This document is being submitted to The New Jersey Department of Education and The Ocean County Department of Health and is being done so as an updated addendum to previous documents regarding The Education Academy and COVID 19. The emphasis of previous documents was on the health and safety of course of staff, students and families and surrounding communities as well as the provisions of remote, virtual and teacher led instruction and services that would be provided to the best extent possible to the stakeholders of The Education Academy. These stakeholders include, Staff, School Nurse, Security, Students, Student families, Parent Advocates, ASAH, NJPSA, NAPSEC, ASCD,NJIETA, NBI, Attorney Representatives, Sending Districts, Community Partners, DOE, DOH, CDC, DOHS, DCPP, Law Guardians, Ocean Partnership, Therapists, Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Crisis Interventionists holding reciprocity agreements with The Education Academy and our beloved local Fire, Police, Rescue, EMS teams. This Reset and Restart plan is based on The Road Back Restart and Recovery Plan For Education from the Governor’s Office and has been utilized as an outline of and for enhanced and newly created Procedures, Protocols and Policies and submitted as same with the focus of providing in-person instruction at The Education Academy Facility located at 505 N. Main Street, Lanoka Harbor. N.J. 08734 commencing September 2020 and/or according to the Educational Governing Bodies of New Jersey. As with previous emergency preparedness submissions this document is to be considered fluid, and will continually be assessed and enhanced where the consensus is it would be in the best interests of the school and all the stakeholders and it would be fair, equitable and accessible for all who needed the considerations.
Reset and Restart 2020-The Education Academy
Leadership and Planning
The Education Academy is a small private school and all staff and parents and guardians work collaboratively to achieve goals and objectives for the school and its stakeholders. For this Directive, it was determined that two specific teams needed to be in place: A Pandemic Response team and a Planning Team. Some staff members would be a part of both teams due to their contracted responsibilities. Staff not on a team would be support personnel for the team members and help with time management to meet deadlines determined. Our Planning Team has the additional benefit of Parent representatives from our diverse population, as well as all our sending districts as consultants- seventeen currently, to assure equity and feasibility of programming for all students.
The Pandemic Response Team
The Pandemic Response Team consists of Administration, School Nurse, District School Nurse liaison, Security, Instructional Aide rotation and Administrative Assistant. This team created, implements and follows up and through with COVID 19 protocols according to the CDC and The Ocean County Board of Health. All staff must pre–screen themselves before reporting to work at the building by taking their temperature and noting same on the staff sign in sheet. This sheet also requires a daily attestation that staff members are asymptomatic and have not knowingly come into contact with possible COVID 19 cases and they have practiced and upheld social distancing and mask wearing. All staff must wear masks in the building when social distancing is not optimum, meaning approximately 6 feet of distance between another person. All PPE is available for staff and students. Education Academy logoed blue bandanas were purchased for both staff and students. Each student will be issued two and they are light weight, non-constricting, breathable through and washable. Face shields and Isolation gowns are also available for staff especially when performing CPI. All water fountains are now bottle filling stations only. Hands- free sanitizing stations are clearly visible in each room and accessible in all common areas throughout the school building.
All staff with pre–existing health conditions and particularly those age 65 or older, will be closely monitored as to their daily health and comfort level in the school working environment. Any additional modifications for these staff members will be documented and discussed with the school nurse, school counselor and Administration. Any additional consult will be had also with the Ocean County Department of Health for further recommendations and monitoring.
The Pandemic Response Team also will be taking students and visitors temperatures utilizing infrared no touch thermometers before entrance to the building is allowed. Clear signs are on the school doors to inform visitors of same, as well as the requirement for masks. Arrival to the school building by school bus or van or parent/guardian vehicle has been re–configured by security and the school nurse to assure as much privacy and confidentiality for the students that prove to have a COVID symptom and/or a temperature of 100.4 or higher upon confirmation screening on the bus. A student screening tool, (Parent COVID Checker See Appendix) filled out by each parent daily will be collected by the bus aide and handed into the school representative. Seating charts will be supplied to all transportation carriers to assist them with social distancing guidelines for such vehicles. Security will board the busses at arrival and dismissal times to assure that social distancing and the seating chart is being enforced. Any carrier who does not follow these guidelines consistently will be reported to the sending district by administration with a request for their assistance with remediation of any problems before any further transport activities. The Education Academy enjoys strong relationships with all our sending districts as our communication with them is consistent and often. Security and instructional aide rotation personnel will disembark one bus at a time and socially distance the children before entrance on the side of the building. Students will only be allowed to have their school bandanas or masks, school issued washable plastic water bottles, communication folders and their lunches and snacks in disposable bags.
