Safe Return to In-Person Instruction Plan

Safe Return to In-Person Instruction Plan
Posted on 06/22/2021

On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plans (ARP) Act was signed into law. In it, the U.S. Department of Education is providing an additional $121.9 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III Fund). This legislation will award grants to state educational agencies (SEAs) for providing local educational agencies (LEAs) with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation.

South Carolina will receive $2,112,051,487 in ESSER III funds from the Act, with 90 percent being awarded to school districts with amounts determined in proportion to the amount of Title I, Part A funds they received in summer 2020 from funds under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The remaining funds will be used for state-level activities to address issues caused by COVID-19.

As a requirement for receiving ESSER III funds, GCSD is required to create a Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan using a specific report template. This report template complies with all reporting requirements of the ARP Act, the ESSER III grant terms, conditions, and assurances, and the interim final rule established by the U. S. Department of Education.

We expect school guidance documents to be updated periodically.  Once that happens, GCSD will revise the plan as needed with our stakeholder groups, and then share it for public input. We expect this plan to be modified throughout the school year.

  Download a pdf version of the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan (October 13, 2021)

Plan as of October 13, 2021
Maintaining Health and Safety

Overview

A district’s plan must include how it will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and LEA staff, and the extent to which it has adopted policies or practices and a description of any such policies or practices, on each of the CDC's safety recommendations including: universal and correct wearing of masks; modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding); hand washing and respiratory etiquette; cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation; contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the state, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments; diagnostic and screening testing; efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible; appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies or practices; and coordination with state and local health officials.

Description of maintaining health and safety

The Number One priority of the Georgetown County School District is to safely continue in-person education for the 2021-22 school year using the best and most appropriate models for learning. The plan described in this document is the result of a collaboration of staff, stakeholders and health and safety professionals. Local, state and national resources were consulted, including the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local healthcare providers. Surveys were conducted to solicit input from students, parents and staff. The policies, practices and procedures described in this document were developed with the goals of meeting students’ academic, social and emotional needs without compromising the health and safety of students and staff. GCSD continuously monitors conditions along with the latest health and safety guidance, remaining flexible and making adjustments as required by changes in health and medical conditions.

Policies or Practices Regarding CDC Recommendations

Wearing of masks

The use of facemasks remains a recommendation of state and federal public health officials.  It is recommended and encouraged by GCSD that students and staff wear face coverings as defined by DHEC and CDC guidelines while in school buildings including classrooms and non-classroom settings, but it is not required or mandatory. GCSD will have face masks available upon request.  Individuals with respiratory symptoms in healthcare locations such as nurses’ offices, health rooms and athletic trainers’ offices will be required to wear a mask while awaiting pickup.  Pursuant to a directive issued by the S.C. Department of Education on August 27, 2021, students and staff are required to wear face coverings on state-owned buses unless the driver is on the bus alone.

Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding)

Georgetown County School District has exterior and interior signage posted throughout the buildings that clearly display social distancing guidelines. Floor decals with spacing protocols and directional flow arrows are displayed in our buildings. During arrival and dismissal times, car rider lines are carefully and clearly marked with cones and decals to indicate where students are to stand and where cars may load and unload each day. School bus loading and unloading areas are also marked with floor decals. In each classroom student desks and chairs are spaced three-feet apart to the extent possible; subject to changes in DHEC/CDC guidance. Plexiglass barriers are available upon parental request.  In areas such as Gymnasiums and other related Arts classrooms, floor decals designating student standing areas are marked six-feet apart. Restroom occupancy is limited to ensure that students are practicing proper physical distancing. Drinking fountains are no longer utilized, instead; touchless water hydration stations have been installed so that students will have access to water as needed. In areas where six feet of social distance may be compromised, physical barriers have been installed.

Handwashing and respiratory etiquette

GCSD follows appropriate hand washing guidelines established by the CDC. Hand washing stations are provided in all restrooms and in selected classrooms. Both signage and verbal instruction are given to students and staff members throughout the day regarding hand hygiene. 1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. 2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. 3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. 4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. 5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. GCSD follows appropriate hand sanitizing guidelines established by the CDC. Hand sanitizing stations are provided in all classrooms and throughout the buildings. Both signage and verbal instruction are given to students and staff members throughout the day regarding hand hygiene. 1. Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount). 2. Rub your hands together. 3. Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.

Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation

GCSD has taken substantial measures to improve the air quality in our facilities. We are upgrading our HVAC systems with Bipolar Ionization Units. These units will perform air exchanges six times per hour and treat the exchanged air. We are using new HEPA filters that are rated MERV-8 in these units. The filters are being replaced more frequently. The HVAC ducts are being cleaned during the replacement of the filters. Our HVAC units are running longer to maintain relative humidity levels of 40 - 60%. Our custodial teams have increased the daily cleaning schedule. We have Clorox 360 Machines (Electrostatic Sprayer) in all of our facilities to disinfect classrooms, restrooms, and other high traffic areas daily. In order to enhance the current cleaning measures, each custodian received a "Frequency of Cleaning Checklist" to detail the number of times areas are cleaned and sanitized daily. It is also the responsibility of each custodian to sign the checklist after each area has been completed. A classroom at the District Office has been converted to a storage warehouse to make readily available any cleaning supplies our schools are in need of for daily cleaning and sanitizing.

Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine

GCSD follows DHEC standard recommendations for isolation and quarantine periods.

DHEC defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes) from 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or specimen collection for an asymptomatic infected person) of the infected person.

  • The close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory confirmed  or a clinically compatible illness) if the exposed student(s) wore mask(s) during the exposure time. This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.

  • Close physical contact can include contact with the mucous membranes of a COVID infected person through such things as, kissing, sharing eating/drinking utensils, etc., regardless of the time frame.

Isolation remains 10 days from the date of the positive test (if asymptomatic) or 10 days from the date of onset of symptoms (if symptomatic). Fully vaccinated people and people verified (positive PCR or antigen test) to have been infected with COVID-19 in the previous 90 days will not be required to quarantine unless they develop symptoms.

CDC continues to recommend quarantine for 14 days after last exposure. However, there are options to reduce the duration of quarantine in either of the following two scenarios: 

  • 10 days of quarantine have been completed and no symptoms have been reported during daily at home monitoring.
  • 7 days of quarantine have been completed, no symptoms have been reported during daily at home monitoring, and the individual has received results of a negative antigen or PCR/molecular test that was taken no earlier than day 5 of quarantine.
  • A close contact who is ending quarantine early (less than 14 days) and returning to the school environment should wear a mask and follow physical distancing guidelines in order to return to in-person learning. The individual should also continue to monitor for symptoms through 14 days after the date of last exposure.

If a student or staff member lives in the same household as a known case, their quarantine period begins on the date their household member has been cleared from their isolation period. If they are not a caretaker of the household member who is sick and can separate themselves into their own space in the home, their quarantine period begins the day that they had their last close contact with the ill person.  

GCSD school nurses collaborate with DHEC contact investigators to ensure that those who are positive or close contacts of a positive case are excluded from school for the recommended time frame. Students presenting to the nurse's office with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or reports of being in close contact with a positive case will be escorted to the isolation room and parents notified. Students are monitored by the school nurse, administrator, or other school designated person while in the isolation room until a parent arrives. The parent is given verbal and written instructions regarding quarantine/isolation times. Reports are made to the appropriate DHEC contact investigator as indicated. School nurses will be supplied with individual laptops to use for contact tracing after school hours.

Diagnostic and screening testing

Because free testing sites in Georgetown County are easily available and accessible, GCSD is not offering diagnostic testing/screening for COVID-19.

Efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible

GCSD has partnered with Tidelands Health to offer vaccinations to educators and staff. Surveys were sent out to determine which employees wanted vaccinations, and whether they had made their own arrangements through other providers. Two clinics were scheduled for employees and several hundred staff members took advantage of the opportunity to get vaccinated. Tidelands Health has made vaccinations available to students age 12 and up, and GCSD scheduled vaccination clinics at each of our 4 high schools in conjunction with athletic physicals. These clinics were open to students accompanied by parents, staff and members of the community. In addition, Tidelands has clinics in Georgetown and Murrells Inlet that are open on a regular schedule and accept appointments for educators, other staff and students.

Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies and practices

Students with disabilities are encouraged to wear face coverings as recommended; however, we recognize that all students with disabilities do not tolerate face coverings. Special needs classrooms socially distance students to the extent possible. Plexiglass barriers are available upon parental request.  Teachers and assistants in these classrooms encourage proper hand hygiene with either soap and water or hand sanitizer. Instructions on proper hand hygiene are delivered in a way that all students can understand. Classrooms are sanitized with the Clorox 360 machine routinely and high touch surfaces are cleansed throughout the day. Students are assigned their own supplies for class. Supplies are not shared between students.

Coordination with state and local health officials

GCSD receives regular updates and files reports via e-mail and telephone from SCDHEC and SCDE. District staff monitors the CDC and SCDHEC websites daily for updates and reports on current conditions. GCSD created a medical advisory board consisting of physicians with the local hospital system, the local community clinic and with local private practice pediatricians which meets regularly to monitor local conditions and review practices and procedures. School nurses work closely with DHEC contact investigators and update the district's COVID dashboard on a daily basis.

District response on continuity of services

Academics: Continuing to provide a rigorous K-12 Curriculum that emphasizes differentiation for all learners with emphasis upon appropriate planning, instructional delivery and assessment; providing intervention and remediation to identified students; utilizing progress monitoring tools and materials. Professional Learning Team meetings will continue to be held by grade level, school-wide, and/or in district level format to unpack the standards, plan the instruction, assess the learning, and prepare for individual learning needs and create the appropriate instructional strategy through MTSS. Additional staff including Reading and Math Interventionists, teachers and Rehabilitative Behavioral Health Services (RBHS) counselors are being added for the 2021-22 school year. Virtual options can be reopened if circumstances dictate the need.

