IN- PERSON LEARNING PLAN & GUIDELINES FOR OPERATIONS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

NEW HORIZON IN-PERSON PLAN & GUIDELINES FOR OPERATIONS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

This document provides information on New Horizon’s In-Person Learning Plan and Guidelines for Operations during the COVID-19 pandemic as of August 2021. As the pandemic continues and evolves, so do New Horizon’s guidelines. The most up-to-date version of this document will always be found on our website.

Our Process:

New Horizon’s process for determining the school’s in-person operating plan has included a close review of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE), as well as available medical literature on COVID-19 related to children and school settings. Based on current data and research, the medical community supports to in-person learning for the Fall of 2021, with appropriate health and safety guidelines in place. 

As we all know, the COVID-19 context in Orange County is not static, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely. Availability and administration of COVID-19 vaccines and the subsequent reduction in the spread of and illness from COVID-19 resulted in federal, state and local authorities relaxing various masking and social-distancing requirements. In light of the data now available, and taking into account similar action by other independent schools as well as public sector organizations, New Horizon Irvine is requiring that all employees be vaccinated for COVID-19 before the start of 2021-2022 school year. Employees can apply for an exemption from this vaccination requirement if they cannot be vaccinated because of medical reasons or due to sincerely held religious beliefs. Please contact the administration (aahmed@nhirvine.org) if you wish to apply for an exemption from the vaccination requirement and you will be provided with the relevant documentation to do so. To minimize the risk to their own health as well as those of their colleagues, students and the wider community, employees who have been granted an exemption from COVID-19 vaccination will be required to take risk-mitigating measures beyond those required of vaccinated employees. These will include weekly testing as well as wearing a face-covering at all times while on campus. While currently available vaccines have so far proven to be highly effective, their performance over the longer term as well as against potential new variants is not known. Furthermore, the vaccine is not yet authorized for those under 12 years of age, a majority of our students. As such, the School will continue to adhere to mitigating strategies in line with the recommendations of authorities and the medical community.

Most of us are now quite familiar with the critical health and safety practices that reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. They include rigorous hygiene and hand washing, use of masks/face coverings, physical distancing, reducing interaction between groups, staying home when sick, and protecting those most vulnerable to the disease. However, what can often get lost in long lists of practices is that it is not one mitigation strategy, but a combination of all these strategies taken together that will substantially reduce the risk of transmission. In other words, establishing a culture of health and safety in our school that focuses on regularly enforcing these important practices is more important than any one measure. 

THE SIX CORNERSTONES OF NEW HORIZON’S SUCCESSFUL IN-PERSON LEARNING PLAN

What we do know is that COVID-19 spreads when people are in relatively close proximity, through respiratory droplets generated through coughing, sneezing, or talking to an infected person. Among the most effective preventive measures – when used consistently and in combination – are masks/face coverings, physical distancing, cohorting, hand washing, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces. In general, these are the major cornerstones of New Horizon’s in-person learning plan.

  1. Masks and Protective Face Shields
  2. Health Screening and Temperature Checks
  3. Social Distancing 
  4. Hand Washing and Sanitizing
  5. Disinfecting and Cleaning
  6. Ventilation and Air Quality

MASKS AND PROTECTIVE FACE SHIELDS

Since the route of transmission for COVID-19 is respiratory, masks or face coverings are among the most critical components of risk reduction. Masks/face coverings protect the general public against COVID-19 infection, with a recent retrospective study estimating near 80% effectiveness in reducing COVID-19 transmission, especially when worn prior to symptom onset. In the United States, states advising face masks/face coverings be worn in public saw a decline in their COVID-19 growth rates.  

New Horizon’s mask/face covering protocol is as follows:

  • All unvaccinated faculty and staff will have face masks or protective face shields on at all times while on campus and in the presence of students and colleagues.
  • All unvaccinated faculty will wear fully protective face shields since students rely on visual/facial cues. 
  • All students are required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth. 
  • Students can take mask breaks throughout the day, as long as they are not moving and when outdoors, while remaining at least three feet apart. Students will be trained on proper mask use (how to remove and put on masks) to avoid potential risk of infection.
  • New Horizon masks can be purchased from The Hawk Store, and extra disposable face masks will be made available by the school in special circumstances. 
  • Reusable masks should be washed by families daily. 

HEALTH SCREENING AND TEMPERATURE CHECKS

New Horizon has put in place strict exclusion policies for symptomatic students and employees. Self-checking for symptoms each morning by faculty, staff, and parents before leaving in the morning for school is critical and will serve as the primary screening mechanism for COVID-19 symptoms.  Faculty, staff, and parents should review the CDC checklist of symptoms and should stay home if they or anyone in their household has these symptoms in order to prevent the spread of infection. All individuals (students, faculty and staff) will require temperature check and health screening prior to being allowed onto the campus. Multiple points of campus entry are set-up to minimize student-to-student interactions and allow for a quick arrival procedure. Students will be directed to the appropriate entry point for their grade level during arrival times. 

