• Union County Vocational-Technical Schools Safe-Return Plan

      

    Local Education Agency (LEA) Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Service
    Pursuant to the Federal American Rescue Plan Act, Section 2001(i)

    Introduction and Background

    As announced in the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE)’s April 28, 2021 broadcast, in March 2021 President Biden signed the Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, Public Law 117-2, into law. The ARP Act provides an additional $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) to States and school districts to help safely reopen, sustain the safe operation of schools, and address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s students. As with the previous ESSER funds available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), the purpose of the additional funding is to support local educational agencies (LEAs) in preparing for and responding to the impacts of COVID-19 on educators, students, and families. Additional information on ARP ESSER may be found in the NJDOE’s funding comparison fact sheet.

    Section 2001(i)(1) of the ARP Act requires each LEA that receives ARP ESSER funds to develop and make publicly available on the LEA’s website, no later than 30 days after receiving ARP ESSER funds, a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services for all schools (Safe Return Plan) A Safe Return Plan is required of all fund recipients, including those that have already returned to in-person instruction. Section 2001(i)(2) of the ARP Act further requires that the LEA seek public comment on the Safe Return Plan and take those comments into account in finalization of the Safe Return Plan. Under the interim final requirements published in Volume 86, No. 76 of the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), an LEA must periodically, but no less frequently than every six months through September 30, 2023, review and, as appropriate, revise its Safe Return Plan.

    Pursuant to those requirements, LEAs must submit to the NJDOE and post on their website their Safe Return Plans by June 24, 2021. 

    This template incorporates the federally-required components of the Safe Return Plan. 

    Note that on May 17, 2021, Governor Murphy announced that upon the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year, portions of Executive Order 175 allowing remote learning will be rescinded, meaning that schools will be required to provide full-day, in-person instruction, as they were prior to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The NJDOE and New Jersey Department of Health will share additional information regarding State requirements or guidance for health and safety protocols for the 2021-2022 school year as it becomes available.

     

    Template: UCVTS Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services

     

    1. Maintaining Health and Safety

    For each mitigation strategy listed below (A–H), please describe how the LEA will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff and the extent to which it has adopted policies, and a description of any such policies, on each of the following safety recommendations established by the CDC.

    a. Universal and correct wearing of masks

    As per The Road Forward: Health and Safety Guidance for the 2021-22 School Year, the CDC issued new indoor masking recommendations for individuals in K-12 school settings.  That guidance is available here: (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html). 

    In alignment with recommendations from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, on August 6, 2021, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 251 which requires that all staff, students, and visitors wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, in the indoor premises of school buildings. This requirement applies to all public, private, and parochial preschool programs and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools. As outlined in the Executive Order, there are limited exceptions to this requirement (see full list below).  UCVTS will require wearing of masks as outlined in the guidance.

    The following principles apply to the use of masks in schools:

    Information will be provided to staff and students on proper use, removal, and washing of masks. The most effective fabrics for cloth masks are tightly woven such as cotton and cotton blends, breathable, and in two or three fabric layers. Masks with exhalation valves or vents, those that use loosely woven fabrics, and ones that do not fit properly are not recommended.

    Masks should be washed after every day of use and/or before being used again, or if visibly soiled or damp/wet.

    Disposable face masks should be changed daily or when visibly soiled, damp or damaged.

    Students, teachers, and staff should have access to additional disposable or cloth masks in case a back-up mask is needed (e.g. mask is soiled or lost during the day).

    Clear masks that cover the nose and wrap securely around the face may be considered in certain circumstances including for the teaching of students with disabilities, young students learning to read, or English language learners.

    Appropriate and consistent use of masks may be challenging for some individuals, however mask use is required for all individuals in indoor school settings with the following exceptions:

    When doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, such as when the individual is exposed to extreme heat indoors;

    When the individual has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;

    When a student’s documented medical condition or disability, as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Educational Plan pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, precludes use of a face covering.  Documentation must be provided by a medical professional;

    When the individual is under two (2) years of age;

    When the individual is engaged in activity that cannot physically be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating or drinking, or playing a musical instrument that would be obstructed by a face covering;

    When the individual is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anaerobic activity;

    When a student is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals; or

    When wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.


    b. 
    Physical distancing (e.g., including use of cohorts/podding)

