Health and Safety

Capacity

Updated April 24, 2021

In order to provide the maximum number of students access to in-person instruction at each school while following health and safety plans, students will rotate in groups between in-person and remote learning (known as blended learning for the purposes of this document). Each school was provided a preliminary estimate of what their space allows when accounting for social distancing. These building capacity calculations allow for at least six feet of space to be maintained around each person in a classroom, while ensuring that there remains room for teachers and students to circulate.

Following updated guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in March 2021, the DOE provided schools with updated capacity reports based on 3-feet physical distancing protocols between students in instructional spaces in the event that the New York State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) adopted the CDC guidance. This allowed schools to prepare as quickly as possible for the possibility that physical distancing of 3-feet could be implemented. The updated capacity calculations allow for at least 3 feet of space to be maintained around each student in a 3K, Pre-K and K – 5 classroom and 6 feet of space around adults, while ensuring that there remains room or teachers and students to circulate.

NYCDOE has developed three baseline programming options for schools to choose from. The models, having been created by analyzing system-wide constraints, researching national and international best practices, surveying families and students, and by holding focus groups with school leaders, are meant to support schools in determining how to serve the needs of their students and families in line with health and safety guidance. These models apply to Elementary (including early childhood grades), Middle, and High Schools. Two additional models are available for District 75 schools, a citywide school district with schools that provide highly specialized instructional support for students with significant challenges, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, significant cognitive delays, emotional disturbances, sensory impairments, and multiple disabilities. Schools will be able to apply for an exception to implement an alternative model based on that school’s specific needs.

Families will be notified of their student’s specific schedule in August. More details on programming models can be found on the school schedule page.

Throughout the year, as schools have confirmed which students would attend in-person, schools have modified students’ schedules to maximize in-person instructional days whenever possible, prioritizing student groups (beginning with students with disabilities) when needed. The ability to transition to 3 feet of physical distancing has facilitated more in-person instructional days for students in many schools, and schools are providing updated schedules for families as they begin to transition to implementing 3-feet of physical distancing starting on April 26, 2021.

Learning Preference Opt-in Period (updated April 24, 2021)

Families were able to opt-in to blended learning for the 2020-2021 school year during an additional opt-in window from Wednesday, March 24 through Wednesday, April 7. Families requesting to change from 100% remote to blended learning completed and submitted the Learning Preference Survey during this window. Schools were able to review individual students’ updated learning preference on a rolling basis during the window.

Families were able to opt-in to blended learning for the 2020-2021 school year during one opt-in window from Monday, November 2 through Sunday, November 15. Families that requested to change from 100% remote to blended learning completed and submitted the Learning Preference Survey during this window. Schools were able to review individual students’ updated learning preference on a rolling basis during this window.

  • During this time, Superintendents, Executive Superintendents and Central DOE will begin supporting schools to ensure as many students as possible are accommodated for blended learning.
  • Families can opt into 100% remote learning at any time. 

Social Distancing

Updated April 24, 2021

Safely reopening schools for in-person learning means significant changes to classroom capacity. In order to fully comply with the CDC and New York State’s physical distancing requirements that reduce the spread of COVID-19, schools will operate at significantly reduced capacity for in-person instruction, with, on average, between one third and half of the student population attending at one time.

Maximum capacity has been determined using a formula that calculates the space needed to maintain six feet of physical distance and comply with other COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Every school will be required to ensure that all individuals stay at least six feet apart at all times, including at building entry, during movement through hallway and stairwells, while in classrooms and shared spaces, and in elevators.

NYCDOE will continue to support schools in ensuring that conditions make physical distancing possible. Schools will receive signage, including but not limited to signs to remind individuals to remain six feet apart, signs to support appropriate movement protocols, and floor markers that show six feet in distance.

NYCDOE will support schools in redesigning movement protocols within a building to minimize congestion, including but not limited to designating one-way direction stairwells, single file routes, and requiring students to stay on campus during lunch periods. This includes larger shared spaces (e.g.: gyms, cafeterias, auditoriums, school-yards) and protocols on entrance and departure from the building.

Following updated guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in March 2021 followed by updated guidance by the New York State Department of Health (NYDOH), the DOE, in consultation with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) determined that schools with 3-K, pre-k and grades K through 5 were permitted to implement 3-feet physical distancing protocols between students in instructional spaces, while ensuring 6 feet of physical distancing was still maintained in common areas, during in-school meals, when mask removal is required (e.g. projecting the voice for singing, playing a wind instrument), and at all times between adults and between adults and students. Schools were provided with updated capacity reports of their instructional spaces to ensure understanding of how many elementary students would be allowed in instructional spaces, how to calculate capacity to account for additional adults in classrooms, as well as guidance on strategies that were allowed to be used by schools for in-person meal services to maintain 6 feet physical distancing. View the list of schools that will be implementing 3 feet physical distancing protocols for any group of students in instructional spaces for students in 3-K, Pre-K and K-5. Note that most schools are implementing updated physical distancing protocols for a portion of sections/classrooms based on their in-person student attendance.

