HEALTH & SAFETY PLAN

2020-2021 Phased School Reopening 

Introduction 

 

Since March 2020, when Waldron Mercy Academy transitioned to distance learning, the COVID-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives, and its impact on our world is expected to continue to unfold into the foreseeable future. Yet, despite the challenges that have arisen during the pandemic, WMA has pushed forward.  Our mission has served as a guiding force in planning and decision making, while prioritizing the health and safety of our students, staff and families.

 

The summer of 2020 has been like no other.  Summer professional development for our faculty has been more comprehensive than ever, focusing on distance learning tools and best practices.  Since the school year ended in June, WMA employees and key volunteers have worked diligently to develop the following reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year. This document establishes the framework we will use to reopen WMA in September 2020 and delineates specific policies and protocols for safe school operation in accordance with guidelines published by healthcare authorities as well as our federal, state and local government.  Prior to the start of school our staff will review these protocols and procedures and the associated detailed implementation plans.   

Reopening Planning Process 

 

In June, a reopening Task Force was recruited by WMA to help evaluate prevailing healthcare guidelines and instructional and operational needs in the upcoming school year.  The Task Force consists of members of WMA’s staff, members of WMA’s Board of Trustees (BOT), current parents, and parents of alumni, who bring expertise in the areas of medicine, healthcare policy, law, and education.  

 

The Task Force was divided among six committees: (1) Health & Safety, (2) Facilities, (3) Curriculum, (4) Finance and Operations, (5) Specials & Extra-curricular, (6) Technology (7) Student Support, (8) Communications, (9) Parent Support.  

The Health & Safety committee played a primary role in developing the plan.  During the month of July, the Health & Safety Committee reviewed guidelines from the CDC, PA Department of Health, and American Academy of Pediatrics.  These guidelines were relied upon to create a reopening plan specific to WMA’s student body and staff, facilities, and resources.  Once the Health & Safety Plan was reviewed by the entire task force and deemed to be final, it was used by the remaining Task Force committees to develop implementation plans specific to their areas of operation.  The plan defined here is a result of that combined effort.

 

As we enter the 2020-2021 school year, WMA’s Pandemic Response Team (PRT) will oversee implementation of the plan’s policies and protocols as well as monitor any changes to healthcare or government guidelines that may affect the plan. PRT members are those task force participants highlighted above.  In addition, all of the above named task force participants will continue to act as consultants to the PRT.

Guiding Principles 

 

In our mission statement, we acknowledge Waldron Mercy Academy as a diverse, faith community rooted in the gospel values of mercy and justice.  As we all know, one of the best attributes of WMA is that our students do not all come from the same neighborhood or similar backgrounds.  Our students come from neighborhoods throughout Greater Philadelphia and represent a diversity of ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds and religious beliefs. Accordingly, the Task Force was committed to developing a plan that would allow for safe, in-person instruction when school reopens.  The Task Force was also committed to creating a reopening plan, policies and procedures that would conform to prevailing guidelines from healthcare authorities and the government.  

 

To balance these two objectives, policies and procedures in the Plan were guided by the following core principles: 

  1. The health and safety of WMA’s students, staff, and families will be the first consideration in all decisions; 

  2. WMA will continue to fulfill its mission to provide a Mercy-centered education. 

  3. In-person instruction and interaction among teachers and students remains our goal, as both are vital to the educational development and emotional wellbeing of our students. 

Operating Scenarios 

The Task Force recognizes that the pandemic continues to evolve and to impact our lives.  While a goal of the plan is in-person instruction, there is a real possibility that we will need to shift to distance learning at some point during the school year.  Consequently, WMA has concurrently established plans for fully distance learning and hybrid in-school/distance learning in circumstances where students cannot be physically present in school.  These circumstances may include: 

  • A shift in government guidelines reducing the number of students allowed in the building at one time. If we have to reduce the capacity of the school, a hybrid schedule, where there is a combination of simultaneous in-person and distance learning, will be implemented. 

  • Pandemic-related quarantines that may result in individual students or complete cohorts having to be home for a certain period of time. 

  • Pandemic-related full-school shutdowns. In the case of a full-school shutdown, WMA will resume distance learning from home for the entire student body.  

 

Separately, some of our families may proactively decide to keep their child(ren) at home full-time or part-time for health considerations related to COVID-19.  For families opting for in-home learning, WMA is committed to providing distance learning for students. 

 

In light of the above, WMA is developing the following school-wide operational scenarios.  For the 2020-2021 school year, we will simultaneously provide all three learning options and allow parents to choose the option they prefer until health conditions, CDC regulations, or governmental orders dictate otherwise. Most importantly, WMA intends to open in September able to provide in-person learning for all students.

 

  1. In-person learning for all students with face coverings, increased hygiene and physical distancing to the extent feasible, as detailed in this document. 

  2. Hybrid with half the students (split alphabetically by family) in-person on Monday and Wednesday and half on Tuesday and Thursdays with alternating Friday attendance.  Distance learning on the non-in-person days. 

  3. All distance learning.  The school building is closed. 

 

Since distance learning will be offered throughout the year, WMA will continue to develop this type of learning.  We will continue to apply best practices based on educational research and sound pedagogy.  Over the summer, WMA has invested in distance learning resources and our teachers have completed professional development specific to distance learning to prepare.  

 

In the situations where distance learning is required, WMA will provide the following: 

  • Computer/iPad access for students in PK, K, and grades 1-8. 