    UCVTS is planning for a full return to in-person instruction (full day, no cohorts) and will adjust planning according to most current New Jersey Department of Education guidance.  Students and Staff members will practice social distancing to the greatest extent possible and in accordance with current Center for Disease Control (CDC), New Jersey Department of Health, local health department, and New Jersey Department of Education guidelines.  Instructors will develop a room layout plan for and facilitate implementation of spacing of desks/chairs for student seating.  Building level administrators will clearly communicate expectations and guidelines for seating, will serve as a planning resource, will review plans and offer feedback, and will facilitate implementation of room layout plans.  Central Office administrators will communicate expectations for physical distancing based upon current National, State and local guidelines and serve as a facilitator to building administrators.  Students will follow one-way traffic flow patterns.  Traffic flow will be clearly marked in each building and communicated via District/School created maps.  Each building will specify separate entrances and exits, while also limiting traffic flow in hallways to one-way, where possible.  So as to mitigate exposure, students will not have access to lockers, nor water fountains, at the start of the school year.  Granting such access at a later time will be regularly considered, as consistent with COVID-19 trends and transmission rates throughout the County and State.

    All instructional and non-instructional rooms in schools and district facilities must comply with social distancing standards to the maximum extent practicable.

    Use of shared objects will be limited when possible or cleaned between use.  Classrooms and offices will be cleared of clutter and decorations where appropriate so as to minimize the collection of germs.

    Visitors to campus will be limited to only those who have a scheduled appointment or are providing pre-arranged services to the district.

     

    c. Handwashing and respiratory etiquette

    The Union County Vocational-Technical Schools will promote behaviors that reduce spread.  All students and staff should stay home when ill or experiencing symptoms.  All students and staff should avoid touching their eyes, wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing, and avoid individuals who are ill.  Signage will be displayed throughout campus which encourages good hygiene behaviors and which clearly mark traffic flow, as well as other procedures.  Students and staff are encouraged to bring water bottles to school/work.  Hand sanitizers and EPA-registered disinfectant wipes will be made available in classrooms, fitness rooms, faculty lounges, and offices. They will also be available in other areas as requested by the building principal. 

    The District will prepare and maintain hand sanitizing and/or hand washing stations with alcohol-based hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol) and/or soap.  Classrooms that have existing handwashing stations will be supplied with soap and water.  At a minimum, such stations will be located at entrances and exits of buildings, near lunchrooms and toilets, fitness centers, gymnasium, auditorium, public gathering spaces (such as the Board of Education Meeting Room).

     

    d. Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation

    Custodians will walk through facilities as assigned to assess cleanliness and supplies and address any observed or reported issues.  A checklist of specific areas, materials, supplies, etc. will be utilized for efficiency, consistency, and supply reordering including but not limited to bathroom supplies, classroom sanitization supplies. etc.

    At least once every week day twenty-four (24) hour period rooms will be disinfected using the electrostatic apparatus which will lay a fine mist on all hard surfaces that will evaporate and air dry.  The disinfectant neutralizes all bacteria in the room and will include spraying keyboards, misc, devices or other equipment in the room/space.

    Bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected frequently and as needed and utilizing protocols outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Supplies will be replenished where needed.

    All touch points will be sanitized/disinfected at least once every twenty-four (24) hours.

    The nurses office and the designated isolation room, as well as other locations designated based upon potential exposure risks, will have a Odorox Slimline Hydroxyl Air Processor, which is designed to decontaminate up to a 1,000 sq ft. of space. The unit meets or exceeds EPA-OSHA standard & guidelines and is FDA approved.

    All building rooms will be cleaned and disinfected each evening with recommended CDC, EPA COVID-19 registered products, including Envirox Critical Care (24 hour).  Envirox Critical Care (24 hour) cleaning products are approved to kill bacteria and viruses, including the human coronavirus, and offers residual protection from certain types of bacteria. As part of the evening cleaning Bru-tab will be applied using an electrostatic apparatus which will disinfectant any and all hard surfaces.  These two products will work in conjunction with each other during the cleaning and disinfecting process.

    All manufacturer's instructions will be followed for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g. concentration, application method, and contact time, etc.). 

    All UCVTS facility ventilation systems circulate fresh air into the buildings according to specified requirements.  All filters for A/C units are maintained according to manufacturer recommendations.  The District has contracted with Honeywell Corporation for mechanical, temperature, automation, and energy monitoring services.  A Honeywell professional is onsite all day, every day (Monday-Friday), and works directly with our District Maintenance Engineer to monitor our HVAC systems.

    Each building a part of the Union County Vocational-Technical Schools have operational ventilation systems.  HVAC systems have computerized software which provides real-time updates of air-flow, heating, cooling and room temperature data in nearly each classroom/office space.  Daily check-ins of the HVAC systems will occur at least one (1) time per week day.  Daily check-ins include monitoring air-flow to each classroom. 