Shared Spaces

General Protocols 

  • Physical distancing guidelines and mandatory use of face coverings must be enforced for all individuals while in the building. Exceptions to face covering usage are as follows:
    • Students who cannot tolerate a face covering medically, including where students with such coverings would impair their physical or mental health, will not be subject to wearing a face covering. 
    • Where the use of face covering is inappropriate considering the development level or age of the student. 
  • Appropriate signage (e.g., six-foot space markings and directional signs) should be used outdoors as needed, and must be visible upon entry and throughout school buildings, including entrances, exits, classrooms, offices, public assembly spaces and corridors.
  • Signage, face coverings, and other forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hand sanitizer, gloves, and thermometers, will be provided by Central. 
  • Hand sanitizing dispensers will be installed throughout co-located spaces and high traffic areas. 
  • Wellness barriers will be provided by Central, to be placed in the general office and at the main school safety desk. 
  • Co-located schools will receive a wellness barrier for each school’s general office. 
  • Custodians will sanitize school building on a nightly basis with an electrostatic sprayer that is CDC approved. Cleaning and disinfection will include all high touch surfaces: classrooms, desks & chairs, conference tables, drinking fountains, door handles and push plates, conference tables, light switches, restroom fixtures, partitions and hardware, buttons on hardware, buttons on vending machines, elevator buttons, gym padding, and physical therapy equipment.

Student Circulation 

  • School leaders must create plans to support movement that upholds physical distancing throughout the building, e.g. the use of one directional stairwells and single file travel patterns. 
  • Elevator use should be limited to individuals with special needs or in high-rise buildings and should be operated at limited capacity as per current DOHMH guidance (2 persons per elevator), and face coverings must be worn at all times.
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times except while eating or drinking.
  • Per State DOH guidelines, appropriate signage, e.g., directional markers and physical distancing guidelines, must be displayed on walls and floors throughout all travel routes. 
  • Travel areas should be appropriately staffed to support students with physical distancing guidelines. 
  • To reduce movement throughout the building, teachers should travel from class to class, with students remaining in the same room throughout the day to the extent possible. If students have to travel, proper social distancing protocols should be followed.
  • Where possible, students should remain with the same group of students, in a cohort, throughout the day.
  • NYCDOE is developing additional guidance as it relates to cohorts and grades. NYCDOE will support creation of cohorts wherever possible. 
  • Where feasible, co-located schools should have designated hallways and stairwells. For co-located campuses, Building Council discussion should take place in order to norm student movement. 

Bathroom Usage (For Students and Staff) 

  • Bathroom use must not exceed established cap (based on physical distancing guidelines) at any given time. 
  • Schools may adjust how bathrooms are used to accommodate for physical distancing requirements, e.g., use of alternate stalls and/or sinks. 
  • Appropriate signage regarding hand washing and physical distancing must be displayed. 
  • Where feasible, co-located schools should have designated bathrooms 

Public Assembly Spaces 

Use of large assembly spaces (e.g. cafeterias, auditoriums, libraries, and, gymnasiums) must comply with physical distancing guidelines. These areas may be used as additional classroom spaces in lieu of or in addition to their traditional use.

Cafeterias may be used for instructional spaces depending on school need. Cafeterias may only be used for food service for students who are receiving their instruction there. Cafeterias must adhere to the same health and safety protocols in classroom settings. School leaders should refer to the Physical Education Expectations for In-Person and Remote Instruction policy when making decisions regarding the use of gymnasiums.

Starting on April 26, following guidance issued by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York State Department of Health, schools with 3-K, Pre-K and grades 1 – 5 are permitted to use the cafeteria for these students for in-person meal services, provided that students remain 6 feet apart and in their pods, and with as much space as possible between pods, with at least 6 feet apart between pods.

Spaces accommodate different sections of students on any given day. As always, Building Councils in co-located campuses must agree on how spaces will be shared and used. 

Building Council decisions around the allocation of shared space should be driven by several factors, including number of shared spaces, number of schools, number of students in each school, as well as selected instruction models will require cleaning between uses.

Some approaches which may be applied to the decision-making process, using the cafeteria and auditorium spaces as examples, include:

  • Space Designation - In this scenario, school A utilizes the cafeteria exclusively as classroom space while School B utilizes the auditorium exclusively. 
  • Alternating Days - In this scenario, school A utilizes the cafeteria on Mondays and Wednesdays while School B uses it on Tuesdays and Fridays. 
  • Rotation Schedule - In this scenario, Schools A and B utilize the cafeteria and auditorium respectively one week and schools C and D utilize it the following week. This rotation would repeat in subsequent weeks. 

Exterior Spaces/Play Yards 

  • Multiple cohorts of students may use larger exterior spaces concurrently, provided that physical distancing is practiced between and within cohorts and students are well supervised. 
  • Blending of different cohorts or school organizations should not be permitted as it could complicate contact tracing efforts and increase risk of transmission. 
  • Co-located schools should ensure that spaces are shared equitably and safely. 
  • Ground markings may be used to encourage physical distancing. 
  • Schools should endeavor to maximize the use of outdoor space for multiple uses, including instruction where feasible and appropriate. 

Student Dismissal

  • Schools must adopt procedures that allow students to engage in physical distancing while exiting the building. 
  • Additional school personnel should be deployed strategically to assist students. 
  • Schools must identify designated points of egress using signage visible to all.
  • Schools should consider the use of staggered dismissal times and multiple exits. 
  • Co-located schools should use separate exits to the extent possible. 
  • For students being dismissed, e.g., play yards, physical distancing markers and directional signs must be in use. 
  • Families must be aware of exit procedures and encouraged to arrive at designated times to avoid congestion. 
  • Schools must assign staff to school yard or exterior of school to encourage students and parents to not congregate outside.
  • Conspicuously post signage at points of egress identifying the dismissal protocols and DOHMH’s four core actions to stop the spread of COVID-19: stay home if sick, keep physical distance, keep your hands clean, and wear a face covering. Signage will be available in multiple languages.

