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Health & Wellness

During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Little School has instituted guidelines 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. Please read the policies below carefully.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This FAQ will be shared on the Little School website and continue to be revised as new information about COVID-19 emerges and our county and state continue to revise their safety guidelines, recommended screening and prevention protocols for schools. (Updated October 6, 2021.) 

COVID Contacts: We have a team of administrators that work together to ensure we are in compliance and up to date with guidelines and protocols for wellness. Included on our team are: 

  • Michele Mendrick – Manager of Office Communications and Operations
  • Alice Hauschka – Assistant Head of School
  • Ken Wojciechowski – Director of Facilities 
  • Kingston Govati – Director of Finance and Operations 
  • Kary Kublin – Director of Learning and Support 
  • Julie Kalmus – Head of School 

Please reach out to the following individuals for help or questions:

DAILY SAFETY PROCEDURES & FAQ 

Q: What/who informs TLS’s health and wellness protocol for COVID-19?

A: This document is informed by:

OVERVIEW OF PREVENTION MEASURES

For the 2021-2022 school year, The Little School plans to provide full-time in-person education with science-based mitigation measures intended to keep children, staff and families safe from illness while also providing an educational experience that is consistent and true to our mission and community values. These prevention measures provide a layered strategy that – while not fail-safe – have proven to be highly effective during our 2020-2021 school year. These layers include vaccination of all staff, face coverings/masks, well-ventilated indoor and outdoor spaces, handwashing and hygiene practices, cleaning and disinfecting, daily wellness checks, staying home when sick, testing as indicated, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and responding to cases of COVID-19. The vaccination of TLS staff provides a new and important layer, and we will eagerly revise this guidance once children under 12 are able to be fully vaccinated. Our policies below are written in the form of an FAQ and will be updated regularly to keep pace with the guidance as it adapts to new information. We will maintain flexibility in how these layers are applied, depending on community transmission rates, local outbreaks and vaccination rates.

QUESTIONS AND INFO ABOUT COVID-19 TESTING AT TLS

Thank you for all of the positive feedback and questions that have been submitted regarding the roll out of COVID-19 testing at TLS. We’ve tried to answer most of the questions that were raised in the info below, along with some reminders and links to the registration and consent forms, if you have not yet filled them out.

Registration and Consent Forms: For children aged 4 and up, please remember to register your child and fill out the parent consent form by October 15 or as possible. Self-registration link: https://simplereport.gov/register/2BRZJ. More information about the school’s testing strategy, registration and the attached consent form was in an email from Alice Hauschka, sent on September 28.

Early Childhood Testing: Although we are authorized to use the BinaxNOW test on children as young as 4, and it is a self-administered swab, we are still discussing how to manage the testing of our early childhood classes when we do our schoolwide screening after Thanksgiving Break. It will likely involve parent or caregiver helping administer the swab in the car, in the Meadows Parking Lot. Stay tuned for more info as we get closer to that date.

Onsite Diagnostic Testing Available: We are now able to make the BinaxNOW rapid tests available to students (age 4+) in the following circumstances:

  1. If a student develops any COVID-19 symptoms at school, we are able to perform a rapid test before they are sent home.
  2. If your child develops COVID-19 symptoms at home, we are now are able to provide a BinaxNOW rapid test in a limited, drive-through capacity as convenience to families. This would be available by appointment, by emailing Michele Mendrick: michelem@thelittleschool.org. Your child must have a signed consent form and a completed registration for either of these options to be available.

Communication About Test Results: When you fill out the registration you can select how you want your child’s test results to be communicated to you – via email or text. Since it is a rapid test, you would get the results as soon as the staff member is able to record the results on the Simple Report website. If the result is positive, we would follow up with a phone call and email about next steps.

Testing After Travel and Possible Exposure: Our requirements for quarantine and testing after travel or possible exposure remain in effect. We are not able to use our BinaxNOW rapid tests in these situations, because they are not as accurate at detecting COVID in the early stages after exposure, which would generally be the risk after travel or other high-risk activities. Please refer to our Health and Wellness FAQ for specific information about those requirements.

