Reopening Update 2020

As we look ahead to the 2020-21 school year, we want to assure you that our plan is to start school on campus on September 8th. We continue to finalize our preparations in prayer and can’t wait to see you this fall!

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” –Hebrews 10:24,25

Dear BCS Family,

     I am excited to welcome you all back to campus this fall. Teachers and students miss each other and are looking forward to being reunited. We are working every day to ensure this homecoming prioritizes safety and well-being: socially, academically and spiritually.

     Bethany Christian School is blessed to have a large campus and small class sizes (classes I have capped at 15 in most cases) which allows us the opportunity to return to campus safely. We have the ability to check temperatures of most students before they even enter the building each day.

  There are three things that are important to note:

  1. The plan below is a LIVING DOCUMENT as we continue to get feedback and good counsel from other Christian schools, the CDC, local health departments, and the state, changes may need to be made. That being said, we have worked hard to have this framework that addresses a wide variety of concerns/healthy protocols.
  2. This plan is one of trying to MITIGATE the risk of contraction of COVID-19 and neither implies that we will or can have a clinical sterile environment. There will always be the threat of infection, but through our conduct, sanitation, and vigilance we will work to protect students and families and do our best to provide a safe place to learn.

Parents play an essential role in this plan. We will be asking parents to confirm that they understand the importance of keeping sick children home, especially if they have a fever. The specifics will be sent to you just prior to the first day of school so that it is as complete and accurate as possible. We know this may create hardship in some cases, but as a loving community, we’ll need to be mindful of each other. Parents will need to prepare their children to go outside for recess.   Please supply cold-weather gear during the fall and winter months. The gym will not be available for indoor recess and in-class recess activities may be more restrictive than in the past.

     Re-opening campus will be more of a “process” than an “event” and will take prayer, time, and effort from each of us in order to strike that good balance between physical safety and still provide an environment that fosters academic, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Knowing, as the verse above emphasizes, that a loving, encouraging, and united body is pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ.

     The outbreak of COVID-19 caused many states to take the unprecedented step of closing public and private schools across the country.  While this measure was intended to protect the physical health of our school community, it did not address the mental health and spiritual health needs of our community.  As we look to the 2020-2021 school year and the reopening of our school, we believe our focus must return to overall community wellness, not just physical health.  A coalition of Christian school leaders and team members have collaborated to develop the general guidelines that provide the framework for our COVID-19 Pandemic Plan.  The plan outlined below will help promote mitigation from COVId-19 and other diseases and will also ensure our community remains healthy spiritually and mentally.  The specific details of the implementation of these guidelines to fit the needs and operational capabilities of each school will be published to their families.

Guidelines for Fall Re-opening at BCS

Guiding Principles

  • COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus first identified in the United States in early 2020. At this time, there is no vaccine or cure for this disease. Our goal as a community is to mitigate our community’s risk of infection/exposure requiring members of the school community to self-isolate, while ensuring our practices do not prevent us from delivering our mission, which is to provide an excellent education and discipleship process to students.
  • The guidelines established in this document are designed to promote the overall wellness (physical, mental, and spiritual health) of all members of our school community.
  • We developed this plan in conjunction with other Christian School leaders, documents provided by the PA Department of Health, PA Department of Education, The Association of Christian Schools International (our accreditation agency), CDC, and our local school districts.
  • The plan is designed to adjust to changing phases (Green, Yellow, and Red).
  • The plan is subject to change based on new guidelines/mandates from government authorities and/or new information on COVID-19.
  • We recognize that members of our school communities may have different views on COVID-19 and our government’s response to it. Regardless of our own personal views, all members of our school community are expected to live out the principles Paul writes in Romans 12:9-21. Verse 18 specifically tells us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This means we will respect each other at all times and take additional steps if needed to make others in our school community feel comfortable and safe. No member of the school community will be disrespected in any way for their opinions on COVID-19.

Pandemic Response Team

Bethany Christian School has benefited from a strong, collaborative relationship with faculty and staff over the years, so we have created a COVID-19 Pandemic Team. This team is responsible for the creation and monitoring of our “living” COVID-19 plan. Any COVID-19 related questions can be directed to the COVID-19 Response Team through the following email addresses:

covid19team@bethanychristian.org

Our COVID-19 team will continue to monitor all updates from our local, state, and federal agencies as well as from ACSI.