Social/Emotional: Meeting the social-emotional and mental health needs of students and staff returning to school (whether face-to-face or virtual) will be addressed through training and support for teachers so that GCSD can effectively create learning-centered and culturally responsive classrooms that build relationships and create foundations for academic learning to take place. These strategies include performing universal screeners for social and emotional health for students and staff, and providing support to students and staff as identified by the screening tool.

Mental Health: Mental Health needs are being addressed in several different ways. GCSD Staff that are in need of mental health services can contact the office of Human Resources and are provided a referral to the Employee Assistance Program. The mental health needs of elementary students are addressed by embedded social and emotional learning opportunities. Middle and high school students, staff and community are being trained in The Signs of Suicide (SOS) program that began this past spring semester and will continue in the fall semester of the 2021-22 school year. All students have access to our guidance counselors and school based psychologists. In addition, all district devices have the RELAY application installed, which sends an alert to district staff if someone uses key words referring to harm to self or others. GCSD utilizes the STOPit app which anyone can use to anonymously report health or safety concerns. Also, our middle and high school students have access to RBHS services which are provided by the district. Lastly, we have a MOA with Waccamaw Mental Health in which they provide limited coverage in all of our schools, as well as community-based services.

Student health: School nurses are updated on changes in policies and procedures related to student health on a routine basis. They remain current in their knowledge of isolation/quarantine periods, DHEC recommendations, and CDC guidelines. School nurses serve as the source of contact tracing within the schools and as primary contacts for DHEC contact investigators. Policies and procedures are regularly reviewed and updated in order to adhere to current governmental orders. The GCSD Medical Advisory Team, consisting of local physicians and pediatricians is consulted on a regular basis. Additional nursing staff is available to cover schools where the assigned nurse may be absent due to leave time or illness.

Periodic Review

Overview

Districts are required to review and, as appropriate, revise their Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan at least every six months through September 30, 2023, including seeking public input and taking such input into account in determining whether to revise the plan and, if revisions are determined necessary, on the revisions it makes to its plan.

If a district developed a plan prior to enactment of the ARP Act that was made publicly available and was developed with public comment, but does not address each of the required aspects of safety established in the ARP Act, the district must, as part of the required periodic review, revise its plan consistent with the ARP Act requirements no later than six months after it last reviewed its plan.

District response on ensuring periodic updates to its plan

Georgetown County School District will solicit input from our stakeholders at a minimum two times per year for the purpose of updating/revising our Safe Return to In-person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan. These periods of public input will take place in July and January from July 2021 to July 2023. After the input is collected and the plan is reviewed, the updated plan will be posted on our website and will be accessible to all.

In addition to surveys which will be sent to all stakeholders, we will also include these reviews with specific groups according to their established meeting schedules:

- Superintendent's Cabinet

- Superintendent's Joint Leadership Principal Meeting

 - Superintendent's Support Staff Cabinet

- Superintendent's Student Cabinet

- Superintendent's Parent Cabinet

 - GCSD Teacher Forum

- GCSD Medical Advisory Team

Public Input

Overview

The ARP Act requires that school districts make their Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan available to the public online and that the plans be in an understandable and uniform format; to the extent practicable, are written in a language that parents can understand or, if not practicable, orally translated; and upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability, provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent.

Before making its plan publicly available, school districts must seek public comment on the plan and develop the plan after taking into account public comment.

District response on public input in development of its plan

Georgetown County School District sought public input from our stakeholders on our Safe Return to In-person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan through the following methods:

- Stakeholder surveys to include parents, students, support staff, teachers, and administrators

- Meetings and presentations with the following groups took place according to their established meeting schedules:

            - GCSD Medical Advisory Team

            - Superintendent's Cabinet

            - Superintendent's Joint Leadership Principal Meeting

            - Superintendent's Support Staff Cabinet

            - Superintendent's Student Cabinet

            - Superintendent's Parent Cabinet

            - GCSD Teacher Forum

            - GCSD Reopening Taskforce

- Email campaigns from stakeholders with responses

- Facebook comments from stakeholder

- District Taskforce Chairman's presentations at school board meetings with corresponding stakeholder feedback including Facebook comments, email comments and public comments

Public input was taken into consideration and decisions regarding revisions to the plan were made as deemed appropriate and necessary.

Previous Versions of Plan
Download a pdf version of the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction plan (June 21, 2021). 
Download a pdf version of the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction plan (August 4, 2021). 
Download a pdf version of the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction Plan (Sept. 7, 2021)
Download a pdf version of the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan (October 6, 2021)


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