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HFM BOCES reopening plan available

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Health & Safety

Health & Safety

The health and safety of our students, staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school campuses. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

The below protocols and procedures will be in place in all BOCES programs for the 2020-21 school year should in-person schooling resume. When considering the resumption of in-person instruction the following factors were considered:

  • Ability to maintain appropriate social distancing or face coverings
  • PPE and face covering availability
  • Availability of safe transportation
  • Local hospital capacity

Anyone with questions or concerns should contact the HFM BOCES COVID-19 Safety Coordinator Dr. Lorraine Hohenforst at or 518-736-4305.  The coordinator will also be responsible for continuous compliance with all aspects of HFM’s reopening plan, as well as any phased-in reopening activities necessary to allow for operations issues to be resolved before activities return to normal or “new normal” levels.

Health checks

HFM BOCES has developed resources to educate parents/guardians and staff members regarding COVID-19 symptoms and will require daily health screenings for anyone entering a program location.

Prior to entering any BOCES location, individuals must complete a medical screening process. HFM BOCES will utilize a web-based school health management system for screening staff and students to the greatest extent possible. This system will have the capability to use online electronic surveys along with a digital app.  Reminders will be sent to staff and parents/guardians periodically.

The following requirements will also be in place:

  • For staff or students who do not have internet access, in-person screening protocols will be followed.
  • Visitors, contractors and vendors will be screened prior to entering the building using a paper questionnaire.
  • Staff will be required to monitor their own temperatures prior to their arrival and throughout the day. Anyone whose symptoms response changes from a “No” to “Yes” during the day, must contact their supervisor immediately and await further instruction.

Social distancing, face coverings & PPE

Social distancing

HFM BOCES has developed protocols for maintaining social distancing of all students, faculty, and staff when on school facilities, grounds and transportation.

To ensure compliance with physical distancing requirements, HFM BOCES will do the following:

  • HFM BOCES programs will require that all students, staff and visitors maintain a social distance of 6 feet whenever possible on school facilities, grounds and transportation.
  • Measurements of classrooms will be taken and desks, tables, etc. will be arranged to provide proper distancing.
  • Bi-directional traffic in hallways and other common areas will be limited, and the direction of foot traffic will be designated by floor markings.
  • Indoor and outdoor areas of school buildings will be repurposed as needed; with consideration given to the safety of students/staff with allergies, asthma, etc. When necessary, classes with limited space will utilize other available rooms in the building and additional staff will be utilized and lessons will be live streamed into additional rooms.
  • During student crisis intervention that prevents social distancing, PPE will be used to the greatest extent possible. Student safety will be paramount when intervention is needed.
  • Post social distancing markers using tape or signs that denote 6 ft. of spacing in commonly used and other applicable areas on the site (e.g. clock in/out stations, health screening stations, reception areas).
  • Tightly confined spaces (i.e. elevators) will be occupied by only one individual at a time, unless all occupants are wearing face coverings. If area is occupied by more than one person, keep occupancy under 50% of maximum capacity.
  • Limit in-person gatherings as much as possible and use tele- or video-conferencing when possible. Essential in-person gatherings will be held in open, well-ventilated spaces with appropriate social distancing among participants.
  • Establish designated areas for pick-ups and deliveries, limiting contact to the extent possible.

Face coverings

  • Face coverings are required to be worn by all individuals at all times except for meals and at times designated by an administrator or staff.
  • Because students and staff will need to be prepared to wear a face covering if another person unexpectedly cannot socially distance, they will be required to wear a face covering in all common areas (e.g., entrances and exits) and when traveling around the school.
  • Face coverings will be provided to students and staff, if needed, at no cost. Acceptable face coverings for COVID-19 include, but are not limited to, cloth-based coverings and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose.
  • Staff, students and visitors are allowed to wear their own acceptable face covering if they choose.
  • Those with healthcare provider documentation stating they are not medically able to tolerate face covering will not be required to do so but, alternative options will be provided (i.e., face shield and/or plastic (polycarbonate) separator). Any special circumstances concering masks should be documented in the students IEP, if applicable.
  • BOCES will post signs throughout the buildings and will instruct students, parents/guardians and staff, contractors and vendors on:
    • The proper way to wear face coverings
    • Washing hands before putting on and after removing their face covering
    • Proper respiratory hygiene
    • Proper way to discard disposable face coverings
  • Face coverings should not be placed on:
    • Children younger than 2 years old
    • Students where such covering would impair their health or mental health, or where such covering would present a challenge, distraction, or obstruction to education services and instruction
    • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
    • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance

Related training

Staff will be trained using Global Compliance Network (GCN), an online training program. This training will cover COVID-19 awareness, social distancing, proper face covering and hand hygiene. The HFM website and social media will be utilized to communicate to parents/guardians regarding all applicable protocols related to social distancing, face covering, proper hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and all other COVID related practices before the start of the 2020-2021 school year.


