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Explanation of 2021-22 COVID-related Policies and Protocols

This document was compiled by the Free Union Covid-19 Task Force, and updated by the school’s administration team and health advisory team. ALL RECOMMENDATIONS AND POLICIES PUT FORTH ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE BASED ON CURRENT LOCAL, STATE, AND FEDERAL GUIDELINES, AS WELL AS NEW KNOWLEDGE GAINED. If there are any questions, please contact the school for further guidance and support.

Table of Contents

Our health team consists of

  • Allison MacDonald, MPH, RN (Board of Trustees, former parent)
  • Hope Peritz, MSN, BSN (Blue Ridge Health District, former parent)
  • Afshan Ornan, MD (current parent)
  • Ronée MacLaughlin, Head of School
  • Mariclaire Hession Landman (current parent and school health aide)

The health team guiding principles include:

  • Using our best judgement at all times
  • Following CDC guidelines and monitoring local and state guidelines and caseload regularly to update and shift as needed
  • We strongly encourage vaccination for everyone who is eligible. This includes the COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.
  • Following weekly updates with BRHD and local private schools for relevant information

COVID-19 Signs and Symptoms

It is critical that the entire community (students, faculty, staff, family members, and all regular contacts) always take these symptoms seriously, and react according to the protocols outlined here on pages 3 through 7 when these symptoms appear. The school’s ability to operate with the lowest risk possible and stay open as much as possible depends on every single person’s attentive and conscientious cooperation.

  • Fever (100.0℉ or higher)
  • Cold symptoms
  • Cough and sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste/smell
  • Generalized fatigue/malaise
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Body Aches
  • Poor feeding/appetite
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

AT HOME: Before coming to school each morning, all faculty and students will be required to take their temperature at home and assess for the presence of any symptoms of COVID-19. If your child is SICK or has been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days, it is imperative that you keep your child at home, report the symptoms to the school at , contact your child’s pediatrician, and follow the pediatrician's recommendations.

We ask families to begin this screening no later than August 18, two weeks before the Sept. 1 opening of school, for fever and illness. We also strongly recommend that families avoid travel during this two week period, remain clear of any COVID-19 hotspots, and practice strict social distancing and mask-wearing. Parental vigilance is a crucial key to avoiding viral transmission during the days before the school year starts, during weekends and breaks, and each school day throughout the year.

To return to school following exposure to COVID-19, please have your pediatrician complete this return-to-school form. Almost all pediatricians have this form and will not require you to provide it. Please have them email it to or fax it to the school (434-214-6503). This form must be filled out completely.


Daily Procedures & Protocols for Mitigating Health Risks at School

Free Union Country School will rely upon the cooperation of every single member of the community to help us reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Please understand that our ability to operate on campus depends on everyone taking these mitigation measures seriously.

Daily health screening

  • Employee screening: Although most or all staff members are currently vaccinated, self screening must take place at home before coming to school. Any staff member who has symptoms of illness should contact their health care provider. Any unvaccinated staff members intending to come to school that day will email  before coming to school to affirm that they are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and have not been in close contact with anyone who is ill.

  • Student screening at drop-off: At morning drop-off, parents will pull into the school’s drop-off circle and answer screening questions regarding the current state of health of their children, and possible contact with any ill individuals. Additionally, temperature screenings using an infrared (temporal) thermometer and a short symptom check at the beginning of the day will be conducted for all students. Parents must remain at school until all children they are dropping off have passed the health screening. Students who have a positive symptom screening will not be permitted in school and will return home, along with siblings and/or parents who are employees, for follow up with their pediatrician/physician. These symptom screenings will identify only that a person may have an illness, not that the illness is COVID-19. Many of the symptoms of COVID-19 are also common in other childhood illnesses like the common cold, the flu, or seasonal allergies.

  • Late arrivals: Students who arrive late must first check in with Mariclaire, our school health aide, to complete the screening process before entering a class group.

  • Symptoms arising during the school day: Children with temperatures of 100.0°F or greater, or reporting or exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms during the school day will be evaluated and, if applicable, isolated until picked up by a parent. Parents/caregivers will be required to pick up their child, or send someone from their list of emergency contacts to pick up their child, within 30 minutes.