  • The use of Seesaw and Google Classroom to centralize materials, lessons, instruction, assessments, feedback, and communications. 

  • Direct instruction on a daily basis.  Instruction will be a combination of synchronous/asynchronous.

  • Live-stream instruction by teachers directly from the classroom if other children remain in school. Students at home will be able to view the classroom instruction from home. 

  • Materials that are age and grade appropriate. 

  • Timely assessment and feedback. 

  • Regular communication with parents/guardians. 

WMA-Family Partnership 

 

As a private, Catholic elementary school, WMA relies on our families in many ways to be partners in providing a Mercy-based education for students. This partnership will be more crucial than ever before as we enter this new school year.  We will likely continue to see new challenges arise, but we are committed to working together to find solutions along the way that will allow our students to have a successful year.

 

We know that this school year will bring unique challenges for the students, faculty and families. We encourage parents/guardians to talk with your children before the start of the school year to prepare them for the different learning environment they will encounter in September.  WMA remains committed to work with any students/families to assist with the transition and help with any difficulties.

 

Since the health and safety of all is contingent upon this partnership operating knowledgeably and successfully, we will ask all families to sign an informed consent  and participate fully in the health and safety protocols that are outlined in this plan.

Further Information

GENERAL BUILDING PRINCIPLES AND PPE


During the school day, all individuals, including staff, students, and any vendors or visitors, will be masked with a properly fitting surgical or cloth mask that completely covers the nose and mouth. Mask breaks will be planned into the school day. Individuals will be encouraged to remain physically distant and will utilize one way or bi-directional “split” hallways and stairwells. Each student and staff member must bring a water bottle since drinking fountains will be turned off. Staff members can assist students to safely refill water bottles as needed. Hand sanitizer will be available at entrances, in hallways, in classrooms, and in other high traffic areas throughout the school. Students and staff who are allergic or sensitive to hand sanitizer will have access to a sink to wash their hands with soap and water in place of using these products. Signage will be placed in each classroom and throughout the building to remind the school community about symptoms of COVID-19 and measures to prevent transmission including masks, hand hygiene, and physical distancing. Reminders will also be provided daily through our morning announcements. Health education videos will be created and sent to parents and staff prior to the start of school. Examples of videos will include hand washing best practices, proper use of a mask, and physical distancing practices. Visitors and vendors will be limited to before or after school hours as much as possible. Visitors and vendors will enter and exit through a designated door, be recorded in a daily log, will be asked health screening questions prior to entry, and will be required to wear masks at all times while on the school campus. All on campus events and programs may be delayed, adjusted, or offered virtually upon being reviewed for feasibility in consideration of the new guidelines and protocols. A plexiglass barrier will be installed at the front desk. If students are working at desks less than six feet apart, desk shields will be used to create physical barriers on each desk. The elevator will not be used unless required to accommodate a physical disability for a student or staff member or to transport materials. A maximum of 2 people will be allowed in the elevator at a time, to be distanced as indicated by floor markings. When possible, non-essential furniture, materials, or equipment will be removed and stored elsewhere to create additional space for physical distancing of desks.




HEALTH MONITORING


All staff and students will be required to complete a health self-assessment before leaving for school each day, including taking their temperature, to determine whether that person can enter the building that day. Developmentally appropriate approaches will be used to remind students each day to practice physical distancing, wash hands, wear masks, and stay home when sick. A dedicated room will be established as the room where students with potential symptoms of COVID-19 can be isolated. This room will be large enough for several students to sit six feet apart and separate from the nurse’s office. While in the sick room, the symptomatic student must wear a mask at all times and must maintain 6 feet distance from others, including staff, to the greatest extent possible. After the student has been picked up, contaminated supplies and surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected by an adult staff member using products that meet EPA disinfectant criteria, followed by hand hygiene using hand sanitizer for 20 seconds. When possible, cleaning and disinfecting should be performed, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines, after waiting at least 24 hours. Students and staff sent home from school with possible COVID-19 symptoms must be evaluated by a health care provider to determine whether COVID-19 testing is indicated prior to returning to school. Documentation from the health care provider must be provided to school prior to returning, with a decision for a safe return to school to be determined by Waldron Mercy Academy nurse, Candace Flowers. If a student has a confirmed case of COVID-19 (or has exposure to a household contact who tests positive for COVID-19)