HFM BOCES has a plan in place for obtaining and maintaining adequate supplies of cloth face coverings for school staff, students who forget their masks and PPE for use by school health professionals.

Infection control strategies

HFM BOCES will utilize several different infection control strategies, including time management, plastic (polycarbonate) separators and alcohol-based hand rub dispensers and staggered arrival and dismissal times.

These strategies will support social distancing of at least 6 feet whenever possible:

  • Time Management: School leaders should manage time and schedules to reduce student use of the corridors. The traditional practice of changing classes between periods results in congested hallways and creates challenges to precludes social distancing.
  • Leave Doors Open: To reduce the spread of the virus from touching door levers and knobs, doors may be fixed in the open position. This will only be permitted at doors without door closers and doors which are not fire rated.
  • Plastic (Polycarbonate) Separators: The use of light-transmitting plastics is recommended in locations where social distance or mask requirements cannot be complied with or easily regulated. These may be added to places such as reception desks, in between sinks in bathrooms and used in classrooms or spaces that social distancing is not possible. Reception areas will also have impermeable dividers installed.
  • BOCES will make every effort to increase ventilation with outdoor air to the greatest extent possible (such as opening windows and doors) while maintaining health and safety protocols, particularly for younger students.
  • Alcohol-based Hand Rub Dispensers: Alcohol-based Hand-Rub Dispensers will be installed in locations throughout HFM BOCES locations at entrances and where hand washing is not readily available in accordance with FCNYS 2020 Section 5705.
  • Points of Congestion: Social distancing should be maintained in areas that may become congested such as entry doors at arrival and dismissal times. Social distancing and face coverings will be required at these spots at all times. Staggering arrival and dismissal times will be used when appropriate to help with these congested areas.

Management of ill persons

HFM BOCES requires students, faculty, or staff members who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to report to the nurse’s office, and ill students and staff will be sent home to follow up with their health professional. If several students are waiting to see the school nurse, students and staff must wait at least 6 feet apart. BOCES has designated areas to separate individuals with symptoms of COVID- 19 from others until they can go home or to a healthcare facility, depending on severity of illness. The COVID- 19 isolation areas are separate from other areas used to treat injuries, provide medications or nursing treatments, etc. Both areas will be supervised by an adult and have easy access to a bathroom and sink with hand hygiene supplies.

PPE requirements for school health office staff caring for sick individuals includes both standard and transmission-based precautions. In areas with moderate to substantial community transmission, eye protection (e.g., goggles or face shield) will be added. When caring for a suspect or confirmed individual with COVID-19, gloves, a gown, eye protection, and a fit-tested N-95 respirator will be used. If a N-95 respirator is not available, a surgical face mask and face shield will be used.

School health office cleaning will occur after each use of cots, bathrooms, and health office equipment (e.g., blood pressure cuffs, otoscopes, stethoscopes). Health office equipment will be cleaned following manufacturer’s directions.

Disposable items will be used as much as possible (e.g., disposable pillow protectors, disposable thermometers, disposable thermometer sheaths or probes, disposable otoscope specula).

COVID-19 Testing

The determination on whether a test needs to be conducted will be determined by an individual’s healthcare provider or the local department of health. Possible scenarios that may result in the need for testing of students or staff include signs of COVID-19 symptoms, a temperature and/or a positive response to a health screening questionnaire.

In the event that large-scale testing will need to be conducted at the school, the district administration will work with the following providers:

  • Sara Boerenko, Montgomery County Public Health Director, 518-853-8200
  • Laurel Headwell, Fulton County Public Health Director, 518-736-5720
  • Dr. Paul Comber, St. Mary’s Healthcare, 518-673-2574

Protocols if Students or Staff become Ill with Symptoms of COVID-19 at School

HFM BOCES requires students or staff with a temperature, signs of illness, and/or a positive response to the questionnaire to be sent directly to its dedicated isolation areas prior to being be sent home or otherwise being picked up. Students will be supervised in the isolation areas while awaiting transport and will be separated by at least 6 feet with proper PPE in use. Students will be escorted from the isolation area to their parent/guardian. Students or staff will be referred to their healthcare provider and/or local health department and provided resources on COVID-19 testing.

