaritan hospital. The kids need to go back to school. Being home has been hard. It is going to be very challenging to keep kids in schools and parents need to be more involved. In school, teachers and bus drivers won’t be able to take temperatures. We need to educate parents on keeping children healthy. If we educate, we will be successful.
Recommendation: Three foot social distance and everyone wears a mask.
Security Staff: Previously a NYPD officer and currently works at a school where there are 2000 children/students. There is a problem of keeping staff and students away from each other. Normally, in the building we have parents come and drop off students and items. We have open security and are checking ID’s. The biggest problem will be the building. Doing some remodeling, the size is large, similar in size to a small college.
Recommendation: Limit the amount of drop off from parents. Buses: timed buses. i.e. a bus shows up, unloads students, we get kids in the classroom, and move on to the next bus. Not sure if this will work within the current time frame. Lunches: possibly kids will stay in their classrooms.
Director of Transportation: Reaction to Security Staff comments. It’s going to be a difficult task. Biggest issue is the bus capacity and recommendations from NYSED. Six feet or three feet of social distance, all will be important information on deciding how many children can transport on any single bus. If the recommendation is six feet, ⅓ of the children normally allowed to transport on a bus will be allowed under this modification. Additionally, we transport to all the private schools. We transport to 60 other schools. Difficult to do.
Principal-secondary level: The doctor/parent made some good points about social distance and masks, younger grades will be more difficult to manage. High school kids better understand the importance. Cannot see how we can operate at full capacity and do a distance plan. The school is a very large, big challenge.
Recommendation: Limiting the number of people in school and limit activity in hallways, potentially one-way hallways and keep passing limited.
Member of the Board of Education: I agree with the doctor/parent. We need to get kids back into buildings. Look at ways we can accommodate our kids. Middle school and high school kids are switching classes. They are not all together for the entire day. They all have different schedules. Suggest: Rotating of one way traffic. Concerned about PPE. Are we providing it to staff? Are we stockpiling? Question of parents and accountability. We need strict guidelines. If a child is ill he/she will need to stay home. We need a policy in place. If a sick child is left at school at BOCES, they will have them picked up by an ambulance. Strict guidelines. Non-negotiable. Strictly enforced. How will we mitigate sick children coming to school? Students who are sick cannot be sent home on the bus.
Assistant Superintendent: All school officials are talking about PPE. We have leveraged our purchasing power. We worked with Rockland BOCES in writing a bid for gloves and masks and have secured an aggressive 20,000 masks and gloves. Our buying consortium is geared up and ready to take ongoing orders. We see ourselves likely supplying staff with PPE. Student PPE is still a question. Looking at alternatives to disposable masks. There are other quality masks that are reusable. Additionally, hand sanitizer. A lot of people are talking about PPE, as the subcommittee develops rules and regulations we are cued up to respond to requests.
Principal-elementary level: As one of the larger elementary schools with a large special education population. Agree with previous subcommittee members that anyone entering a building should be wearing a mask. Parents should not be dropping things off and coming in and out. Cultural arts would be difficult. Concerned about instrument playing because it is another way to expel things out of mouth. Cannot imagine any instrument with blowing. Agrees with the parent piece spoken about previously; they must be held responsible. This is easier said than done.
Recommendations: We must have emergency contacts, if families are not adhering to masks, the parents should be called immediately. If we are handing out masks to students we will consequently be the “vendor” for masks. Everyone should have them. Marking halls, splitting halls, have them walk on each side of the hall. Wonder about gymnasiums and cafeterias although if we are working at half capacity may be possible. May almost be better in a cafeteria with a larger space to spread them out. Extend lunch lady days so we don't have to cram all students in the same cafeteria space. Helpful to extend the amount of time that lunch can be served. The cafeteria is in use most of the day as a place to eat lunch. There is a small window in morning that could be used for instruction. The cafeteria is also a place in the morning for K-3 to gather before school as they arrive prior to the bell. This space ties in with busing. Where would the students go if they can’t all gather in one place? Currently there are only two TA’s in the cafeteria. This level of staffing won’t be enough to manage the students in the cafeteria. Grades 4 and 5 go into the gymnasium. The school has approximately 85 students per grade level. We need to think through where they would go and how much supervision will be required. Maybe go right to classrooms and have a TA in each classroom to start the day. Assign a TA and extend hours. In response to staffing inquiries, there is not enough staffing. Also spoke about cleaning rugs, rolling, taping, labeling and storing them. We do not need them as a gathering spot and removing them gives us more space in the classroom.
