Manhattan Day School Reopening Guide: Draft Pending New York State Approval Submitted on July 30, 2020
School Task Force:
Manhattan Day School has created a school task force whose members have been spending countless hours each week researching, discussing, and implementing policies to assist with a safe school reopening.
The task force currently consists of the following members:
Dr. Shanna Herbst, Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist
Dr. Sara Nash, Psychiatrist, Columbia University Medical Center
Henni Bitter, RN, Nurse Practitioner, MDS School Nurse
Tova Epstein, Board Co-President
Ami Eden, Board Co-President
Ari Sherizen, Facilities Professional and Board Member
Adam Westreich, Parent and Board Member
Brigitte Dayan, Parent and Board Member
Raizi Chechik, Head of School
Adrianne Mittan, Executive Director
The Executive Director will be the designated safety coordinator and will ensure the school’s compliance with the safety and operation plans as well as report any COVID cases to NYCDOH and NYSED authorities.
Manhattan Day School (MDS) has the capacity to allow our full student body and faculty to return in September through the use of our facility as well as by renting an additional space. Our current facility located at 310 West 75 Street will be able to safely accommodate our toddler through 6th grade through the use of all of our classrooms as well as by converting some of our previous shared spaces to individual classrooms. We will be converting our art room, computer lab, auditorium, and potentially our cafeteria to classroom spaces to accommodate pods of approximately 15 students in grades toddler through 6. In grades 1 through 6 our students will be seated between 3 and 6 feet apart and be wearing masks and/or protected by individual physical barriers. Our 7th and 8th grades will be located in an off site facility in pods of approximately 15 while maintaining a minimum of 3 ft apart, and be wearing masks and/or protected by individual physical barriers as well. All faculty will wear cloth or surgical 3ply masks at all times while within the facility and will maintain 6ft of social stancing while indoors (MDS will ensure 6 feet distance between personnel, unless safety or core function of the work activity requires a shorter distance). Manhattan Day School will be providing 1 cloth mask per student and per faculty member. Manhattan Day School will also provide all teachers with surgical 3ply disposable masks for the duration of the year should an employee request it. Our facility will have one school nurse on site to assist students and staff for all related medical needs. Manhattan Day School relies on the New York City Office of Pupil Transportation for school buses and will await further guidance from the City to ensure safe transportation for our students.
Manhattan Day School will maintain social distancing of 6ft during arrival, dismissal, and while walking in the hallways and to the bathrooms. All students and faculty will be masked during these times. When students are in their classrooms, Department of Health licensed Early Childhood students will be in pods of a maximum of 15 with two teachers and as per NYCDOH, students will not be wearing masks or maintaining strict social distancing. In grades 1 through 8, students will be seated between 3 and 6 feet apart while wearing masks and/or with polycarbonate desk barriers. Office staff that share office space and can’t maintain social distancing will wear masks and have polycarbonate desk barriers. Shared spaces such as the teacher’s lounge will be limited to 4 adults to ensure staff can maintain social distancing requirements. The elevator will be limited to 1 masked individual at a time to ensure social distancing. In order to enforce appropriate social distancing, all shared spaces such as the teacher’s lounge and the elevator will have maximum capacity signs on the door to remind staff of the social distancing requirements. All hallways will have directional arrows and indicators ensuring one way traffic as well 6ft social distancing markers on the floor and social distancing posters on the wall. The stairwells will be limited to one way traffic and will have both floor and wall signs indicating social distancing and the appropriate direction of foot traffic.
PPE and Face coverings:
Manhattan Day School has purchased 1 cloth mask for every faculty member and for every student attending school in the Fall. In addition, we have purchased 10,000 single use 3ply surgical masks to provide to faculty as needed. MDS has purchased 200 N95 masks to be used by our school nurse. We have also purchased 500 child sized masks for students who may lose, break or otherwise damage their mask while at school. In order to maintain appropriate mask wearing, Manhattan Day School will have administrators in the front of the three entrances to the building and will be screening both faculty, visitors and students who enter the building to ensure that no one enters the building without an appropriate face mask. Additionally, administrators at the door will have extra face masks to provide to anyone who comes to the facility not wearing a suitable face covering.
