July 16, 2020
Dear Methacton Families,
The Methacton School District’s Reopening Plan is being developed by district administration and members of the pandemic team. The plan embodies the latest guidance and recommendations and outlines our intended actions to reopen our schools on August 31, 2020.
While the district plans for school to resume as close to normal as possible when it starts in August, we recognize that remaining in an On Premises school program will be challenging given the uncertainty around COVID-19 and the coming flu season. The overall plan addresses these concerns by providing initial options for students/families to start the school year On Premise or to start the school year in Methacton Online. If we are forced at some point in the school year to close On Premise, all students will move to Methacton Online.
The rest of this message is specific to the On Premise plan, taking the health and safety of our students and staff as top priority while addressing these 5 core matters:
- Symptom screening health checklist will be provided and communicated regularly requiring students/parents/visitors and staff to confirm daily before boarding a school bus or entering a school building. Our message is -> if ill, stay home.
- Social distancing is required for health and safety of all students and staff. Notice: while some health organizations recommend 6’ distance for grades K -12, it may not be practical for students 100% of the school day.
- Face coverings are required (mask or shield) when indoors and unable to maintain social distancing standards outlined within this plan.
- Cleaning/sanitation/disinfection are all part of enhanced personal and building routines.
- Communications to students, parents/guardians and staff on frequent basis is critical to the long term compliance with plan and the health and safety of our community.
Everyone should remain mindful that as long as there are cases of COVID-19 in the community, there are no strategies that can completely eliminate transmission risk within a school population. The goal is to keep transmission as low as possible and to safely continue school activities.
Based on available guidance and the Governor’s order, it is clear that the two of the most important actions in reducing virus spread is to leverage a combination of face coverings and social distancing. Please find the proposed plan on these two areas -> Face Coverings and Distancing. The other three areas will come in a subsequent communication.
ALL STUDENTS AND STAFF ARE REQUIRED TO WEAR A FACE COVERING
Students and staff are required to wear a face covering when:
- Boarding a school bus and riding the school bus.
- Entering a school building.
- When entering and traveling in the hallways within a school building.
- When entering and leaving a room.
- When social distancing of 6’ is not possible.
- When instructed by a teacher to perform an educational activity.
- When traveling to and from and while in restrooms when possible.
- When in the cafeteria other than eating or drinking.
Students and staff are highly encouraged to wear a face covering whenever possible, even outside of the required listing noted above.
The district recognizes, for example, that while in classrooms and social distancing, face coverings may be removed temporarily and from time to time.
Students and staff are permitted to remove their face covering:
- If they are outdoors and able to maintain a distant of 6 feet from individuals.
- Eating and drinking when spaced 6 feet apart.
- Seated at desks or assigned work spaces 6 feet apart.
- Engaged in any activity 6 feet apart (e.g. face covering breaks, recess, etc.).
Please recognize that there may be students in a school building who for some medical, sensory, or other lawful reason, may not be required to wear a face covering. The district will work with these students and families by offering face shields or other alternative options where appropriate. However, it is important that all parents recognize that while we have a face covering requirement, there may be exemptions to this requirement on a limited case by case basis. All exemptions will be documented in the building main office. Where appropriate, we will make arrangements with face covering exemptions to limit their interaction with others during face covering where and when feasible.
Each student and staff member is required to supply their own face covering.
The district will make available to students and staff disposable face masks on buses, when entering the school buildings (car line) and other locations designated throughout each building in the instance that the student or staff member forgets/damages their own face covering.
The district will provide face shields for student use in designated educational spaces where developmentally and educationally appropriate.
The district will provide a face shield for each staff member.
Disposable face masks will be made available for student and staff as needed.
It is critical that all students and staff have on their person at least 1 disposable or reusable face mask (regardless of their choice to regularly use a mask or shield) in the instance that their primary face covering is compromised, becomes unusable, or is required at the direction of the school nurse.