Opting Out: For families who prefer not to have their child use the BinaxNOW tests for the schoolwide screening in November or the diagnostic testing options outlined above, please email Alice Hauschka (aliceh@thelittleschool.org) and Michele Mendrick (michelem@thelittleschool.org). They will inform you of alternatives, such as quarantining or obtaining a COVID-19 test at another facility.

False Positives and False Negatives: Even though we have been trained to administer the tests accurately, and with positive and negative controls, there is always a small possibility of a false positive or false negative result. If we learn of any positive test results from our screening, we will likely ask that staff member or parent to obtain a PCR test at a different facility to confirm the diagnosis. False negatives are also a possibility, but would not be known to us. Should we become aware of a false negative result, we would fall back on our other safety measures – masks, hygiene, wellness checks, vaccinated adults – to hopefully prevent the spread of COVID-19 from any person who might be asymptomatic but also contagious.

Q: Does the school utilize any on-site COVID testing for screening or diagnostic purposes?

A: Thanks to the state’s “Learn to Return” program, we’ve been able to procure the BinaxNOW rapid tests. This is an antigen COVID test that can be self-administered in individuals age 4+, and the results are available in 15 minutes. Our ability to administer on-site rapid tests will support access, cost and convenience for families and staff. It will also allow us to strategically screen the entire school after holidays where there is more likelihood of exposure.

We are required to submit all test results to the Washington State Department of Health using a website called Simple Report. Parents must register their child on Simple Report before we use the tests with students. They must also have a signed parent consent form.

COVID Testing Strategy at TLS:

Based on the quantity of tests we have available, this is how we plan to use these tests with students and staff.

  1. As a diagnostic tool, if a child or staff member develops any COVID-like symptom at school, or by appointment, in a drive through capacity as an alternative to other testing facilities
  2. As a screening tool if there was exposure of a child or group of children who were close contacts with another person who had COVID-19 – the protocol would likely be to test the child or children after a 3-5 day quarantine.
  3. As a schoolwide screening tool after Thanksgiving Break on Tuesday, 11/30 and after Winter Break (TBD) – depending on the status of vaccinations for children and the availability of tests.

 

HEALTH & WELLNESS FAQ

Q: How does the school minimize airborne transmission of the virus?

A: The scientific community agrees that COVID-19 is transmitted mainly through respiratory droplets, or “aerosols,” and that the use of high quality, well-fitted masks and 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 masks as required. (See question about masks below.)
  • Students spend a significant amount of the day learning outside. 
  • Eating with masks off takes place outside, physically distanced from others to the extent possible.
  • Close contact will be minimized through small class size and group configurations. 
  • Indoor classrooms are well-ventilated, with doors and windows open and portable HEPA filtration systems installed. 

Q: Will my child and their teachers need to wear a mask or face covering?

A: Yes, wearing a properly fitted, high quality mask or cloth face covering is required by all students, staff and visitors on campus. It 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. While vaccinations and ongoing precautions have helped reduce the infection rate, it is important to remember that children under the age of 12 are not yet able to be vaccinated. Children and adults will need to wear a mask or cloth face covering over their nose and mouth whenever they are on campus. Wearing a mask will also be required when outside due to the need for consistency and the fact that children’s play is rarely socially distant. A mask “time off” space is offered to students and adults who need a break from wearing a mask. Eating snack and lunch will take place outdoors, socially distanced. Parents/guardians should pack 2-3 extra masks in their child’s backpack in case they need a replacement mid-day. The school provides high quality KN95 masks for all staff members. The school also has replacement masks for children, if needed. Please see the mask guidance from the CDC for more information about fitting a mask.

Q: What are the mask requirements for parents or other visitors who come to campus? 

A: Regardless of vaccination status, any adult or child aged 3 and up must wear a mask or cloth face covering when they are on campus. Visitors will also fill out a wellness form at the front desk. Fully vaccinated parents and visitors may opt to remove their mask in the company of other vaccinated adults, if they are not in rooms or outdoor spaces that are shared by or visible to children.

Q: What is the daily wellness check?

