Health & Wellness
During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Little School has instituted protocols to minimize risk of infection by following evidence-based screening and prevention practices outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Health (DOH). The health and wellness of our students, families and staff demands that our community follow these guidelines, both in school and outside of school, when pertinent. Our Health and Wellness FAQ is designed to clarify our protocols and expectations so that everyone stays healthy and safe. Important details about expectations of adults at TLS can be found here.
If you have a health and wellness question, please submit it through our online form. Questions will be answered directly if they are personal in nature or added here to our online FAQ to inform our whole community.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This FAQ will continue to be revised as new information about COVID-19 emerges, in response to questions from our community and as our county and state continue to revise their safety guidelines and recommended screening and prevention protocols for schools. (Updated September 22, 2020.)
Q: What/who informs TLS’s health and wellness protocol for COVID-19?
A: This document is informed by:
- The Washington Department of Health’s K-12 Schools-Fall Guidance (Updated September 2, 2020.)
- King County Health Department’s FAQ about schools and child care during COVID-19 (updated September 15) and King County Schools COVID-19 Response Toolkit (Updated September 11, 2020.)
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Considerations for Schools (Updated September 1, 2020.)
We also seek advisement from pediatricians and our public health nurse. Additionally, our plans are informed and tested by our community in the following ways:
- Through the practices we implemented and refined during Summer Camp.
- Through ongoing dialogue with our parent community during Town Hall meetings.
- Through our faculty Reimagining Team and Admin Logistics Team meetings.
Q: How does the school optimize the practice of physical distancing and face coverings to minimize the airborne transmission of the virus?
A: The scientific community agrees that COVID-19 is highly transmissible through respiratory droplets and that the use of cloth face coverings and physical distancing (6 feet) greatly minimizes that risk. Additionally, being outdoors and ensuring that indoor spaces are well ventilated also minimizes risk.
At TLS, we reduce the risk of airborne transmission in the following ways:
- All students and staff must use face coverings as required. (See question about cloth face coverings below.)
- Students will spend much of the day learning outside.
- Students will be in smaller cohort learning groups to minimize the risk of exposure and transmission.
- Indoor classrooms are well-ventilated, with space for physical distancing.
Q: Will my child and their teachers need to wear a cloth face covering?
A: Yes, wearing a properly fitted mask or cloth face covering is one of the most effective ways to prevent airborne transmission of the virus and to prevent asymptomatic spread from individuals who are not aware they are contagious. It is important that the mask be fitted properly and meets the CDC mask recommendations. Children and adults will need to wear a mask or cloth face covering over their nose and mouth whenever they are on campus. This includes shared spaces like bathrooms, hallways, offices and workrooms. A mask “time off” space will be important for students and adults who need a break from wearing a mask. When outside, wearing a mask will also be required for children age 5 and older. We recognize that children under 5 may still be learning to wear a mask properly, especially when playing outdoors. They will be encouraged to wear a mask indoors and outdoors.
Adults and children age 5 and older who require an accommodation, such as a face shield with a drape in place of a mask, should contact Tammy Crook in Student Services at email@example.com and obtain a note explaining the accommodation from their doctor.
Q: What about adult visitors to campus?
A: All external visitors to campus will be strictly limited and must be pre-approved by Student Services. They must submit a health screening survey and follow all the protocol for wearing a mask or cloth face covering, staying outdoors and maintaining physical distance from others.
Q: How do students and teachers handle the sharing of supplies and materials and avoid spread of virus on surfaces?
A: Students will be issued their own bin of school supplies and learning materials for daily use (e.g., glue stick, pencils, scissors, journals, Playdough, markers, math manipulatives) that will not be shared with other children. School-issued Chromebooks or iPads will be assigned to individual children and/or sanitized before another student uses the same device. Frequently touched surfaces (e.g., door handles, drinking fountains) within the school will be cleaned and disinfected between use as much as possible. Students will wash hands before the use of shared objects (e.g., books, blocks, gym or physical education equipment, art supplies, iPads, toys, games), and these materials will be limited to use within one learning cohort and/or or cleaned between uses.
Q: What other hygiene protocols will be followed?
A: Children and staff will be required to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer:
- Upon arrival and/or entering classrooms.
- Before and after eating or toileting.
- Before using shared equipment (e.g., blocks.)
- Before coming into the building from outside.
Teachers will teach the children songs and handwashing games to build a routine and help make this task fun. Where soap and water are not readily available, there are touchless hand sanitizing stations (>60% alcohol) outside each Woods and Cedars classroom. Meadows teachers will supervise or dispense hand sanitizer when handwashing is not available.
