RR 2.0 - Operations & Safety

Operations and Safety Graphic

SAFETY PROTOCOLS (Updated 2022-01-11)

CLEANING

Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) is committed to the safety of all students and staff.  Following cleaning and disinfecting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Worcester County Public Schools has developed the following protocols:

Cleaning during the school day

Custodians will be expected to:

  • Clean and disinfect restrooms multiple times during the school day.
  • Clean and disinfect all water stations multiple times per day.
  • Disinfect door handles throughout the school once per day.

Cleaning when students leave the building

  • Teacher will wipe down their teaching station and student areas where instruction had taken place.
  • Custodial staff will clean and disinfect all areas in any rooms that are used. (i.e. door handles, light switches, lamp switch, personal desk space, etc.)

Cleaning Protocol for Areas Used by a Sick Person

WCPS will follow CDC guidelines for the cleaning of areas in which a person who exhibits symptoms has been. These guidelines include, but are not limited to:

  • Close off isolation areas used by the person who is sick.
  • Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.
  • Wait 24 hours before you clean or disinfect. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
  • Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person who is sick, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines.
  • Wear disposable gloves to clean and disinfect. For soft (porous) surfaces such as carpeted floors or rugs, clean the surface with detergents or cleaners appropriate for use on these surfaces, according to the textile’s label. After cleaning, disinfect with an appropriate EPA-registered disinfectant on List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2external icon. Soft and porous materials, like carpet, are generally not as easy to disinfect as hard and non-porous surfaces. EPA has listed a limited number of products approved for disinfection for use on soft and porous materials on List N. Follow the disinfectant manufacturer’s safety instructions (such as wearing gloves and ensuring adequate ventilation), concentration level, application method and contact time. Allow sufficient drying time if vacuum is not intended for wet surfaces.
  • Temporarily turn off in-room, window-mounted, or on-wall recirculation HVAC to avoid contamination of the HVAC units.
  • Do NOT deactivate central HVAC systems. These systems tend to provide better filtration capabilities and introduce outdoor air into the areas that they serve.
  • Consider temporarily turning off room fans and the central HVAC system that services the room or space, so that particles that escape from vacuuming will not circulate throughout the facility.
  • Once area has been appropriately disinfected, it can be opened for use.
  • Workers without close contact with the person who is sick can return to work immediately after disinfection.
  • If more than 7 days since the person who is sick visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.
  • Continue routing cleaning and disinfection. This includes everyday practices that businesses and communities normally use to maintain a healthy environment.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) (Updated 2022-02-25)

Effective February 28, 2022, WCPS no longer requires the wearing of face coverings in school facilities. However, in alignment with current CDC guidance, the wearing of face masks is still strongly recommended for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been identified as a close contact of an individual with COVID-19 will still be required to wear a face covering as outlined in current guidance.

Definition of Face Covering (Updated 2021-09-20)

WCPS defines a “face covering” as a material covering the nose and mouth of the wearer, should be well-fitting, and secured to the person’s head. This does not include material with visible holes or gaps in them like lace, knitted material, crochet, and/or mesh. Face coverings with exhalation valves should also not be used as they allow unfiltered air to escape to others. Face coverings exclude face shields or goggles. Per the Worcester County Health Department, a face shield alone does NOT provide the same protection as a face covering. Face shields may be worn along with a face covering to increase protection in situations where additional protection is needed. 

The bulleted items below detail additional safeguards WCPS has put into place to protect students and staff.

  • Reception desks: Plastic barriers have been installed at all facilities with a reception desk. 
  • Each school shall have extra PPE (Masks, gloves) on hand in case a student or staff member needs a replacement. 

EMPHASIZING PROPER HAND HYGIENE

WCPS will provide regular reminders and education about the importance of hand hygiene. WCPS has “Sanitation Stations” with face coverings, cleaning wipes or spray, and hand sanitizer available at key points throughout the building to encourage hang hygiene. Signage is posted in all student and staff restrooms for education about proper handwashing techniques. School nurses provide regular education and reminders to students about the importance and handwashing and hand hygiene.  

PHYSICAL DISTANCING (Updated 2022-04-19)

Keeping space between one another is one of the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to the coronavirus and slowing its spread. Worcester County Public Schools’ guidelines recommend a physical distance three - six feet to the greatest extent possible. Per CDC guidance, students can safely sit at a distance of 3-6 feet apart in the classroom setting.

STAYING HOME WHEN SICK (Updated 2022-01-11)

It is of utmost importance that individuals who are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 stay home. Even if the symptoms are mild, staying home when sick, and calling the school for guidance can prevent exposing students and staff to illness. Symptoms of COVID-19 include any ONE of the following: fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea or vomiting, new onset of severe headache (especially with fever), or new loss of taste or smell. For persons with chronic conditions such as asthma, the symptoms should represent a change from baseline.