A: The daily wellness check is a short survey on SchoolPass that must be completed before dropping off your child at school. A daily wellness check is also completed by staff. These screenings are intended to prevent children or staff with any contagious symptoms from being on campus and potentially infecting others. If the answer is “Yes” on any of the health screening survey questions, the student has a temperature (100.4 F or above) or appears unwell at drop-off or anytime during the school day, they are required to stay home and follow the protocol for what to do if a child or staff member has COVID-19 symptoms. In most circumstances, if a child has any COVID-like symptoms, we will ask them to get tested and to be symptom-free before returning to school. At the bottom of the wellness check there is a place to write a note indicating more info about the concern/symptom. When parents or authorized visitors arrive on campus, they will also complete a wellness check prior to or upon arrival. 

Q: How does the school use COVID-19 testing as part of its safety practices?

A: Due to the virulence of COVID-19 and the fact that symptoms of the disease look so similar to symptoms of other common viruses, we utilize testing to rule out COVID-19 as the cause. Whenever a student has one or more of the symptoms listed on our wellness check, we require a COVID-19 test and also require the child stays home. In these circumstances, a PCR test or a rapid test is acceptable. In addition to the negative COVID test, we also require a child to be symptom-free for 24 hours before returning to school, unless their symptoms are caused by another ailment, such as allergies. Families should submit their COVID test results to Michele Mendrick, michelem@thelittleschool.org, and will receive guidance on when the child can return to school, if needed. If a child (or staff member) develops any COVID-like symptoms while at school, we are able to use our BinaxNOW COVID-19 tests at school, as long as the individual is registered on Simple Report and have a consent form on file. Until vaccines are widely available to children under 12, the school plans to use the BinaxNow tests to do school-wide screening at strategic times, such as after Thanksgiving or winter break. We are looking into other instances where our on-site COVID testing can provide greater access and convenience for staff and families.

Q: What hygiene and cleaning protocols will be followed?

A: Children and staff will be required to wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer:

  • Upon arrival and departure.
  • Before and after eating or toileting. 
  • Before using certain shared materials or equipment (e.g., blocks, computers.) 
  • Before coming into a building from outside.

Where soap and water are not readily available, there will be hand sanitizing stations (>60% alcohol) inside and outside each classroom, which teachers will supervise or dispense depending on age level. Handwashing stations, first aid supplies, Kleenex, paper towels, sanitizing wipes, gloves, extra masks and no-touch trash bins will also be readily available in classrooms and shared spaces. Surfaces like desks and high-touch materials will be sanitized frequently and/or children will wash or sanitize their hands before using or sharing them. Drinking fountains will be closed, but students and staff can fill up their water bottles at water stations. 

Q: What is the schedule for increased cleaning and disinfection of classrooms and other parts of the campus?

A: TLS follows school cleaning recommendations from DCYF, the CDC and the King County Department of Health. Our cleaning service will be on campus daily after hours to perform enhanced cleaning services, which will include disinfecting high touch surfaces and areas in all buildings. During the school day, TLS faculty and cleaning staff will pay careful attention to cleaning.

Q: How are classrooms and indoor spaces ventilated? Is there additional air filtration?

A: We have tested our indoor air quality using a CO2 monitor and find that the indoor air exceeds the ventilation quality that would be recommended or considered safe when groups of students are indoors. This excellent ventilation is possible due to the fact that our buildings and classroom spaces are so airy and open to the outdoors and our HVAC system is so effective. Classroom/building windows and doors remain open during the day to maximize the flow of fresh air. The HVAC system in our Meadows, Woods and Cedars buildings are designed to circulate and filter air to and from the outdoors, rather than mix the air between rooms. The HVAC is fitted with new MERV 8 filters, and the system is timed to turn on two hours before students arrive and turn off two hours after they leave. Additionally, each classroom is equipped with a portable air filtration system fitted with a new (Aug. 2021) HEPA filter. The HVAC system in the Rivers Building also uses state-of-the-art design to ensure maximum circulation of fresh air and filtration of indoor air. Exhaust fans in all restrooms are above code requirements.

Q: How will class configurations work to support COVID-19 safety and minimize the possibility of an outbreak?