Manhattan Day School will be offering 5 full days of in person instruction to all students and all grades will be divided into a pod model with a maximum of approximately 15 students. The student maximum includes students from our Special Education program who will spend most of the day in a self-contained classroom and may push-in to the mainstream classrooms when appropriate. All student learning at Manhattan Day School will take place in rooms ventilated by an HVAC system with MERV 13 filters and windows to ensure fresh air. Students will eat lunch in their classrooms with desk barriers in place or outdoors. Students in grades 1 through 8 will stay primarily within their classroom while teachers circulate. For physical education, students will go to the gym and be spaced six feet apart for non-contact sports.The gym will have floor markers to ensure 6ft of social distancing. For recess, students in all grades will go to the outdoor play spaces while maintaining their pod. In grades 5 and 6, pods will travel to the science lab (one class per day, with intensive cleaning daily) to allow for science experiments related to the middle school curriculum. The outdoor early childhood playground and outdoor roof playground will be divided into sections to allow for multiple pods to engage in recreational activities outside while maintaining the pod structure. Manhattan Day School will be purchasing 1 swivel camera per grade to ensure that students who are home due to medical concerns or on quarantine are able to participate in classroom instruction. Manhattan Day School will also be assigning teachers to provide additional support to students learning remotely. Manhattan Day School will be offering remote learning opportunities to students on quarantine or for medical needs in grades pre-k through 8th grade.
Manhattan Day School will be staggering arrival and dismissal to ensure students and parents can maintain social distancing. Families will be given an arrival and dismissal time slot by last name to ensure families can come to and from school together and cause minimum disruption to family schedules. During arrival and dismissal students will be engaged in individual learning opportunities with appropriate adult supervision. The arrival time slots offered to families will be 7:50am - 8:05am, 8:05am - 8:20am and 8:20am - 8:35am. Dismissal time slots will follow the same windows as arrival. Families that chose the earliest arrival will be placed in the earliest dismissal and families that chose the latest arrival will receive the latest dismissal to ensure that all students receive the same amount of instructional time in the classroom. Our dismissal times will be 3:00pm - 3:25pm, 3:25pm - 3:40pm and 3:40pm - 3:55pm. Following morning arrival, each teacher will take attendance during their first period class via our SIS system, Blackbaud. Should a student be zooming into classroom instruction, teachers will be able to actively report this engagement via our blackbaud attendance system. Teachers will be asked to sign in each morning with their administrator via an attendance log and visitors (see below for limitations) will be asked to sign in via a visitor’s log in the security booth.
Manhattan Day School will not be engaging in school related field trips or allowing outside visitors into the facility during the opening months of school. This policy will be reviewed in the fall to determine if it is safe for students and faculty to engage in field trips or allow visitors for the spring semester. While visitors will not be allowed into the building, MDS anticipates that outside individuals on an emergency basis may need to enter the building (example; emergency repairs) and will ensure that all such visitors are screened, logged, wearing appropriate ppe, and have their temperature taken. Outside visitors will be asked to enter the facility through our back door and at no time will an outside service provider be within 6 feet of children. All facilities will be disinfected by our in house custodial team. See below for further information. Manhattan Day School will also engage in all of the state mandated emergency drills while maintaining social distancing. Manhattan Day School will utilize our relationship with Global Security Operations and our local FDNY to ensure the school follows best practices for fire and safety drills while maintaining social distancing.
In order to successfully restart school operations for our first day of school on September 1, Manhattan Day School will utilize our custodial team contracted through Citywide Cleaning Services to ensure that the entire building is ready for both students and staff. The cleaning crew is following CDC cleaning guidelines to ensure that every room in the building is clean using approved “green” antibacterial and antiviral cleaning products such as clorox. MDS is also purchasing individual desk shields that will be ready in each classroom for each individual student as well as desk shields for all office desks in communal spaces. MDS will have thermal scanners installed in the front of each of our school entrances and will have purell stations readily available at the entrances. PPE related signage will be posted throughout the school to meet New York State guidelines. Our HVAC system will be upgraded with MERV 13 filters. All of the faucets in the building will be set to run for a minimum of ten minutes to ensure the pipes are flushed clean and all water fountains will be closed for use. The school will run the fire alarm system on August 25th to ensure all systems are in working order and the light bulbs, elevator and outlets will be checked throughout the month of August to ensure it is ready for use in September.