SCHOOL NURSING OFFICES/SUITES

WCPS will ensure that each nursing suite will be equipped with adequate PPE. In addition, each school will maintain an isolation area in its nursing suite or other appropriate location for students who exhibit symptoms of respiratory-spread illness. This isolation area must have proper ventilation/airflow. This area must be in close proximity to and monitored by nursing staff or designee wearing an N95 mask until the student is released into parent custody. 

A communication is forthcoming to all WCPS families to notify parents of symptoms of COVID-19 and the need to pick up his/her child immediately if they become ill while at school.  If a family member is unable to pick up his/her child, WCPS Pupil Services staff and one school administrator per building have been fitted for N95 masks and provided a face shield, so they can safely transport the child home in a county vehicle. County vehicles will be cleaned per CDC guidelines.  

VENTILATION

WCPS will ensure ventilation systems are fully operational and air filtration systems are well maintained.

COVID-19 TESTING (Updated 2021-11-15)

All testing referenced below will be conducted by WCPS School Health staff, or by trained staff from MAKO Medical Labs, WCPS partner through MDH surveillance testing program. 

Diagnostic Testing

WCPS participates in the K-12 Diagnostic Testing Program. Students and staff who opt-in to the program can be tested in the school health suite when, during the school day, they develop symptoms of COVID-19 or learn that they are a close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual. Both rapid antigen tests and PCR tests are available. Parents/guardians must opt-in their child into the program by signing a consent form (paper or electronic through the MAKO lab portal). Additionally, parents/guardians will be contacted before each diagnostic test for verbal consent. 

Cohort Outbreak Testing (Updated 2022-01-11)

When a cohort meets the Maryland Department of Health’s definition of a classroom/cohort outbreak, WCPS’s protocol is to require that all members of the cohort, regardless of vaccination status, participate in surveillance testing on day 5-7. If individuals opt out, they will be required to wear a properly fitted face covering and physically distance from others at all times, other than during lunch. This may result in a modification of activities.

Schoolwide Outbreak Testing

When a school meets the Maryland Department of Health’s definition of a school-wide outbreak, optional surveillance testing will be offered to all staff and students in the school. Testing events will be offered every two weeks while the school-wide outbreak remains open.
 

PROTOCOL FOR PERSONS WHO TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
(Updated 2022-01-11)

WCPS will follow MSDE/MDH K-12 School and Child Care COVID-19 Guidance, as well as the updated/interim guidance released in January 2022. WCPS will continue to notify students, families, and staff if they have been a close contact of someone with COVID-19, or if they were in a cohort with someone with COVID-19 consistent with our notification protocol.

WCPS will now focus contact tracing efforts on school activities where individuals are unmasked, such as lunch and athletics, as well as identifying household contacts. We continue our commitment to notify families and staff when an individual in their cohort has tested positive. However, as individual contact tracing proves to be less effective when community transmission is high, our health staff will shift their efforts from investigating relatively low-risk in-school exposures to more critical activities like the identification, early isolation, and management of students and staff with active COVID-19-like symptoms.  

CLOSE CONTACT DEFINITION

A close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. An infected person can spread SARS-CoV-2 starting from 2 days before they have any symptoms (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date), until they meet criteria for discontinuing home isolation.

Exception

In the K – 12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within three to six feet of an infected student (laboratory confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) where: 

This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.

MODIFIED QUARANTINE PROTOCOL

WCPS has adopted the new MSDE/MDH guidance allowing for a modified quarantine option when close contact occurs between students in the school setting. This option is available when all of the following criteria are met: 

  • The close contact occurs between students aged 5 and older. (Note: Adults [i.e. teachers and staff members] are not eligible for modified quarantine.)
  • Both students were wearing masks consistently and correctly during the time of close contact.
  • The student who is a close contact is asymptomatic.
  • The student is not fully vaccinated.

When all of the above criteria are met, a family may opt for their student to participate in a modified quarantine. Those students eligible for modified quarantine will be able to attend school, but with several restrictions in place.

  • First, the student must not exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Second, the student must properly and consistently wear their well-fitted face mask at all times while in school. When removing mask to eat or for mask breaks, students must be distanced at least 6 feet from others. 
  • Third, the student must be tested for COVID-19 on days 1, 3, 5, and 7 of the modified quarantine period. On these days, students will report directly to the school nurse upon arriving at school to complete a rapid COVID-19 test.
  • Lastly, students on modified quarantine are prohibited from participation in any afterschool programs for the duration of the modified quarantine. This includes afterschool academies, athletics, clubs, and other extracurricular activities. Students are asked follow Maryland Department of Health quarantine guidance outside of the school day.

