Health & Safety

NOTE: This document is based upon current guidelines and recommendations from the NYS Department of Health and the NYS Education Department. It is a living document and is subject to updates as more information becomes available.
UPDATED 8-28-20

The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school campuses. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

It is possible that we may need to alternate between in-person and remote learning throughout the year due to recommendations and guidance from our partnering agencies, and stay-at-home orders from the Governor. The level of infection, the spread of the virus and response to the disease in our community will be at the forefront of our decision making as we move to open our schools. 

Joseph Simoni, Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services and Technology, will serve as the District’s COVID-19 Coordinator. Joseph Simoni will serve as a central contact for schools and stakeholders, families, staff and other school community members and will ensure the District is in compliance and following the best practices per state and federal guidelines. Contact information for Mr. Simoni and building coordinators will be posted on our website.

In addition, each building’s safety team will designate one member of the team as the COVID-19 Liaison for the building. The role of this individual will be to work hand-in-hand with the District COVID-19 Officer, while ensuring that reports are submitted to the officer in a timely manner and that all protocols are in place and followed.

Healthy Hygiene Practices

Following the recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED), our plan for hygiene practices will incorporate the following:

  • Wear a face mask which covers the nose and mouth at all times
  • Use proper hand hygiene, including hand washing upon arrival to school, before eating, before putting on and taking off masks, after use of the bathroom, and periodically during the school day
  • Use soap and water to wash the hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds
  • Use a District provided alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if hand washing is not feasible
  • Avoid touching face
  • Practice good respiratory hygiene, including covering the face with tissue or elbow when coughing/sneezing

Social Distancing

Students will be grouped by cohort whenever feasible. The same group of students will stay within the classroom throughout the day with the same teacher, and will not mix with students from other classes.  For RTI services, the instructor will push into the classroom as appropriate. For related services such as speech, OT, PT, etc. students within one class will travel to the therapy room, with no mixing of students from other classes, as feasible. Push-in therapy will be utilized as appropriate.  As feasible, special area classes will be held in classrooms, outdoors, of within designated spaces clearly marked with social distancing markers and protocols in place.

  • All individuals must maintain at least six feet of social distance to the extent possible
  • Visual cues from signage, floor decals and colored tape indicating social distancing parameters and traffic flow through building entrances, exits and other common use areas must be followed. Mitigation efforts will be used in place when six feet is not feasible
  • Clear physical barriers will be installed in reception areas, school front offices and workspaces where face-to-face interaction with the public occurs
  • Desks, tables, chairs, and other furniture will be social distanced by at least 6 feet apart in all areas where adults and children are
  • Meetings will continue virtually, avoiding unnecessary entry of adults into the building
  • Capacity within classrooms and learning spaces will be at 50%, or as close as possible
  • Visitation will be limited to only approved visitors:
    • Contractors (accompanied by escort)
    • Vendors (accompanied by escort)
    • Parent visitation to main office (limited by reason for visit, at the discretion of the Principal and accompanied by escort)
    • All visitors will sign in, have a temperature check, and complete a health screening questionnaire prior to entry.

Face Masks and Other Face Coverings

Respiratory droplets are the primary way that COVID-19 is transmitted. Wearing masks will be mandatory to reduce risk reduction. Employees, students, visitors and contractors are required to wear a face mask or other approved face covering that covers their mouth and nose while on District grounds, with limited exception approved prior by District administration.

  • Adults and students should report to school with their mask/face covering of choice, insuring that it covers both the mouth and nose. If face shields are worn, they must be accompanied by a face mask. The District will have an additional allotment of masks, and face shields, which will only be provided on an as needed basis.
  • Acceptable masks include disposable surgical masks and cloth masks purchased or made from household items. Gaiters, clothing and household items (like scarfs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels) are not acceptable in original form for use as masks on District grounds. Masks with vents are not permitted
  • “Mask breaks” will be instituted throughout the school day. Students may also remove their masks during mealtimes, when outdoors, and when six feet apart from other people. Mask breaks will be 10 minutes maximum.
  • Accommodations will be made for students with medical or sensory intolerance to wearing masks. Parents should notify their building administration if there are documented reasons why a student cannot wear a mask.
  • Any student who does not have an accommodation for not wearing a face mask, and refuses to wear one when directed to, will be considered insubordinate. These situations will be handled by administration according to the Code of Conduct.