MDS is creating a daily hygiene routine to ensure that our students and staff are safe and healthy at all times. All staff members will be trained through our in-house staff training by our school Nurse in the week before school begins to ensure that all teachers are clearly instructed on proper handwashing and hygiene techniques in the facility. Manhattan Day School will be creating a schedule so that all students clean their hands upon entering school, upon switching activities, before and after snack, before and after lunch and prior to dismissal each day. The hand washing will be embedded into the school schedule. In addition, bathrooms, classrooms, and hallways have signage explaining the benefits of handwashing. Purell stations have been installed in each classroom so that students and staff have easy access to hand sanitizer as well as in each hallway and in front of the yard and playground. Signs have been placed next to each hand sanitizing stations to ensure that students and staff understand how to properly clean their hands with sanitizer. Signs have been posted in each bathroom to ensure that proper handwashing techniques are used. In addition to the proper handwashing and hygiene protocols that will be implemented for our students and staff, MDS will be implementing heightened cleaning protocols. Each room in the building will have a log hanging on the back of each door where the appropriate cleaning staff can document who cleaned the room and when they cleaned. MDS will be contracting additional cleaning personnel through Citywide Cleaning services to ensure that each floor has a designated cleaning staff whose job it will be to rotate throughout the rooms each day and clean as needed during the day and completely sanitize and clean each room and bathroom at the end of each day. In addition, there will be a cleaning member whose sole responsibility will be to clean high traffic areas such as door knobs, handrails and bathrooms. In addition, members of the custodial crew will be cleaning the Early Childhood playground equipment between each use with the assistance of the Early Childhood teachers and faculty. Through the use of this cleaning team, MDS will aim to have all bathrooms cleaned each hour and have every classroom cleaned thoroughly at least once each day. MDS will be purchasing lens wipes and appropriate electronic cleaning pads to wipe down all electronic equipment. Both clorox wipes and electronic wipes will be available in each classroom and in each shared room so that staff can safely wipe down any surfaces between teachers and if cleaning personnel are not available.
MDS will not be offering extracurricular activities such as after school, after care, or sports teams during the Fall semester. During the Fall semester, Manhattan Day School will reevaluate the situation and the guidance provided by the CDC and New York State to determine if extracurricular activities can resume for the spring semester.
Manhattan Day School is committed to offering in-person instruction for our students in grades toddler through 8th grade. While promoting this model, MDS also understands that there may be vulnerable populations who are uncomfortable with or are medically advised to avoid in-person instruction. Staff members were informed in two separate faculty town hall meetings that we encourage anyone who wishes for an accommodation or has any concerns to reach out to our Head of School. Our Head of School, on a case by case basis, will make appropriate determinations to ensure that all staff members are able to receive reasonable accommodations as needed. Staff members who request additional PPE related materials in addition to the disposable and cloth masks that are being provided, will be granted reasonable requests and costs will be covered by the school. Students who are unable to attend school will be allowed to participate in distance learning through the use of our swivel cameras placed in each grade as well as through the use of our designated distance learning instructors.
Manhattan Day School is eager to resume transportation for our students. Many of our students rely on New York City Office of Pupil Transportation busing to get to and from school. In accordance with New York State guidelines, Manhattan Day School is awaiting information from New York City in order to determine appropriate next steps for transportation. MDS is committed to following and enforcing all recommendations released by New York State and New York City to ensure our students arrive at school safely.