Hand sanitizer, first aid supplies, Kleenex, paper towels, gloves, extra masks and trash bins will also be situated near the outdoor classrooms. There will be staggered use of the shared bathroom in the Woods Building with rules for waiting and keeping physical distance from others. Shared bathrooms will be sanitized three times each day along with other high touch surfaces (e.g., door handles, rails). Ventilation will always be on. Wearing a mask while in bathrooms is required.
Q: What are learning cohorts?
A: One of the clear and consistent recommendations to minimize exposure and transmission of COVID-19 is to ensure, as much as possible, that students and teachers stay within cohorts. Our decision to move to a specialist-in-residence model means that specialists are also teaching members of their cohort, adding to the supervision and safety for everyone. At TLS, students will learn in on-campus cohorts. This allows for thoughtful supervision both indoors and out. We will emphasize time spent outdoors as much as possible, and when inside, students will always be in small groups that maintain appropriate distancing.
Q: How do you handle lunch and snacks?
A: At this time, snacks and lunches must be provided by parents/guardians. Classes will eat lunch and snacks outside whenever possible. When it is not possible to eat outside, students will sit at least 6 feet apart and surfaces will be cleaned and sanitized before and after each group eats. Unless instructed otherwise by the teacher, parents/guardians will need to provide a washable cloth placemat, a plastic placemat or a large kitchen towel (18” x 12”) that can be packed in the lunch box/bag to serve as a clean surface for eating. The mat must be taken home and laundered daily. Utensils and napkins also need to be provided in the lunch box. Teachers will wear gloves and help children with their food or lunch boxes when needed. No buffet or family style food-serving or sharing will be allowed.
Q: What is the schedule for increased cleaning and disinfection of classrooms and other parts of the campus?
A: TLS intends to follow cleaning recommendations for schools from the Department of Children, Youth & Families, the CDC and the King County Department of Health. Our cleaning service will be on campus daily to perform enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of bathrooms and high touch surfaces in all buildings three times during the school day, with additional cleaning and vacuuming every evening. During the school day, TLS faculty will pay careful attention to teaching hygiene practices and maintaining regular cleaning of shared surfaces: e.g., tables and chairs will be wiped down after use and before/after eating.
Q: How are classrooms and indoor spaces ventilated? Is there additional air filtration?
A: We are blessed to have classrooms that are airy and well-ventilated to the outdoors. Four windows on ceilings will remain open during the day, and the large windows inside the classrooms will be open as well to maximize the flow of fresh air. The HVAC system in existing buildings are designed to circulate and filter air to and from the outdoors; air via the heat/fan systems do not get exchanged or shared between rooms. The HVAC system in the new building uses state-of-the-art design to ensure maximum circulation of fresh air and filtration of indoor air, and windows will remain open, Additionally, each classroom is equipped with a new portable air purifier fitted with a HEPA filter.
Q: What is the daily health screening?
A: The daily healthy screening must be submitted every morning before arrival, using the SchoolPass app. The screening is a required protocol for all students, faculty and staff. Authorized visitors will be limited, but they must also complete the health survey before coming to campus and will be screened for COVID symptoms upon arrival using the Health Check (Child) or the Health Check (Adult).
The daily screening also includes a temperature check, to be done at home. If the answer is “Yes” on any of the health questions on the survey, or if a child or staff member appears unwell at drop off or anytime during the school day, they are required to stay home. Please call or email Tammy Crook in Student Services at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she will be able to advise you on next steps guided by the protocol for what to do if a child or staff member has COVID-19 symptoms. In the case of any COVID-19 symptoms or close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, see the questions that follow.
Q: What if a child or staff member has close contact with someone who has COVID-19?
A: Close contact is defined by the King County Health Department as being any person exposed to COVID-19 who meets all the following criteria:
- Within 6 feet of a person with a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.
- Spent 15 minutes or more near the person with COVID-19 without the protection of a mask.
- Was around the person any time between the two days before COVID-19 symptoms began to the time the person was isolated. (For people with COVID-19 who have no symptoms, this incudes two days before the person with COVID-19 was tested.)
If a person believes they have had close contact to someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, they must quarantine for 14 days since contact; 14 days is the window of time in which exposure can lead to disease. During this time they should watch their health for signs of fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath or other COVID-19 symptoms. Following the DOH guidelines, they should not go to work, childcare, school or public places during these 14 days. If a person develops symptoms of COVID-19 during their quarantine, they should seek testing. Consider testing at day 7-10 even if no symptoms are present. Note, a negative test does not shorten the required 14-day quarantine period. The school will provide Connected Learning at home through this period. Here is more guidance provided by the King County Health Department: When Can My Child Return to School?