  • The presence and movement of visitors, tradespeople, and vendors inside the school will be limited, and all outside visitors will be required to successfully complete the health screening, wash or sanitize hands before entering, wear face coverings or non-valved face masks, and maintain distancing.

Respiratory and Hand Hygiene:

  • The policy has been for Free Union students and staff to consistently ensure that at least two of the following three precautionary conditions are being met: Masked, outdoors, and/or physically distant.

  • Until further notice, all students and staff, PS-5, will wear face coverings (double-layer cloth masks that loop around the ears or behind the head, or disposable surgical masks only. Bandanas, gaiters, or headbands that cover the mouth/nose are not acceptable) whenever indoors and outdoors, with the exception of those rare circumstances at the discretion of the teacher. Teachers may work with and coach each child and meet them at their developmental level to meet these requirements.

  • Hence, face coverings (masks) are required outdoors. Period. At the discretion of teachers and when an appropriate distance of six feet can be guaranteed, students may relax this protocol, such as during snack time, lunch, reading separately, rest time, orderly separation using hula hoops, and the like. But only under the supervision of the teacher. If there is a need for a teacher to approach a child (e.g. for injuries, interventions), the teacher will be masked. Please know that our experience at Free Union has told us that once routines are established children wearing masks has not been a challenge. On the other hand, distancing is much less intuitive for children and requires more reminders that subtly become heart-hurtful for teachers and students. It makes sense to us then that our policy reflects interaction and connection as a priority, even when it means we stay masked.

  • Students/employees will wash hands throughout the day, in every one of the following circumstances:

    • After coughing, sneezing, etc. (though everyone will be trained and retrained to cough or sneeze into the crook of one’s elbow and with the head turned away from others, or into one’s mask. If in a classroom where a sink is not easily available and a person has coughed or sneezed into their hands, application of hand sanitizer may be substituted for hand-washing.)
    • Upon entering a building
    • After using the restroom
    • Before and after eating
    • After using shared supplies
  • Teacher coaching and supervision with hand washing will be provided for younger children (preschool, pre-k, kindergarten), and teachers should observe and check in with students in grades 1- 5 while students wash hands to ensure they are washing their hands per guidelines—soaped and rubbing for 20 seconds, minimum.

  • Hand sanitizer will be provided at doorways/entrances for additional opportunities for hand hygiene, but is not meant to substitute for frequent hand washing.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Cleaning and disinfecting of school spaces will be carried out per CDC guidelines found here. Cleaning and disinfecting products will be EPA-approved (including diluted bleach) for disinfecting properties against COVID-19 .

  • Whenever conditions allow, doors will be propped open to minimize touching and to enhance ventilation. Windows will be cracked open to enhance ventilation.

  • Classrooms, bathrooms and common areas will be thoroughly cleaned, vacuumed and disinfected nightly, to include high touch surfaces as well as floors.

Classroom Operations

  • Students and faculty will wear a well-fitting facemask—whether indoors or outdoors in close contact—that covers the nose, mouth, and chin, and contains a nose wire. Mask wearing continues to be an extremely effective safeguard against transmission of COVID-19.

  • All members of the community will wear their facemasks while indoors and outdoors, and are encouraged also to do so when outdoors and in close contact.

  • Students and employees will be masked in classrooms and maintain a minimum of 3 feet separation between themselves and others (CDC guideline). Especially indoors, teachers should help students to maintain physical distance from others with expectations, coaching, reminders, strategies, and guidelines that are developmentally appropriate for the age level.

  • Outdoor learning spaces should be used as much as possible, especially for meals and recreation, but also classwork. when possible. Physical distancing may be relaxed a bit while outdoors, as long as students are masked.

  • Students wear masks outside for both safety and as an encouragement to play and learn together, freed from the nudging and incessant distraction of the safe-distance police.

  • Teachers may resume arrangement and use of classroom furnishings and learning materials as they had prior to the pandemic, using and sharing among students freely, as needed and desired. Hand washing after use of shared materials is recommended.

  • Classes may schedule times during the week to visit the school library, but there should be no more than six (masked) people in the library at a time. Borrowed books should be checked out using the library’s electronic scanning system.