  • The student’s parent should contact his or her primary practitioner to be evaluated.
  • Parents should notify Waldron Mercy COVID-19 officials (Ann Marie Braca at principal@waldronmercy.org; Candace Flowers at cbflowers@waldronmercy.org) of COVID-19 cases or possible exposures. WMA officials will notify and partner with health officials from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health.
  • According to the CDC, community exposure is defined as when an individual has had close contact (< 6 feet) for ≥ 15 minutes with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive.
  • Waldron Mercy Academy will partner with local health officials to assist the school with risk assessment, isolation, and quarantine recommendations; while determining next steps, we will:
  • Discourage the cohort from gathering until next steps have been determined
  • After waiting at least 24 hours, clean and disinfect potentially contaminated areas prior to reuse
  • Communicate to staff and families when a case has been confirmed, without using a name or identifying information of the person with COVID-19 testing, and require 14-day quarantine, including daily temperature and symptom assessment, among high-risk exposures. This process includes assessment and consideration of dismissal of the cohort related to the case, using the health official’s guidance.
  • The student who has a high-risk exposure due to a household contact who tests positive will be required to quarantine for 14 days from the point that either the individual no longer has exposure to a COVID positive household member or all sick household members are considered no longer contagious according to CDC criteria
  • The student who tests positive can return to in-person participation after the following conditions have been met:
  • 1 day with no fever (without use of fever-reducing medications) and
  • Symptoms improved and
  • 10 days since symptoms first appeared (or 10 days since the date of the first positive RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA among those who test positive who never develop symptoms).
If a staff member has a confirmed case of COVID-19 (or has exposure to a household contact who tests positive for COVID-19)
  • Staff member should contact her or his primary practitioner to be evaluated.
  • Staff member should notify Waldron Mercy COVID-19 officials (Ann Marie Braca at principal@waldronmercy.org; Candace Flowers at cbflowers@waldronmercy.org) of COVID-19 cases or possible exposures. WMA officials will notify and partner with health officials from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health.
  • According to the CDC, community exposure is defined as when an individual has had close contact (< 6 feet) for ≥ 15 minutes with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive.
  • Waldron Mercy Academy will partner with local health officials to assist the school with risk assessment, isolation, and quarantine recommendations; while determining next steps, we will:
  • Discourage the cohort from gathering until next steps have been determined
  • After waiting at least 24 hours, clean and disinfect potentially contaminated areas prior to reuse
  • Communicate to staff and families when a case has been confirmed, without using a name or identifying information of the person with COVID-19 testing, and require 14-day quarantine, including daily temperature and symptom assessment, among high-risk exposures. This process includes assessment and consideration of dismissal of the cohort related to the case, using the health official’s guidance.
  • The staff member who has a high-risk exposure due to a household contact who tests positive will be required to quarantine for 14 days from the point that either the individual no longer has exposure to a COVID positive household member or all sick household members are considered no longer contagious according to CDC criteria
  • The staff member who tests positive can return to in-person participation after the following conditions have been met:
  • 1 day with no fever (without use of fever-reducing medications) and
  • Symptoms improved and
  • 10 days since symptoms first appeared (or 10 days since the date of the first positive RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA among those who test positive who never develop symptoms).
If a student or staff member has symptoms, and a medical provider determines that the symptoms are consistent with COVID-19 but does not recommend testing:
  • Consider the individual to be positive for COVID; follow guidelines for confirmed case.
If a student or staff member has symptoms, but a medical provider determines that the symptoms are due to a non-COVID cause or illness:
  • Student or staff member may not return to school until symptoms resolve and the individual is afebrile (fever free) without medication for 24 hours.
  • Documentation from a medical provider must be provided, including clearance to return to school.
If a student or staff member has symptoms, but then tests negative for COVID-19:
  • Student or staff member may not return to school until symptoms resolve and the individual is afebrile (fever free) without medication for 24 hours.
  • Documentation from a medical provider must be provided, including clearance to return to school.
If a student or staff member is exposed and asymptomatic:
  • Student or staff member may not return to school for 14 days from last exposure if he or she remains asymptomatic; if a student or staff member develops symptoms, use the above steps depending on evaluation and determination by a medical provider.
In all cases, if a positive case of COVID19 is diagnosed contact tracing will be implemented with the assistance of the Montgomery County Office of Public Health and/or the CDC/PA DOH.




FACILITIES CLEANING AND VENTILIATION


All air handlers will be upgraded to include MERV 11 air filters which remove a higher percentage of contaminants in the air and increase indoor air quality. All touchpoints within the school building will be disinfected nightly using vital oxide. Vital oxide has been approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19 and kills 99.999% of viruses. High touch surfaces (e.g.,railings, playground equipment, door knobs, remotes, light switches, bathrooms) will be cleaned frequently during the school day. As weather allows, classroom windows will be left open to increase air exchange. As weather and curriculum allows, teachers may take classes outside for certain lessons. If cohorts travel to other classrooms, tables/desks and chairs in those classrooms must be wiped down between classes by staff. Each classroom will be stocked with the appropriate cleaning supplies. Any shared classroom toys must be frequently cleaned; any toys that cannot be easily cleaned with antiseptic wipes must be removed from the classroom. Each classroom will designate a “dirty” bin for toys and materials that require cleaning. Toys and materials in the “dirty” bin may not be used until properly wiped down.




CLASSROOMS AND COHORTS


Students will be placed in homeroom cohorts and will remain in that grouping whenever possible all day. Whenever possible teachers will move to the cohorts rather than students moving to the teacher. Students will be marked as attending school whether attending in person or attending virtually. Only when children cannot or do not participate in any of the distance learning will they be marked absent. Desks should be placed as far apart as classroom space will allow, with a spacing of 6 feet to the maximum extent possible. Desks should all face the same direction, and rows should be staggered. If six feet of physical distance between students is not possible, in addition to the masks all students will be wearing, desk shields will be placed on desks to further decrease transmission risk. Children will move in cohorts throughout the building, and the movement of cohorts should be staggered to minimize the total number of students and staff in the hall at any given time. Schedules will allow students and staff to easily shift between in-school and distance learning as necessary. This may necessitate a change to a five day schedule which will still include specials such as art, music, gym, Spanish. When possible, specialist teachers will go into the students’ classroom. If a specialist’s classroom is used (i.e. science lab), desks/tables and chairs will be cleaned by staff between classes. Classrooms should eliminate, when possible, the use of shared materials. Each child should have dedicated writing instruments, books, and art supplies. Devices such as iPads and chromebooks will be assigned to specific students. If students must travel to another room for specialized instruction such as learning support, the student should bring his or her own materials whenever possible. Classrooms should set up clearly labeled areas where students can store personal items to keep them separate from the belongings of other students. Group singing will be discouraged until a safe process has been established that meets all Health and Safety guidelines and is reviewed by that task force. Field trips will not occur in 2020 and will not take place in 2021 until public health conditions improve. No outside food will be brought in by anyone for sharing.




