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2021-22 COVID-19 Operational Plan

COVID-19 Operational Plan for Students, Families & Visitors to Schools: 2021-22 School Year (published August 27, 2021)

masINTRODUCTION

District 196 is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for each employee, student, parent and visitors to our buildings. This operational plan identifies and explains the practices and protocols to help ensure we have a safe and healthy learning environment, and help mitigate transmission of COVID-19 in our school communities during the 2021-22 school year. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change rapidly, this plan will be updated to reflect any shift in protocol, guidance and/or requirements. 

Our primary focus continues to be the education of our students, while integrating health and safety responses into our existing pre-pandemic public health support. The district will continue to support the recommendations of public health agencies. We look forward to our continued partnership in this school year, and we remain committed to educational success and keeping our learning communities safe.

Our COVID-19 Operational Plan is rooted in prevention strategies based on community spread, vaccination coverage, populations at risk and efficacy of mitigation steps. It is important to remember that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asserts high vaccination numbers combined with low community spread lessen the need for masking and other prevention strategies.

The CDC also identifies masks and the vaccine as effective preventative strategies that can lessen the time a person should be in isolation or quarantine, and can influence the trajectory of transmission.

Along with CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), we strongly recommend people to get vaccinated, when eligible. For more information about vaccinations and to schedule an appointment, visit the MDH website. We also strongly recommend families and students to get tested regularly. Find a testing site near you by visiting MDH website.

We recommend every student and family regularly review the following:

  1. This COVID-19 operational plan and take responsibility to follow its recommendations and requirements;
  2. The Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website for updated guidance, and
  3. The Minnesota Department of Health Recommended COVID-19 Decision Tree, which includes recommendations for those who are ill.

This plan is updated as needed, and follows all applicable executive orders, and current guidance and standards from the MDH, Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), the CDC, and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If you have questions about the plan, contact your principal or program coordinator.

SECTIONS

  1. Assessing and Handling Illness
  2. Masks
  3. Social Distancing 
  4. Hygiene and Cleaning Practices
  5. Food and Nutrition Services 
  6. Transportation 
  7. Technology and Internet Access 
  8. Mental Health and Wellness
  9. Athletics, Activities, Enrichment and Community Facility Use
  10. Communication

Assessing and Handling Illness

Public health agencies will continue to guide our decision-making process and the Minnesota Department of Health Recommended COVID-19 Decision Tree and Minnesota Department of Health Recommendations for Handling a Confirmed Case of COVID-19 will act as guidance to help determine protocol and next steps related to monitoring, quarantining and notification. The district is required to report all positive COVID-19 cases to MDH. And all families are required to report their student(s) positive test results to their building.

All staff and students who intend to participate in person are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to get tested for COVID-19 regularly. Review the MDH COVID-19 Testing Recommendations to help determine when/if you need to be tested. Find a testing site near you by visiting MDH website or review the following options:

Experiencing Symptoms

Anyone experiencing illness should follow the above decision tree, stay home and are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to get tested. Refer to the first and second paths in the decision tree to determine the most appropriate course of action.

  • Symptoms of COVID-19 can include: fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, congestion or runny nose, or loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

However, if a person has had lab-confirmed COVID-19 in the past 90 days and is experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, retesting is not recommended. The person is should follow the above decision tree and remain home until symptoms have improved and they have been fever-free for 24 hours. Siblings and other household members can continue to attend in-person school and activities. 

If a student is symptomatic at school, the school will notify a parent/guardian for the student to be picked up and the student will be REQUIRED to wear a mask while waiting. If the student is unable to be picked up, they will be REQUIRED to wear a mask while in school and additional mitigation strategies may be implemented. 

Positive COVID-19 Test

If a person tests positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms, they should stay home and isolate for at least 10 days from the time the symptoms begin until symptoms have improved AND they have been fever-free for 24 hours without use of fever-reducing medication. All families are required to report their student(s) positive test results to their building. The building is required to report positive COVID-19 tests to MDH through the RedCap portal.