PPE and Face Coverings

The mandatory use of face coverings while on NYCDOE property must be enforced for all individuals, including staff, students, and essential visitors, with the exceptions below. NYCDOE will communicate, educate, and reinforce the required wearing face coverings with families engaged as full partners in this process. Exceptions to face covering usage are as follows:

  • Medically verified students who cannot tolerate a face covering, including where students for whom the use of such coverings would impair their physical or mental health; 
  • Where the use of face covering is inappropriate considering the development level or age of the student (e.g. under two years old);
  • Guidance and policies will account for any modifications to social distancing or PPE that may be necessary for certain student or staff populations, including individuals who have hearing impairment or loss, students receiving language services, and young students in early education programs, ensuring that any modifications minimize COVID-19 exposure risk for students, faculty, and staff, to the greatest extent possible.

With the exceptions discussed above, face coverings are required for all individuals while on school property. NYCDOE is procuring and distributing appropriate PPE, including face coverings, for students, staff and essential visitors to use when inside school buildings.

Students, staff, and essential visitors are able to bring their own face coverings, but if they are not able to or forget, every school will have centrally provided face coverings readily available to be provided to anyone who requires a face covering.

NYCDOE will communicate, educate, and reinforce personal protective behaviors, such as the required wearing of face coverings, with families engaged as full partners in this process. Signage will also be provided to remind students, faculty, and staff of the importance of wearing appropriate PPE, especially face coverings.

Hygiene, Cleaning, and Disinfection

The Division of School Facilities has drafted a Cleaning Protocol that follows CDC guidance in addition to State DOH guidance. Routine cleaning is an important part of standard infection control practices. Please refer to the State DOH guidance for areas of focus. The State DOH guidance also outlines additional procedures to perform in the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school. NYCDOE buildings will now perform these enhanced cleaning procedures everyday regardless of any confirmed case of COVID-19.

Custodian engineers will continue to comply with instructions on building ventilation and opening of windows. Custodian engineers will continue to purchase EPA-registered anti-viral products as described in the State DOH guidelines. All products are to be used according to the label instructions.

Hand and Respiratory Hygiene

NYCDOE plays a vital role creating a safe and positive environment for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students and staff will need to thoroughly clean their hands as soon as possible upon entry to the school building. In addition, students will be expected to clean their hands repeatedly throughout the day, including but not limited to, between classes, before and after physical education, and before and after meals/snacks.

NYCDOE believes that it is critical that students do everything possible to keep themselves safe from spreading COVID-19 and has created age-appropriate (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) lessons to help students learn about hand and respiratory hygiene. In the elementary grades, students practice handwashing, explore feelings around face coverings, and design a unique mask. At the secondary level, students practice responding to scenarios related to face coverings and peer pressure, set goals around health-enhancing behaviors, and develop a PSA to encourage others to wear face coverings and keep a safe distance. These lessons can be taught in classroom settings, physical education class, health education class, advisory or other classes.

When students can learn, practice, and demonstrate health-related skills, they are much more likely to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors. Comprehensive health education classes at the elementary, middle and high school levels provide students with additional opportunities to build on these skills as they relate to disease prevention and social, emotional, and mental health.

To reinforce students’ learning from the aforementioned lessons, NYCDOE will provide printable posters to each school to remind students of these important hygiene protocols. NYCDOE will also provide additional printable posters for schools to use as is appropriate for individual spaces, including directional signs.

Visitors

Minimizing opportunities for spread is a necessary component for maintaining health and safety in NYCDOE schools. In an effort to limit the number of visitors in a school at any given time, as recommended by the CDC, schools are encouraged, where possible, to address all visitor and parent concerns by phone or virtually. Principals and designated staff should conduct meetings remotely, where possible.

When it is essential to hold an in-person meeting, all visitors are required to follow the visitor control protocols, including undergoing a temperature check, completing a health screening form, complying with physical distancing requirements and wearing a face covering.

All visitors must receive a visitor’s pass, which must be returned upon exiting the building. All visitors must be escorted to and from the meeting destination, in order to prevent visitors from accessing unauthorized areas, limiting the possibility of exposure. If a parent is called to the school to pick up their child, the child must be brought to the main lobby to meet the parent.

Non-essential individuals should not be allowed to enter school buildings. All packages are to be delivered to the main lobby in a manner consistent with physical distancing protocols, or to another location if proper physical distancing cannot be met with lobby deliveries.

Co-located schools must be aligned on policies governing how adults are allowed to enter and traverse the building.

Schools must develop practices to eliminate the need for families to enter school buildings to drop off or pick up children, except for 3-K and Pre-K families during the first month of school.

Early Childhood Contracted Programs

Prior to re-opening, all NYC community based organizations contracting with NYCDOE to provide early childhood services, must train their staff in the relevant health and safety guidance, complete an affirmation online, and complete and post the NYS Business Reopening Safety Plan Template (in addition to updating existing safety plans). Community Based Organizations will also review a readiness checklist, complete a staffing planning tool and develop plans for Continuity of Learning that addresses in-person, remote, and hybrid models of instruction together with a member of the NYCDOE early childhood team, and have ongoing touchpoints with early childhood team members throughout the year.