New Horizon’s screening protocols are as follows:

  • Face mask must be worn;
  • Visual wellness check and temperature check (readings must be less than 100.4 F degrees);
  • Must answer ‘no’ to the following question: Have you, anyone in your household, or anyone you have been in close proximity with shown signs of illness including cough, sore throat, chills, body aches, shortness of breath, loss of smell, loss of taste, or a fever?  
  • Sanitize hands upon entry (sanitizer stations will be provided).

If an individual does not meet any of these requirements, unfortunately, they will not be allowed on campus and possibly asked to self-quarantine for a period of time before returning to school. Remote learning platforms have been put in place for children who are required to stay home because they are sick or in isolation due to infection or exposure. Also, since fevers and symptoms are not stagnant, all faculty and staff will observe students throughout the day for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 so that appropriate action can be taken to isolate a student until they can be picked up by a parent. 

Procedures for a symptomatic student, faculty, or staff member is:

  • Any individual who develops symptoms of illness while at school will be separated from others right away in a designated isolation area through which others do not enter until picked up to go home or proceeding to a healthcare facility.
  • Sick individuals are not to return until they have met the CDC’s symptom-based strategy established to discontinue home isolation. Also see CDC Steps to Help Avoid the Spread of COVID-19.

Finally, any individual travelling outside of the U.S. must follow CDC International Travel Guidelines as follows:

For fully vaccinated individuals:

  • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel.
    • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.

For unvaccinated people:

  • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.
  • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
  • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.

(See CDC Guidelines for International Travel).

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Social distancing is another important practice that helps mitigate transmission of the virus. While the CDC has recommended maintaining a physical distance of six feet between individuals, the World Health Organization’s guidance states approximately three feet. There is no precise threshold for safety; indeed, studies suggest that physical distancing of three feet or more leads to reduced transmission, with more distance providing additional protection.  

New Horizon’s physical distancing protocol is as follows: 

  • Desks and chairs in 2nd through 8th grade classrooms are configured to assure three feet of distance between students. 
  • Furniture in Preschool through 1st grade has been set-up to promote physical distancing and in some cases with additional clear partitions to encourage face-to-face interactions while remaining safe.
  • Faculty will monitor and limit close interaction to the extent possible with the understanding that playing and socializing is central to child development. 
  • Classroom capacities can return to the typical New Horizon class size (approximately 16 per class in the lower school and approximately 24 per class in the upper school) to accommodate student spacing. 
  • Playground/outdoor times will be coordinated to maximize distancing, and supervision will be adequate to ensure physical distancing while eating and to ensure handwashing/sanitizing before and afterwards.
  • Faculty and staff will prompt and remind students of physical distancing throughout the day.
  • Students’ personal belongings (e.g. backpacks, educational supplies, etc.) will remain with or near them, or in a designated and separated location.
  • Extracurriculars, P.E., and athletics programs have been modified to align with safety/health protocols.
  • All off campus activities and field trips are cancelled through the first semester and possibly for the entire school year.
  • Large gatherings/assemblies will be done outdoors or indoors with adequate spacing.

HAND WASHING AND SANITIZING 

COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are almost exclusively spread by respiratory droplet transmission. As a result, and because virus shedding may occur prior to symptom onset or in the absence of symptoms, routine, frequent and proper hand hygiene (soap and water or hand

sanitizer) is critical to limit transmission.  In fact, proper hand hygiene is one of the most effective strategies to prevent the spread of most respiratory viruses including COVID-19, particularly during the pre-symptomatic phase of illness.  Therefore, faculty, staff and students are required to exercise hand washing or sanitizing upon arrival to school, in between transitions in and out of their classrooms, before and after eating, before putting on and taking off masks, after using the restroom, and before dismissal. While handwashing with soap and water is the best option, hand sanitizers may be utilized when hand washing is not available.

New Horizon’s hand washing/sanitizing protocol is as follows:

  • A regular schedule for routine hand hygiene, above and beyond what is usually recommended (before eating food, after using the restroom) will be implemented. Students will have regularly scheduled hand hygiene breaks with each transition (scheduled a minimum of 5 times during the day). For practical reasons, some of these extra hand hygiene breaks will be with hand sanitizers unless sinks are readily available in the classroom.
  • Hand sanitizer will be placed at key locations and entry points throughout each campus (e.g., campus entrance, each classroom, and in main hallways). 
  • Hand washing with soap and water will be performed prior to and after eating and after using the restroom.
  • Students will be taught how to clean their hands properly (with age appropriate material) 
    • When hand washing, individuals should use soap and water to wash all surfaces of their hands for at least 20 seconds, wait for visible lather, rinse thoroughly, and dry with an individual disposable towel. 
    • If handwashing is not feasible, hand sanitizer will be used. Hand sanitizer should be applied to all surfaces of the hands and in sufficient quantity that it takes 20 seconds of rubbing hands together for the sanitizer to dry. 
  • Students will be taught respiratory etiquette (to sneeze or cough into their elbow or sleeve).

DISINFECTING AND CLEANING

COVID-19 has been detected on a variety or surfaces and it is possible that infection can be

transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching mucous membranes (i.e. mouth, nose, eyes). Ongoing surface cleaning throughout the day can greatly reduce the spread of any infection. New Horizon follows the CDC recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting our campuses.  