    The current air-flow systems on campus, are designed to provide at least 30% fresh air (outside air) through the air handler.  It has been recommended by those responsible for monitoring and maintaining the HVAC systems, that windows and doors remain closed to allow the air handlers to operate as designed.

    An HVAC audit is currently in progress on our main campus to investigate efficiency and infrastructure of each of the systems which operate in the various buildings located on the main campus.  The District is investigating additional alternative air purification systems which may be used in specific locations, as needed.

     

    e. Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the State, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments

    The District will follow current recommendations from the CDC, State and local Department of Health agencies as to who is considered a close contact (currently, anyone who was within six feet of you for more than 15 minutes).  Contacts are provided with education, information and support to understand their risk, what they should do to separate themselves from others who are not exposed, how they should monitor themselves for illness, and the possibility that they could spread the infection to others even if they themselves do not feel ill.

    UCVTS nursing staff and/or administrators will work with local and county health officials in the event that we are notified of a student or staff member who has tested positive.  District nursing staff and School Safety Specialist will attend trainings in an effort to remain current with guidelines and recommendations.

    UCVTS will follow guidelines outlined as per the New Jersey Department of Health: https://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/documents/topics/NCOV/RecommendationsForLocalHealthDepts_K12Schools.pdf 

    When Someone Tests Positive for COVID-19

    • The District will communicate expectations that parents and staff notify school authorities if they test positive for COVID-19.
    • The District will notify the LHD and provide the following information, where available; (contact information for the person(s) who tested positive for COVID-19; date COVID-19 positive individual developed symptoms (if applicable), tested positive for COVID-19 (if known), and was last in the building; types of interactions (close contacts, length of contact) the person may have had with other persons in the building or in other locations; names, addresses, and telephone numbers for ill person’s close contacts in the school; any other information to assist with the determination of next steps.)

    Seating charts and attendance lists will be maintained for ease of contact tracing, where practicable.

    Testing:  UCVTS personnel will work with local health departments to identify rapid viral testing options in the community for the testing of symptomatic individuals.

    Information regarding COVID-19 testing:

    New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub - Testing:  https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/testing  

    Union County Testing: https://ucnj.org/

      

    f. Diagnostic and screening testing

    Screening procedures will include the following:

    Staff must visually check students for symptoms upon arrival (which may include temperature checks) and/or confirm with families that students are free of COVID-19 symptoms.

    Health checks will be conducted safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.

    Results will be documented when signs/symptoms of COVID-19 are observed following FERPA/HIPAA guidelines.

    Any screening policy/protocol will take into account students with disabilities and accommodations that may be needed in the screening process for those students.

    Daily health questionnaires may be utilized, as necessary, based upon recommendation of State and local Department of Health agencies and the Department of Education.

    Procedures for symptomatic staff and students:

    Students:  Students who feel ill will report to the nurses’ office for triage.  Students experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 will be isolated in a safe and respectful manner.  Parents will be contacted and expected to pick up their child immediately.  COVID-19 related symptoms will be documented in accordance with FERPA/HIPAA requirements.  Parents should contact their child’s primary care physician. The building principal will be notified accordingly.  A separate isolation room will be utilized for those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

    Staff:  Staff members should notify the school nurse if they are feeling ill and report any COVID related symptoms.  The staff member should also notify their building administrator.  The staff member will be released to go home if they feel well enough to drive.  If the staff member does not feel well enough to drive, the staff member should report to the nurse’s office and make arrangements for a family member or friend for pick-up.  Staff member should contact primary care physician.  A separate isolation room will be utilized for those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.   

    Additionally, any student or staff member with a temperature which reads greater than 100.4 degrees or who is experiencing symptoms should stay home. 

    UCVTS officials will follow current Communicable Disease Service guidance for illness reporting.

    If the school district becomes aware that an individual who has spent time in a district facility tests positive for COVID-19, school officials will notify local health officials and communicate with community members, as per local department of health guidance.  District officials will work with Department of Health representatives to make decisions regarding facility usage and cleaning.  

    School nurses will follow best practice procedures for screening and possible exposers as outlined by local, State, and National school nurse and Department of Health organizations.

     

    g. Efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible

    The Board recognizes that vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.  The District will promote the benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and provide information to students, staff and families regarding eligibility and availability. 