Contact Tracing

HFM BOCES will notify the local and state health departments immediately upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 diagnostic test result of an individual within school facilities or on school grounds, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

To assist the local health department with tracing the transmission of COVID-19, HFM BOCES has developed and will maintain a plan to trace all contacts of exposed individuals in accordance with protocols, training, and tools provided through the New York State Contact Tracing Program through a web-based program.

BOCES will assist with contact tracing by:

  1. Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members using the Frontline absence reporting system for employees and SchoolTool for students.
  2. Ensuring student schedules are up to date.
  3. Keeping a log of any visitor, which includes date and time, and where in the school they visited.
  4. Assisting the local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual in accordance with the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYS Contact Tracing Program.

If a COVID-19 case is discovered in the school, in consultation with the local health department, BOCES will do the following:

  • School administrators will collaborate and coordinate with local health officials to make school closure and event cancellation decisions.
  • Schools may be closed for physical attendance of students, if necessary, based on public health guidance and in coordination with the local health department.
  • Follow established program plans for continuity of education, medical and social services, and meal programs and establish alternate mechanisms for these to continue.
  • Schools might need to implement short-term closure procedures regardless of community spread if an infected person has been in a school building. If this happens, CDC recommends the following procedures:
    • Closing off areas used by ill person(s) and locking off area(s), signage can also be used to ensure no one enters the area. If possible, wait 24 hours before you clean and disinfect. If it is not possible to wait 24 hours, wait as long as possible. Do not use the area(s) until cleaning and disinfection has taken place.
    • Opening outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.
    • Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas (e.g., offices, bathrooms, and common areas) used by the ill person(s), focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.
    • Communicating as soon as possible with staff, parents, and students.
  • DOH guidance/procedures for when someone tests positive:
    • In consultation with the local DOH, a school official may consider whether school closure is warranted and period of time (prior to re-opening) based on the risk level within the specific community as determined by the local DOH.
    • In accordance with guidance for quarantine at home after close contact, the classroom or office where the COVID-19-positive individual was based will typically need to close temporarily as students or staff quarantine.
    • Additional close contacts at school outside of a classroom should also quarantine at home.
    • Confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state laws and regulations. School staff will not try to determine who is to be excluded from school based on contact without guidance and direction from the local health department.

Return to School after Illness

HFM BOCES has established protocols and procedures, in consultation with the local health department(s), about the requirements for determining when individuals, particularly students, who screened positive for COVID-19 symptoms can return to the in-person learning environment at school. Required documentation may include one or more of the following based on input from the local department of health:

  1. Documentation from a health care provider following evaluation
  2. Negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result
  3. Symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation

HFM BOCES will refer to DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Public and Private Employees Returning to Work Following COVID-19 Infection or Exposure” regarding protocols and policies for faculty and staff seeking to return to work after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or after the faculty or staff member had close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19.

HFM BOCES requires that individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus complete quarantine and have not developed symptoms before returning to in-person learning. The discharge of an individual from quarantine and return to school will be conducted in coordination with the local health department.

Health hygiene

HFM programs will emphasize healthy hygiene practices for students and staff by providing initial and refresher education in hand and respiratory hygiene, along with providing adequate supplies and time for frequent hand hygiene. Signs will be posted throughout our facilities (e.g., entrances, restrooms, cafeterias, classrooms, administrative offices, auditoriums, custodial staff areas) and regular messaging will be shared with the school community. Signage will be used to remind individuals to:

  • Stay home if they feel sick.
  • Cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering when unable to maintain social distance from others or in accordance with any stricter policy implemented by the school.
  • Properly store and, when necessary, discard PPE.
  • Adhere to social distancing instructions.
  • Report symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.
  • Follow hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection guidelines.
  • Follow respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.

Protocols will also be communicated to parents/guardians via the HFM BOCES website and other tools to observe for signs of illness in their child that require staying home from school.