Team Members

Kevin Fry, BCS Head of School

Daisey Ingiosi, Administrative Team

John McGinnes, Facilities Director

Cassie McKinley, Administrative Assistant

Cindy Brandon, Middle School Lead Teacher

Maintaining Healthy Environments

The following protocols will be enacted to ensure we maintain a healthy environment for our school community

Cleaning and Sanitation

  • The school building will undergo cleaning and sanitizing after school each day
    • Teachers will be responsible for their classrooms
    • Employees will be responsible for their work space
    • Facilities members will clean all restrooms and common areas
  • All high touch surfaces, such as door knobs, railings, and desks, will be sanitized mid-day.
  • Any shared equipment, such as manipulatives, learning devices, lab equipment, and playground will be sanitized after each student use
  • Student desks will be sanitized anytime students leave the classroom
  • No students will be allowed in the office
  • Books (textbooks, novels, library, etc. will stay with each student)
  • Students will be encouraged to use hand sanitizer whenever entering the classroom and use proper hand washing when using the restroom.

Face Coverings[1]

Per PA Health Secretary LeVine’s order on 7/1/2020, face coverings are required for anyone over two years old in PA once s/he leaves home and is inside a building or outside and cannot maintain social distancing (6ft) between others. This order separates our school community into two categories with different requirements for each:

  • Students are required to wear face coverings throughout the school day. According to the guidance issued by the PA Department of Health, students are permitted to remove their face coverings under the following conditions:
    • Eating and/or drinking at least 6 feet apart
    • Seated at a desk or at an assigned work space at least 6 feet apart
    • Engaged in any activity at least 6 feet apart, such as recess
    • NOTE: Addressed later in the plan, all student desks will be 6 feet apart
  • Students are required to provide their own face coverings each school day. BCS is working to obtain comfortable facemasks that will be available for purchase (with the BCS logo on it).  Masks must remain “on” the student at all times during the school day.  This will prevent disruptions in the classroom and avoid the exchanging of masks. Additionally, each student is required to bring into school at least two extra face coverings. These face coverings are to be placed in a Ziplock type bag with the student’s name on it. These will be used in the event the mask brought from home is forgotten, lost, or becomes unusable. These masks will be stored in the student’s homeroom.
  • PA regulations for face coverings
    • According to the PA Department of Health, “Face covering” means a covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is wrapped around the lower face.  A “face covering” can be made of a variety of synthetic or natural fabrics, including cotton, silk, or linen, and, for the purposes of the order, can include a plastic face shield that covers the nose and mouth.  “Face coverings” may be factory-made, sewn by hand, or improvised from household items, including but not limited to, scarves, bandanas, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.  While procedural and surgical masks intended for health care providers and first responders, such as N95 respirators, would meet these requirements, these specialized masks should be reserved for appropriate occupational and health care settings.

Shared Objects

  • The school will make every effort to avoid students/staff sharing objects that are difficult to clean or disinfect.
  • Objects that are shared will be cleaned or disinfected between use.
  • Students will bring in their own personal school supplies for the year. These supplies, and their personal belongings, will be stored in designated areas.

Ventilation

  • All forced air HVAC units will run continuously whenever the building is occupied. (MERV 13 rated)
  • Our HVAC units are equipped to bring in outside air.
  • In classrooms with windows that open, the teachers will be encouraged to open them if the weather permits.

Modified School Layouts

In order to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infection and exposure to COVID-19 that would require self-quarantining, the following changes to the school layout will occur. These modified layouts will be reviewed on a regular basis and may be adjusted based on phase, infection rates, and/or additional COVID-19 guidance.

  • All student desks will be placed at least 6 feet apart.
  • Elementary classes will receive all instruction in their classroom, including co-curricular activities, such as Spanish, Art, and Music whenever possible, except for physical education.
  • Secondary students will receive all instruction in grade level specific classrooms except for courses that are taught with students from multiple grade levels.
  • Class sizes will not go above the number of desks that can be kept at least 6 feet apart.
  • Most classes will be capped at 15 except for the double classrooms.
  • All faculty are encouraged to take advantage of the outdoor space and hold class out doors for parts of the day.

Communal Spaces

  • The gym and outdoor play areas will only have scheduled and staggered use.
  •  
  • Chapel services:
    • Yellow Phase: Chapel and mentor groups will occur in classrooms or outdoors, unless otherwise permitted by guidelines.
    • Green Phase: Modified chapel services may resume. Students and staff must sit at least 6 feet apart.

Food Service Programs

  • Students in all grade levels will eat lunch in their classrooms or outdoors.
  • Meals served through the lunch program will be individually plated and served to the student at his/her desk.
  • Any food served at a school function, such as a class party or parent meeting, is to be individually wrapped. Any drinks should be served in sealed, individual containers such a bottle of water or juice box.