Daily Health Screenings

All employees will be required to complete daily self-reporting by completing an online Pre-Entry Screening Form to verify if they are symptom-free and have not had recent exposure to someone with COVID-19. Employees are required to report if they test positive for COVID-19, if they develop symptoms consistent therewith, or if they are self-isolating due to suspected or known exposure to COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keep an up to date list of symptoms of Coronavirus on its website. To date these include:

  • Fever or chills (100°F or greater);
  • Cough;
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing;
  • Fatigue;
  • Muscle or body aches;
  • Headache;
  • New loss of taste or smell;
  • Sore throat;
  • Congestion or runny nose;
  • Nausea or vomiting; and/or

It is strongly recommended that all staff are educated to observe students or other staff members for signs of any type of illness such as:

  • Flushed cheeks;
  • Rapid or difficulty breathing (without recent physical activity);
  • Fatigue, and/or irritability; and
  • Frequent use of the bathroom.

Parents and Guardians will be required to conduct a daily screening of their children at home, before their children leave for school. This includes temperature taking and monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, acknowledging and recent exposure to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, and recent travel from states designated as “hot spots” as determined by the CDC.  If any statements on the screening checklist are true, the family must keep the student at home and contact the student’s healthcare provider. At the start of the school year, parents and guardians will be required to sign the COVID-19 School Health & Safety Agreement, which outlines their responsibility to keeping their children home when sick and to seeking appropriate medical care. Parents and Guardians need to report all pre-existing medical conditions to the school nurse, building administration, and classroom teachers.

Responding to Students/Employees who are Symptomatic

Emergency Response -- A school nurse (Registered Professional Nurse, RN) or nurse aide will be available to assess individuals as chronic conditions such as asthma and allergies or chronic gastrointestinal conditions may present the same symptoms as COVID-19, but are neither contagious nor pose a public health threat. Proper PPE will be required anytime a nurse may be in contact with a potential COVID-19 patient.

Students suspected of having COVID-19 awaiting transport home by the parent/guardian will be isolated in a room or area separate from others, with a supervising adult present utilizing appropriate PPE. Multiple students suspected of COVID-19 may also be in this isolation room when separating by at least 6 feet is possible. If they cannot be isolated in a separate room from others, facemasks (e.g., cloth or surgical mask) will be provided to the student.  The parent or guardian will be instructed to call their health care provider, and to pick up their child immediately. 

In addition:

  • Closing off areas used by the person suspected of having COVID-19, and not using these areas until after cleaning and disinfection has occurred;
  • Opening outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area;
  • Waiting up to 24 hours before cleaning and disinfection. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible; 
  • Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, such as offices, classrooms, bathrooms, lockers, and common areas;
  • Once the area is appropriately cleaned and disinfected, it will be reopened for use;
  • Individuals without close or proximate contact with the person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 can return to the area and resume school activities immediately after cleaning and disinfection;
  • For individuals with close contact to the students/adult who are lab-confirmed of COVID-19, parents will be notified and students will be sent home. Parents will be told to notify their health care providers. Students and adults will be expected to quarantine for 14 days, unless cleared otherwise by their health care provider;
  • Notification - the NYS and local health departments will be notified immediately upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 diagnostic test result by an individual in school facilities or on school grounds, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

COVID-19 Testing

Carmel Central School District is not equipped to conduct testing in the event of a large-scale outbreak.  We have a standing relationship with the Putnam County Department of Health and in the event that testing is required, we will defer to the Putnam County DOH for any required or relevant information.  This information will be disseminated through our communications platform. Testing is readily available in our community. Students, staff or visitors requiring COVID-19 testing should contact their health provider, a local urgent care, federally qualified health center or visit the NYSDOH website to locate a nearby testing facility

Contact Tracing 

Carmel Central School District will notify the state and local health department immediately upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 diagnostic test result by an individual within school facilities or on school grounds, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors of the Carmel Central School District

To assist the local health department with tracing the transmission of COVID-19, Carmel Central School District has developed and maintained a plan to trace all contacts of exposed individuals in accordance with protocols, training, and tools provided through the New York State Contact Tracing Program.

