Health and Safety
As we begin the 2021-22 school year the following health and safety measures will be in place.
Daily wellness checks are crucial to sustaining safe in-person school. This will include a blend of in-school protocols and a rigorous parent honor system. Parents will be provided with at-home screening procedures (see below) which must be completed prior to the student leaving for school each morning. Identifying children who are ill before they arrive at school can help minimize the risk of infecting others. Parents are asked to keep children with symptoms at home and report symptoms to the school office. Staff will also be required to self-screen before reporting to work each day.
When it’s Best to Stay Home
School attendance is important for student success, but it is better for children to remain home when they:
- have a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater. They should be fever-free for 24 hours without the aid of medicine before they return. Please consider keeping a child home if he or she has a low-grade fever along with additional symptoms.
- are vomiting or have diarrhea. They should be symptom-free for 24 hours without the aid of medications before they return.
- have a bad cough or persistent runny nose.
- have a rash until a physician indicates that they may return to school.
- are diagnosed by their physician with a bacterial infection, i.e., strep throat, pink eye. Students should remain at home until 24 hours after the antibiotics have been started or longer if they do not feel well.
- have COVID symptoms.
Students who attend school with any of the symptoms noted above or who become ill with any of these symptoms during the school day will be sent home. Students will benefit from staying home when they are sick by losing less time from school and decreasing risks of serious illness. When sick children are kept home, fewer children and staff are exposed to infection.
COVID-19 School Testing Program
The Department of Health Service (DHS) is offering free school-based testing for staff, students and their families for the 2021-22 school year.
Why offer testing at school?
- Testing helps reduce community spread and keeps schools operating safely. Testing individuals who are symptomatic and/or close contacts helps enable rapid detection of cases to reduce or prevent school outbreaks. A routine screening testing program, which regularly tests people without symptoms or known exposures, is a crucial tool to reduce “silent” spread of the virus. According to the CDC, at least 50% of infections are likely contracted from someone that is asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) or presymptomatic (not currently showing symptoms but may develop them in the future). Testing also helps protect children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and helps determine when fully vaccinated individuals with COVID-19 symptoms can return to school.
- Testing at the school site offers convenient access on a schedule that works for students, teachers, staff, and families without requiring extra appointments or transportation.
Testing data can help guide decisions regarding mitigation efforts to protect the health and well-being of everyone in our building.
Response to Illness
One of the most important things we can do to prevent virus transmission in our school community, is to not bring it onto campus in the first place. Students and employees will be expected and asked to stay home in the following situations:
- When exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19. Everyone should become familiar with these symptoms, and follow the established daily self-screening protocol.
- After close contact with persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are symptomatic.
- After returning from travel to certain locations, as guided by CDC or local public health officials.
Students who become ill at school will be assessed using protocols developed by the Department of Public Instruction. When a student is found to be symptomatic during the school day, they will be moved to an isolation space for monitoring until they can be picked up by a parent or guardian. Students must be fever and symptom free for 24 hours, without the use of fever reducers, before returning to school.
All students and staff who are confirmed positive cases, as well as those determined to have been in close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more, cumulative over 24 hours), will be expected to follow the Wisconsin Department of Public Health guidelines for quarantine found below or the new quarantine options for asymptomatic people. These expectations would be communicated by the school and WCHD through the process of contact tracing. If a student or teacher is required to quarantine, but is well enough to engage in teaching and learning, a temporary virtual learning instructional model will be used to connect the student to the in-person classroom.
|Identifying Close Contacts|
A close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period.
|Determining the Release of Isolation and Quarantine of Cases and their Contacts|
|Confirmed or Probable COVID-19 case||Quarantine for 10 days (minimum) and 24 hours fever-free.|
|Household Contact with Confirmed Case||Quarantined during patient’s 10+ days AND 7-10 days after patient is symptom-free|
|Non-Household Contact with Confirmed Case||Close contact (15 minutes or more, within 6 feet) would require 10-day quarantine. If asymptomatic, can test on 6th day after exposure. If test is negative, can return on 8th day.|
|Contact with Confirmed Case becomes ill, not tested||Quarantined until 72-hour symptom-free, 10 days since symptom onset, 14 days since contact|
|Contact with Confirmed Case, Test Negative||Quarantined until 24-hour fever-free, symptoms improved, monitor for 14 days from contact.|
Student and Community Health Monitoring
St. Mary staff will actively monitor absences for both in-person and virtual instruction. Absences reported that are due to personal or family COVID-19 infections will assist us in providing appropriate resources and support for the student and family during the absence and in supporting a smooth transition back to instruction when it is safe for the student to return.