A: We are fortunate to have small class sizes at The Little School, along with well-ventilated indoor spaces and expansive outdoor learning and play areas. Indoors, students will only mix with other children from their level, with the exception of large indoor spaces like the Rivers Building, where students will pass through briefly and/or physical distance between will be maintained. Within the class or level group, we have learned that physical distancing is difficult to enforce or maintain with young children in the social world or in a school setting. We have also learned that a properly fitted mask, worn by everyone, is an effective barrier for respiratory transmission. Students and adults at The Little School are masked at all times, indoors and outdoors. In the event that students or adults from different levels or buildings share an indoor space, we are extra careful about group size, ventilation and physical proximity to minimize exposure. If there is a case of COVID-19 or exposure, our group configurations allow us to be more confident and accurate in contact tracing and to minimize the impact on the other classes or levels.

Q: What if a child or staff member has symptoms of COVID-19?

A: People experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home from school and obtain a COVID-19 test. If they test negative for SARS-CoV-2 with a molecular test, they may return to school following our existing school illness management policies so long as they are not a close contact of someone with COVID-19 and subject to quarantine. If a person with COVID-19 symptoms tests negative for SARS-CoV-2 with an antigen test, per CDC antigen testing guidance, a confirmatory lab-based molecular test is recommended. If a person with COVID-19 symptoms does not get tested for SARS-CoV-2 or see a healthcare provider and given an alternative diagnosis, they should follow the same isolation guidance as persons who test positive for SARS-CoV-2. This is irrespective of vaccination status.

Q: What happens if a child or staff member develops symptoms of COVID-19 when at school?

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 the child 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 areas visited by the ill person. Opening doors and windows and ventilating rooms for 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: How do you respond to confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19?

A: To prepare for the potential of infection and to reduce transmission in such circumstances, the school has a plan in place that includes communication with staff, families and our local health department. Staff and parents or guardians of children who test positive for COVID-19 should notify the head of school immediately upon receipt of test results. The school is required to report cases of COVID-19 and to work with public health authorities on next steps that would likely include testing and quarantine of close contacts. 

A COVID-19 outbreak in a school is considered when the following have been met:

  • There are two or more COVID-19 cases among students or staff.
  • The cases have a symptom onset or positive test result within 14 days of each other.
  • The cases are epidemiologically linked.
  • The cases do not share a household.
  • The cases are not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during the investigation.

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 testing and quarantine would be.

Q: When and where would I need to get a COVID-19 test for my child?

A: The school will require COVID-19 testing and documentation of a negative test result for students or staff under various circumstances, e.g., when the person has symptoms of COVID-19, after travel or likely exposure to COVID-19 or after some school breaks (TBD). An alternative to COVID-19 testing is to quarantine at home for 10-14 days. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are considered more accurate than over-the-counter (OTC) rapid tests, especially following possible, or known, exposure. We will accept OTC results in some circumstances. If a student receives a positive OTC test, we will require a confirmed PCR test as well. This test engages public health and begins the care and contact tracing processes. The school is rolling out an on-site testing strategy in the fall that would include intermittent screening, plus diagnostic testing as needed.

Several locations in the area offer testing for free, otherwise obtaining a COVID-19 test would be at the expense of the parent/guardian.

Q: If my child needs to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure, will they be able to participate in online Connected Learning? 

A: During the 2021-22 school year, we are not providing a separate Connected Learning program. Our ability to support the learning experience or pivot to Connected Learning will depend on the extent of exposure and quarantine within or between classrooms: 

  • If a child (or several children) needs to quarantine for more than two days due to exposure and they are otherwise well and able to do schoolwork, the teachers will work to support the child’s learning at home through emailed learning-at-home suggestions, work packets or assignments.
  • If a whole class or level needs to quarantine for more than two days and the teachers are otherwise well and able to teach, the whole class will pivot to Connected Learning for the remainder of the quarantine.
  • If the school needs to close for more than two days, then all classes will pivot to Connected Learning. 

Q: How do you determine whether someone has been exposed to COVID-19, and what happens if they were?