  • Four outdoor education pavilions will continue to be available for learning and eating, but unlike 20-21, may be used by any one of the school’s classes at any given time, rather than being restricted to just the two classes that were the designated users in 20-21.

  • Morning drop-off screening and schedules will be staggered as needed to provide for an efficient and safe morning screening process.

  • The Maker classroom (for Art and Tangents), Big Room, and all bathrooms may all be used by students from different classes during the course of a school day, as they could prior to the pandemic.

Interaction between people from different classes/cohorts

  • Students from different classes may interact with one another outside when masked. However, to minimize any risk of viral transmission between classes, when indoors, students who out of necessity must be in the same room with a child from another class must remain masked and physically distanced.

  • “Specials” classes will each be headquartered in the following respective locations:

    • Naturalists & Ecology: Garden shed and Outdoor Classroom
    • Art & Tangents: Maker Classroom (formerly known as the Art Room)
    • Phys Ed & Yoga: Outdoor spaces
    • Performing Arts: Classroom formerly used as the infirmary, outdoor tents and spaces, and the Big Room to convene the 4/5
  • Afterschool enrichment will resume in 2021-22, but because it will serve students from different classes, it will be restricted to outdoor spaces, e.g. nature trail, early childhood playground, soccer field, learning tents. In severe weather conditions, afterschool enrichment may have to move indoors. Students and staff should maintain face coverings and distancing, with improved ventilation from fans and with cracked windows.

  • The Buddies program connecting students from younger classes to friends in older classes will resume in 21-22, but only when meetings can be held outside.

  • At the end-of-day pick-up, in non-pandemic times we have encouraged parents to park their vehicles, pick up their children, and socialize with other parents. As the school year proceeds, we hope to be able to relax the policy such that parents and students may stay a while as long as they remain masked, outside, and out of the way of the afterschool enrichment program—a taste of things that were and things to come.

  • Policies for annually held special events (e.g. Back-to-school Night, Fall Harvest Festival, Spring Fair, Auction fundraiser) will evolve in keeping with our experience and the recommendations of local health-monitoring groups like our school health task force and BRHD.

Supplies:

Students and staff should come to school each day with:

  • two well-fitting double-layered masks (nose wires suggested)
  • 1-2 water bottles

Protocols for Individuals with Symptoms and Exposures

Scenarios described in this section are pursuant to VDH guidelines as of August 1, 2021 and are subject to change.

  • A “case” is defined as an identified COVID-19 infection. A case may be “presumed positive” in the absence of testing availability or “confirmed positive” if testing is available and has been completed.

  • “Close contact” is defined as being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes over a 24 hour period or having exposure to the person’s respiratory secretions . A person with COVID-19 is considered to be contagious starting from 2 days before symptoms begin or 2 days before they tested positive if asymptomatic.

CDC guidelines can be found here (including more info for people who are fully vaccinated, for those who are not, travel for those who are vaccinated and those who are not). We will continue to follow CDC guidelines.

Scenario: Student or Employee with Confirmed or Presumed Positive COVID-19 Case

Protocol for Student/EmployeeProtocol for School Community

Individual should remain at home and self-isolate. Notify the school and VDH.

Contact your primary care physician for follow up and guidelines.

All students/employees in the same household should self-quarantine for 14 days from last exposure to the confirmed positive person if asymptomatic and should contact their healthcare provider if they become symptomatic during that time.

All members of the infected student’s or employee’s class may be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days from last exposure to the confirmed positive case, depending on VDH and COVID-19 team guidance. Any employees who care for the child and have not been able to maintain a 6ft distance for 15 min or more should self-quarantine for 14 days from last exposure to that person.

If another member of the class contracts COVID-19, the quarantine timeline of 14 days restarts on the day symptoms start for the new case.

If a member of the class is asymptomatic but tests positive, the timeline of 14 days starts on the day of the positive test. (If symptoms develop later after a positive test, the timeline starts at the first day of symptoms).

Scenario: Family member or close contact individual of student or employee with Confirmed or Presumed Positive COVID-19 Case

Protocol for Student/EmployeeProtocol for School Community

Any student/employee in the family should remain at home until the case is evaluated by a healthcare professional and/or until a COVID-19 test result is obtained.