New Horizon’s disinfecting and cleaning protocols are as follows:

  • A regular cleaning schedule is put in place with each student/faculty transition with an emphasis on high touch surfaces.
  • Campus-wide attention will be given to reduce the need to touch objects, such as open-lid trash cans and doors propped open.
  • All drinking fountains are closed, and touchless water dispensers are installed on each campus.  Students are asked to bring a personal water bottle each day.
  • Students will have their own personal class items. Heavy use items, such as pencils, pens, erasers, will remain with them at all times, and light use items, such as markers, crayons, glue, scissors, will be clearly marked and stored in the classroom.
  • All educational equipment and manipulatives that are used are made of materials that can be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Faculty and staff will regularly use disinfectant spray to wipe down surfaces with each transition.
  • Custodial staff will clean and disinfect bathrooms with each transition and throughout the day.
  • Custodial staff will deep clean and disinfect classrooms, restrooms, offices, and hallways, nightly. 
  • Custodial staff will fully sanitize all classrooms and offices using an industrial-grade disinfectant fogger, once a week.

VENTILATION AND AIR QUALITY

The spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, inside buildings could be mitigated by having effective ventilation, improved air filtration and disinfection, and avoidance of air recirculation. New Horizon has taken measures necessary to assure classrooms are adequately ventilated and to improve air quality. All HVAC filters on both campuses have been upgraded with a higher Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV), a system used to evaluate the efficiency of an air filter based on how effective it is at catching particles of varying sizes. The higher the MERV rating, the higher the air filtration capabilities.

New Horizon’s ventilation and air quality protocols are as follows:

  • Classroom doors and windows shall remain open during working hours to promote airflow (and to prevent having to touch door handles). 
  • If the classroom does not have operable windows, the classroom door will remain open, and the HVAC will remain on at all times.
  • As weather and scheduling permits, faculty may opt to have classes outside.

NEW HORIZON’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19 INFECTION  

New Horizon has a plan to close school again for the physical attendance of students, if necessary, based on public health guidance and in coordination with local public health officials. As the number of cases in our local area increases, there is a likelihood that someone within our school community may become infected. In this case, we will rely on our families’ calm and flexibility while we systematically respond to address the positive COVID-19 case to assure safety steps are taken. In such a case, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines will be followed if any student, faculty, or staff member, or a member of their households, tests positive for COVID-19. 

Plan to Address Positive COVID-19 Cases 

  • Notify local health officials, faculty/staff, and all families immediately of any positive case of COVID-19 (while maintaining confidentiality) as required by state and federal laws. 
  • Close off areas used by any sick person and do not use before thorough cleaning and disinfection.
  • Contact tracing analysis will take place to assure notification of potentially exposed individuals and proper protocol application.
  • Advise sick staff members and students not to return until they have met CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation, including 3 days with no fever, symptoms have improved, and 10 days since symptoms first appeared. 

PROTOCOLS BEFORE AN INDIVIDUAL CAN RETURN TO CAMPUS:

  • Student or staff member in a classroom tests positive for COVID19:
    • CDC recommendations (symptom-based approach): 
      • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since RECOVERY defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement of respiratory symptoms AND
      • Minimum of 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
  • Household member of student or staff tests positive for COVID-19:
    • CDC recommendation of 14 day in-home quarantine for anyone in close contact with a COVID + person
  • Student or staff member develops a fever while on school campus:
    • Isolate and quarantine person immediately once fever is identified
    • Have a specified adult that needs to walk the person to the quarantine area to ensure that the person does not come into contact with others 
    • Notify the family for immediate pick up, if a student
    • Notify the Public Health Department
    • Close classroom that individual was in for 3 days (72 hours): DEEP CLEAN as per CDC recommendations
      • Plan for if this person tests COVID positive:
        • See above for contingency plan for COVID+ individual returning to school
        • Classroom contacts will be home quarantined for 14 days
      • Plan for if this person tests COVID negative:
        • Individual may return to school with other students/staff after 72 hours with a note from their physician and proof of negative COVID test
      • Plan for if this person (or family) refuses COVID testing:
        • 14-day home quarantine for the individual as well as all classroom contacts (WILL PRESUME COVID+ UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE)
  • Contingency plan for closing entire campus:
    • If there are 2 or more classrooms affected by COVID positive individuals:
      • Contact OC Health Department immediately
      • Deep cleaning as per CDC recommendations will happen prior to school reopening under any of the above circumstances
      • If Health Department is available to assess the risk to students and staff: plan to close for 3-5 days (depending on Health Department advice given the environment at that time) for contact tracing and transmission risk assessment

or

  • If the Health Department is unable to provide risk assessment analysis at that time, New Horizon will close the campus for 14 days and require home quarantine of the students and staff during that time period.

Plan to Address Multiple Positive COVID-19 Cases or Community Surges

  • In consultation with local public health officials, the Head of School will consider whether school closure is warranted and length of time, based on the risk level within the specific community as determined by the local public health officer.
  • A return to a Remote Learning Program for all students may be determined by the Head of School in collaboration with the local public health officer.

 

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