Accommodations for At-Risk Students and Staff

Families can opt into 100% remote learning at any time. Families who choose 100% remote learning can opt back into blended learning on a quarterly basis during a set timeframe that will be communicated clearly to families. Families can utilize this form to indicate their preference: https://www.nycenet.edu/surveys/learningpreference

NYCDOE employees who are older adults and/or have underlying medical condition(s) that create an increased risk of severe illness should they contract COVID-19 may be eligible for a reasonable accommodation to work remotely at the start of the school year.

Requests for reasonable accommodations to work from home will be considered in accordance with relevant disability laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and consistent with applicable health guidance, CDC guidance. Staff will be required to provide supporting medical documentation with their application.

Schools and offices may consider the needs of individuals who may not feel comfortable returning to an in-person educational environment when making assignments and modifying work settings and/or schedules where possible. 

Before and Aftercare

As students in New York City return to schools after months of isolated and sedentary living, it is more important than ever to support and promote opportunities for physical activity and safe socialization during and after the school day. Extracurricular activities and before or after school programs serve as a critical means to cultivate student voice, empower youth, and provide access to experiential opportunities and skill development to children who would not otherwise be afforded such opportunities.

All extracurricular and afterschool activities, inclusive of Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD) elementary school and middle school programs, must adhere to the guidelines and recommendations set for school opening, including all health and safety guidelines. NYCDOE will be issuing additional guidance on afterschool programming, but it is important to note that afterschool programs will require increased custodial labor and programs will incur extra extended use costs to pay for those services. Additionally, afterschool programs must adhere to NYCDOE health policy regarding face coverings and other personal protective equipment and these programs will be required to provide those items for staff and students.

When schools are deciding what extracurricular and afterschool activities should be offered this school year, the following factors must be considered:

  • The level of risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Associated modifications that will be needed to lower transmission risk.
  • In what form the activity will be possible.
  • Level of interest in the activity from students and families.

All extracurricular activities that include physical activity must also be consistent with applicable CDC and State DOH guidance related to sports and recreation, for example as related to minimizing or eliminating touching of shared equipment, maintaining social distancing, minimizing or eliminating contact or physical closeness between participants, and conducting activities outdoors when possible. Certain activities pose a higher risk for transmission than others. The higher the risk, the more modifications will be needed OR the activity may not be able to be offered at the outset of the school year.

Schools offering extracurricular and afterschool programming will uphold the following:

  • Wherever possible, schools should work to offer remote options for those students not attending in-person. 
  • After hours dismissal procedures should align with school day dismissal processes and adhere to health and safety protocols. If a student feels unwell prior to or during an afterschool activity, the school should follow standard COVID response protocols.
Afterschool program staff who work at a location or school other than where they are supervising afterschool activities/coaching are required to follow daily entry protocols upon arrival to the afterschool site.

School Safety Drills

NYCDOE is taking active measures to protect both the health and safety of students and staff. Currently, all schools must implement a General Response Protocol (GRP) which provides specific directions that staff and students will take in an emergency that may result in an evacuation, shelter-in or lockdown.

In accordance with New York State Education Law Section 807, all schools are required to conduct four lockdown drills per year in addition to eight evacuation drills, for a total of twelve emergency drills annually. In order to ensure that schools can effectively implement these drills and respond to emergencies, principals are required to attend a training that covers GRP and Building Response Team (BRT) as well as the establishment of a command post.

During this pandemic, the existing emergency drill practices remain in effect with the following modifications related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an actual soft or hard lockdown, the priority is maintaining the safety of all students and staff. In an actual evacuation/emergency, the priority is exiting the building safely and expeditiously; as outlined in  NYSED guidance, in an actual emergency, it is understood that physical distancing may not be possible.

Evacuation drills during the COVID-19 pandemic will be conducted as follows:

  • All students must participate in drills. 
  • With consideration to overall number of students and physical distancing guidelines, drills may be conducted in stages rather than all at once. For instance, instead of an evacuation drill being executed for the entire building, it can be conducted in stages with select floors participating at one time.
  • If schools conduct a drill in stages, all students must participate in a staged drill before the completion of the school day e.g., first and third floors conduct drill in the morning; second and fourth floors conduct drill in the afternoon).
  • School must schedule drills to ensure that each group of the school’s blended learning schedule has an opportunity to participate in a drill.
  • For instance, if the first drill of the school year includes students in Group A, schools must schedule the second drill when Group B is in session. 
  • Students should exit the building and proceed to their staging area in single file lines. Staff not assigned to students at time of drill should monitor staging areas. 
  • Students should be instructed to maintain a distance of six feet to comply with physical distancing guidelines and to wear a face covering. 
  • While younger students may be accustomed to exiting the building holding hands, for now this must be discouraged. 
  • Older students should be instructed to refrain from congregating in groups and remain in single file lines while exiting the building. 
  • Expand street staging areas which might require extending current staging area to an additional block from the school. It is best to assess this in advance and inform all staff of any changes that must be made.
  • All physical distancing guidelines must be followed as students and staff re-enter the building after any evacuation drill or emergency.
  • Lockdown drills during the COVID–19 pandemic will be conducted as follows:
  • All students must participate in drills. 
  • When scheduling a lockdown drill, schools must ensure that each cohort of the school’s blended learning model has an opportunity to participate in a lockdown drill. 
  • During a drill, students should be instructed to remain in their seats and remain silent instead of moving to the safe corner.
  • All instruction and movement within the classroom must cease until the lockdown drill has been lifted. 
  • All classrooms and offices must be provided with materials to cover the door visual panel during a lockdown drill (i.e. shade, poster board, non-flammable fabric, etc.) 
  • In larger spaces such as the gymnasium, cafeteria, auditorium, or library, students will be required to remain seated and silent until the drill has ended. In an actual soft or hard lockdown emergency, the priority is the immediate safety of all students and staff, and complying with physical distancing guidelines may not be possible nor should it be a priority. As mentioned above, during a soft or hard lockdown drill, students remain in their seats, however, in an actual soft or hard lockdown, students and staff must move to the safe corner and remain there until it is safe to move.