Q: What about travel or other possible exposure?
A: Important details and an infographic explaining the expectations and responsibilities of adult parents and staff members at TLS can be found here in this guide. Employees and children who travel by air to an area where COVID-19 infections are rising and widespread or who participated in activities with possible exposure (e.g., attending large gatherings, restaurants/bars, parties where there was close contact with people who were not wearing masks or not practicing social distancing) should assume they had exposure – possibly from asymptomatic individuals – and they should self-isolate for 14 days. Obtaining a negative COVID-19 test after day 5-7, if no symptoms are present, is also acceptable. Please refer to the COVID Risk Index for examples of high-medium-low risk activities. If parents travel or participate in high risk activities without their children, they should be extra cautious around their child upon return, wearing a mask or self-isolating until they are able to obtain a COVID test after 5-7 days.
Q: What if a child or staff member develops symptoms of COVID-19?
A: If a child or a staff member starts developing any COVID-19 symptoms during the school day, we will follow the Department of Health protocol for using PPE while isolating and caring for a symptomatic individual. The parent/guardian will be called to pick up as quickly as possible. The premises will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected in the areas where the ill person spent time. Environmental cleaning of these areas includes:
- Closing off areas visited by the ill person. Opening doors and windows and ventilating rooms and waiting 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfecting.
- Cleaning and disinfecting all toys, materials and shared equipment used by the ill person, focusing on frequently touched surfaces.
Q: What happens next with a child or staff member who has symptoms?
For ill persons with or without known exposure to confirmed COVID-19 cases, staff and families must inform Tammy Crook in Student Services at email@example.com and Alice Hauschka, Assistant Head of School, at firstname.lastname@example.org. They will advise you on how to follow the King County Department of Health’s guidance for returning to school after having COVID-19, having COVID-19 symptoms or COVID-19 exposure. This infographic is also very helpful: Safe Return Infographic.
The summary of our school policy is as follows:
- If testing for COVID-19 is not performed, stay home for at least 10 days after symptom onset and at least 24 hours after fever and other symptoms have resolved. (People with severe disease or who are immunocompromised may need to be isolated at home for longer.)
- If testing for COVID-19 is negative, stay home for 72 hours after fever and other symptoms have resolved
- If a child or staff member is diagnosed with something else that explains the COVID-like symptoms (e.g., an ear infection), they may obtain a note from a doctor that explains the cause of illness and gives permission for child to return to school.
People who are ill and had known exposure to a person with confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to be tested for COVID-19 and should stay out of school until at least 10 days after symptom onset and at least 24 hours after fever has resolved and symptoms have improved.
The school is required to ask staff and students’ parents to inform the school right away if the ill person is diagnosed with COVID-19.
The school will follow the protocol outlined in King County’s guidance for school administrators should there be a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 at our school.
Q: How do I get a COVID-19 test for my child or a family member?
A: A negative COVID-19 test can bring peace of mind and hasten the return to school for a child or staff member who was sick. We continue to monitor the landscape for greater access to rapid, free or low cost COVID tests. Please consult with your doctor or consulting nurse regarding referrals. Here is a lit of sites that offer COVID testing:
- King County: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/care/testing/locations.aspx
- Scan Public Health: https://scanpublichealth.org
Mails a free kit with at-home nasal swab. Requires the ability to collect a good sample at home. Results available within 72 hours.
- Children’s Hospital: https://www.seattlechildrens.org/healthcare-professionals/covid-19-testing
Results available within 24-48 hours
- UW Medicine: https://www.uwmedicine.org/coronavirus/testing
Results available within 24-48 hours. Adult-only testing available for now, but they are working on starting pediatric testing.
The fastest result turn-around for kids currently, according to one of our school’s physicians, is testing at Seattle Children’s or their urgent care location in Bellevue.
Q: What if a child or staff member has a confirmed case of COVID-19?
A: If a student, staff member or member of their household tests positive for COVID-19, we will follow the guidance outlined in the King County Health COVID-19 Response Toolkit. Additionally, our local health jurisdiction will provide advice, and additional protocols will be followed for testing, contact tracing and quarantine. It is likely that many of the student’s classmates and teachers will be considered close contacts and need to be quarantined for 14 days. The protocols for quarantine and additional testing of the individual, family members and other members of the TLS community will depend on the circumstances of exposure, contact tracing and the results of COVID-19 testing that ensues. Here is additional information about what to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19.