RECESS AND LUNCH


Lunch and recess play an important part in the day of both students and staff, and for the 2020-2021 school year we want to maintain as much of a sense of normalcy as possible. For lunch, students will still be offered the option to purchase lunch and drinks from our cafeteria, although to minimize movement, snacks will not be offered. If students choose to order lunch from our cafeteria, individual meals (boxed lunches) will be delivered to student classrooms. Students will eat lunch with their cohort and will maintain a six foot distance from others to allow removal of masks for eating and drinking. To accomplish this students will remain in classrooms or, if physical distancing of six feet is not possible in a classroom, students will move safely to a location where six foot distancing can be maintained, such as in the gym or outdoors. Students may not share food items, utensils, or drinks with others. Students will wash hands or use hand sanitizer before and after lunch. Trash items will be handled carefully and desks will be wiped down at the end of lunch. Recess will continue the principles of physical distancing, cohorting, and masking when physical distancing is not possible. High touch surfaces on playground equipment such as handlebars and ladders will be wiped down before recess and in between cohorts. Students will wash or sanitize their hands before and after going to recess. While outside at recess, students may remove masks if it is possible to maintain six feet of distance between students. Teachers will determine whether masks may be removed and will provide individual storage for masks that are removed. If recess must occur indoors, masks will be worn at all times.




EXTRACURRICULARS AND MERCY AFTER CARE


Clubs and other extracurricular activities will begin in October. Some activities will be offered virtually, and others will be adapted in response to physical distancing requirements. In-person clubs and student groups that would bring together students from different cohorts cannot be offered until public health conditions improve. If possible, virtual alternatives may be offered so that students can continue to participate. Sports will be offered at the discretion of the Principal and the Athletic Director, taking into account WMA’s health and safety guidelines, local health guidelines, collaboration with athletic leagues, and consideration of the specific risks posed by each sport (indoor versus outdoor, amount of physical contact). WMA is awaiting further guidance regarding interscholastic competition this fall and will update families as soon as more is known. Waldron Mercy Academy’s after-school program, Mercy After Care, will be available once WMA has developed plans and staffing to keep students separated by cohort. All policies and implementation plans developed for use during the school day must be followed with this program. When the program does open, it will be offered through pre-registration only in order to assure compliance with all health and safety guidelines and to guarantee appropriate staffing.




COMMUNICATION


All COVID-19 communications updates will be done through Option C Parent Alert emails and will also be added to our website as applicable. Urgent mass communication may come through text or voicemail. Please be sure to check and/or update your communication preferences on your Parent Portal. If your child is believed to be sick, you will receive a direct phone call. Parents will continue to receive regular communications and updates from your child’s teacher regarding their education via email and through the teacher website(s).




TRANSPORTATION


Transportation for WMA students is provided either by parents, a parent-contracted transportation service, or by the public school district of the student’s residence. Each school district will have its own Pennsylvania Department of Education approved plan for transportation where they define their maximum occupancy, seating requirements, and mask regulations in school buses. Families driving their own children or using private transportation will commit to a consistent daily arrival and pickup time coordinated with WMA to facilitate physical distancing among students and staff. Upon arrival in the morning, students will enter the building through designated doors depending upon how they arrive as a way to promote physical distancing. Car line lanes will be separated with the innermost lane used for students who need help exiting the vehicle and the outermost lane used for students who can exit the vehicle unassisted.




REFERENCES


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Community, Work, & School. Updated July 23, 2020. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/prepare-safe-return.html 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Duration of Isolation & Precautions for Adults. Updated July 22, 2020. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/duration-isolation.html 3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Operating Schools During Covid-19. Updated May 19, 2020. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html 4. American Association of Pediatrics. Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry. Available at: https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/covid-19-planning-considerations-return-to-in-person-education-in-schools/ 5. Pennsylvania Department of Education. Preliminary Guidance for Phased Reopening of Pre-K to 12 Schools. Updated July 16, 2020. Available at: https://www.education.pa.gov/Schools/safeschools/emergencyplanning/COVID-19/SchoolReopeningGuidance/ReopeningPreKto12/PublicHealthGuidance/Pages/default.aspx 6. Montgomery County Guidance for Reopening for Pre-K to 12 Schools. Updated July 17, 2020. Available at: https://www.montcopa.org/DocumentCenter/View/28390/Montco-School-Guidance-Final





Health and Safety Plan Governing Body Affirmation Statement 

 

The Board of Directors/Trustees for Waldron Mercy Academy reviewed and approved the Phased School Reopening Health and Safety Plan on August 5, 2020.

 

The plan was approved by a vote of:

           Yes: 17

           No: 0

 

Affirmed on August 5, 2020 by:

Jim McGovern

WMA Board President

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Please click through the four category headings to find the answer to your question.

PLANNING

How many plans is Waldron creating?


The state has required us to create three overarching plans.