Any symptomatic students upon screening will be escorted to the front door of the building as it has direct access to the nurse’s office and the isolation room and is therefore the path of least contagion spreading. Any overflow of students testing as symptomatic will be accommodated in the multi-purpose room on the lower level of the school. The parent will be called by the administrative assistant as well as the Ocean County Board of Health notified. The parent will be advised to bring the child to their physician, Urgent care right next door to the school building, or emergency services to be further evaluated as The Ocean County Board of Health plan indicates. Further, all surfaces in the isolation rooms will be deeply cleaned and sanitized upon the students departure from the building and assistance will begin with contact tracing for our community partner the DOH, utilizing a screening tool created in both English and Spanish and the members of the Pandemic Response team will work with the Board of Health to complete same, as well as follow any other guidance given for school-wide reporting of possible contagions (See Appendix). The students’ sending districts case managers will also be notified of the students’ absence and the follow-up.
The most recent Emergency Preparedness Plan,(See Appendix), will be put in place for any short term or long term closures due to COVID 19 or any other issue health related, or not, that the school needs to shut down quickly as ordered by The Governor’s office, NJDOE, The Ocean County Department of Health and The CDC respectively. Continuity of Services will then become the focus and it will be served and provided remotely, virtually and teacher lead as per The Education Academy’s EPP on file.
The Planning Team
The first concern of the planning team was to address an overall concern of The Education Academy parents regarding the sending districts supplied transportation. Many questions came up and the planning team has not been able to receive definitive answers from our variety of sending districts due to their present issues being the difficulty of securing transportation at this time and the abilities of carriers to meet and enforce COVID 19 safety guidance, as well as the question of who is responsible to implement and enforce same. As of the writing of this plan, we have no definitive answers. Therefore, The Planning Team has decided with the support of administration and the Board of Directors to strongly recommend and urge The Education Academy parents and guardians to personally drive their children, or delegate a family member or friend to do so wherever and whenever possible, on their behalf. This will limit the number of vehicles and the number of children grouped together on one carrier or being transported by a single carrier in close proximity whom it is unclear has followed The Education Academy protocols and/or the District’s. If a delegate will be driving, we will need to know the name of this delegate and they will have to present proper identification to security upon arrival. This will continue to be recommended until clearer responsibility for the safety and health of the students on transportation is established by our community partners, our sending districts. We will continue to aid and support them in this endeavor to the best extent possible by enforcing the transport rules on the district carriers as noted previously.
The planning team helped frame the remaining areas that need to be addressed for The Education Academy’s Reset and Restart plan in totality. These areas are Policies and Protocols creation and determining the optimum Conditions for Learning and Continuity of Learning for our particular school and its programs. This included creating a master schedule, (See Appendix), and individualized class schedules that now include set cohort bathroom breaks and handwashing in addition to the hygiene component that has been traditionally done in the mornings after arrival. The school nurse will demonstrate and provide training regarding proper handwashing, handling of sneezes and coughs and touching of property, surfaces and others. Each cohort will have their own recess time and utilize the Aide Rotation schedule for the playground sanitation, so the next cohort can have safe playground usage. Physical Education will be conducted outside to the maximum extent possible as well as individualized therapeutic services when and where feasible. Outside services includes but may not be limited to: Speech, Occupational Therapy, Counseling and ABA therapies.
The Planning committee also was charged with creating flexible and lenient at home schedules, providing for Asynchronous Learning for those students who for varied reasons may not return to the building at the initial opening or periodically throughout the school year. These students will have teacher led instruction via live stream and/or videotape and zoom meetings, peer to peer interactions to assist with social and emotional learning and all related services, via varied grade appropriate platforms and independent projects, as well as reading and life skills assigned and results recorded. As with our EPP plan, our parents and guardians of students working remotely will be continually contacted to make sure they have sufficient access to technology and accompanying remote access, proper internet connections etc. At any time that access becomes limited The Education Academy will reach out to the sending district as we always have and work together to gain needed access as soon as possible.