We request that the student/guardian/parent or employee notify school staff immediately of confirmed or presumed positive test results.

A child or staff member with a family member with confirmed positive or presumed positive COVID-19 may return to school after 14 days of the family member’s resolution of symptoms providing the COVID-19 positive case has remained in isolation. If the COVID-19 positive case has not been able to be isolated from their family member, the family members will need to complete an additional 14 day quarantine period beginning at the end of the COVID-19 positive case’s quarantine period. This is pursuant to individual cases and VDH guidelines on a case by case basis.

All classmates and teachers of this student or employee may continue attending school, provided they are not deemed to be close contacts of the COVID-19 positive case by the health department. If any symptoms appear, school community members should contact their healthcare provider, stay home from school and notify the school.

Scenario: Student/Employee with COVID-19 Symptoms

Protocol for Student/EmployeeProtocol for School Community

Remain at home until evaluated by a healthcare professional. A note confirming the visit and written approval to return must be provided to school using the return to school form.

We request that the student/guardian/parent or employee notify school staff immediately of possible COVID-19 symptoms.

If a COVID-19 test is positive or a presumed positive diagnosis is made, see protocol for Confirmed or Presumed Positive COVID-19 (above).

Keep siblings/family members home until a health care provider visit has been completed or test results are obtained. If the COVID-19 test is negative or provider issues written approval to return to school, the sibling may return to school immediately, if healthy.

Scenario: Student/Employee’s Family Member or Close Contact to Individual with COVID-19 Symptoms

Protocol for Student/EmployeeProtocol for School Community

We request that the student/guardian/parent or employee notify school staff immediately of being in close contact with an individual with COVID-19 symptoms.

A student or employee with a family member/close contact with COVID-19 symptoms should notify their healthcare provider and obtain a COVID-19 test if recommended and follow their healthcare provider’s and VDH recommendations.

Scenario: Student/Employee with COVID-19 signs/symptoms AND alternative definitive diagnosis that accounts for the symptoms

(i.e. non-viral causes such as urinary tract infection, strep throat infection, ear infection, skin infection)

Protocol for Student/Employee

Remain at home and contact your pediatrician/health care provider for further guidance.

If the healthcare professional orders a COVID-19 test and it is negative and the healthcare professional makes a definitive diagnosis that accounts for the symptoms, the student/employee may return to school/work after 24 hours with no fever (and no fever reducing medications), improving symptoms, and a doctor’s note stating this (form available on our website). Most pediatricians locally have the “return to school form” in their offices as well.

If a student/employee’s healthcare provider has decided a COVID-19 test is not warranted and the healthcare professional makes a definitive diagnosis that accounts for the symptoms, the student/employee may return to school/work after 48 hours with no fever (and no fever reducing medications), improving symptoms, and with a doctor’s note.

Scenario: Protocols for Vaccinated Employees and Parents with Close Contact or Exposure to COVID-19

Protocol for Vaccinated Parent or EmployeeImpact of Exposure on Students and Family

Remain at home and contact the school () and a healthcare professional.

Get tested on day 5 after exposure.

While awaiting test results, wear a mask indoors or in public for 14 days.

If a COVID-19 test is positive or a presumed positive diagnosis is made, isolate for a total of 10 days.

Because all our students are unvaccinated and susceptIble to the Delta variant, the school’s health task force recommends a conservative strategy—i.e., vaccinated adults that have had exposure are to quarantine for 14 days and have no contact with the family.

Keep siblings/family members home until a health care provider visit is completed or test results obtained. If the test is negative or provider issues written approval, the student may return to school immediately if healthy.

Vaccinated adults essentially follow the guidelines of the unvaccinated if a close contact/exposed to COVID-19. .

Scenario: Underlying Medical Condition

Protocol for Student/Employee

The school should be made aware if a child has baseline symptoms of cough or shortness of breath due to a medical condition such as asthma, allergies, etc. Written documentation of this condition should be provided by the student/employee’s healthcare provider to the clinic aide at the beginning of the school year or at the time the condition is diagnosed.

If there is a flare up of symptoms above baseline (worsening of cough/shortness of breath), the child should be evaluated by and cleared by a healthcare provider before returning to school.