COVID-19 Safety Coordinator

The safety and security of our students and staff is of the utmost importance. NYCDOE regularly assesses existing systems for effectiveness and makes revisions as necessary, specifically aligned to any current conditions. A vital component of emergency readiness, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the Building Response Team (BRT). While the principal leads the school in ensuring compliance with the NYCDOE reopening plan, the BRT is a school-based team that is activated to manage health and safety incidents or emergencies.

The BRT will be responsible for managing and supporting the school’s response to any incidents related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes collaborating with the principal to plan and execute morning entry plans. Schools and campuses must identify individual staff members to become BRT members, who receive training in order to perform their duties.

As schools prepare for reopening, the principal and the Building Response Team (BRT) receive training around enhanced COVID-19 response protocols. This training will cover the COVID-19 School Health Policy including the identification and utilization of Isolation Rooms as well as protocols to follow when there is a suspected case or a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the school building.

During the school year, the BRT Leader may activate some or all of the team members based on the incident/emergency. When BRT is activated to address COVID-19 related incidents (“COVID-19 activation”), team members will assume the following additional responsibilities:

  • BRT Leader: serves as the point of contact for all team members during entry, dismissal, and all other specific activities where the COVID-19 activation occurs during the school day. 
  • Emergency Officer: provides support based on the specific circumstances of each incident.
  • Incident Assessor: conduct an on-scene initial assessment of the incident or emergency to assess the severity of the situation (while collaborating with the Internal Subject Matter Experts).
  • Special Needs Coordinator: For the purpose of COVID-19 activation, manages the school staff assigned to conduct temperature screening at each point of entry.
  • Assembly Point Coordinator: Coordinates the entry/dismissal process, as well as common areas to ensure physical distancing is followed.
  • Recorder: Collects detailed information from the beginning to the end (recovery phase) of an incident.
  • The Nurse, Custodian, and School Safety Agent (SSA) serve as Internal Subject Matter Experts.

    For any COVID-19 activation, all BRT roles (except for the BRT Leader) should have additional school staff assigned to each role based on the size of the school population and school schedule

Following guidance issued by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York State Department of Health, schools with 3-K, Pre-K and grades 1 – 5 that are transitioning to 3-feet physical distancing protocols starting on April 26 were required to have the BRT conduct a walkthrough of their school to ensure plans to implement updated physical distancing protocols in instructional spaces, as well as plans to maintain 6 feet physical distancing protocols in common spaces, were aligned with guidance.

Monitoring

Screening (Updated 5/3/21)

To ensure that staff and students do not report to school if they have or potentially may have COVID-19 or are feeling ill, a health screening, including a temperature check, must be completed by all students, staff, and visitors before entering NYCDOE school facilities. NYCDOE will provide oral thermometers to all students’ families so that temperatures can be checked at home. The health screening should be completed at home and must be completed each day.

Students and school-based staff cannot report to school based on the results of the following four questions in the NYCDOE’s daily health screener:

School-based staff, students, and visitors can complete the health screening in the following ways:

  1. Have you experienced any symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever of 100.0 degrees F or greater, a new cough, new loss of taste or smell or shortness of breath that started in the past 10 days?
    • No. Go to the next question.
    • Yes, and I have received a lab-confirmed negative result from a COVID-19 diagnostic test (not a blood test) since the onset of symptoms AND have not had symptoms for at least 24 hours. Go to the next question.
    • Yes, and I am not in the category above. No further screening is needed. The employee/guest may not enter the building.
  2. In the past 10 days, have you gotten a lab-confirmed positive result from a COVID-19 diagnostic test (not a blood test) that was your first positive result OR was AFTER 90 days from your previous diagnosis date? Please note that 10 days is measured from the day you were tested, not from the day when you got the test result.
    • No. Go to the next question.
    • Yes. No further screening is needed. The employee/guest may not enter the building.
  3. Are you considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by CDC guidelines OR were you recently (within the past three months) diagnosed with COVID-19 and finished isolation in the past 90 days? Please note that to be considered fully vaccinated by CDC guidelines, two weeks must have passed since you received the second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks must have passed since you received a single-dose vaccine.
    • No, I am not considered fully vaccinated or was not diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Go to the next question. 
    • Yes, I am considered fully vaccinated or was diagnosed with COVID-19 and finished isolation in the past 90 days. The employee/guest should skip question 4 and may enter the building.
  4. To the best of your knowledge, in the past 10 days, have you been in close contact (within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes over a 24 hour period) with anyone who is currently diagnosed with COVID-19 or who has been told they have symptoms of COVID-19? Clinical staff who were in appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) are not considered close contacts in these scenarios.
    • No. The employee/guest may enter the building.
    • Yes. No further screening is needed. The employee/guest may not enter the building.

Please note that the 90 day count should start from your symptom onset date or, if you had no symptoms, the 90 days should start from your positive test date.