  • A plan if we determine we can safely open at full capacity.
  • A plan if either we are ordered to reduce building capacity or if changing conditions cause us to reevaluate the number of people that can safely be in the building at one time. This is a hybrid scenario where students are divided so that only half are in the building at one time. In this case, the Gold Group will be in the building on Monday and Tuesday and the first two Fridays of the month. The Blue Group will be in the building on Wednesday and Thursday and the second two Fridays of the month.
  • A plan if we are either ordered to stay home by governmental directive or we make that determination ourselves if we no longer feel it is safe for in-the-building learning (for example if we accrue too many cases to handle individually). This is a fully virtual scenario. All students learn from home.
The first plan is our current September plan. As part of this plan, parents can individually choose one of three options mentioned below.




Will there be a change in school hours?


No, school hours will not change; doors will open at 7:30 and dismissal will begin at 2:50. However, we do anticipate that car line arrival and dismissal may take longer as our survey results showed that fewer families will be using bus transportation. We are currently working on the arrival and dismissal plan.




If Waldron opens using the first scenario as planned, what are my options as a parent?


With WMA’s plan to open at full capacity in September parents will be able to determine how comfortable they are with their child being in the building. Parents may choose to have their child remain at home full-time (a fully virtual option), attend school in person full-time (a fully in-person option), or have their child attend school some days and stay some some days (a mixed option explained below). Teachers will simultaneously have students live in front of them and live at home.




Explain more about the mixed option a parent might choose, please.


First you need to recognize this parental option is not the same thing as the school making a decision to move to a fully hybrid model. If the school moves to fully hybrid, ALL students will be assigned automatically to this plan. If the school is safely fully open, choosing this mixed option allows parents the ability to “go” to work on the days their children are in the building and, as their children will be home on the opposite days, their children will be exposed to others less often. The students of families who select this option will be split into two groups (see below).




Please explain how students are divided in the hybrid plan and the mixed option.


Students will be split into a Blue Group and a Gold Group alphabetically by last name. The Blue Group is students with last names A to L. The Gold Group is students with last names M to Z. Recognizing that classrooms are not formed alphabetically, we will be asking several families to switch color groups to accommodate 6’ between students, social interactions among students, and equity of our students. Your child’s homeroom teacher will be contacting you about these changes. Once you have been assigned a color group, your family will keep this color group for the remainder of the year and will utilize them if the school switches to the full hybrid plan for the entire school. In a fully open plan, we will divide the students in half. The Blue Group will be in the building on Monday and Tuesday. The Gold Group will be in the building on Wednesday and Thursday. In general, the first two Fridays of the month will be Blue days and the next two will be Gold days. If there is a fifth Friday, it will be used to make sure both Blue and Gold have an equal number of Fridays in the building.




How often can my child move between learning options?


We recognize that conditions can change daily and parents might want to change their child’s option in response. We also recognize that constant change is not helpful to anyone’s stress level. Therefore students can move to less time in the building anytime but can only move to more time in the building on the first or third Monday of the month. In all cases, a parent must email both Fran Gallagher and the student’s classroom teacher to make the change; requests to spend more time in the building must be made by the Thursday prior for planning purposes.




So, exactly how many children will be in the building on a given day?


It will vary based on how many families select the in-person and the mixed model.




Please explain how cohorts are grouped.


Cohorts are how students are grouped to learn; it is not how students are split in hybrid models. Cohorts are created by the students’ teachers from the previous year. In grades three and under, each self-contained homeroom is a cohort. In grade 4, each homeroom is a cohort; this year the three teachers rather than the students will move from room to room. In Grades 5-8, students will be part of two cohorts: their homeroom cohort for half of their major subjects and their math cohort for the other half. The homeroom cohort is a heterogeneous grouping which is the preferred educational practice, but differences in math ability necessitates the second grouping. Three teachers will rotate around the homeroom cohorts, and once the students move to their math cohorts, three teachers will rotate around their math cohorts. Schedules will be slightly staggered so that only one grade at a time is transitioning in the hallway.




What was the “magic” that the teachers in grades 6-8 did to provide more seating?


In these grades the measurements were originally taken by our maintenance staff starting 6’ away from the wall. When the teachers placed the first row of desks very close to the inner corridor wall, they were able to fit more desks.




Are teachers supportive of a full return? Have any teachers indicated they will not return? If so, which grades?


All of our teachers are supportive of our plan. In fact, we are especially grateful to the many who have been part of our planning process this summer! The small number of staffing changes were listed in the August 25 and August 27 emails.




Does the reopening plan include preschool? And when does preschool actually open?


Yes, the reopening plan includes all of our youngest grades. Preschool, Prek, and Montessori all open on Tuesday, September 8 or Wednesday September 9, depending upon whether your child is “blue” or “gold”. You should have received a letter from your child’s teacher detailing what the experience will look like in the classroom. Regarding arrival and dismissal, we are still refining the procedures. We can share that for this year our preschool, pre-k, and Montessori students and their siblings will enter and exit through the busline door AT THE BACK OF SCHOOL facing Merion Mercy, as we expect reduced ridership on the busses this year. You will make the second right, immediately after passing school on your right. This will allow us to give the proper time and attention to those younger students, especially as we start school. The SignUp Genius will be sent shortly.




In a hybrid/mixed model, how many days a week will be virtual? Do parents get to pick the days that children are in attendance at school?


Students in the mixed model will learn from school 2 or 3 days a week based on the Blue and Gold Group schedules. See the breakdown in our Academic Plan. This will continue should WMA have to move to a full hybrid plan for the entire school. Parents cannot choose the days that their child will attend as that would disrupt the imbalance we are trying to create.




