Covid Safety Protocols, Continuity of Services, and ARP ESSER Funds (21-22 School Year)

Last Updated: 9/8/2021 5:28 PM

 

ACSD COVID-19 Dashboard

 

Updated September 2, 2021: Approved by Superintent

 

Facial Coverings

Facial coverings are now required by all persons entering any of the District's facilities.  Facial coverings will be required for all District athletic contests and public events, effective immediatly.  Please be reminded that a facial covering needs to cover the mouth and nose.

 

For staff, facial coverings are required at all times unless working independently in your classroom or other work space.

 

Emergency Closures/Blended Learning

Last week the Ohio Department of Education made available to Districts the option to use a "Blended Learning Declaration" as a means of providing temporary online instruction during times when a building or district would need to close due to increases in Covid cases with students and/or staff.  The Athens City School District has filed this declaration with the Ohio Department of Education and the Department has confirmed receipt.  To be clear, this does not open the door to full online or hybrid instruction.  The model for the Athens City School District this year will be fully in-person.  What this measure does permit is, should the District have similar issues as we've had this past week with our Transportation staff, the District could switch to online " blended learning" during the time of the school closure so as to be able to provide a continuity of service to students and to be permitted to use those days/hours towards the statutory number of hours needed to fulfill state requirements for the school year.

 

The Athens City School District Technology Department will be making preparations over the next few weeks to be ready to implement "blended learning" should it become necessary to cancel school for a Covid-related issue in the future.

 

Covid Protocols Updated Document

For a full overview of the Athens City School District Covid Protocols, please use this link.

 

Click here to access the full ACSD Covid-19 Protocols 2021-2022

 

Thank you to all of our families for your continued support as we work to appropriately respond to a very rapidly changing situation.

 

Updated August 4, 2021: Approved by Superintendent

 

This information provides a brief overview of Covid safety precautions and protocols AT THIS TIME.  These are the protocols that will likely be in place for the start of the school year.  As you may be aware, a more contagious variant of Covid has caused significant increases in cases in many areas of the country.  The following protocols were developed after reviewing the guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Ohio Department of Health (ODH), and through conversations with Dr. Gaskell and Mr. Pepper with the Athens City-County Health Department.

 

The following safety protocols are to be put in place immediately and are in effect until changed in writing by the Superintendent:

 

Vaccinations:  The CDC and ODH guidance clearly indicates that having a significant percentage of the population vaccinated would be the best action to take to limit the spread of Covid, including the more contagious Delta variant.  As such, the Athens City School District strongly urges all persons who are able to be vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.  The Athens City School District will be working with the Athens City-County Health Department to arrange opportunities for students to be vaccinated on-site at school with parent permission.  I am very happy to report that the overwhelming majority of Athens City School District Faculty and Staff have been vaccinated.

 

At this time, the Athens City School District will not require students, parents, and members of the community to show evidence of vaccination.  The District reserves the right to change this practice once the vaccine has been given full FDA approval.

 

Masks:  All students, faculty, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks while being transported on a school bus and during the regular school day.  Mask breaks may be provided, and some exceptions will be made for situations where primary grades teachers are teaching phonics, when speech pathologists are working with individual or small groups of students, and other situations where a mask may prohibit student learning or cause a safety hazard.  Students will not be required to wear masks during outdoor recess.

 

Masks will be required by all people at all building orientations and open houses.  For athletic events, any person entering the event will be required to show that they have a mask on their person.  Failure to have a mask will result in not being permitted into the venue.  Fans will be asked to sit in family/friend units and to physically distance as much as possible. For indoor events, an announcement will be made that masks are required if the number of fans exceeds 25% of the capacity of the venue.  For outdoor events, an announcement will be made that masks are required if the number of fans exceeds 50% of the capacity of the venue.  

 

Students participating in athletics and extra-curricular activities will not be required to wear masks during practices, events, or on the sidelines, at this time.  Student-athletes are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated, as they may be in direct contact with participants from other schools on a routine basis.

 

Due to the high number of faculty and staff who are vaccinated, masks will not be required by those who are vaccinated at the Athens Board and Administrative Offices in Chauncey and during teacher work days and professional meetings and when faculty/staff are working in the building before/after student dismissal.  Those staff members who are not vaccinated are required to wear a mask at all times.

 

Physical Distancing:  As stated in prior messages, it will be difficult to provide the recommended physical distancing in most of our classrooms and on school buses.  We will make every effort to provide physical distancing at athletic and other events, however we can provide no such assurance.  Anyone attending an extra curricular or athletic event will be attending of their own choice.  We will make every effort to monitor for proper masking and attempt to provide space for physical distancing when possible, however we can make no guarantees that visitors to our facilities will always comply with these rules.