Online Health Screening Tool

  • NYCDOE families/students are encouraged to use the online health screening tool to pre-screen themselves before entering a NYCDOE building. The online health screening application can be found at https://healthscreening.schools.nyc/ 
  • Upon entering the school facility, families/students will be asked to provide the results of their screening either by showing the email on their smartphone or a printout of the results. Families should support students as needed with this online screening questionnaire and should ensure students have proper documentation for morning entry.
  • For students who travel via school bus families must complete the screening, including checking their child’s temperature, prior to boarding a school bus to make certain that their child is well enough to ride on the bus and attend school. Bus personnel will not be conducting screenings of children prior to boarding the bus. School site designated staff will be checking for completion of student health screening at entry. Students who lack the screening clearance will need to be supported in completing this screening process at the school, particularly young children.
  • For morning student drop off, every effort should be made to ensure that student health screenings are completed prior to families dropping off their children to school, especially for our younger students.
  • NYCDOE employees are strongly encouraged to use the online tool to pre-screen themselves before entering a NYCDOE building. Upon entering the facility, staff will be asked to provide the results of the screening either by showing the email on their phones or a printout of the results.
  • The screening results for school-based staff are valid until midnight of the same day. School-based staff must show clearance every time they reenter a NYCDOE building.

Paper Copy of Health Screening Questionnaire

  • If students are not able to pre-screen using the online tool, schools must provide families with several copies of the health screening questionnaire so families can complete the questionnaire at home. If staff are not able to pre-screen using the online tool, staff should print and complete the health screening questionnaire for completion on a daily basis at home.
  • Get a printable version of the health screening questionnaire.
  • Translated versions are available in the following languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu.

In-Person Health Screening at School

  • Any person who needs to complete the health screening in-person will undergo a temperature check.
  • If NYCDOE families are unable to pre-screen their child(ren) at home using either the online tool or paper questionnaire, families will need to complete their child’s screening in-person at the school building prior to their child’s entry.
  • Schools should determine the best way to implement on-site screening for students using either the online health screening tool or paper copies of the screening questionnaire. Young children may require additional support from a staff member.
  • If NYCDOE employees are not able to pre-screen themselves prior to coming to work, they will be required to complete an in-person screening assessment prior to entering the building.
  • The screening results for school-based staff are valid until midnight of the same day.
  • School-based staff must show clearance every time they reenter a NYCDOE building.
  • Get a printable version of the health screening questionnaire.

Temperature Checks (Updated 9/20/20)

Anyone needing to complete a health screening in-person at a school must undergo a temperature check. As an added precaution in addition to at-home daily health screenings, schools will be instituting random temperature checks upon entry using hand-held non-touch thermometers and wall-mounted thermometers.

Designated school staff, with the assistance of School Safety Agents, will be checking the temperatures of any students, staff, and visitors entering in the building who need to complete an in-person health screening, as well as checking temperatures at random.

  • Face coverings and gloves must be worn by designated staff taking temperatures.
  • Any student presenting with a temperature of 100.0 degrees F OR HIGHER from a temperature check must be assessed by the nurse or health professional in the Isolation Room. The student must stay in the building’s Isolation Room until picked up and the principal should call the Situation Room at 212-393-2780.
  • School-based staff members with a temperature of 100.0 degrees F or higher will be directed to leave the building. The school should advise the staff member to visit a doctor and get tested for COVID-19. The principal should call the Situation Room 212-393-2780.
  • NYCDOE-contracted Community Based Organizations providing early childhood services must continue to conduct daily health checks and align with NYCDOE and DOHMH issued guidance that pertains to their program and setting.

In order to support with temperature screenings both at home and at school, the NYCDOE has provided all schools with the following:

  • Oral thermometers for all students: Oral thermometers should be backpacked home along with this flyer on the first day each student attends school in-person. These thermometers will support families in taking their students’ temperature and completing the health screening form prior to arriving at school.
  • Hand-held non-touch thermometers and batteries: These thermometers should be used for individuals who need to complete an onsite health screening as well as for random temperature checks as students and staff enter the building. Non-touch hand-held thermometers are most accurate when used within two inches of a person’s forehead and can be acceptably used within three inches.
  • Wall-mounted thermometers: These thermometers should be used for random temperature checks as students and staff enter the building. These thermometers should be installed using double-sided tape and should be installed by main entrance(s) of the building.

For younger students who arrive at school without a completed questionnaire and are unable to respond to the health screening questions, the school should make an effort to contact a family member for support with screening. However, if a parent/guardian is unable to be contacted, the school should check the student’s temperature to ensure that it is below 100.0 degrees F and ask the student about their well-being (e.g., “How are you feeling today?”).

For District 75 students who arrive at school without a completed questionnaire, the school should make an effort to contact a family member for support with screening. If it is not feasible to contact the student's family member prior to the student's entry, the school should check the student’s temperature to ensure that it is below 100.0 degrees F and ask the student about their well-being (e.g., “How are you feeling today?”). In District 75 schools, temperature check alone prior to entry is acceptable if a student is not developmentally able to answer questions regarding their well-being. In the event that contact with the family was not possible prior to the student's entry, once the student is in class the school should conduct outreach to the family to complete the screener as well as remind the family that the screening must be conducted at home before student leaves for school.

Testing (Updated 3/30/2021)

New York City has made COVID-19 testing readily available for all its residents, including children, across all five boroughs. NYCDOE encourages all its students and school-based staff to get tested within seven days of reporting to buildings and at regular intervals throughout the remainder of this crisis. In order to support testing, New York City has prioritized testing for NYCDOE students and staff and rapid communication of test results at city-run testing locations.

