Admiral Peary AVTS
Reopening of School for the 2020-2021 School Year
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 19, 2020
COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s life in unimaginable ways. Admiral Peary AVTS has been no exception. Since March, our staff and JOC have been diligently working to prepare for the start of the new school year using the latest guidance from the State, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and our member school districts. As part of this process, Admiral Peary has developed a Health and Safety Plan to address concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan is a living document, meaning it changes as new information becomes available. While the school is doing everything possible to minimize the risk of COVID-19, no amount of action can guarantee someone will not be infected with COVID-19.
What is the Health and Safety Plan?
As part of the phased reopening of Pennsylvania, Admiral Peary AVTS is mandated to develop a Health and Safety Plan for the reopening of the 20-21 school year as guidelines for all instructional and non-instructional activities. This plan includes actions we will take to address 1) cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting, and ventilation, 2) social distancing and other protocols, 3) monitoring student and staff health, and 4) other considerations for students and staff. Given the dynamic nature of this pandemic, this plan will be flexible and revised to adapt to changing conditions.
Where can I find the school district’s Health and Safety Plan?
The latest approved plan can be found on the school’s web site: www.ap.tec.pa.us
Can the school ensure students and staff will be protected from COVID-19?
No. All community members must be mindful that as long as COVID-19 remains a medical concern, there are no strategies that can completely eliminate transmission risk within a school population. The goal of Admiral Peary’s Health and Safety Plan is to lower the risk to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while continuing Instructional, Advisory, and Cooperative Education programs. However, there will be some risk to all students and staff in spite of the school’s best efforts.
Will there be school?
Yes. The school is doing everything possible for students to return to traditional classrooms on September 8th. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be modifications and adaptations to the daily schedule. However, in the event school buildings are forced to be closed, student education will transition to an on-line learning environment.
Why is it important to open schools for In-Person instruction?
According to the CDC, while opening schools – like opening any building or facility—does pose a risk for the spread of COVID-19, there are many reasons why opening schools in the fall of 2020 for in-person instruction is important.
Schools play a critical role in the wellbeing of communities. Schools are a fundamental part of the infrastructure of communities. Schools provide safe and supportive environments, structure, and routines for children, as well as other needed support services to children and families. Schools play a vital role in the economic health of communities by employing teachers and other staff and helping parents, guardians, and caregivers work.
Schools provide critical instruction and academic support that benefit students and communities in both the short- and long-term. The main role and priorities of K-12 educational institutions are to provide age-appropriate instruction and support students’ academic development. Reopening schools will provide in-person instruction for students, facilitate increased communication between teachers and students, and provide students with critical academic services, including school-based tutoring, special education, and other specialized learning supports.
Studies show that students have experienced learning loss during the period of school closure and summer months. In-person instruction for students has advantages over virtual learning, particularly when virtual learning was not the planned format for instruction, and schools may not have the resources or capability to transition fully to virtual learning. In-person classroom instruction has the added benefit for many students of interpersonal interaction between the student and the teacher and the student and peers. Teachers are able to more actively participate in student learning, provide feedback as students encounter challenges, and promote active learning among students.
In-person instruction may be particularly beneficial for students with additional learning needs. Children with disabilities may not have access through virtual means to the specialized instruction, related services or additional supports required by their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 Plans. Students may also not have access through virtual means to quality English Language Learning (ELL).
When schools are closed to in-person instruction, disparities in educational outcomes could become wider, as some families may not have capacity to fully participate in distance learning (e.g., computer and internet access issues, lack of parent, guardian, or caregiver support because of work schedules) and may rely on school-based services that support their child’s academic success. The persistent achievement gaps that already existed prior to COVID-19 closures, such as disparities across income levels and racial and ethnic groups, could worsen and cause long-term effects on children’s educational outcomes, health, and the economic well being of families and communities. While concern over higher rates of COVID-19 among certain racial/ethnic groups may amplify consideration of closing a school that educates primarily racial minority students, there should also be consideration that these may also be the schools most heavily relied upon for students to receive other services and support, like nutrition and support services.
Is the school considering modifying the schedule to include some traditional schooling along with some on-line education?
Yes. With the moderate risk designation for Cambria County by the Governors office, the home school districts are implementing hybrid schedules. Admiral Peary AVTS is currently using the Blended (Hybrid) plan that was worked out between Admiral Peary AVTS and the home districts. To view those plans CLICK HERE to view the alternative day schedule where students attend school some days and do on-line learning other days.
Will school start and end at the same time as in previous years?
Yes. Admiral Peary will have the same bell schedules as in previous years.
Is it possible the school will transition to on-line learning at some point this school year?
Yes. If transmission rates of COVID-19 in the member school districts increase to a point where our member schools and/or the Pennsylvania Department of Health no longer feels we are capable of providing a safe and healthy environment, then our students and staff will transition to an on-line learning environment. If and when this decision would be made, Admiral Peary AVTS will coordinate with the member schools.