Students and staff can determine for themselves (or by the parent/guardian of a student) the face covering type to wear. Students will be encouraged the use the face covering (mask or shield) as developmentally appropriate. Disposable and reusable masks that cover the nose and mouth that are secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is wrapped around the lower face are acceptable as are face shields that additionally cover the eyes. The district recommends that any face covering conform to standards established by the CDC and that they conform to district policy for grooming and dress standards.
Guidance from Montgomery County Department of Health on Face Coverings:
- Face Mask plus Face Shield: Provides the ultimate protection is primarily recommended for health care works who have direct exposure to individuals with COVID-19.
- Face Mask Only: Strongly encouraged by CDC. Face masks protect the nose and mouth, and is near-complete barrier on the sides of the wearer’s face.
- Face Shields Only: May be the most well-suited facial protection option for certain school situations, as these devices do not obstruct the mouth.
- Face shields are easier to disinfect than cloth masks.
- It is easier to breathe then wearing a mask.
- Prevent the wearer from touching much, if not all, of their face while a cloth mask only covers the nose, cheeks, and mouth.
Parents should begin seeking out face coverings that will fit and are comfortable for their child(ren). If determining the use of a reusable mask, parents should consider the proper care and quantity needed to ensure compliance with CDC recommendations. There are a number of resources on the Internet from which to base your determination on. We suggest you do this as soon as possible so that you can have your child practice wearing the face covering prior to the first day of school.
All students in grades 5 through 12 will be REQUIRED to wear a district-issued lanyard with district identification attached. The lanyard is required to be visible and can be worn around the neck or be affixed to a backpack, but must be in plain sight when boarding the bus and while in school at all times. Lanyards can be removed and stored on person as directed by a teacher in the event that the class/activity and wearing of lanyard presents a safety issue.
Teachers will reinforce good hygiene measures, such as handwashing, covering coughs, and using face coverings. Information on the proper use, removal and cleaning of face coverings will be provided to all staff, students, and families. District will supply systems, materials, and supplies to address face coverings that are supplied by the district.
The significance of face covering use is paramount to the health and safety of all students and staff. Our building Principals will be consistent in the enforcement of these requirements with the failure to comply with face covering requirements, as outlined within, will result in disciplinary action.
Our schools will follow guidance from the national health organizations and the County Department of Health regarding distancing within our environment whenever reasonably possible. Please know that the district will be providing a building by building specific opening document inclusive of classroom pictures and renderings to illustrate how classrooms will be organized.
Classrooms/Learning Space Related Matters
- At all levels, outdoor spaces such as playgrounds and fields will be utilized for instruction, recess and physical education when practicable.
- The district is finalizing the maximum number of seats for each educational space based on current distancing guidelines with the removal of non-essential furniture, carpets, and supplies being removed to maximize physical space. Student spacing reduces the maximum number of students per section/class in many spaces. Therefore, class size limits have been adjusted and are less than district Board policy. The district has determined the ventilation needs of educational spaces and will be providing specific instruction to teachers by building.
- Every attempt will be made to provide a teacher’s desk and student desks that are spaced at 6’ X 5’ foot distancing - placed 6’ apart from center (Left to Right) and 5’ apart from center (Front to Back). A designated area for the teacher to deliver instruction will be targeted at 6’ on center apart from the first row of student desks whenever feasible. It is important to note that our classroom designs will be traditional in nature (rows/columns of desks and chairs) and facing the same direction and will use staggered or diagonal seating at shared tables to limit face-to-face seating in order to accommodate current social distancing guidelines. We anticipate having all class sizes and configurations concluded by July 23, 2020.
- Elementary students (grades K-6) will remain in their homeroom for the majority of the school day with limited interactions with other classrooms of students. Our professional teaching staff will transition between classrooms as needed. Special area teachers, where practicable, will provide instruction in the homeroom environment rather than using their designated area based on the space available in a particular school, scheduling, and disinfection protocols.
- Based on the schedule and program offerings at the secondary level (grades 7-12), students will travel from class-to-class; however, a staggered transition and additional time will be allotted to allow for reduced volume of students to pass between classes in the hallway.