Further, all meetings with districts, parents and guardians, stakeholders and community members will be conducted remotely and virtually until further notice to limit the number of visitors and therefore limiting virus exposure in the building. The planning committee was and is comprised of Administration, Head Teachers, Counselors, Behaviorist, Parents representative of our diverse population, grade levels and disabilities served, Cleaners and Security. The overall goal of all the above responsibilities was and is to provide for all staff and students the optimum Conditions for Learning which include: physical safety/health, social and emotional growth, environmental plans, (including utilizing building layouts to achieve optimum usage while providing optimum social distancing and the course of least person on person interactions following all prescribed guidelines, sanitation, deep cleaning and overall continuous disinfecting of the interior of the building as well as the grounds which include two playground areas and of course exterior doors.
Physical Safety/Health; Social/Emotional Growth; Environmental Plans
All created and administration approved plans must have a policy in place to assure all expectations are clear cut to all stakeholders. (See Appendix) All responsibilities must be specific and assigned for maximum efficiency including staff job descriptions enhanced to reflect any and all job responsibilities. Further, staff will be required to attend mandatory trainings given by the school nurse and administration regarding COVID 19 indicators and required staff responses and interventions. Deep cleaning and Disinfecting protocols will also be discussed and practiced and the responsibilities of same delegated out with applicable schedules by the planning team. In order to assist with this mandate, the first day of school will be a staff orientation of sorts to this new normal of systematic scheduling, cleaning, deep cleaning and disinfecting. All staff will work remotely with the students on this same day for their orientation and tour the building with them virtually so they can see the new classroom configurations and view the signage throughout the building. The school nurse will also speak to the students about the importance of hand-washing and mask wearing, especially when social distancing might not be possible.
Staff will work together as always to provide breaks throughout the school day for one another. Further, Administration, the school nurse and school counselor, as always will avail themselves to staff when they feel overwhelmed or have any concerns. The Education Academy has a generous sick and personal day leave policy which can be utilized for those staff that need it particularly at this time. All The Education Academy instructional aides are also certified substitutes so the continuity of learning will not be compromised due to a lead teacher or classroom aide absence. This is a school that works solely with special needs children with behaviors, the idea of strict scheduling and adhering to time constraints, (Synchronous Learning}, is not new as these two areas are extremely important with providing educational services to special needs children and doing it successfully with the results intended. With that in mind, it is important that prior to school opening the parents and students will be able to view, via video, the new layout of classrooms and a walk-through the building complete with a focus on the signs throughout for social distancing. All water fountains are now water bottle filling stations. Portable plexiglass and polycarbonate partitions in the classrooms and therapy rooms will be used where necessary when proper social distancing is compromised. All students will be issued school supply boxes that will be wiped down daily. These supplies will be re-furbished where necessary to prevent sharing of same. Parents will also be receiving a detailed letter prior to opening with a copy of the Parent COVID Checker that will have to be signed daily (see Appendix) as well as the new restrictions that the Planning Team has implemented. These restrictions include the following changes: no backpacks, no cell phones or electronic devices and no items from home other than the School Communication Folder, plastic coated for easy wipe, the school water bottle, and lunch, snacks and drinks in disposable bags. Parents will be asked to review the new restrictions and to go over the importance of following all the safety measures put in place for their children as indicated in the letter. Parental support is necessary and it is also a parental responsibility to explain to their children that these very same expectations at school for safety, exist in the community and home they live in.
Part of our Behavior Modification plan involves a token economy system where the children earn reward points towards a privilege such as time with the Puppies With A Purpose Program- (our emotional support puppy therapy program) or towards a reward of their choice whose dollar value is broken down by points. The higher the dollar value the more time and effort and resulting points are needed. The consensus of the Planning team is to reward the students for essentially being thoughtful good citizens by following the social distancing rules and sticking to a more stringent schedule and all new directives, to help provide a safe environment for all members of The Education Academy family.