Manhattan Day School will not be providing school food to our children during the opening month(s) of school. This decision will be monitored on a month by month basis and will be reevaluated once the school is confident that school meals can be prepared and provided to students in a safe and healthy manner in accordance with New York State and CDC guidelines. Students and staff will be asked to bring lunch and snack from home and will be provided a mask-free snack and lunch break. When students eat snack or lunch they will stay within their pod and will use polycarbonate desk dividers or eat outside. Should a child forget lunch or snack, the school will provide the student with individually wrapped food. MDS keeps track of students with allergies and each teacher will receive a list of the food allergies and reactions for each student (based on our MDS student allergy plan signed off by our school nurse and the treating pediatrician). Students will be forbidden from sharing lunch or snack and will be asked to provide food that is both nut and seed free. MDS is a nut and seed aware school and strives to ensure that those products are not in school lunches or snacks. Should a child bring in a lunch or snack that does not meet our requirements, MDS will contact the parents and provide the child with a sealed alternative. In the case of an allergic reaction, individual student epipens are located in the nurse’s office and with appropriate epipens with teachers in the classroom. Teachers are given training at the beginning of each academic year in the use of an epipen should the need arise.
Children’s social and emotional well-being is always a core concern at Manhattan Day School. We have invested heavily in teacher training in recent years to this end. All of our early childhood teachers and many of our elementary school teachers have been trained in Responsive Classroom, a program that promotes social-emotional learning and open communication. We are also collaborating with the Jewish Education Project to provide additional teacher training in the coming weeks and months. Our teachers know our students best and are attuned to their growth and development beyond academics.
Due to our staggered arrival and dismissal schedules, children will be engaging in independent learning activities at the beginning and end of the school day. At these less-structured times, students will be supervised by a teacher who will be available to talk individually with students about academic, social, or emotional needs. Teachers will thus have the opportunity to check in on students twice daily in addition to more casual observations throughout the day.
To meet the needs of students that show signs of distress, MDS has a full-time social worker (who will be working remotely) and a part-time psychologist (on-site 3 days a week) on staff. They will proactively engage with individuals and groups and respond to teacher requests for evaluation or intervention. The mental health team has a robust list of local mental health professionals who are ready to meet a variety of student needs. The team has substantial experience referring to these professionals and is able to leverage deep knowledge and long-standing relationships to make targeted, relevant referrals.
Our mental health team engages regularly with teachers as well. They provide regular professional development to faculty to help them identify warning signs of student distress and meet individually with teachers to coach them on how to best meet the needs of individual students. The mental health team has and will continue to provide supplemental support to teachers to address their own mental health needs. Our social worker has provided weekly mindfulness meditation opportunities, and both the social worker and psychologist are available to meet one-on-one with teachers occasionally to help them manage the challenges of work in a stressful school environment. If teachers’ needs prove to be more significant, the mental health team is prepared to make targeted referrals for adults’ needs as well.
Manhattan Day School is committed to providing our families with up to date information about COVID-19 and its impacts on school for the 2020-21 school year. In order to create clear and consistent communication with our parents, Manhattan Day School has been sending weekly reopening school emails as well as offering virtual town hall meetings with the school administration. Manhattan Day School plans to continue sending weekly emails to our school community through the first weeks of school to ensure parents are aware of developments and feel safe with their children in our care. In addition to the weekly updates, Manhattan Day School will be sending families an updated parent handbook outlining all of the COVID related updates along with relevant hyperlinks to CDC and New York State guidelines. The handbook will be sent out both digitally and in backpacks so that all families receive it.
Manhattan Day School will be implementing a screening protocol for all staff, students and visitors who enter the school building. Students and staff will receive a customized daily email through a third party site asking them a set of questions related to COVID symptoms, travel to quarantined locations, and temperature. All individuals will be required to fill out the survey in order to enter the school building. The survey is dynamic and will respond to the individual’s responses and inform them whether or not they are allowed to enter the school or if they should consult with a medical professional and remain at home. In addition to the screening questionnaire, everyone will be required to have their temperature checked prior to entering the facility and will only be admitted with a temperature lower than 100 fahrenheit. Visitors who do not receive the daily screening questionnaire will be read the questions and must answer them as well as have their temperature checked prior to entering the school. Should a staff member or student have symptoms of COVID prior to entering the school building, the nurse will ensure that the parent/caregiver or staff member is given clear written instructions about next steps, asked to not enter the school building, and be given guidance to reach out to their primary healthcare provider.