If the classes in grades 5-8 need to use extra rooms to accommodate all learners that wish to attend school in person, how will these students be selected?  Also, what happens if I keep my children home on the days they are scheduled to be in the extra simulcast room… would that change their scheduled choice?


All desks in every room, including simulcast room, are and will remain at 6’ apart even if everyone returns to 5 day in person learning. Students who are in the building 5 days a week would rotate into the simulcast room when it is needed. Students will be with their classmates for lunch and recess. Every two weeks if the situation changes, the teachers will share the schedule. This way the parent can choose to keep the student home if they want. A parent choosing to keep their children home instead of attending in person on those days does not change their scheduled choice.





HEALTH & SAFETY

Is WMA requiring families/employees quarantine and/or receive a COVID test prior to the start of school?


Please know that we expect all to adhere to the Governor’s recommendations on out-of-state travel. If you are traveling in these next two weeks to a location that is on the recommended quarantine list, we ask you to quarantine. Your student will still be able to participate virtually, so they will not be marked absent. If this applies to you, please email Fran Gallagher immediately. If you have visited with large groups or traveled to the beach, we ask you to evaluate whether your child would be better starting the school year from home for the first two weeks. Our plan will only work if we all respect that our actions individually impact the whole group. If your child is participating in unmasked activities outside of WMA, we suggest that your children learn virtually. However, this is not a mandate; we just ask that you self-reflect on this matter. No COVID tests are required prior to the start of school.




Are efforts being made to update the ventilation systems for the classrooms?


Yes, we are using MERV-11 filters this year. Additionally, weather permitting, classroom windows will stay open. For the classrooms without windows, we are installing UV filtering systems. We just received the quote last week, the work has been approved and will be completed before the start of school.




Who is doing the contact tracing?


Our two nurses, Candace Flowers and Joanne Ferdinand, will head our contact tracing process with assistance from Fran Gallagher.




Will the classrooms in the younger grades have additional staff to help facilitate proper hand hygiene practices and to monitor for instances when children do something that may require them to perform hand hygiene?


All classrooms for kindergarten, pre-k, preschool, and Montessori have classroom aides who will be available to assist with hand washing, etc.




Is the hand sanitizer on the school list, should we look for a large bottle that stays in our child’s desk or will it be in their backpack and go back and forth with it?


A small bottle is sufficient as it can be refilled at home when need be.




What face covering are students permitted to wear? Can they wear face shields?


All individuals in the building, including students, must wear a properly fitting surgical or cloth mask that completely covers the nose and mouth. Students can elect to wear face shields in addition to masks, but not instead of masks. Students are not permitted to wear gaiters, scarves, or any other face coverings besides a surgical or cloth mask. Mask breaks will be scheduled to prevent mask fatigue.




What happens if a student or staff member shows COVID symptoms at school?


Please see the Health Monitoring section of the WMA Reopening Plan for details. The first step requires that Individuals are isolated until they can leave school.




What happens if a student or staff member tests positive?


See the Health Monitoring section of the WMA Reopening Plan for details.




Will students and staff be required to be tested for COVID prior to the start of school?


No, we are not requiring testing before the first day of school since the test only confirms that an individual did not have the virus at that specific moment. For example, an individual could take a test on Labor Day and be exposed to the virus later that same day.




How will student and staff health be assessed and monitored?


All staff and students (through their parents) will be required to assess their health each morning. The assessment includes determining whether the temperature taken is below 100.4 as one of the criteria for safely entering the building that day.




How will you enforce everyone’s cooperation with this part of the plan?


Employees will have to check-in at the front desk before interacting with students to verify their self-assessment is complete with positive results. Employees will allow student entrance after they ensure the student’s self-assessment is complete and indicates a positive result. It is important to note that everyone’s health and safety is dependent upon each individual being honest and cooperative with the self-assessment and the health and safety requirements. Each one of us is responsible to protect the entire WMA community. If you feel unwell, please stay home!




When will students wear masks?


Students will wear masks in classrooms and while traveling in the hallways, no matter the physical distance. Masks will be removed for lunch, when students are separated at least 6 feet apart. Additionally, mask breaks will be scheduled for students and staff. After a few weeks of assessment of their ability to remain physically distant at recess, we will reassess whether students might be permitted to remove masks during outdoor recess. As conditions change these restrictions will be continually assessed, but we will start the school year in the safest way possible.




Does my younger child need to wear a mask in school all day?


Yes, all WMA students over the age of 2 must wear masks. Our daycare has been open since July 6 with a growing enrollment each week. They are having no difficulty with the two and three-year-olds wearing masks, so that seems hopeful.




Who provides masks?


Students should arrive at school each day with their own mask and a spare. There will be masks available at WMA in the event that a student forgets a mask or a mask becomes contaminated. In addition, we anticipate offering masks with WMA logos for purchase.




How will the school be cleaned and ventilated?


We are anticipating hiring additional custodial staff to support ongoing daily cleaning. Bathrooms and high contact areas will continuously be cleaned throughout the day. In addition, WMA purchased fogging equipment that uses Vital Oxide (CDC recommended and determined to be 99.9999 % effective against viruses per the EPA). All classrooms, offices and student gathering areas will be disinfected nightly. As for air quality, ventilation will be improved with outside air and improved air filtration. To improve air filtration, we are installing MERV11 filters, which will be changed every two months based upon vendor recommendations. Additionally, outside air will be directly, or indirectly introduced to all classrooms.