What if my child has a fever or other symptoms of illness in the morning?
The first step in protecting the health and safety of students and staff at Admiral Peary is for everyone to self-monitor their own health for signs of illness. The most common signs and symptoms include fever greater than 100.4, cough, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, loss/altered sense of taste or smell, diarrhea, and runny nose/congestion. In the event a student or staff member shows signs or symptoms of illness, please stay home and/or seek medical attention. Normal attendance requirements will remain in effect.
What steps are in place to maintain social distancing?
Socialization is part of every child’s education. Learning to interact with fellow students and staff is essential for the success of Admiral Peary students. Given the social distancing guidelines associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, students ability to socialize will be impacted. Whenever possible, the school district will prevent students coming into contact with each other. While the goal is to maintain six-foot distance between individuals, physical and financial concerns may place students closer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a three-foot distance is associated with large reductions in infection via droplet spread of cough and sneezes. In those instances, where maintaining six-foot social distancing is unrealistic, students may be asked to practice enhanced personal hygiene and wear masks. As a safety precaution, students and staff will be required to wear face masks when moving from room to room. For additional guidance on masks, please see the next FAQ:
Will students and staff be required to wear face coverings at school?
On July 1st, Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health Dr. Levine ordered mandating universal face coverings in public. This order applies to students and staff within school buildings. Details about this order can be found at: https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/gov-wolf-sec-of-health-signs-expanded-mask-wearing-order/ The school district will abide by the regulations as set forth in this order.
Any student or staff member who cannot wear a mask or face shield due to a medical condition, including those with respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition, or disability, and students who would be unable to remove a mask without assistance are not required to wear face coverings. Individuals who are communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or who has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication, are not required to wear a mask; however, individuals should consider using another type of face covering such as a plastic face shield.
Will the school district provide students and staff with face coverings?
As the use of face coverings has been mandated in public for some time, Admiral Peary will have a limited supply of masks to provide. However, it is hoped that we will only need to provide face coverings to students or staff except in emergencies. Admiral Peary would prefer students and staff select and provide their own face covering they are comfortable wearing. Face coverings bearing inappropriate slogans, graphics, or pictures are to be avoided and will not be permitted to be worn in school.
If my child starts the school year in an on-line program, can they switch to traditional school at a later time?
Yes. In coordination with your home school, Admiral Peary will make every effort to assist in re-entering your child to the “bricks and mortar” school. Our member school districts recommend that any change in placement should occur at natural breaks in the school year, i.e. marking periods or after major holiday breaks.
Will Admiral Peary provide students with an electronic device to access on-line coursework?
No. Any requests for electronic devices will need to be made to your home district.
Will the school district provide Internet access to students at home?
No. Internet access will be the responsibility of parents/guardians. The home district may have a plan to provide access. You should check with your home district for more details.
What if my child or a staff member shows symptoms of COVID-19 during the school day?
Students and staff exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 during school hours should immediately put on a mask and report to the Health Room Nurse’s office. The Health Room Nurse will assess the student/teacher, including a temperature check and questions about any pre-existing conditions that may explain the symptoms. As necessary, the nurse will contact a parent/guardian to arrange for student transportation off-site. Individuals with temperatures above 100.4 will be required to leave the building regardless of the cause. Until parent/guardian personal transportation arrives, the student will be placed in quarantine. Students or staff members may return to school when medical clearance is granted
Where can I get tested for COVID-19
Through the work of a number of entities, testing is accessible for Pennsylvanians. As entities such as Rite Aid, CVS, Patient First and Walmart offer testing regardless of symptoms, more Pennsylvanians can get tested close to home.
While most COVID-19 tests are performed using a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, many of the publicly accessible sites are using anterior nasal or nasal swabs that are less invasive. Where an NP swab is inserted deep enough to contact the nasopharynx at the back of the nasal cavity administered by a medical professional, a nasal swab is only inserted roughly 0.5 inches inside the nostril and can be self-administered. Both of these collection methods can be a bit uncomfortable, but neither should be painful.
Additional information on symptoms and testing can be found at: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Symptoms-Testing.aspx
What if someone in my household gets COVID-19? Can my child go to school?
Students and staff exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or living in a household with someone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should stay at home at least ten (10) days from the first sign of symptoms AND until no signs of fever without medication are present for at least three (3) days unless medically cleared otherwise. During periods of quarantine or isolation, students are expected to continue their education through the district’s on-line learning portal.
Will I be notified if one of my child’s classmates is diagnosed with COVID-19?
DOH or county and municipal health departments (CMHDs) staff will notify the member school districts immediately upon learning that a person with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 was present at the school or a school event while infectious. DOH or CMHD staff will assist the school with risk assessment, isolation and quarantine recommendations, and other infection control recommendations. Schools should take every measure to maintain the confidentiality of the affected individual.