Q: When can a student or staff member return to school after testing positive for COVID-19?
A: The guidance from the health department is described in detail on this fact sheet: When Can I Return to School? The fact sheet is also available in 15 other languages in the COVID-19 Response Toolkit. Please ask if you would like a Fact Sheet emailed to you in another language. A quick summary of the guidance, according to Washington Dept of Health guidelines, staff member or student who had confirmed COVID-19 can return to the program when:
- At least 24 hours have passed since recovery – defined as no fever without the use of medications and improvement in respiratory signs like cough and shortness of breath; AND
- At least 10 days have passed since signs first showed up.
The identity of persons who have suspected or diagnosed COVID-19 is protected confidential health information and will not be disclosed. An employee may choose to authorize disclosure if such authorization is voluntary and confirmed in writing. No coercion to authorize disclosure will be allowed and coercion is prohibited. Retaliation relating to nondisclosure is not allowed and retaliation is prohibited.
All members of the community are expected to respect privacy and confidentiality and to not speculate on the identity of persons who are suspected of or diagnosed with COVID-19.
Communication is critical for our community to stay well. If there is exposure to or a suspected case of COVID-19 on campus, our first priority will be to communicate with the cohort with whom the child or teacher has interacted. We will notify the King County Health Department and follow their protocol to begin any needed contract tracing and quarantine or closure. We will also notify the whole school community about the case. As stated above, we will not disclose the name of any student, parent or staff member who becomes ill.
Q: What are the expectations for families and staff outside of school in terms of ensuring – as much as possible – that their practices of mask use, social distancing, etc., helps keep the TLS community safe?
A: TLS is fortunate to be a small community committed to the lives of children and the celebration of childhood. Our plan requires that families commit to following the same recommendations that students follow at school, including wearing a mask and physically distancing when outside their home, minimizing exposure by not engaging in high risk activities, or isolating/quarantining self or child if those high risk activities (e.g., airplane travel) are absolutely necessary. We expect adults to be responsible and communicative about possible exposures or illness. If you have questions or need further guidance, please reach out to Alice Hauschka, Assistant Head of School, at email@example.com or Tammy Crook in Student Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To help ensure that everyone is aware of health protocols, each family will need to read this FAQ and participate in any required health and safety trainings. Dr. Jeff Duchin of King County Public Health reminds us, “Every part of our society is connected when it comes to COVID-19.”
Q: What would be considered a COVID-19 outbreak in the school? And what would happen next?
A: If there is a case of COVID-19, the school will work with the local health department to determine whether there is an outbreak, and what the steps for quarantine would be following the guidance outlined in the King County Health COVID Response Toolkit. The DOH defines an outbreak as: “Two or more laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within 14 days, who are epidemiologically linked, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during contact tracing. Depending on the reach of an outbreak within or between cohorts:
- The cohort will be dismissed for home quarantine for 14 days and switch to Connected Learning.
- The school will be closed for 14 days and switch to Connected Learning.
Q: When would you decide to close school even if there is not outbreak?
A: If the Governor categorically mandates all K-12 schools to close in our area we will comply and move to a full distance learning model for our elementary program. Similarly, if recommendations for elementary schools or early childhood become more restrictive and we cannot stay in compliance with the recommendations then we would move to a full or partial distance learning model. We are prioritizing our early childhood through 1st grade staying on campus, and will continue to be responsive to the science, data, and health and safety guidelines available to us. As a school, we are preparing for both in-person and off-campus scenarios.
Q: Will my child still learn and have fun when there are all these new rules and safety protocols everyone has to follow?
A: YES! We are confident that students will quickly adjust to these new safety guidelines. We will teach them in ways that are gentle, fun and age-appropriate, and explain safety protocols in words and stories that are empowering rather than anxiety or fear producing. Children are resilient; their intrinsic drive to learn and play, combined with their intrinsic curiosity will outweigh the discomfort or hassle of following these guidelines, especially since it is a challenge that is shared by all. Our teachers and staff will do everything we can to make these procedures as comfortable as possible by building it into our routines and putting a smile on our faces when going through them together. We are so excited to have children back on campus!
But what about ... we know. Current events and the ongoing updates in the news merit many questions and we did not endeavor to answer all of them in this document. If there are questions you would like to see in a future update of this FAQ, submit it through our online form.