    Recognizing that school-aged children may have missed recommended vaccines over the last year due to disruptions associated with COVID-19, the District will send reminders to families about school immunization requirements and will follow-up with families of children who are not in compliance with requirements to ensure compliance. 

    As per Executive Order No. 253, all UCVTS school personnel, including but not limited to both full- and part-time, including, but not limited to, administrators, teachers, educational support professionals, individuals providing food, custodial, and administrative support services, are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18, 2021 or be subject to COVID-19 testing at minimum one to two times per week.

     

    h. Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to the health and safety policies

    District staff, including nurses, will identify students who have disabilities and who may be impacted by safety practices outlined by the District.  Staff members will proactive reach out to families to create health plans which ensure a collaboratively planned, safe return to school.  The District may ask families to consult with a child’s physician/health care professional and/or seek necessary permissions to be in contact with a child’s health care professional directly. 

     

    i. Communication with the Local Health Department

    The Superintendent will be responsible for directing communication with the Board of Education, New Jersey Department of Education, New Jersey Department of Health, Union County Health Department, local Health Departments, and all other governmental agencies regarding public health school related plans and actions.

    Communication protocols have been established, and will be maintained, with Local and State authorities to determine current mitigation levels in the community.  As the Union County Vocational-Technical Schools is a County institution (which draws from twenty-one (21) different in-county school districts, as well as a number of out-of-county districts) it will be important for district personnel to communicate with both our County and local department of health officials.  Reports of student and staff suspected COVID-19 cases will be communicated through our district nursing staff.  District planning and response decision making will be communicated through designated central office personnel to local, County and State authorities.

     

    j. Provision of Meals

    School meals are critical to student health and well-being, especially for low-income students.  The NJDOE considers it a moral imperative to ensure the seamless and continuous feeding of students during all phases of school safe-reopening.  UCVTS will continue to provide meals to students through the changing circumstances of COVID-19.  Additionally, should the need arise to temporarily transition to a fully remote setting, meals will still be provided.

    The UCVTS Bell schedule will be adjusted to allow for adequate passing time between lunch and co-curricular periods.  Students will be assigned and expected to attend a designated lunch period.  Attendance will be taken and a variety of safety protocols will be in-place to mitigate exposure.  Safety protocols include but are not limited to, assigned lunches with attendance for contact tracing, seating which faces one direction, physical distancing to the maximum extent practicable, mask-wearing when students are not eating or drinking.

    Prior to the start of the school day, breakfast will be available in the cafeteria to students who receive meal services or who wish to purchase breakfast.  Students will be required to follow all social distancing and safety precautions.

    All eating areas will be cleaned and disinfected at the conclusion of the breakfast and/or lunch periods.

     

    k. Transportation Protocols

    Transportation is coordinated by sending school districts for UCVTS full-time and share-time populations.  UCVTS will work with sending district administrators and transportation staff to coordinate pick-up and drop-off times which meet adjusted times for onsite instruction according to UCVTS bell schedule.  UCVTS will collect information and recommend procedures, where appropriate, which are in alignment with UCVTS safety procedures, including health screening and cleaning/disinfectant procedures.  All students will be required to wear facial coverings on the bus at all times.

    The details of transportation practices will vary by town, and requires coordination with each district individually.

    Parents/families choosing to transport their children to school at UCVTS will be required to follow established pick-up and drop-off procedures and must do so in designated areas.

    Students will proceed to designated check-in areas following marked traffic flow.

     

    l. Testing

    Screening procedures will include the following:

    Staff must visually check students for symptoms upon arrival (which may include temperature checks) and/or confirm with families that students are free of COVID-19 symptoms.

    Health checks will be conducted safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.

    Results will be documented when signs/symptoms of COVID-19 are observed following FERPA/HIPAA guidelines.

    Any screening policy/protocol will take into account students with disabilities and accommodations that may be needed in the screening process for those students.

    Daily health questionnaires may be utilized, as necessary, based upon recommendation of State and local Department of Health agencies and the Department of Education.

    Students:  Students who feel ill will report to the nurses’ office for triage.  Students experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 will be isolated in a safe and respectful manner.  Parents will be contacted and expected to pick up their child immediately.  COVID-19 related symptoms will be documented in accordance with FERPA/HIPAA requirements.  Parents should contact their child’s primary care physician. The building principal will be notified accordingly.  COVID-19 testing will be recommending and exclusion practice will follow department of health recommendations.