Steps to educate and remind members of the school community about everyday proactive measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Handwashing and respiratory etiquette

  • All employees will undergo hand washing and respiratory etiquette training during our in-service week when school begins.
  • All students will undergo hand washing and respiratory etiquette training at the start of school and will have refreshers throughout the school year.
  • Hand sanitizer will be placed in every classroom and at each school entrance.
  • Parents who do not want their child using hand sanitizer must provide a suitable alternative.

Adequate Supplies

  • Each school commits to ensuring there is an adequate supply of materials needed to support healthy hygiene behavior. This includes soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissues, masks, and sanitizing supplies. Families may be requested to supply some items for their own students, such as personal sized hand sanitizer for older students.

Signs, Communications, and Messages

  • Signage will be placed in each restroom to remind everyone about proper hand washing techniques
  • (Yellow Phase) Reminders of behaviors that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be part of morning announcements and morning meetings.
  • (Green Phase) Reminders of behaviors that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be part of the morning announcements bi-weekly and continue to be part of morning meetings
  • In all phases, school staff will gently remind students and visitors to continue practices known to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing, use of face coverings when distancing cannot be maintained, hand washing, and proper respiratory etiquette.

Steps to protect students and staff at higher risk for severe illness

  • Staff or students who are exhibiting signs or symptoms of any viral infection should stay home and not come on school grounds. 
  • Staff and students should be fever free, without the use of any medications, for 48 hours before coming on school grounds or with a physician’s note.
  • If symptoms of infection continue for 48 hours or more, staff and students should seek medical advice. 
  • Staff or students who test positive for Covid-19, or any family member living with them who tests positive for Covid-19, should quarantine until they are cleared by a medical professional. 
  • BCS will also institute a flexible attendance policy for the 2020-2021 school year. This will allow any student to start the year in a distance learning format or switch into a distance learning model.
  • Students and staff who are at risk for severe infection may request accommodations to be made to reduce their risk. BCS will strive to meet reasonable requests.

Steps to take if someone on campus gets sick

  • If any student or employee reports s/he is not feeling well, the individual will be moved to a separate room. If the student has a fever or presents with COVID-19 symptoms, the following steps will be taken:
    • The individual will immediately be given a face covering to wear.
    • Employees assisting the individual must wear a face mask issued by the school
    • Student parents/guardians will be called immediately to come pick up their child ASAP.
    • Employees may elect to either drive themselves home or stay isolated until someone can pick them up ASAP
  • The classroom or workspace the individual was in will be closed immediately and will not reopen until it is sanitized. Classes impacted by this will be moved to another location. Classes can return to their original location after sanitizing is completed.
  • The gym will be used as an alternative classroom if needed.
  • In the event a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the school will notify employees and families that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Due to HIPAA laws, the school will not be able to share any additional information that may identify the individual that has tested positive.
  • Any individual that has tested positive must remain home until cleared to return by a doctor.

Symptom Monitoring

BCS will implement several measures to monitor the school community for COVID-19. These measures will help to mitigate potential infection or exposure to COVID-19.

  • All employees and students will have their temperature checked upon arrival.
  • All students will have their temperatures checked upon entering their homerooms in the morning.
  • All visitors will have their temperatures taken upon entering the building
  • All employees and students will have their temperature checked again at lunch time each day and monitored throughout the day.
  • Faculty will monitor the health of students in their classroom, just as they have before COVID-19. Students that display symptoms of COVID-19 will be asked to leave the class and be assessed.

Attendance for students and employees who exhibit symptoms or test positive for COVID-19

  • All members of the school community are required to stay home if they are sick.
  • Students that are home sick will have all absences excused. If the student has an extended period of illness, an academic recovery plan will be created once the student is cleared to return to school.
  • Students that are required to self-quarantine will have school work provided through a distance learning model. The school will work with parents to develop an educational plan which may include distance learning.
  • All employees and students must inform the school if they test positive for COVID-19.
  • Any employee or student that tests positive or is sick for more than three days must have a doctor’s note clearing him/her to return to school.

PE and Recess

  • PE staff will select activities that reduce or limit physical proximity of students.
  • Shared PE equipment will be sterilized between student use.
  • Students will continue to have outdoor recess, weather permitting. Classes will be assigned specific areas to use for recess

Transportation

  • Our schools will work closely with each bussing district to meet safety guidelines for bus transportation. Parents are encouraged to stay updated with their bussing district’s transportation safety plan. When using a van or bus owned by the school, students will be asked to wear a mask. Vehicles will be sterilized between use.

Additional procedures to reduce potential infection or exposure to COVID-19

  • All employees and students are required to bring their own refillable water bottle with them to school each day. Students and employees will not be able to drink directly from the water fountains.

[1] PA Department of Health Universal Face Coverings FAQs https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Guidance/Universal-Masking-FAQ.aspx

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