Scenario: Travel: the CDC recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated

Protocol for Student/Employee

Please email  to inform us of your travel plans.

****If your family is returning from summer vacation/break/any travel and your children were on an airplane or train for travel, then those unvaccinated individuals must remain away from school and get a PCR test on day 4 or 5 after they have returned home. During the entire period following return home and up to receiving the results of the test, best practices suggest masking and minimizing contacts. If the test is negative AND NO ONE in the house has any symptoms of illness, the student may return to school on day 6. If anyone, vaccinated or not, has any symptoms of illness they should be tested with a PCR test (not a rapid test, such as one purchased at CVS to do at home- these are not acceptable) and be seen by their primary care provider.

If a student/employee is traveling by commercial transport (airplane, bus, train, etc.), they may be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return. If you choose to travel, according to CDC guidelines, you will have a viral test 1-3 days after your return. A student may not get off a plane and head back to school the next day.

School staff will review other travel on a case-by-case basis as appropriate—we ask that you keep the school apprised of any travel by members of your family.

The following is a note that went to all families on August 12, 2021:

Note: Starting no later than August 18 (two weeks before school begins on Sept. 1), we ask all families to begin screening students for fever and illness. We also strongly recommend that during this two-week period, families diligently wear masks, avoid travel, remain clear of COVID hotspots, and practice strict social distancing. Parental vigilance is a crucial key to avoiding viral transmission during the days before the school year starts, during weekends and breaks, and each and every school day throughout the year.


Morning and Afternoon Car Line Procedures

A staggered drop off and pick up schedule will allow the Health Aide and other school staff the time to ensure the health and safety of everyone on campus. Schedule will be distributed separately.

Drop-Off

During your designated arrival and drop-off window (see chart), please turn into the school lot, veer right to proceed around the parking lot to the circle (i.e., creating a large oval), and pull into the circle behind the rear-most car in the circle. Please do not park in the old parking lot to escort your child(ren) into school as most of us used to do.

Instead, remain in your car until a school staff member greets your family in the circle. Everyone in the vehicle that can be masked should be in a mask when interacting with the screener. This individual will execute an efficient entry protocol involving a quick series of questions. Assuming no indications of possible illness, students will be approved to go to their respective class cohorts for the day, and you will be ready to pull away. For the safety of the staff members performing the wellness checks, please wait for the car in front of you to clear, and refrain from passing any parked car around their left-hand side, unless a staff member waves you around.

We recognize there are days you might be running late or perhaps get caught behind slow-moving vehicles, etc. Should you occasionally happen to arrive after your appointed window of time, you may proceed with drop-off as normal and we will accommodate. However, because of the limits we have on available staff and space in the lot to process arrivals efficiently enough to prevent back-ups into the road, it is important that whenever possible, they arrive within their allotted window. If you miss your arrival window more than three times, on the fourth occasion we will ask you to return at 9:00 after all other drop-offs have been processed rather than processing your arrival in a different group’s drop-off window.

If arriving anytime after 9:00 AM, parents may park in the lot and escort their child(ren) to the infirmary. This timing is important, as the Health Aide will be at the circle assisting with health screening until 9 am. Your child(ren) will be permitted to join their class cohort only after the Health Aide (or other staff member) conducts the evaluation and temperature check. Please do not have your child(ren) go directly to their class without completing the screening.

Pick-Up

During your designated time, families will drive to the circle for children to be loaded into the car for immediate departure. We hope, as time passes, to make pick-up a more leisurely and enjoyable experience..

In circumstances when a parent needs to pick up their child(ren) before normal dismissal time, they should email Jolee () or call the school’s front desk (434-978-1700) to make arrangements; child(ren) will be brought out to the car once the parent has arrived. Parent(s) are asked to wait in the car for their child(ren) to be brought to the car.

When a parent is contacted during the day by the school because their child is physically unwell, the parent may park their car in the circle upon arriving at school, and then proceed directly to the infirmary to pick their child up from the infirmary.


References and Resources

State of Virginia Plans and Guidelines for Reopening

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Background and Context

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center

Instructional videos on hand cleaning, good for the entire family

Guidance from other states

Professional opinions

Scientific journal articles and letters