If the person tests positive for COVID-19 and does not have symptoms, they should stay home for 10 days beginning the day they were tested. Community members are encouraged to reach out to those people they determine to be close contacts when they are the positive case. All families are required to report their student(s) positive test results to their building.

Additional mitigation strategies may be implemented in the classroom in which the positive case was identified. 

If a school learns of a positive COVID-19 test during school hours, the administration will notify a parent/guardian for the student to be picked up and the student will be REQUIRED to wear a mask while waiting. If the student is unable to be picked up, they will be REQUIRED to wear a mask while in school and additional mitigation strategies may be implemented. 

Close Contact

Students can be excluded as a close contact if they were correctly wearing a well-fitting mask near the positive case AND prevention strategies (e.g. ventilation, cleaning and disinfection, respiratory etiquette and hygiene) were in place. Everyone is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to test frequently. 

Students who are fully vaccinated and have been identified as a close contact to a positive case (whether in school or not) do not need to stay home or quarantine but are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to get tested three to five days after exposure. Close contacts are also STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure OR until the test result is negative.

Students who are not fully vaccinated and have been identified as a close contact to a positive case are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to get tested and stay home for 10 days if they are not tested. They are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to stay home for seven days, if between day five and seven they produced a negative PCR test. If the close contact becomes symptomatic, it is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED they isolate and get tested. However, MDH asserts 14-day quarantine is the safest recommendation for people who have been exposed to COVID-19.

Everyone is encouraged to reach out to those people they determine to be close contacts when they are the positive case. All families are required to report their student(s) positive test results to their building.

Notification

Program/classroom participants and their families will be notified of a positive case with a general notification letter when a case is reported. The District 196 COVID-19 Dashboard will only be updated with information from the CDC related to Dakota County, including vaccination rates and case rates. 

Contact tracing will be minimal, reserved for specific situations when direct hand over hand support is required and/or students are not able to wear a mask. The positive child is required to stay home from school for at least 10 days and be symptom free before returning. The school will send a letter to the parents and guardians of other students in that child’s class(es)/program and bus, but will not conduct contact tracing. Any potential close contacts would not need to be quarantined if vaccinated and/or wearing a mask.

Masks

The CDC transmission matrix will be referred to for determining when masks are recommended or required based on the Dakota County seven-day case rate per 100,000 residents. 

  • Masks will be RECOMMENDED indoors for everyone age 2 and older if transmission of COVID-19 in Dakota County is “Low” (0-10 cases per 100,000 residents) or “Moderate” (10-50 cases per 100,000). 

  • Masks will be REQUIRED indoors for everyone age 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status, if transmission is “Substantial” (50-100 cases per 100,000) or “High” (more than 100 cases per 100,000). 

Changes from recommended to required (or vise versa) will be made after case rates remain at the higher (or lower) level for at least seven consecutive days.

Transmission Level

Low Spread

Moderate Spread

Substantial Spread

High Spread

Cases per 100,000 residents

0-9.99

10-49.99

50-99.99

≥100

Table adapted from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Masks are REQUIRED to be worn by all staff and students riding in District 196 school buses and other vehicles as part of instructional programming (e.g. to and from school, field trips, educational outings), and co-curricular activities (e.g. after-school sports and other activities, high school athletics, etc) per the CDC’s federal order.

The following masks are acceptable:

  • Paper or disposable mask;
  • Cloth face mask;

  • Scarf;

  • Neck gaiter;

  • Bandana;

  • Religious face covering, and

  • Medical-grade masks and respirators.

Social Distancing 

Social distancing (also called physical distancing) means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. Social distancing continues to be a critical tool in decreasing the spread of COVID-19. The CDC STRONGLY RECOMMENDS schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distancing between students within a classroom. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, we may layer additional mitigation strategies. All persons in the building and on district transportation must do their best to provide as much space as possible between themselves and other people.

Floor markings will be placed at building entrances, service counters and throughout the school to indicate where people should stand and provide directional flow and spacing for social distancing. 

Social Distancing floor markings indicating where to stand and to keep distance.