In October 2020, NYCDOE began implementing its Random Sample Survey of COVID-19 in Schools, a robust program of repeated random sampling and COVID-19 testing of adults and students present in DOE school buildings. To implement this program, NYCDOE:

  • Obtained written parental/guardian consent for in-person students to be tested in school, including consent to have results shared with NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Test & Trace Corps, and Department of Education as necessary. If consent to COVID-19 testing is not provided for an in-person student, the student is moved to the remote learning cohort.
  • Exemptions from testing are available for students who cannot undergo testing due to a medical condition or who cannot be tested in school due to the nature of their disability.
  • Obtained written consent from in-person teachers and staff to be tested and have results shared with NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Test & Trace Corps, and Department of Education as necessary. In the unlikely event school staff are selected for random testing and refuse, they will go on unpaid leave.
  • Established a rotating random testing schedule (weekly as of December 2020) at each school open for in-person instruction.
  • A random sample of 20% of each school’s in-person students and staff is tested on a weekly basis. 
  • Specimen collection is conducted or supervised by appropriate personnel from City agencies, outside testing partners, and/or school or contract nurses.
  • In the event a student has a positive test result, the testing partners notify families and Test & Trace Corps follows up with parents to provide resources to safely quarantine, and discuss how to keep their child and other household members safe. The school is also notified to ensure steps are taken to protect other members of the school community. Names or any other identifying information of the children or staff who test positive are not released to the school.

In response to February 17, 2021 guidance issued by the New York State Education Department, the New York City Health Commissioner determined that parent/guardian consent for COVID-19 testing of students shall continue to be a condition for participation by students opting for in-person learning or other in-person school activities.

Containment

Symptomatic Student at School (Updated 9/20/20)

Families and staff must know and be reassured that schools will take every precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within school communities. One of the key actions in preventing the spread of COVID-19 is isolating when sick. School-based staff members will be trained prior to the arrival of students to serve as critical partners in alerting the school administration if a student develops COVID-19-like symptoms during the school day.

In order to accommodate a student who may exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, every building must designate space to be used as an Isolation Room. An Isolation Room is a place where a student with suspected COVID-19 symptoms can be safely isolated in the building until they are examined and can be picked up by a guardian. A building’s Isolation Room must be large enough to house multiple students while maintaining physical distancing requirements of six feet. Each building must also designate a second space as a Back-Up Isolation Room, which can be used for other purposes until needed. Multiple students are permitted in the Isolation Room as long as they maintain physical distancing requirements of six feet and are wearing face coverings.

Should a student present with symptoms of COVID-19, the classroom teacher or school aide will notify the Main Office/Principal/BRT leader that a student is not well and experiencing one or more COVID-like symptoms. The Building Response Team will be activated, and the student showing symptoms of COVID-19 will be escorted to the Isolation Room by a designated BRT member (Special Needs Coordinator or Incident Assessor) wearing appropriate PPE. BRT Emergency Officer calls the student’s guardian for pick up.

When the ill student is placed in the Isolation Room, the building nurse will be contacted and will come to the Isolation Room and assess the student. Should the nurse/health professional be unavailable at that moment to examine the student, the student must wait in the building’s Isolation Room until assessment is complete. The student cannot be released to the guardian until the health assessment is completed.

Upon arrival of the student’s guardian, the BRT Emergency Officer escorts the student to the visitors’ entrance for pick-up by the guardian, reviews the NYCDOE’s “Sent Home With Symptoms” letter with the guardian, and advises the student to visit a doctor and get tested for COVID-19, and provides the information of the closest testing site. The BRT Emergency Officer confirms with the Command Post staff that the student and guardian have exited the building and all guidance has been provided.

When the ill student has been picked up and the Isolation Room is empty, the Isolation Room must be closed momentarily for a rapid deep cleaning, so the room may be opened again quickly. A deep cleaning of the Isolation Room must be performed at the end of the day. he area/classroom where the student was showing symptoms must be cleaned as soon possible. A deep cleaning of the area/classroom must be performed at the end of the day.

The principal, BRT Leader and/or Recorder will ensure that the incident involving the ill student is reported to the Situation Room by calling 212-393-2780, reported to the Emergency Information Center (EIC) by calling 718-935-3210, and documented in OORS.

The Situation Room will provide the principal with a letter to be disseminated to the school community regarding a student exhibiting COVID-like symptoms during the school day. The school may use any communication platform available to disseminate the letter.

The principal asks school designee (Parent Coordinator or nurse) to follow up with family on the ill student’s condition on regular intervals. The principal and/or designee shares any test results or updates with the Situation Room, in EIC, and in the OORS report.

Symptomatic Staff Member at School (Updated 9/20/20)

Should a staff member present with symptoms of COVID-19, the ill staff member should immediately notify the principal that they are not feeling well and are experiencing COVID-like symptoms. The principal will alert the BRT for awareness and potential support, including temporary coverage of a class, and nurse, if necessary. Any staff member with special health concerns are managed by the BRT Special Needs Coordinator. The school will advise the staff member to get tested as soon as possible, and the staff member should then go home.

If the staff member does not immediately leave the building and needs to wait for transportation assistance, the staff member may report to the Isolation Room. The area/classroom where the staff member was showing symptoms must be cleaned as soon possible. A deep cleaning of the area/classroom must be performed at the end of the day.