All faculty will be given training in the start of the school year to assist them with identifying COVID symptoms and to know when to refer students to the nurse. In addition, teachers will receive an FAQ created by our nurse with important clues to assist them in checking for COVID symptoms. Should an individual develop COVID related symptoms during the school day, they will be referred to our school nurse for an appropriate assessment. If the school nurse determines that a student is exhibiting symptoms, a parent/caregiver will be asked to pick the student up within thirty minutes. The individual will wait in one of the two isolation rooms equipped with a clear door and a standing HEPA filter to await their parent/caregiver. The staff member or parent/caregiver will be given clear written instructions about next steps and asked to reach out their primary healthcare provider. Students or staff who test positive for COVID will be reported to the New York City Department of Health and to New York State and will be asked to quarantine until they receive medical clearance from their doctor and a negative COVID test. Parents and/or caregivers who have children who have been exposed, as determined by medical personnel, to a COVID positive individual will be notified via email that an individual tested positive and that their child will be required to quarantine. MDS will work with local and state officials to provide necessary contact tracing information through our attendance and programming database. Exposed individuals will be required to observe a 14 day quarantine to stop the spread of infection to other members of the school community. Exposed individuals must be symptom free for the entire 14 days in order to return to school after the conclusion of their quarantine. All rooms that were used by COVID positive individuals will be cleaned in accordance with CDC guidelines and will not be used for 24 hours to ensure germs are not transferred to other individuals. All quarantine will be implemented in accordance with the New York City Department of Health.
Manhattan Day School will follow all guidance from New York State and New York City in order to ensure that COVID-19 is contained and not spread to the larger school population. In consultation with City and State officials, Manhattan Day School will transition from in-person instruction to virtual instruction when the number of COVID cases in school exceed the threshold that the City or State determine is acceptable to the safety and security of our school community. Once the school and officials have decided to close the school, families and staff will be informed via email and, should the information happen during the school day, students will be encouraged to take home their electronic devices such as ipads and chromebooks as well as their school supply packs for at home use. Should we transition to distance learning after or before school hours, Manhattan Day School will coordinate with families to deliver ipads and chromebooks to each student in grades Pre-k through 8 so that all students can participate in online learning opportunities.
To support distance learning, Manhattan Day School created a website, MDS MiBayit (MDS “from home”), which would once again become the home to our digital learning for parents, children and staff in the event of school closure. All links and resources necessary for distance learning, both synchronous and asynchronous, will be accessible to our community on the MDS MiBayit site. In addition, parents will receive weekly emails with their child’s school schedule, relevant quick links on the MiBayit website, as well as links to exciting and educational extracurricular opportunities. The MDS MiBayit page will have helpful FAQs and an area for parents to reach out to an administrator or peer volunteer for assistance or tech support.
Should we transition to online learning, we will maintain our high level of learning and will expect to maintain the pace and rigor of our curriculum. There will be fewer hours of direct teacher contact than during the school day to accommodate opportunities for independent student practice, screen breaks for children, and flexibility for family schedules. In first through eighth grade, each academic subject will have a minimum of two weekly periods of synchronous, direct instruction via zoom complemented by teacher-designed asynchronous learning. The total hours of student engagement in each academic area will be substantially similar to what is expected while in school. Teachers will be available for individual or small-group check-ins via zoom, phone, or email to ensure that students in need of extra teacher support or guidance are able to receive it. Asynchronous work will be submitted digitally and students will receive prompt and substantive feedback from their teachers. Manhattan Day School will continue to provide synchronous and asynchronous instruction in physical education, art, and music in a distance learning environment. We will also incorporate student and family activities to provide supplemental opportunities for students and families to connect to the learning community.
Manhattan Day School established a dedicated website for MDS faculty through which teachers can receive synchronous and asynchronous training throughout the summer in both individual and small group settings. This will help ensure that teachers are prepared for a smooth transition should distance learning be required in the coming academic year.
While we are confident that every Manhattan Day School student will have equitable access to devices and wifi, we recognize that home environments vary widely. We anticipate that some students will have focused parental support in a quiet, learning-conducive space and others may be in less focused environments. Our teachers and mental health professionals will work with students and families to provide as much support and infrastructure as possible from a distance which may include individualized virtual meetings, extending deadlines, recording live sessions, and/or providing additional resources (print and digital) to meet individual student learning needs.
Manhattan Day School will work closely with City and State officials to determine when school can be reopened and how to best transition back to in-person instruction.