Principal-secondary level: In high school, buses come and it naturally staggers.
Teacher-secondary level: My concern is how many parents will send kids back to school. Will parents feel comfortable? Will masks be mandatory for everyone? How will we handle parents who refuse to have students wear masks? In the lower level grades, kids fiddle with masks. In upper level grades, kids are not wearing masks. Concerned about non-compliance. Right now kids can’t be back at school unless they are fever free for 24 hours. We know the pressure parents are under to go to work. Some parents give students fever reducers before sending them to school. It will only take one kid to put everyone at risk. We have a number of staff who are in high risk categories, health conditions and age. How will we protect them if a sick student comes to school? This virus is unforgiving for at risk groups. This question also applies for students that have issues we are not aware of. By the time we know, it will be too late. We do not want to lose any staff or any student.
Superintendent: Let’s work as a group to address questions. The teacher and others will engage in dialogue with the Assistant Superintendent.
Coordinator of Health Services: Agrees this is a difficult task. Concerned about high school kids pulling down masks. We need to think of a way to protect everyone. Follow guidelines. Educating families is a big part of the plan. We need to educate with specific guidelines for parents and staff. If we strive to stay six feet apart, maybe we’ll get three feet in reality...Greater concern about a three foot recommendation. Everyone has brought up the correct points.
Superintendent: Should we be giving consideration to full facial protection with plastic covering, including covering of eyes?
Recommendation: Distancing and face masks. All nurses should have gowns, face shields, masks and gloves. For teachers, six feet social distance. We probably should be offering to teachers the option to wear a mask and face shield, the two together work better than one alone. The priority is keeping the nurse, staff and adults safe while having kids doing their best. Cohorting key to this.
Response to question from Superintendent: They do make shields for kids, they are adjustable and more comfortable than masks. They still scratch their faces. You can almost eat lunch or drink while wearing it. They make for sensory children. It is unrealistic to expect elementary kids to wear masks all day. We need to create safety in the classroom for teachers by implementing extra layers.
Board of Education Member: Regarding face shields for our related service providers, speech therapist, students with hearing issues, lip readers and teachers with hearing disability; how will this be seen through a mask?
Doctor/Parent: There are masks with clear inserts at mouth.
Doctor/Parent: Is a pediatrician and and has two elementary age children who attend school in the Clarkstown Central School District.
Recommendation: Communication with parents is important but also contracts. It will take a community to make a plan work. We need to reach out to families now, with verbal and written contracts to keep all safe. Regarding student drop off and bus safety: I can visualize children wearing masks on the bus and shared spaces. The bus driver could have a shield and the windows on the bus could be open. There can be two children per seat or alternating three per row spread out as much as possible. We can survey families and get a commitment as to who will ride the bus and who will be car riders. Can kids pull up in a bus but enter school in separate locations? Can hallways be unidirectional or if wide enough bidirectional? Students can go right to their classroom and only leave for recess and physical education. That will be a cohort. Specialists will come into the classroom, art teacher/music can come into the classroom, music can be more historical regarding educational content (as compared to playing instruments or singing). There can be no singing. We need a strict sick policy that parents must adhere to; no exceptions. If someone can wear a mask but doesn't; it should result in suspension. This will take a lot of regulation. Students must be up to date on vaccinations. The flu vaccination should be mandatory. Nurses room/office needs an annex, a covid room and a regular nurses room with supplies in both. It can be used as a waiting area. Classrooms will need reconfiguration.We can take out things that don’t need to be there...rugs, bookcases, tables, give kids space for distancing. Plexiglass would be great.
Superintendent: In your communication to me (Doctor/Parent) you were very much in a place where you had a strong desire that we are in a physical setting for education and that we need to make that happen.
Doctor/Parent: The American Academy of Pediatrics came out with a statement that said the downsides of distance learning are greater than being in school and taking precautions. There is a disparity in the equality of education. Many kids did not turn in work, we tried to do our best as parents, but it was a struggle. If the economy is open enough that parents go to work, even for a family working from home, it will be impossible to provide true education. Hybrid for high school, elementary and middle school distance learning is not viable.
Goal is to get back to school. We cannot expect family to provide babysitting and do a hybrid model.