BUILDING HEALTH LITERACY WITHIN COMMUNITIES DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTED BY COVID-19

Prior to the pandemic, WPCS was working with AGH to develop a school-based health center for the Pocomoke region. COVID-19 put a pause to these efforts, but planning resumed in Spring of 2021, and an SBHC application has been submitted. Placing an urgency care telehealth center inside Pocomoke High School will increase access for our students, decrease time missed from school, and increase health literacy for our most vulnerable population in the county.

COVID-19 VACCINATION CLINICS

WCPS has scheduled a total of 20 vaccination clinics in our middle and high schools beginning in April of 2020. Clinics are open to all staff, families, and eligible students. 8 of these clinics targeted the 12+ population in middle schools. Clinics have been offered in partnership with our two local hospitals, Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) and TidalHealth. Each time a vaccination clinic is scheduled, school leaders and central office leadership promote the information in the hopes of encouraging staff and students to follow through on the COVID-19 vaccination.



OPERATIONAL PROTOCOLS

ATHLETICS

Worcester County Public Schools will operate interscholastic athletics for the 2021-2022 school year following the guidelines, and policies set forth by the MPSSAA, and the Bayside Athletic Conference. A full preseason, regular season, and postseason are scheduled for Fall, Winter, and Spring athletics.

Health-Related Guidelines

  • Pre-Participation Physicals
  • COVID-19 Risk Acknowledgement
  • Healthcare Screenings

Operational Guidelines

  • Facility Assessment, Preparation and Equipment Needs
  • Facility Assessment, Daily equipment and facility disinfection
  • Face Coverings optional for student athletes and staff
  • Hygiene Practices reviewed with student athletes
  • Hydration and Nutrition reviewed with student athletes

Worcester County Public Schools will continue to monitor and consult with state and local agencies pertaining to any changes or modifications needed to keep student-athletes safe while participating in interscholastic athletics.

FOOD SERVICE

Student Lunch Programs are an important part of Worcester County Public Schools.  These programs are critical to student health and well-being and ensure that students have the nutrition they need throughout the day to learn. WCPS has developed a Food Service Recovery Plan, to ensure the WCPS Food Service program is flexible and meets the needs of students and families no matter WCPS’s current stage of learning (i.e. distance learning, hybrid, or face-to-face).

TRANSPORTATION

Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) has worked collaboratively with stakeholders to develop the Transportation Recovery Plan. This is a living document intended to outline options for the safe transportation of as many students as possible, while observing current recommended health guidelines, in order to serve and support WCPS instructional programs.

SOCIAL EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Supporting student’s social and emotional needs is important as it can lead to better health and educational outcomes for students while creating a positive school climate for all.  WCPS has created a phased plan to address the immediate and long-term social and emotional well-being of all students, families, and staff. 

Phase 1

  • Build opportunities for elevating staff and student voices and incorporate in re-opening planning
  • Staff Professional Learning Opportunities about the developmental and behavioral impact of trauma with a specific focus on the pandemic and racism, the importance of self-care, trauma informed teaching strategies, and de-escalation strategies
  • Promote resources for student and staff wellness
  • Ongoing Professional Learning Opportunities for Administrators and Supervisors about equity, racism, and mental health needs of students, families, and staff

Phase 2

  • Virtual Town Halls for families
  • Engage families frequently – provide activities to familiarize them with new protocols, back to school opportunities, etc.
  • Creation of WCPS Trauma Team
  • Multi-disciplinary support teams including family input
  • Social Emotional Lessons (SEL) embedded into core academic content areas to ensure they can be delivered in abbreviated school days and at-home learning
  • Intentional Strategies for helping students reconnect
    • Back to school events – virtual or in person
    • Virtual or in person school tours
    • Peer mentors/buddies
    • Continue to provide online school counseling services, including requests via Microsoft Forms, so that students can have open access to their school counselor whether learning is occurring in person or virtually. 

Long Term Recovery

Tier 1:
  • SEL Lessons - evidenced based and implemented with fidelity
  • SEL Screenings - Staff, Students, and Families
  • Signs of Suicide
  • Restorative Practices
  • Develop systems for supporting all staff. Do not rely on self-referral
  • Address secondary traumatic stress and compassion fatigue
  •  Communicate about Community Resources for staff
Tier 2:
  • Group Counseling
  • Mentoring
  • Identify needs of families and provide resources and assistance to those who may need food, shelter and other resource navigation
Tier 3:
  • Individual Counseling
  • Wraparound Services
Disciplinary Considerations
  • Avoid punitive/exclusionary discipline unless absolutely necessary
  • Implement culturally responsive, restorative practices
  • View student behavior through trauma-informed lens
  • Anticipate higher levels of resistance and defiance as demands increase