At a community level, we will continue to monitor developments and metrics with local health authorities that may require a change in school operations. In the event of an elevated number of cases in local data or presumed/confirmed cases directly impacting our school, we will consult with WCHD authorities for all decisions regarding short-term closure of a classroom, cohort, or the school.
School and Facility Modifications
Many procedures and the school environment have been modified to meet CDC safety guidelines and recommendations. These procedures range from visitor management, modifications to office and classroom environments, air filtration, removal of excess classroom furniture to allow for physical distancing, parent pickup/dropoff, locker use, recess, lunch, and guiding hallway traffic. These modifications and procedural changes are described in this mitigation chart.
Preventative Measures to Reduce Risk of Transmission
Masks and other PPE
Masks protect the wearer from illness and protect others by preventing the wearer from spreading disease if they are asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic, or do not realize they are sick. Mask use is particularly important when physical distancing or other prevention strategies cannot be maintained.
Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends the wearing of masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Face masks are required on school buses.
Face shields and acrylic barriers will be available to staff as needed.
Studies from the 2020-21 school year showed low COVID-19 transmission levels among students who maintained less than 6 feet of physical distance in schools that implemented other layered prevention measures.
Students and staff are encouraged to maintain appropriate physical distance from one another throughout the school day. A number of modifications have been made to the classroom environment and school procedures to accommodate the need for space. We cannot guarantee that three to six feet of distance will be able to be maintained throughout the entire school day, especially with our younger students. However, current evidence and guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics gives us confidence that with other mitigation procedures in place like wearing masks, proper hygiene practices, increased sanitation, and staying home when sick, we can provide sufficient risk mitigation even if students are sometimes closer than six feet. Modifications taken for the physical distancing of students include:
- The removal of excess furnishings from classrooms
- Arranging student desks to allow for maximum distance
- Facing desks in the same direction
- Kindergarten students using desks rather than tables
- Reducing and eliminating shared supplies and classroom materials whenever possible
- Cleaning and sanitizing desks and materials after use
- Storing materials that are not easily sanitized
- Using outdoor space as much as possible for class activities weather permits.
- Signage and reminders of physical distancing placed in the building
- Reducing the number of students who eat lunch in the cafeteria at one time
School staff will intentionally teach and reinforce proper hand washing and hygiene practices. Visual reminders will be placed throughout the school building. Parents can help by regularly reviewing, reminding, and practicing proper hygiene techniques at home.
Hand sanitizer will be available in classrooms, entrances and common areas. Commonly touched surfaces (door handles, stair railings, etc.) will be cleaned/sanitized during the school day and after school. Older students are encouraged to bring and use their own hand sanitizer throughout the school day.
Regular sanitizing and cleaning procedures will be intensified throughout the school building. EPA approved cleaners and sanitizers will be used to clean surfaces during the day and each night. A sanitizing sprayer has been purchased to disinfect large areas. Faculty, staff and students (when appropriate) will observe protocols for cleaning classrooms and work areas after use.
Classroom air exchangers have been cleaned and fitted with new filters, which will be replaced more frequently this school year.
Lunch schedules have been modified to allow for physical distancing between students. Students will be provided with time to wash hands before lunch, rather than using hand sanitizer.
A hot lunch will be provided by the Menomonee Falls School District.
Students will have a snack break mid morning and are encouraged to bring a healthy snack each day. Students will not be allowed to share snacks and/or items from their lunches.
At this time, food treats for birthday celebrations and other special occasions must be individually packaged. Parents are encouraged to consider non-food treats like pencils, stickers, etc.
Visitors and volunteers
We love having parents visit and volunteer at school! Volunteers and visitors should complete a daily health screening before arriving at school. Visitors and volunteers are strongly encouraged to wear masks and practice physical distancing when inside the school building and supervising school activities.