What will WMA do to ensure students’ emotional well-being?


Social emotional learning is a top priority every year but especially this year. The school year will open with the first few days and weeks focusing not just on academics but on the wellbeing of the student. Daily check-ins will be required throughout each day as part of maintaining a healthy environment for all.




Will there be enough cleaning supplies and backup masks available to the school in quantity that will sustain the need?


Yes, we believe we have sufficient supplies and a strong pipeline.




With regards to the health assessment, how is that submitted to WMA each day, and what time in the morning does it need to be completed?


We have purchased an app that will alert you by text that it needs to be filled out each day before you arrive at school or before you put your child on the bus. We will be checking for successful completion when your child arrives at the door. The app is scheduled for delivery to us by the first day of school, but we have a backup form ready in case it is not.




How will you ensure that students do not meet in corridors at drop off/in?


We will have teachers and staff members stationed in the corridors to make sure students are staying physically distant as they enter and leave the building. Additionally, there will be footprint decals on the floors to remind students to walk at a distance. These decals will also be used for keeping students 6’ apart when they line up for pick up.




If we need to use extra rooms to fit the students in grades 5-8 at 6’ apart, will cohorts be mixed and will the students still have desk shields?


No cohorts will be mixed. Some small classrooms will be used, each comprised of only one grade, and the gym will be used as necessary. As of the opening of school, only one room is needed for 5th grade students. If and when we need to use the gym, two grades will be placed at opposite ends of the gym, separated by the upright and closed cafeteria tables used as dividers and about 15’ of distance. The gym windows and doors will be open for continuous fresh air circulation. As of the opening of school, the gym does not need to be used. Desk shields will be on all students’ desks in grades 5-8, regardless of where the student is located.





OTHER

Will the school supply/stationery lists be updated to eliminate shared materials?


Yes. The updated lists can be found here.




Any uniform changes for this year?


In consideration of COVID-19, there are several changes to the policy for this year only:

  • No dry-clean items such as blazers and ties will be required.
  • Students learning from home should follow the same uniform rules as those at school to create a united community.
  • Students will be required to wear their uniform on Monday each week. If Monday is gym day for the student, the uniform should be worn on Tuesday.
  • On the remaining days, students have the choice to wear their standard uniform, gym uniform/Spirit Wear, or any other branded WMA clothing (such as old sports uniforms or play shirts).
  • There are no specific shoe requirements, other than flip flops and sneakers are not permitted when wearing a school uniform. Sneakers are permitted on gym days. We recommend shoes with velcro for students who are unable to tie their own shoes.




Will the Uniform Clothesline and the School Store be open this year?


Yes.
 Our website is now online. Shop here.




Will Mercy After Care be available?


Mercy After Care will not be available during the first few weeks of school as we determine whether we can safely offer the program for students in different cohorts. We are hoping to offer the program if deemed safe and when specifics can be planned.




How will bus and van service work?


Each school district is responsible for creating their own PDE approved health and safety plans that also addresses transportation. This information should be available on your school district’s website. It seems that most bus companies intend to spread students 6‘ apart on the bus. Yes, it mixes cohorts but at a safe distance. Please note that most of the companies have not responded to us yet and may be offering plans that do not match our school hours. We’re honestly not quite sure how the vans can offer a service to anyone but individual families, more like an Uber.




When will class and teacher information be provided?


You should have now received your teachers’ letters and may have also received (or will shortly receive) a teacher welcome video and Zoom session invite for you and your student. Stay tuned!!!!




Will there be an opportunity for students to meet their teachers before the first day of school?


Students in grades 4 below and all new families will have the opportunity to meet their teachers on campus on September 2. You should have received an email from your child’s teacher with details. All teachers will also host a virtual event for their class before the first day of school. You will receive information directly from your homeroom or mentor teacher. Also, our teachers are preparing classrooms right now and we will offer a video tour shortly.




Do you intend to have student teachers in the building this year?


Student teachers will not be in the building in 2020, but we are looking into whether they can assist us remotely. If that changes in 2021 because the situation with Covid improves, we would let parents know.




Please explain the reasoning behind the uniform policy for this year.


We believe that having our students wear uniforms, whether they are in school or learning from home, creates a sense of normalcy and routine to help them focus on the school day. With so many other things changing this year, we still want our students to feel as normal as possible as they learn this year. At Waldron Mercy, normalcy includes uniforms. However, understanding that we are an unprecedented situation, we are only asking for students to wear the full uniform one day a week with Spirit Wear four days a week. No dry-clean materials such as blazers or ties are required. There will be no official transition to a winter or spring uniform; students can wear whichever uniform pieces make them comfortable. When in school, flip flops are not permitted and sneakers should only be worn on gym days. Other than that, there are no specific shoe requirements. We do recommend that students who need assistance to tie their shoes wear velcro shoes on campus. For more uniform information, please go to our uniform page. *Just like every other year, students in Montessori, preschool, and pre-k will not wear uniforms.




What’s the dress code for students learning from home?


To make the students feel as connected to each other as possible, the dress code for students who are learning from home (through the distance learning or mixed models) is the same as students learning in person: Uniforms on Monday, and Spirit Wear the rest of the week. If your child has gym on Monday, they will wear the full uniform on Tuesday. There are no shoe requirements when learning at home.




How will lunchtime work?