 

Quarantine/Isolation:  Students with Covid symptoms will be required to quarantine and will not be able to attend school until such time that 10 days have passed or a medical professional determines it is safe for the student to return to school.  A negative test provided directly by a family (i.e. home test kit or tested at a pharmacy) and without the support of a determination by a physician will not be accepted.  Students who are close contacts in the classroom/school environment will receive parent notification, however the students will be able to continue to attend school as long as they are symptom free and will not be isolated.  Students who are close contacts outside of the school/extra-curricular environment may be required to quarantine.  These determinations would be made on a case by case basis.

 

Physical Barriers:  The CDC has indicated that plexiglass barriers do not provide much, if any protection from Covid.  For this reason, we will not be using plexiglass barriers this year.

 

Cleaning Protocols/Hand Sanitizer:  Hand sanitizer will be readily available.  Enhanced and more frequent cleaning protocols will continue to be implemented.  The District will use aerosol spray disinfectants to assure that flat surfaces are routinely treated for Covid and other viruses.

 

Air Quality:  Earlier this Spring, I indicated in some messaging that the District may use federal relief funds to install purification units at each building.  After making this statement, we were notified that any expenditures for facilities improvements had to follow specific federal guidelines related to prevailing wage.  The District is in the process of working through the steps to be able to expend the funds on facilities improvements related to air quality.  Our team will be reviewing the use of air purification systems as part of that review, however no purification units will be installed by the start of the school year.  The District did make repairs to the HVAC units at Athens Middle School where multiple air dampers were repaired to allow for proper air exchange in the buildings.  We have also reviewed with an engineer the best HVAC filters that can be used with the systems we have and have upgraded filters where possible.  The new PK-3 buildings have modern Dedicated Outdoor Air Systems (DOAS) units, that maximize air circulation and have much higher grade of filtration than the existing buildings.  We will continue to make these improvements a priority.

 

University Student Interns:  University student interns will be permitted in the schools this year, however they must either show evidence of vaccination or provide a medical reason for not being vaccinated and receive a waiver from the Superintendent.

 

Building Use by Outside Groups:  Non-School groups may be permitted to use the facilities with all safety restrictions and protocols in place.  With the opening of the two new buildings, the Administration will be providing an updated recommendation to the Board of Education regarding fees and costs for using the facilities.  Only certain areas of the building may be available for use.  Any outside group should presume they would be charged, at minimum, the actual costs for cleaning/sanitizing the spaces used.  Building use may be limited based on the availability of district custodial staff to clean/sanitize the building.

 

Visitors/Volunteers to the Building:  Parents/Guardians may enter the building/office to pick up or drop off students at the office or for meetings with classroom teachers.  Masks must be worn by all visitors at all times.  One-time guest speakers and classroom volunteers (parents, grandparents, etc.) will not be permitted at the start of the school year. District personnel will revisit this decision on or before the last day of the first nine-weeks grading period.

 

I know we were all hoping for a fresh Covid-free and less restrictive start to the school year, however the recent trends in case data related to the Delta variant make it necessary to keep many of our safety protocols in place as we open schools this year.  We appreciate your patience and understanding.  The first day of school is August 25th, and this will be the first day that all students have attended our buildings in person in over a year.  It is our hope that the efforts outlined above will provide a safe environment for all of our students.

 

Further Items Regarding the Continuity of Services in Athens City Schools:

  1. Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to the health and safety policies:  Each building principal will collaborate with the Director of Special Education to respond to the specific needs of individual students with disabilities who may have pre-existing health related identifications to determine specific protocols or services that may be needed to allow the student to continue to receive services. 
  2. Ensuring a continuity of services including but not limited to addressing the students’ academic needs, and students’ and staff social, emotional, mental health and other needs, including food services:  Each school building will identify a Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) and/or Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Leadership team who will be responsible for providing support services within the school setting or to make referrals to outside support services to students as it relates to their social and emotional well-being and mental health.  For the 2021-22 school year, all students will be provided free breakfast and lunch at school. Faculty and Staff who may experience social and emotional or mental health related challenges upon returning to school in person are encouraged to talk with the District's benefits manager who can assist in providing information about accessing benefits for professional counseling or support services as needed.
  3. Periodic review of ACSD’s Continuity of Services Plan:  The procedures and protocols in this document will be reviewed on a continuing basis, but not less than at the start of each nine-week grading period. 
  4. Considering the need for future changes in our response to the COVID pandemic:  Any person wishing to make comment or recommendations for adjustments to these procedures and protocols may do so by contacting the Superintendent, Dr. Gibbs, at tgibbs@athenscsd.org .