The principal, BRT Leader and/or Recorder will ensure that the incident involving the ill staff member is reported to the Situation Room by calling 212-393-2780, reported to the Emergency Information Center (EIC) by calling 718-935-3210, and documented in OORS.

The Situation Room will provide the principal with a letter to be disseminated to the school community regarding a staff member having exhibited COVID-like symptoms during the school day. The school may use any communication platform available to disseminate the letter.

The principal and/or designee will follow up with the ill staff member and share any test results or updates with the Situation Room, in EIC, and In the OORS report.

Criteria for Returning to School After Showing Symptoms

(Updated 1/12/20)

Any individual (student or staff member) showing signs of COVID-19 can only return to school when all the following conditions are met:

  • Received a positive COVID-19 test AND
  • Isolated for 10 days AND
  • The individual has been fever free for 24 hours without the use of medication and overall symptoms are improving.

OR

  • Received a negative COVID-19 test since the onset of symptoms (the negative result must have been from a test that tested saliva or used a nose or throat swab, not a blood test) AND
  • The individual has been fever free for 24 hours without the use of medication and overall symptoms are improving.

OR

  • Never got a COVID-19 test AND
  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms started AND
  • The individual has been fever free for 24 hours without the use of medication and overall symptoms are improving.

If DOHMH or T2 determine the individual is considered a close contact of a positive case, the individual can return to school after 10 days of quarantine without symptoms. The individual must continue daily symptom monitoring through Day 14 and remain symptom free without non-pharmaceutical interventions. Should the individual develop symptoms, the individual must not attend school.

Students in quarantine should participate in remote learning as possible. Staff in quarantine should discuss with their principals whether they are able to work remotely and may be eligible for excused leave if they are unable to work remotely.

Positive Cases and Contact Tracing (Updated April24, 2021)

Any student or staff member who self-reports a COVID-19 case while at school will be asked to leave the school, or in the case of a student, a guardian will be called to pick up the student. If a self-reported COVID- 19 case occurs after school hours, the principal should call the Situation Room at 212-393-2780 and await next steps (see below for self-reported tests with and without documentation.)

Self-Reported Positive Test With Documentation

  • The principal calls the Situation Room at 212-393-2780 and reports the self-reported case.
  • The principal submits the lab report, by email to the Situation Room at rts@buildings.nyc.gov and awaits next steps.
  • The Situation Room staff will work to confirm the positive test; some case confirmations are able to happen immediately while others may take up to three hours to verify.
    • For self-reported positive tests from non-NYC residents, the turnaround time will be longer.

Self-Reported Positive Test Without Documentation

  • Principal calls the Situation Room at 212-393-2780 and the Situation Room will advise on next steps.
  • Principal will notify the Situation Room upon receipt of any testing documentation.

Cases in a School

If a student or teacher is feeling sick, they are required to stay home and, if their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, are asked to get tested. If a student begins experiencing symptoms in school, they will be isolated and monitored by a dedicated staff member until they are picked up by their family. Staff members who become symptomatic at school are asked to immediately leave the building.

Whether symptoms begin at home or in school, there will be a clear flow of information to facilitate fast action and prevent spread. The DOE is working in tight coordination with DOHMH and the Test + Trace Corps to identify, isolate, and prevent spread of COVID-19. In the event that there is a laboratory- confirmed case in a school, all students and teachers in that class are assumed close contacts and will be instructed to self-quarantine for 10 days since their last exposure to that case.

ScenarioAction 
One confirmed case
  • The classroom of the positive case remain closed and quarantined for 10 days 
  • Students in the impacted classroom move to remote learning for 10 days 
  • Additional school members are quarantined based on where the exposure was in the school
  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine 
Two or three confirmed cases in same classroom within seven days
  • The classroom of the positive cases remain closed and quarantined for 10 days 
  • Students in the impacted classroom move to remote learning for 10 days 
  • Additional school members are quarantined based on where the exposure was in the school
  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine 
Two or three confirmed cases in different classrooms within seven days
  • Classrooms of each case remain closed and quarantined for 10 days 
  • Students in the impacted classrooms move to remote learning for 10 days 
  • Additional school members are quarantined based on where the exposure was in the school 
  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine
  • Weekly random COVID-19 testing is increased to 40% of the in-person school population, including vaccinated individuals 

Four or more confirmed cases in fewer than four classroom within seven days

  • The classroom of the positive cases remain closed and quarantined for 10 days 
  • Students in the impacted classroom move to remote learning for 10 days 
  • Additional school members are quarantined based on where the exposure was in the school 
  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine 
  • School remains open
  • Weekly random COVID-19 testing is increased to 40% of the in-person school population, including vaccinated individuals 
Four or more confirmed cases in four different classrooms within seven days

DOHMH will initiate an investigation. If the investigation determines

  • Not all cases can be attributed to exposure/transmission in school, then:
    • DOHMH will interview all cases
    • The classroom of the positive cases remain closed and quarantined for 10 days 
    • Students in the impacted classroom move to remote learning for 10 days 
    • Additional school members are quarantined based on where the exposure was in the school 
    • Individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine 
    • School remains open 
    • Weekly random COVID-19 testing is increased to 40% of the in-person school population, including vaccinated individuals
  • All cases are can be attributed to exposure/transmission in school, then
    • DOHMH will interview all cases
    • Entire school (not building) is closed for 10 days 
    • All students are moved to remote learning for 10 days
    • Upon reopening, school resumes 20% weekly random COVID-19 testing
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