    Staff:  Staff members should notify the school nurse if they are feeling ill and report any COVID related symptoms.  The staff member should also notify their building administrator.  The staff member will be released to go home if they feel well enough to drive.  If the staff member does not feel well enough to drive, the staff member should report to the nurse’s office and make arrangements for a family member or friend for pick-up.  Staff member should contact primary care physician.  COVID-19 testing will be recommending and exclusion practice will follow department of health recommendations.  

    Testing:  UCVTS personnel will work with local health departments to identify rapid viral testing options in the community for the testing of symptomatic individuals.

    Information regarding COVID-19 testing

    New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub - Testing:  https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/testing

    Union County Testing: https://ucnj.org/

    Additionally, any student or staff member with a temperature which reads greater than 100.4 degrees or who is experiencing symptoms should stay home. 

    UCVTS officials will follow current Communicable Disease Service guidance for illness reporting.

    If the school district becomes aware that an individual who has spent time in a district facility tests positive for COVID-19, school officials will notify local health officials and communicate with community members, as per local department of health guidance.  District officials will work with Department of Health representatives to make decisions regarding facility usage and cleaning.  

    School nurses will follow best practice procedures for screening and testing for possible exposers as outlined by local, State, and National school nurse and Department of Health organizations.

     

    m. Student and Staff Member Travel

    UCVTS is following New Jersey State guidelines for travel.  At this time there are no recommended travel restrictions.  However New Jersey does make recommendations for testing and quarantine for unvaccinated individuals who do travel.  UCVTS recommends that families follow the New Jersey guidance for testing and quarantine if traveling.  If you’re a child or staff member is unvaccinated and has traveled within the last 7 days, they are required to follow specific recommendations outlined in the travel guidance.  If a child or staff member has traveled internationally within 14 days of attending school or a school sponsored event, the community member is required to contact the school nurse.  School nurses can be reached at (90)-889-8288 ext. 405 or jsherer@ucvts.org or cparham-foster@ucvts.org .

     

     

    2. Ensuring Continuity of Services

     

    a. Describe how the LEA will ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff’s social, emotional, mental health, and other needs, which may include student health and food services. (1000 character limit)

    A primary focus of our efforts will be to provide students with necessary supports to prepare them for 2021-2022 and beyond.  One of those approaches will be to provide small-group and 1:1 instruction to students identified in need of extra supports.  Students will have access to teachers to assist them in either credit recovery, or completing assignments intended to prepare them for next-year's studies.  These interventions would be open to all students, and special needs students have already been identified to receive these supports with their full accommodations.

     

    Additionally, shifts in instruction due to the loss of instructional time due to schedule changes in 19-20, and 20-21 are necessary.  All teachers will need support in making curricular and instructional decisions so that they can differentiate and provide the appropriate level of challenge to students.  We are also investing in implementing the MTSS on a district-level as a way to be proactive about supporting all students with appropriate academic, behavioral, and social-emotional interventions.

     

    3. Public Comment

    a. Describe how the LEA sought public comment on its plan, and how it took those public comment into account in the development of its plan. Note, the ARP requires that LEAs seek public comment for each 60-day revision to the plan. (1000 character limit)

    Plan for public comment:

    Initial review and request for feedback from the UCVTS District Pandemic Response Steering Committee which includes representatives from wide variety of stakeholder groups who are a part of the community.

    A meeting was planned to review the plan and seek feedback from the four bargaining units who are a part of the UCVTS community (UCVTS Leadership Association, Union County Vocational-Technical Schools Education Association, UCVTS Custodial and Maintenance Workers, UCVTS Cafeteria Workers).

    A communication was sent to UCVTS community members which gave instruction for providing feedback to the UCVTS Safe Reopening Plan.  The Safe Reopening Plan was posted to the District website and a Google Form was utilized to collect public comment.

    Feedback collected from all of the above referenced sources will be carefully considered and implemented where possible and practicable.

    b. Describe how the LEA ensured that the plan is in an understandable and uniform format; is to the extent practicable written in a language that parents can understand or, if not practicable to provide written translations to a parent with limited English proficiency, will be orally translated for such a parent; and upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability as defined by the ADA, will be provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent. (1000 character limit)

    The District Safe Reopening Plan will be posted to the District website.  The District website translates posted information according to language preference.  Information regarding language translation and requests for accommodations for individuals with disabilities will also be included in the District communication announcing a request for feedback.  Instructions for who to contact if there is a need for language translation and in accordance with specific accommodations requested for individuals with disabilities will be included with the posting announcement.   


    Link to view:

    UCVTS Safe Reopening - The Road Forward Plan