School Nurse: All three of her children will attend a CCSD Elementary School in September. Regarding staff, agree that emergency contacts need to be updated. Sometimes I cannot reach parents or they cannot come to pick up their sick child. Emergency contacts are sometimes out of state residents and not close enough to pick up a child. Children at times are in her office up to 5 hours before being picked up. Would like a separate annex office. Many children come in with smaller problems, cuts, etc...all kids are in the same room. No way to space out or separate them. As a parent, my kindergartener can wear a mask for 20 minutes, the 4th grader maybe an hour. Hard time imagining elementary school kids wearing it for extended periods of time.
Recommendation: Would like a separate annex office.
Coordinator of Health Services: Agree with school nurse. Plexiglass screen on wheels. Annex difficulty would be who watches that child...not enough staffing...agrees.
Recommendation: The hallway and the bus should be the locations where we expect children to wear masks. Agree with the school nurse.
Recommendation: Only one child should be put in the annex room. Need multiple annexes . Not sure if this will work. PPE works, if it is done correctly it works.
Teacher - elementary level: Like to think globally, focus on department. Unique situation. Typically combat children secretions, it is an occupational hazard. Covid raises new concerns. Some people talk about scrubs, shields, face shields for articulation matters. Laurel Plains has the elementary SPIRIT consortium. There is greater concern about providing services and managing secretions. Most therapy rooms are small, lack sinks.
Superintendent: Suggests a physical barrier...what we can do with our facilities.
Director of Facilities and Operations: Reaction: There are a lot of common themes to this..with respect to the building there is a question of spacing, 3 ft or 6 ft, impact on school capacity, impact on rooms, cleaning, disinfection. Some buildings have a circular hallway where you can go in one direction. One way corridors make sense. No cross flow. If not possible, double yellow lines or demarcation in hallways. Six foot distance in the hallway will not be possible in an 8 ft hallway. How will we manage? In terms of equipment, all classrooms are provided with fresh air, systems that are installed. We check every summer to make sure they work properly. There are other materials than plexiglass; polycarbonate if we can’t maintain 6 foot distance. A lot of common themes and discussion points. All things are being looked at and evaluated.
Superintendent: There is a 4 quadrants model as referred to by the Assistant Superintendent, I liked this...very likely that all matters can be put into 4 buckets.
Director of Facilities and Operations: There are items that are within our control and we could implement and we can work on them. There are other items that require, thought, evaluation and investigation. Some we would like to do but may not be practical. Some items for purchase are on a 12 week delivery schedule. That could extend longer. There needs to be logic behind what we are evaluating and making sure we can implement our recommendations.
Superintendent: Is appreciative of all ideas.
Parent: I have three children in the school district.
Recommendation: Feels it is important to ask for parent feedback through surveys. Parents need to feel a level of comfort that children will be safe. What precautions will be made? How will we handle centers and shared toys in elementary schools? How are we cleaning classrooms? Believes many parents will opt to drive their children to school. Suggest: Earlier supervision in mornings. Concerning parents, suggest as much communication as possible. Look within each classroom, what will their day look like, sitting for a student with ADD, how will this happen? It will be very difficult. We need to reteach children how to communicate. Feels the majority of parents want children back in school. They need to feel comfortable. Suggest: Specific protocol if a child in one class has symptoms. What does this look like? Does the class quarantine? The whole school? Afterschool programs? Are we allowed to look into this? Parents wondering what will this look like? We need to have children back in school but it needs to be safe. Questionnaire to parents? Full time or two days a week. Cleaning process? Do we need extra time for this? Masks are a huge issue. How will children sit all day with a mask?
Doctor/Parent: Will there be a change in the student classroom ratio? Will there be a change in this policy in order to help?
Superintendent: Response to Dr. Berg’s question: This has not been discussed yet. Implications are a need for more teachers, budgetary constraints.
Doctor/Parent: Can parents volunteer to help clean classrooms? Is this against school policy?
Superintendent: Response to Doctor/Parent’s question: At this point thinking we would not allow this. Possibility of bringing more people in to spread the virus is of concern.
Coordinator of Health Services: We are looking for state guidance on contact tracing.
Recommendation: Quarantine as few people as possible or safely shut off the area to be cleaned. Least amount of people and time.
Director of Facilities and Operations: We need to have cleaning protocols. This would be done at night with custodial workers doing general cleaning and disinfecting of contacting points using EPA registered disinfectant. Efficacy against COVID. Are we cleaning desktops, handrails, water faucets? Do we need to do some items more frequently?
Parent: Recommendation: The walls need to be cleaned as well.