Hand Hygiene

Students and staff must carry out the following hand hygiene practices:

  • Wash hands routinely with soap (any kind) and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Dry hands completely after washing. Use paper towels to dry hands if available instead of a hand dryer if they are available.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizer should be rubbed on the hands until it is completely absorbed. DO NOT dry hands if sanitizer is used.

Hand washing should occur:

  • Before and after eating (e.g. snacks and lunch).
  • After going to the restroom or after assisting a student with toileting.
  • After using a tissue.
  • Before and after using shared materials.
  • Before and after putting on or taking off face masks.
  • After coming in from the outdoors.
  • Anytime hands are visibly soiled.

BOCES programs will provide and maintain hand hygiene stations, as follows:

  • For handwashing: soap, running warm water, and disposable paper towels.
  • For hand sanitizing: an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol for areas where handwashing facilities may not be available or practical. Hand sanitizing stations will be available in common areas, classrooms, near entrances and exits and other locations.
  • Accommodations for students who cannot use hand sanitizer will be made.

Respiratory Hygiene

The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs, sneezes or talks.

Students and staff must carry out the following respiratory hygiene practices.

  • Cover a cough or sneeze using a tissue. If a tissue is used, it should be thrown away immediately.
  • If you don’t have a tissue when sneezing or coughing, sneeze into your elbow.
  •  Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.
  • Face coverings are protective. Wearing a face covering will keep the respiratory droplets and aerosols from being widely dispersed into the air.

Cleaning and disinfecting

BOCES will ensure adherence to hygiene and cleaning and disinfection requirements as advised by the CDC and DOH, including “Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection of Public and Private Facilities for COVID-19,” and the “STOP THE SPREAD” poster, as applicable. Cleaning and disinfection logs will be maintained that include the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection.

Examples of facility types where cleaning and disinfection frequency will be distinguished include:

  • Bathrooms
  • Athletic training rooms, locker rooms
  • Health offices, isolation rooms
  • Administrative offices (main office, reception area)
  • Frequently touched surfaces in common areas (door handles, elevator buttons, copy machine keypads, etc.)
  • Breakrooms
  • Cafeterias/Kitchens
  • Computer labs
  • Science labs
  • Classrooms
  • Maintenance offices and work areas
  • Bus Garage
  • Buses, school vehicles
  • Libraries
  • Large meeting areas (auditoriums, gymnasiums, music rooms)
  • Playgrounds (cleaning only)
  • Outdoor seating areas (plastic or metal)

Students, faculty, and staff will be trained on proper hand and respiratory hygiene, and such information will be provided to parents and/or legal guardians on ways to reinforce this at home.

Regular cleaning and disinfection of the facilities will occur, including more frequent cleaning and disinfection for high-risk and frequently touched surfaces. This will include desks and cafeteria tables, which should be cleaned and disinfected between each individual’s use. Cleaning and disinfection will be rigorous and ongoing and will occur at least daily, or more frequently as needed.

The BOCES will ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of restrooms. Restrooms will be cleaned and disinfected more often depending on frequency of use.

Vulnerable populations/accommodations

We recognize that some students and staff members are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, live with a person who is at an increased risk, or simply do not feel comfortable returning to an in-person educational environment. It is our goal that these individuals are able to safely participate in educational activities.

  • In consultation with home districts, student population reviews will be conducted to identify any students that would fall into a vulnerable population who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Special circumstances will be discussed and accommodations will be established on a case by case basis.
  • Identified students will be offered alternate approaches, such as alternative schedules or hybrids of in-person and remote learning.
  • Additional PPE will be provided to individuals with underlying health conditions.
  • Accommodations for students and staff in vulnerable populations or who live with persons in a vulnerable population will be addressed individually and will be determined on a case by case basis. Staff members who are concerned about returning to campus must contact Human Resources.

Visitors on campus

Only essential visitors, approved by BOCES, will be allowed on school campuses. Essential visitors to facilities will be required to wear face coverings and will be restricted in their access to our school buildings. Essential visitors will be required to complete health screening protocols prior to entering the building. Parents/guardians will report to the front office and not go beyond unless it is for the safety or well-being of their child.

School safety drills

BOCES programs will conduct fire (evacuation) drills and lockdown drills as required by education law and regulation and the fire code without exceptions. Embedded programs will participate in home school drills as required. Drills will be conducted in a manner that maintains social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students to respond in emergencies.