Students will eat lunch in their classrooms at their desks where they will be seated at least 6 feet apart. All students will wash hands before and after eating. When possible, students may eat lunch outside sitting 6’ apart.




Will lunch be available for purchase?


Yes, boxed lunches will be available to purchase. These boxed lunches will be delivered to student classrooms





ACADEMICS

How will distance learning work this year compared to in-class learning?


Families that choose the all-virtual learning option (or the mixed option on the days they are learning at home) will connect with the teachers daily via Zoom and a webcam. Students will follow the same schedule as those learning in school. Teachers will interact with the students who are physically present at school and those at home.There will be times during the day when the camera is turned off, such as times when classes are changing. Support teachers, aides, and possibly student teachers will engage with the students. Families who choose the all virtual option will come to school and pick up learning materials before school starts. Students who have to quarantine will also be able to connect using the virtual option above. Work will be posted in Seesaw or Google Classroom if students are unable to join live at any given time. In the event that the school determines that a move to fully virtual learning for all is necessary, a complete virtual schedule is being developed and will be provided. That schedule will be similar but may not be identical to the current schedule in the sense of teacher interaction.




Can my student attend math and/or reading class only in person and participate for other classes virtually?


Unfortunately, no. All movement of students will be carefully organized to minimize exposure among and between cohorts, so we cannot have students entering and exiting the building at different times of the day. Additionally, allowing students to drop by only for specific classes would complicate our contact tracing system.




How will students’ privacy be protected while classes are live streamed? Who will be able to access the livestream videos? Will they be password protected?


Links to Zoom meetings for the livestreaming will be sent to those students (or their parents in the lowest grades) who are learning from home. These students will be able to see the teacher at all times, and the other students when there is a whole group discussion or when the teacher places students in groups using the Zoom breakout room feature.The live streamed classes will not be recorded. We will be adding the following addendum to our technology responsible use policy this year. The School prohibits screenshots, photos, audio/video recordings and distribution of any virtual educational experiences. This is in order to protect privacy, prevent cyberbullying and reduce distribution of content from virtual educational experiences. Parents/guardians and other household members who normally are not privy to day-to-day classroom activities, agree to respect and keep confidential any personal or private information inadvertently discovered about other students due to their proximity to virtual education.




How many teachers are in the kindergarten classrooms during the day?


There will be a teacher and an assistant in classrooms for kindergarten and under, just like every school year.




With students learning from different locations, has the grading policy and communication policy changed to ensure there is effective communication between teachers, parents, and students in regards to participation and student work - both positive and negative?


Teachers will continue to share grading policies as pertains to each grade level. Parent communication in regards to missing assignments and status of student progress is prioritized. Teachers is grades 4-8, while having grades posted in Option C, will alert parents of any noticeable declines and assignments after the second drop. Our support staff is now well organized in reaching out to students, teachers, and parents. They are already meeting to ensure the school year begins on the same strong footing. Participation is a large part of class and conveys knowledge in a less formal way. It will not show a negative reflection on a grade. We always encourage praise of successes and work well done. Hopefully, you will see and hear more positive comments throughout the year.




What does virtual learning look like? How will WMA ensure that students’ social/emotional wellbeing are looked after?


All students who are learning from home (whether they are participating in full time distance learning, in our mixed model, or quarantining) will simultaneously attend classes with their peers who are inside the school building. This will be done over Zoom. Cameras are being installed inside each classroom so students will see their teacher through Zoom as if they are sitting inside a classroom. Teachers are currently working with each other to discuss how they will interact with the students who are present via Zoom the same way that they would interact with students who are present in the classroom. Essentially, it will be as if all students are in the classroom every single day from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., including specials. The only time students who are distance learning will not be learning live is when the in-classroom cameras are turned off for lunch, recess, and designated bathroom and outside breaks. Additionally, all students - in classroom and attending class from home - will participate in short breaks throughout the day where our teachers will focus on their social and emotional learning and wellbeing.




For students who are going virtual, how and when will they receive their materials? What grades will receive tablets and laptops?


We have created a signup genius so that on the first two days of school, families whose children are earning remotely can pick up their students’ classroom materials - including iPads for all students in pre-k to grade 2, and Chromebooks for students in grade 3 and up. It will be similar to the process we used to distribute materials and belongings in the spring. Parents will sign up for designated time slots when they can pick up devices and other learning materials for their students that they will need for their first two days of school, Thursday and Friday September 10 and 11.




Will each student going virtual be given a detailed daily schedule so they know when lessons are happening and when to log on?


All students will be given a fixed schedule for the week and will participate in all classes each day. Grades 4-8 have six classes each day that last approximately 50 minutes each. Lower grades have a schedule for the entire day but with shorter periods.




Will each teacher explain to the virtual students how they can participate in classroom discussions and how to ask questions during a lesson?


Yes. Teachers will be addressing this information during the first few days of classes




Will families opting to do virtual learning be provided with a teachers instructional manual for each subject they are required to teach?


No. Teaching will look like it did last September, not like it did in the spring. Students will engage with their teacher live as she or he teaches all students -- both in the building and at home. Parents will not need to do the teaching themselves.




Will extra support services be available for virtual or hybrid students?


Yes. The support services will be available for all students. Our support teachers worked with many students virtually last spring.





TOGETHER, WE ARE

Waldron Mercy Academy

Waldron Mercy Academy, a Catholic school sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, is a diverse, faith community rooted in the gospel values of mercy and justice. We are a school where the joy of discovery inspires serious study, social responsibility, and strong faith.

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