Director of Facilities and Operations: The benefit of these sessions is to get input. Where are the touch points? What do we need to do? Carpets that are in there...they can’t be sanitized. They tend to be an area where kids congregate. Chairs, sofas, items that are not necessary for instruction that we can’t clean. Move all things out of the classroom. Manipulatives are necessary for instruction: how to address these items? Pencils, rulers….. How is this evaluated with the goal of simplifying the room such that cleaning can be as effective as possible.
Doctor/Parent: Recommendation: Purell stations added.
Doctor/Parent: An Emergency doctor at Nyack hospital. I will have three children in a CCSD Elementary school.
Recommendations: Face shields are not considered a substitute for masks, no droplet protection. Must be worn with mouth and nose covering.
Eye Protection: Recommend safety glasses: relatively inexpensive.
Disinfectant cannot be understated. His children will have disinfectant on their desks if allowed. Every time they return to their desk they will sanitize. If they touch a clean mask with clean hands, it won’t infect them. Concern of contaminated hands touching masks. Importance of masks cannot be overstated. Children and teachers should be wearing masks all day.
Suggest: Teachers not wear N95 masks with valves.
Annex: We do need to consider having a tent, open, small, climate controlled, but open to aerate into the atmosphere. Serves purpose of negative pressure room.
Huge supporter of social distances. Likes the term, social bubble. If all classrooms stay in cohorts, we can contain contamination.
In favor of distance learning as a backup, not a substitute.
In favor of parents keeping children home under approved circumstances. Medically compromised. I would hold the child back if vulnerable.
Superintendent: Asked subcommittee for any questions?
Assistant Superintendent: At 10:00 a.m. some sub committee members need to go to another meeting. We may need to schedule a follow up.
Coordinator of Health Services: We all are passionate about this. We are here to make this the safest experience we can.
Teacher - secondary level: Recommendation: Suggest checking temperatures prior to coming to school.
Doctor/Parent: Response to suggestion of teacher: In the hospital they check temperatures. May not be reliable. May give a false sense of safety.
Director of Transportation: If students have symptoms and are still coming to school, they will already be on buses before arriving at school. Contact tracing is very important. To identify symptoms early is very important.
Coordinator of Health Services: Recommendation: Suggest contract with parents. Have parents inspect and take temperatures at home.
Superintendent: We will need to meet again without question. There is much more to talk about.
Principal - secondary level: Safety needs to be first priority. We all want to be back in school. Not a debate. Question: What is the environment that will help students be successful? Hybrid at what cost? Not allowed to sing, perform wind instruments, desk dividers, etc…. Is this conducive to student learning? There is no one solution that everyone will be happy with . Keep safety at the forefront of this decision.
Distance model: safest model
Hybrid: distance and physical setting
Regular school day: all back in building - least safe
Social pressures will say distance learning is not what people will want. Survey….plan for a hybrid and a distance learning and give parents input into what they will commit to.
Teacher - elementary level: Many of her thoughts have been brought to the table. We are working so hard in an effort to keep children and staff safe in the classroom. Regarding tools/tactile, they ordered boxes so each child has his own tools, no sharing. What is mandatory and what is not?
Recess: how can we sensibly promote recess? Will the children share equipment? Will there be indoor classroom recess? So much learning in kindergarten is play based and engaged.
Superintendent: Many are planning who are not on any subcommittees. More to come...People who did not have a chance to share will be in the lead off for the next meeting.
Student -Clarkstown High School Senior: I am glad and honored to be on the subcommittee. Many good points. Different viewpoint from a student perspective. At SHS there is a big lobby where everyone meets, always so busy and filled. Interesting how this is different in all schools and how will we work around this. There is a similar situation in all schools. How will we deal with this situation?
Superintendent: Do you have any specific action steps?
Student -Clarkstown High School Senior: Going back to the topic of transportation.
Recommendation: High school kids can drive. Maybe we will have to extend the timing for drop off. Many parents will drop off their students to school. Maybe we can do it by grade. In terms of the lobby and cafeteria, we may have to get kids right to classrooms, maybe have students know they cannot gather in these areas.
Superintendent: Student is spot on. The lobby is a location where many students gather. Student is an outstanding guitarist!
Director of Business Services/Safety Officer: Thank you to everyone for the honest and open perspective. It is a difficult puzzle to solve, families, all with different perspectives. Extra staffing will help, there are budget constraints, many pieces to balance. Agree with teacher - secondary level, we don’t want to lose anyone. We have a relationship with the Department of Health. They will be our first contact. Continue conversation. If you want to share more please do so in writing.
Superintendent: Enjoy the holiday weekend.