- At the secondary level, fields will be used for physical education classes whenever possible. Modifications to Physical Education classes and spaces will allow for safe operation of the Physical Education program. Students will not change for Physical Education class and locker rooms will not be utilized for changing in grades 7-12.
- The final plan will include visuals, dimensions, and counts for each building room in order to help parents best understand what the changes in the environment will look like.
Final plan will have renderings and photos of each building standard rooms.
Food Services Related Matters
- Buildings will use outdoor areas for additional seating during designated lunch periods and other internal spaces will be converted into additional student eating areas to accommodate social distancing guidelines when needed.
- All students will eat breakfast (when applicable) in their home room/first period. Students in grades 1-4 will eat lunch in their homeroom. Specific procedures for food ordering, distribution, cleaning and disinfection will be communicated in advance of the start of school.
- Cafeterias will be used for lunches in buildings housing grades 5 through 12. Large school spaces will be converted to eating areas in order to accommodate the number of students per lunch period and provide for social distancing. All spaces will be supervised and require students and staff to adhere to the face coverings requirements. Students will be placed at a single desk/table or staggered in group tables so as to meet the distancing guides during lunch.
- Aramark has developed procedures for distribution of breakfast and lunch foods to allow for the distancing requirements. Those specifics will be included in the overall plan and be shared with students/families in advance of school start in a separate communication.
- There will be modifications to the breakfast and lunch service where building applicable (mostly Arcola and HS):
- No more condiment pumps/stations – individual packet portions.
- Eliminating of any menu offerings to “build” their own meal (nachos, hamburger bar).
- Cutlery will be individually wrapped, available for students to take on their own.
- Menu options taken by the student - not served will be pre-packaged.
- Pre-order forms to be expanded.
- Deli will remain as a take n' go station.
- Hot items where applicable will be pre-packaged or will be served in modified packaging (heat-safe bags, clamshells).
- All whole fruit with the exception of oranges & bananas will be wrapped or in a pre-packaged container.
- Arcola & Skyview will utilize breakfast carts with the same social distancing guidelines.
- Elementary will have no hot meals, food will be preordered and delivered to the rooms.
- Students will take trays to the drop-off location upon dismissal following all guidance including social distancing and face shields/face masks.
- Serving line capacity and line up procedures per school have been determined and students will be instructed by staff of these procedures.
- Final plan will include a rendering for each building cafeteria set up for grades 5-12.
Transportation Related Matters
- Drivers are required to wear a face covering at all times when students are boarding and on board a bus, van or other vehicle that serves the purpose of transporting students.
- Students are required to wear a face covering in order to board and ride the bus. Bus drivers will issue disposable masks in the instance students forget their mask. Hand sanitizer will be made available as students enter the bus.
- It is highly recommended that students and parents/guardians wear a face covering at bus stops and that all individuals cooperate with social distancing.
- Methacton School buses are generally 72 passenger and 48 passenger rated buses. Based on CDC and county department of health guidelines, Methacton will transport students based on 2 students per seat with same households potentially sitting 3 per seat where level/size appropriate. We do not anticipate needing additional drivers or buses since our normal average ridership falls well within the new allowable limit and where we are likely to see an increase in parental transport (car line) on each campus.
- School buses and vans will be limited to two (2) students to a seat. Students in same household are encouraged to sit together. Students will board bus back to front reducing the crossing of paths on the bus and exit from front to back.
- Students will be required to have on their person in plain sight a district-issued lanyard and student ID prior to boarding the bus (around neck or affixed to backpack).
- Students and drivers will be educated on the importance of passengers facing forward (not sideways or backwards).
- Students and parents/guardians are encouraged to wear face coverings at bus stops and to maintain distance of 6 feet whenever possible.
- Bus windows will be lowered by drivers each day when reasonable and cabin fans will run at all times to increase ventilation.
- School buses will be disinfected following the AM pick up and following the PM drop off using CDC approved disinfecting spray.