Districts may assist with contact tracing by:

  • Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members
  • Ensuring student schedules are up to date
  • Keeping a visitor log that includes date and time​ address and phone number, and where in the school they visited
  • Assisting the local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual in accordance with the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYSContact Tracing Program
  • Informing local health department of staff member testing positive regardless of county of residence.
  • For all contact tracing, the DOH will require the name, address, and phone number as well as the name and phone number of the guardian of a student.

If/when COVID-19 cases are discovered, in consultation with the local health department, Carmel Central School District will do the following:

  • Close or quarantine locations of potential exposure for up to 24 hours, if possible
  • Clean and disinfect locations as necessary
  • Provide DOH with information as required

Confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state laws and regulations. Staff should not try to determine who is to be excluded without guidance and direction from the local health department.

Public Health Officials assume the task of contact tracing, once notified. To ensure the District and its employees comply with contact tracing and disinfection requirements, the Carmel Central School District will do the following: 

  • Have a plan for cleaning, disinfection, and notifying Public Health, in the event of a positive case.  In the case of an employee testing positive for COVID-19, CDC guidelines will be followed regarding cleaning and disinfecting your building or facility if someone is sick.
  • Close off areas used by the person who is sick until deep cleaning and disinfection can occur for after up to 24 hours.
  • Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area as determined.
  • Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person who is sick, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and copier machines.
  • Vacuum the space if needed. Use vacuum equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, if available.
  • Workers without close contact with the person who is sick can return to work immediately after disinfection.

For more information about how COVID-19 containment efforts will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

Return to School after Illness

The Carmel Central School District has established protocols and procedures, in consultation with the local health department(s), about the requirements for determining when individuals, particularly students, who screened positive for COVID-19 symptoms can return to the in-person learning environment at school.

This protocol includes:

  • Documentation from a health care provider following evaluation OR
  • Negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result
  • Symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation
  • The District will refer to DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Public and Private Employees Returning to Work Following COVID-19 Infection or Exposure” regarding protocols and policies for faculty and staff seeking to return to work after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or after the faculty or staff member had close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19.
  • The District requires that individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus complete quarantine and have not developed symptoms before returning to in-person learning. The discharge of an individual from quarantine and return to school will be conducted in coordination with the local health department.

Closure Considerations

When a person has been identified (confirmed) or suspected to be COVID-19 positive; the process in the District could include:

  • Having school administrators collaborate and coordinate with local health officials to make school closure and large event cancellation decisions.
  • Establish a plan to close schools again for physical attendance of students, if necessary, based on public health guidance and in coordination with the local DOH. Establishing a decision-making tree at the District level.
  • A plan has been developed for continuity of education, medical and social services, and meal programs and establish alternate mechanisms for these to continue.
  • Implement as needed short-term closure procedures regardless of community spread if an infected person has been in a school building. If this happens, CDC recommends the following procedures:
    • Closing off areas used by ill person(s) and locking off area(s), signage can also be used to ensure no one enters the area. If possible, wait 24 hours before you clean and disinfect. If it is not possible to wait 24 hours, wait as long as possible. Do not use the area(s) until cleaning and disinfection has taken place.
    • Opening outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.
    • Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas (e.g., offices, bathrooms, and common areas) used by the ill person(s), focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.
    • Communicating as soon as possible with staff, parents, and students.
  • Using DOH guidance/procedures for when someone tests positive.
    • In consultation with the local DOH, a school official may consider whether school closure is warranted and period of time (prior to re-opening) based on the risk level within the specific community as determined by the local DOH.
    • In accordance with guidance for quarantine at home after close contact, the classroom or office where the COVID-19-positive individual was based will typically need to close temporarily as students or staff quarantine.
    • Additional close contacts at school outside of a classroom should also quarantine at home.
  • Closing of schools could be a regional decision.
    • 7 metrics - NYS Dashboard
      • Schools will reopen if a region is in Phase IV and the daily infection rate remains below 5% using a 14-day average
      • Schools will close if the regional infection rate is greater than 9% using a 7-day average after August 1, 2020
    • Thresholds will be determined on a case-by-case basis dependent on the numbers (school closures may be a response).
    • Buildings may consider closing if required cleaning products (bleach and water can be used as a cleaning product) and PPE are not available