An addendum has also been written to The Education Academy Visitor Policy, (See Appendix), which always was based on your traditional School Open Door Policy. Now, all visitors must be announced-they must have an appointment, wear a mask, read and sign a Visitor Survey and COVID Checker, (See Appendix), agree to a temperature check and follow social distancing as explained in the survey. (Survey is available in Spanish-as is all Education Academy paperwork distributed to all our stakeholders, Community Members and families.)
The Education Academy HVAC systems have been inspected and serviced, as well as updated and will be utilized with the fan components consistently throughout all zones of the building, to provide the optimum circulation of pure air. The filter changing schedule has also been optimized to account for the additional usage. For additional information please refer to The Education Academy EPP Plan, (See Appendix).
An important aspect of this plan particularly with Special Needs Children is the consideration for the environmental factors that may have hindered not only students’ academic progress but students’ social and emotional growth during extended closure and any future short-term or extended closure. Isolation in the home environment and distancing from family, neighbors and friends is difficult for all human beings as accounted for previously in this plan for adult staff members. However, for those children with special needs it can be even more difficult. Whether it be a lack of processing or the inability to monitor frustration and anger during these closures, it can cause regression with students who have presented with behavioral issues when their previously structured world changes.
Our curriculum was enhanced utilizing a series of social and emotional lessons for SEL and videos and language arts materials from our community partners at ASCD and NAPSEC to aid our students with talking and writing about their feelings and sharing any difficulties they were experiencing at home and even more importantly, if they are still feeling them now back in the school building. The Education Academy staff was there engaging the families during the initial closure and presently, as of the writing of this plan, during The Extended School Year Program and this plan includes SEL intrinsically across each and every grade level. The success of our efforts of providing continuous counseling, school therapeutic services, including nursing, to both our students and their families which also included, but by no means was limited to, consistent and effective communication with our district partners and Crisis Prevention Services is further illustrated by the continuity in the roster for ESY 2020 and the 2020/2021 school year. With our parents and districts and community partners support, we were able to address every bump and even bigger humps to achieve success for all our students and families to the best extent possible. In addition, Peer to Peer groups via Zoom were held with students to allow for socialization and teachers got even closer to our parents and guardians with the daily communication and simply by providing them another trusted person just there to talk to.
Continuity of Learning
The first day back to the building with the students will be joyful but it will also be a telling day. Teaching staff will be assessing the students continually over the first few weeks to determine how much if any regression has occurred academically. Therapeutic service providers will be doing same during their scheduled meetings to determine if more intensive therapies will be factored in over the next several weeks accompanied by practice sheets sent home. Counselors will be assessing the anxiety levels of the students and checking for potential social withdrawal signs which will be documented also to work with the families on, as well as the students in-home or out of home therapists. Copious notes, documentation and data have always been important, but the first few weeks back they will speak volumes. The Planning Team has also recommended that special IEP meetings be set up for all students to discuss any concerns the parents may be seeing after returning to school and having to adjust to this transition all over again. It will also be a good time to check on how the parent feels their child is progressing academically and if they are happy with the program, or remediation program being offered upon return. Communication is key with all Parents, school and district personnel when it comes to young children. Parents need a forum of trust where they know their opinions will be heard and addressed or discussed to the parent’s satisfaction wherever possible. At these special IEP meetings the students present teacher assessments will be presented and discussed. Collaboration and Transparency are best served when opportunities for communication are continually offered.
As with the EPP plan continuity of learning continues for both staff and students. PD in PJ’s was a common theme as many staff, particularly our instructional aides, took advantage of the many Professional Development opportunities offered by our community partners. The students have been afforded flexible schedules to meet parents needs during closure and now will be back in a traditional schedule, but one that will still afford flexibility where needed to best serve the students’ needs, as has always been done. As staff assessments are logged and reviewed and the teachers are learning along with the students about their new normal, an extra service here, an individual session as opposed to a group, there can be given. This is common place at The Education Academy which is why we excel at transitioning students back to the public setting with all the tools in their now completely sanitized toolbox ready for their next academic and social emotional adventure….
July 30, 2020
Linda A. Phillips
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