Parents should make appointments to enter the school building to meet with teachers or staff.
Parents who are picking up students for appointments during the school day will sign them out in the front lobby.
Positive Cases of COVID-19 in our school community
If a student, or a member of the student’s household, is confirmed positive for COVID-19, we ask that the family inform the school immediately. Please contact the school office at 262-251-1050. The school will work with the Waukesha County Health Department to initiate contact tracing, notification, and quarantine measures, as necessary.
To assist in this process, St. Mary will be using a cohort model and a new tool in PowerSchool that will assist with contact tracing, quarantine tracking, and health screening.
Communication and privacy
If a member of our school community tests positive for COVID-19, we may need to communicate this to the broader community. Depending on the situation, we may need to inform the entire school community or we may not. These decisions will be made in consultation with the WCHD. Every effort will be made to respect the privacy of individuals, as well as the health and safety of the entire school community.
Depending on the situation, it may be necessary to temporarily close the school for cleaning, upon learning of positive COVID-19 cases. We will closely monitor community and local school zone transmission rates, our own absentee data, and the guidance of local health officials in making these decisions. If we should need to close temporarily for in-person learning, students would continue learning remotely at home as long as staff are available.
Health and Safety FAQs
What happens if there is a case of COVID in a classroom?
Parents should notify the school immediately at 262-251-1050 if their child has COVID symptoms or a positive test result. Decisions regarding quarantine and contact tracing will follow CDC guidelines.
What if a child is sick with a fever? How long will he/she need to remain at home? Will he/she need a negative COVID test to return?
This depends on the situation since many illnesses can cause fevers and not all fevers will be a result of COVID-19. However, we must be mindful that COVID-19 symptoms are similar to many common illnesses. Therefore, it is recommended that you keep your child home if they have a fever or other symptoms and contact your medical provider to determine when it is appropriate for the child to return to school.
Our current policy states that a child must be fever and symptom free for 24 hours, without the use of fever reducing medication, before returning to school.
If a child has cold symptoms without a fever do they need to stay home?
The CDC provides the following guidance:
The overlap between COVID-19 symptoms with other common illnesses means that many people with symptoms of COVID-19 may actually be ill with something else. This is even more likely in young children, who typically have multiple viral illnesses each year. For example, it is common for young children to have up to eight respiratory illnesses or “colds” every year. Although COVID-19 and illnesses like colds or the flu have similar symptoms, they are different disease processes.
Students who are sick with contagious illnesses should not attend school, but most illnesses do not require the same level or length of isolation that COVID-19 does. Excluding students from school for longer than what is called for in existing school policies (e.g., fever free without medication for 24-hours) based on COVID-19 symptoms alone risks repeated, long-term unnecessary student absence.
What is the plan for a COVID exposure in the classroom (either teacher or student)?
We will continue utilizing a cohort model with our students to limit the number of interactions and assist in contact tracing should it be necessary. If a teacher or student is exposed, we will work in collaboration with the WCHD to determine appropriate actions. Students who are intermittently quarantined may continue to participate in learning from home.
If quarantined and symptom free, teachers and students may temporarily move to a virtual delivery model for instruction.
What is the criteria to shut down in person learning and start virtual learning?
We will continue to monitor the spread of COVID in our school and greater community. These decisions will be made in collaboration with the WCHD and in relation to the student burden, staff burden and community burden.
Will masks be required?
The CDC and DHS recommend that teachers, staff, students and visitors all wear masks regardless or vaccination status. In accordance with other public and private schools in our area, masks will be strongly recommended, but not required. However, should we experience a COVID outbreak or begin seeing person-to-person spread in our school environment, we reserve the right to modify this recommendation.
Can a student wear a face shield instead of a face mask?
The CDC advises that face shields do not offer an appropriate level of protection unless worn with a face mask. Face shields can be used with a mask, but not instead of a face mask.
Who Should not wear a mask?
Masks should not be worn by:
- Children under 2 years of age
- Anyone who has trouble breathing
- Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
- Medical considerations, including sensory concerns and respiratory conditions, mean some individuals are not able to wear a mask or face covering safely.