It is the responsibility of DOH or CMHD staff to contact a student or staff person with COVID-19, inform close contacts of their possible exposure, and give instructions to those involved, including siblings and other household members, regarding self-quarantine and exclusions. The individual who tested positive will not be identified in communications from DOH or the CMHD to the school community at large but may need to be selectively identified for contact tracing by the DOH or CMHD staff. Admiral Peary will contact local DOH or CMHD staff before acting in response to a known or suspected communicable disease.
- If the person is present on school property when DOH or CMHD staff notify the school of the positive case information, the person will immediately, but discreetly, be taken to the COVID-19 related isolation space for pick up (if student) or asked to return home (if staff).
- Parents and/or guardians should have plans if there is a need for transportation of a sick student to their homes.
- Admiral Peary will contact DOH or the CMHD for further guidance if a parent/guardian/caregiver notifies the school of potential exposure by a student, staff member, or school visitor.
- In the event of that admiral Peary is notified of a potential exposure, the entire building will not be evacuated.
- Admiral Peary will close off areas used by the sick person and will not use again before cleaning and disinfecting.
- Admiral Peary will follow CDC Guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting protocols.
Robust surveillance, case investigation, contact tracing and isolation of positive cases or quarantine of close contacts can slow and stop the transmission of COVID-19. Pennsylvania's public health infrastructure of epidemiologists, community health nurses, and CMHD staff are the backbone of this work. More information on contact tracing and case investigation can be found in DOH'S Contact Tracing Plan.
DOH and its CMHD partners have established procedures for timely communication with school districts when there is a probable or positive COVID-19 case. Local DOH staff or the CMHD will notify the school and PDE immediately upon learning that someone who tested positive for COVID-19 was present at the school or school event while infectious. DOH or CMHD staff will assist the school district with risk assessment, isolation and quarantine recommendations, and other infection control recommendations.
DOH or CMHD staff will assist the school with contact tracing and may request information regarding potential close school contacts from school nurses/health staff. Decisions to track additional health information (i.e., quarantine timeframes) will be made at the local school level.
Is the school district taking extra steps in cleaning and disinfecting the school?
Routine cleaning and disinfecting are key to maintaining a safe environment for students and staff. Special equipment and cleaning supplies have been purchased to combat the spread of COVID-19 for the upcoming school year. Routines are in place to clean, sanitize and disinfect frequently used items and high-traffic areas throughout the day to help prevent the spread of the virus. Shared materials/resources and communal areas will be cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected between uses. Movement within the buildings will be reduced as much as possible.
Are the cleaning supplies safe for students and staff?
Yes. The cleaner/disinfectants being used by the school district meet EPA List N guidelines for disinfecting against COVID-19. The disinfectant is approved for food-contact and non-contact surfaces.
If the Admiral Peary is forced to close, how will the school handle components of a student’s IEP plan?
Admiral Peary is currently working on contingency plans for on-line education should the need arise. As always, the delivery of the IEP program will be coordinated with the home school district and their special education department.
Will there be procedures in place to limit the number of visitors to the school buildings?
To protect students and staff, visitors and volunteers to the buildings will be on an “only as-necessary” basis with protocols in place. Whenever possible, the school will rely on phone calls, e-mail, or videoconferencing to conduct business with visitors. In those instances where a face-to-face meeting must occur, the school will monitor individuals for signs of illness prior to entry into the building. This will include a temperature scan. Those individuals with temperatures in excess of 100.4 or showing other signs of illness will be denied entry. As a safety precaution, all visitors will be required to wear a face mask while in the buildings.
Will students and staff have the ability to regularly wash hands?
According to the CDC, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the COVID-19 virus. After use of a face covering, the next best preventive measure is hand washing with soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds after having been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. It is especially important to wash hands in school:
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before touching the face
- After using the restroom
- After leaving a public space
- After blowing nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After handling a cloth face mask
What if a student or staff member visits an area where there are high amounts of COVID-19 cases?
According to the PA Department of Health, if you have traveled, or plan to travel, to an area where there are high amounts of COVID-19 cases, it is recommended that you stay at home for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania. If you travel to one of the states identified by the PA Department of Health as experiencing high amounts of COVID-19, it is recommended that you quarantine for 14 days upon return.
The current list of identified states can be found at: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Travelers.aspx This list as well as additional travel information is updated on a regular basis.
While awaiting additional guidance as this order relates to students and staff from the PA Department of Health and PA Department of Education, for the safety of all students and staff, our member schools recommend anyone traveling to these areas quarantine for 14 days OR seek medical clearance before attending school. This clearance could be a physician’s note or negative COVID-19 test result.
Can elements of the school district’s Health and Safety Plan change?
Yes. This plan is a living document, meaning it changes on a daily basis as new information becomes available. Please visit www.admiralpeary.tec.pa.us for the latest draft of the plan and responses to FAQ.
What if I have a question on the reopening of school?
Please feel free to share your question by contacting the Executive Director’s office at Admiral Peary AVTS. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the phone number is 814-472-6490.