 

How the District is Using ARP ESSER III Funding

  1. How will ARP ESSER funds be used to implement prevention and mitigation strategies that are, to the greatest extent practicable, consistent with the most recent CDC guidance on reopening schools, in order to continuously and safely open and operate schools for in-person learning?
    • ARP ESSER funds will be used to review and remedy HVAC concerns for each building, to improve air exchange rates and filtration/purification, to provide for physical distancing to the best possible extent (including the lease or purchase of additional facilities and related personnel where necessary, e.g. extra buses, drivers, additional bathroom space), to provide for additional sanitization materials and procedures, and personal masking.
  2. How will the LEA use the funds it reserves under section 2001(e)(1) of the ARP Act to address the academic impact of lost instructional time through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year?
    • ACSD will create and support summer, extended day, and weekend programs. Additionally, there is the intent to extend preschool availability.
  3. How will the LEA spend its remaining ARP ESSER funds consistent with section 2001(e)(2) of the ARP Act?
    • ACSD will use remaining funds to continue to keep staff employed who might otherwise lose their positions or a portion of their work. It will also continue athletic programs and food services that otherwise unsupported would need to be curtailed or reduced due to losses from local support.
  4. How will the LEA ensure that the interventions it implements, including but not limited to the interventions implemented under section 2001(e)(1) of the ARP Act to address the academic impact of lost instructional time, will respond to the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students, and particularly those students disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including students from low-income families, students of color, English learners, children with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, and migratory students.
    • The primary means ACSD will use to oversee the effectiveness, efficiency, and completeness of its interventions is through ongoing academic progress monitoring, needs assessments including a wide variety of stakeholders at least annually, and stakeholder satisfaction surveys and forums to provide more extensive feedback (live and virtual).
  5. Briefly describe how the LEA determined its most important educational needs as a result of COVID-19.
    • ACSD solicited feedback from staff, parents, the community, and local agencies and institutions with which it partners or may seek partnership. The district also conducted surveys of existing technology and usage patterns.The district reviewed teacher and contracted assessment data, student attendance data, student GPAs, and measures of progress toward graduation.
      • Estimated number of jobs created or retained as a result of this funding.
        • As a result of this funding, ACSD estimates that it has saved a minimum of 11 positions, has created 4, and at various times throughout the pandemic has temporarily provided ongoing employment to 338.
  6. Briefly describe the LEA's proposed timeline for providing services and assistance to students and staff with these funds.
    • ACSD is creating five to six new positions to help address learning loss in the fall, is providing summer programs grades 7-12 in beginning June 2021, and will be instituting further learning-loss measures in school year 2021-2023. Evaluation of air handling, sanitation procedures, space/facility requirements are already underway.It is anticipated that all funds will be expended or encumbered by September 2024.
  7.  Briefly describe the extent to which the LEA intends to use ARP ESSER funds to promote remote learning.
    • ACSD has employed ESSER funds to help with gradual reopening, permitting the continuation of remote learning grades 4-12 one day each week. The district is fully committed to providing the technology, trained technology administrators and support personnel, and remote-environment technological and pedagogical skills training to allow the district to pivot without hesitation and as dictated by public health concerns to hybrid and remote learning environments in part or entirely, and also to use these same technologies and skills to enhance ongoing regular classroom learning through such modalities as the flipped or blended classroom and finally to provide greater differentiation to support learners at all levels.
  8. Describe the LEA's plan for addressing learning loss by: administering and using high-quality assessments to assess students' academic progress and meet students' academic needs, including through differentiating instruction; implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students; providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment; and/or tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education.
    • Presently, and subject to revision in response to the aforementioned accountability measures, the ACSD plan to address learning loss includes the following:
  • Expanding preschool availability.
  • Addressing early literacy and advanced comprehension concerns through training in the science of reading, faithful implementation of data-rich assessments (Acadience Reading, Dibels 8, and iReady), more Orton-Gillingham trained personnel, in implementation of Wilson Reading’s Just Words program, and the professional development to support all of these measures.
  • Adding more non-special education content-area specialists with additional training.
  • Providing more advanced training to teachers to help deal more effectively with the individual needs of students (thus producing greater capacity for instruction at Tiers II and III but also greater efficacy of Tier I instruction)
  • Adding extended learning options (through afterschool and Saturday programs in fall 2021 and beyond).
  • Adding summer programs and extended services for those students with identified needs.
  • Embedding progress monitoring in mathematics K-8 (through iReady)
  • Extending middle and high school credit recovery programs.
  • Mentoring and career development to aid alternate paths to graduation.
  • Reviewing attendance and enrollment records to identify and recover attendance lost through the effects of the pandemic.
  • Potentially adding a position to coordinate the extra services required to address learning loss.
  • Working with Children and Family First Council to identify students with needs.