- The final plan will include a rendering of the typical bus seating.
Arrival/Dismissal Related Matters
- Each school building will deploy staggered arrival and departure procedures in order to reduce the number of students in hallways and corralling through doorways. Specific plans for the arrival will be communicated to families in advance of the school start.
- Modifications to procedures at entrances and exits for parent pick-up/drop-off, bus pick up and drop off, and student drivers may occur as part of arrival and dismissal plans.
- Each school building will provide supervised early car rider drop-off services in the AM. This new service will allow students to be dropped off as early as 30 minutes prior to the normal car line/bus drop off time frame for each campus/school. This is being provided as a means to encourage parents to commit to driving their child to school while providing a large enough time gap to limit, to a degree, the traffic congestion on campuses. In summary, each school will have early car rider drop off, regular car rider drop off, bus drop off and student driving at the HS. More information and signup to follow.
Scheduling Related Matters
- Each principal will review the bell and master schedule to determine the best means to limit students and staff transition, interaction among classrooms etc. In the event that students do travel, PPE supplies and procedures will be in place to support these measures. Principals will limit the number of transitions throughout the school day where feasible in relationship to schedule.
- Additional time will be provided to students for staggered transitions from class-to-class in grades 7-12.
- Principals will limit unnecessary congregations of students and staff including assemblies, large group and study halls.
- Exceptions to distancing may be required to support students with special circumstances and special needs. These matters will be addressed with students and families on a case-by-case basis with considerations for the health and safety of all.
- In order to continue to provide related and support services while On Premise, some services will be provided in a shared online learning environment during the school day.
Athletic and Activity Related Matters
- The district is addressing athletic and activity matters in a separate plan. However, the following items are added here as per our PDE requirements.
- Everyone must wear a face covering, such as a mask. Coaches, athletes and spectators must wear face coverings unless they are outdoors and can consistently maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet. Athletes are not required to wear face coverings while actively engaged in workouts and competition that prevent the wearing of face coverings, but must wear face coverings when on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc. and anytime 6 feet of social distancing is not possible.
- The district will be considering on an event by event basis the postponement non-critical gatherings and events. We will ensure students and parents have a clear understanding of all upcoming gatherings and large events for our school community (e.g., assemblies, field days, spirit nights, athletic events).
- The district will consider all non-essential travel and limit the scheduling large group activities such as field trips, inter-group events, and extracurricular activities.
- Outdoor events over 250 people are prohibited.
- Where practicable and based on school configuration, hallways and stairwells will have directional or traffic lanes marked.
- Playground equipment use will be available, but modifications may occur to maintain consistency with the expert guidance and County Department of Health.
- We will cohort students and limit the size of groups using the playground at any one time.
- We will encourage activities that reinforce physical distancing during playground play.
- Students and staff will wash their hands or use hand-sanitizer before and after being on the playground.
- There will be no use of student lockers.
- Assign lockers by cohort or eliminate lockers altogether.
- Each elementary homeroom will be assigned a designated area outside so students can engage in physical fitness activities with their teacher and/or a recess aide.
- The district will limit student field trips, and in person group activities, extracurricular activities.
- Community Education activities will move to online only.
- The district will temporarily postpone in building volunteers at the beginning of the school term in order to evaluate the best and safest opportunities for students, staff and volunteers to make contributions to students and programs.
- Staff and students will be made aware during the first day of school how to address emergencies and associated drills in tandem with social distancing policy/procedure.
- The district will provide listing of resources that will be recommended to parents/guardians to assist with the crucial conversations on the return to school.
Lastly, please remember that this is a working DRAFT. I fully expect that I will have feedback from the Board and the community over the next week and will continue to communicate more and more details towards final adoption on July 28, 2020. The last three parts of the DRAFT plan will be released on Friday, July 17, 2020. Questions can continue to be emailed to Reopening@methacton.org.
As always, thank you for your patience and commitment to Methacton School District and our community.
Sincerely,Dr. David ZerbeSuperintendent of Schools