Signage will be posted in all district buildings promoting health and safety.

Visitors should be limited in visiting buildings when the local COVID-19 transmission level is “Substantially High” or “High.” Visitors, such as volunteers, should be placed in areas with minimal student population or interaction so as to lessen the risk of spread.

Hygiene and Cleaning Practices

Proper hygiene practices such as frequent handwashing with soap and water, cleaning hands using hand sanitizer and disinfecting surfaces will be implemented and taught at all schools.

  • Appropriate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors (e.g., soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, disinfectant) will be available and strategically placed in areas where they may be/are frequently used.

  • Schools will build routines of hand hygiene into the daily school schedule for all students and staff, including handwashing and sanitation breaks during or between classroom activities.

  • HEPA filters will remain in all instructional spaces and buildings. 

Regular cleaning and disinfection of our learning spaces and vehicles will continue, and they will be cleaned and disinfected regularly using disinfectant products that are approved and effective against the COVID-19 virus. 

Food and Nutrition Services

All meals throughout the 2021-22 school year are free, regardless of eligibility, for all in-person District 196 students ages 18 and younger, due to special funding from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The District 196 Food and Nutrition Services Department will follow practices consistent with MDH, MDE and CDC health and safety guidelines when serving students in our schools.

Mealtime health and safety measures include:

  • Scannable meal IDs replace keypad system 

  • Keep classes together, where possible

  • Alternate seats, where possible

  • Single-use silverware available

  • HEPA filters in cafeterias

  • Cleaning and disinfecting between meal times

Transportation

All staff and students riding in District 196 vehicles and buses are REQUIRED to wear a face covering/mask, per the CDC’s federal order.

Bus ride recommendations including boarding, seating and school arrival:

  • Students from the same household are encouraged to sit together.
  • Windows and roof hatches will be opened to the extent weather permits to increase airflow and circulation. 
  • Buses will be cleaned and disinfected regularly using disinfectant products that are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for effective use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The cleaning will focus on frequently touched surfaces in the vehicle.
  • Doors and windows will be open when cleaning the vehicle and between trips to let the vehicles thoroughly air out. 

Technology and Internet Access 

Every student preK-12+ has access to a district-owned iPad. The district will assist families who need access to the internet. Technical support is provided for students and families.

  • Zoom, Schoology and Seesaw are the tools used to connect students and teachers.

Hot spots are available for students who do not have reliable access to the internet. Contact your school directly to submit a request for a free hotspot. 

Athletics, Activities, Enrichment and Community Facility Use 

Out-of-School-Time Classes and Activities

Engaging, enriching and inspiring opportunities for students during non-school hours is an important component of a well-rounded education. Therefore:

  • Band and instrumental music programming is safer when conducted outdoors. 

  • When inside, provide as much space as possible between participants. 

  • Personal protective equipment, including instrument bell covers, HEPA filters in instructional space, and sanitizers and cleaning products, will be available.

Athletics and Activities

Students are able to participate in athletics and activities according to guidelines set forth by the Minnesota State High School League and the district.

Facility Use

District facilities are available for community use according to guidelines set forth by the CDC and the district.

Mental Health and Wellness 

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a tremendous amount of stress, fear and anxiety for many people. It’s normal to be experiencing these feelings right now. And it is important to be gentle with yourself and others, and to take steps to support both your own and your family’s mental well-being.

Additional staff is in place at schools to assist with the various needs of students, including school counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses.

Use the district’s Virtual Calming Room for mindfulness opportunities. Your school staff is available to guide you to additional available resources, both within the district and within the community.

Mental Health Resources

Communication 

A physical copy of this plan is available at every building in the front office. All staff, students, families and visitors are expected to comply with and follow the established guidelines and protocols in this plan for the health and safety of our community. Site leaders and supervisors are expected to ensure compliance with these provisions and support employees as needed.

More Information

If you have questions about anything in this 2021-22 COVID-19 Operational Plan for Students, Families & Guests plan, talk with your principal first. If you have further questions, contact a member of the Pandemic Operational Plan Team.