A: Generally, close contact is someone who was within six feet of the student or staff with COVID-19 for at least 15 cumulative minutes over a 24-hour period during the time the student or staff with COVID-19 was infectious. The infectious period of someone with COVID-19 starts two days before the start of symptoms or is estimated as two days before the test date if a student or staff with COVID-19 did not exhibit symptoms. The recent DOH guidance for schools says that “in a K-12 indoor classroom, the close contact definition excludes students who were at least three feet away from an infected student when (a) both students were wearing face coverings/masks, and (b) other prevention strategies were in place.” Close contacts that do not meet those criteria must follow the DOH quarantine and testing requirements before returning to school: Fully vaccinated adults who are close contacts are not required to quarantine or obtain testing unless they are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Q: How long does a student or staff member need to quarantine if they test positive for COVID-19?

A: If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they can return to school when all the following criteria are met:

  • 10 days since symptom onset or since positive test specimen collection date if no symptoms are present (up to 20 days for those who are severely ill)
  • 24 hours after fever resolves without the use of fever-reducing medications
  • Symptoms have improved

This quarantine guidance applies regardless of vaccination status.

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. It is our priority that Early Childhood through 1st grade classes remain on campus, and we 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: What are the restrictions or rules about travel and other higher-risk activities? 

A: High risk activities for children under 12 (and unvaccinated adults) includes events like concerts or sporting events that take place in crowds, indoor parties or restaurants and places where there is the likelihood of prolonged exposure like airplanes or cruises. These activities – especially in locations where community spread is high – pose risks, and even fully vaccinated people might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some COVID-19 variants. Travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. 

The CDC and State of Washington recommend that people (and children under 12) delay domestic or international air travel until they are fully vaccinated. If you do travel with children, please follow our rules for quarantine and testing after travel and before returning to school. Our rules are informed by the CDC’s travel recommendations for unvaccinated people: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html. People who are fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine as long as they took precautions to wear a mask during higher risk activities like indoor gatherings, crowded events and airplane travel.

If students travel by air or encounter likely exposure via other higher-risk activities, there are two options for testing and quarantine: 

  • Shorter quarantine plus testing: quarantine for 5-7 days and obtain a negative COVID-19 test no sooner than day five of the quarantine; return to school if the test is negative and there are no symptoms of illness. 
  • Longer quarantine with no COVID-19 test: families that opt not to have their child tested must quarantine for 10 days; the child can return to school if there are no symptoms of illness. 

The school does not provide Connected Learning for children who need to quarantine due to travel or other high-risk activities. 

Q: Will the school require vaccinations for adult staff members, volunteers or visitors?

A: All adults who work at TLS are required to be vaccinated. The DOH guidance recommends that schools should begin verifying staff, volunteers and visitors who have been vaccinated because fully vaccinated staff who do not have symptoms may not require quarantine or testing when exposed to COVID-19 as indicated below. Further, while universal masking is currently required of all students and staff, there is the possibility in the future that fully vaccinated people may no longer be required to wear masks indoors. Acceptable documentation for verifying the vaccination status of staff, volunteers and visitors includes one of the following:

  • A CDC vaccination card which includes name of person vaccinated, type of vaccine provided and date(s) administered or a photo of the vaccination card.
  • Documentation of vaccination from a health care provider with the information listed above.
  • State immunization information system record with the information listed above.
  • Other school immunization record system that provides the information above.
  • Personal attestation is not an acceptable form of verification.
  • Religious or medical exemptions are granted.

Q: What will happen when vaccines are available to students? 

A: Vaccines are not yet authorized for use in children under 12 years old, and COVID-19 and its variants are still widespread in the community. For these reasons, we continue to implement a layered wellness strategy. Upon approval from the CDC and Washington State Health Department, the school intends to recognize and require the COVID-19 vaccination, just as it does with other state- and school-mandated immunizations. All eligible students will be expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19 within the first two months of authorization, and parents will need to show verification of vaccination status, unless the child qualifies for religious or medical exemption.

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 use evidence-based practices regarding vaccination, when to wear masks and how to avoid high-risk activities that have the potential of exposing your child – and in turn, the TLS community – to COVID-19 and its variants. We expect adults to be responsible and communicative about any possible exposures or illness. Dr. Jeff Duchin of King County Public Health reminds us, “Every part of our society is connected when it comes to COVID-19.”

Q: Will my child still learn and have fun when there are all these new rules and safety protocols everyone has to follow?

A: Our experience from 2020-2021 school year shows us that students quickly adjust to these safety guidelines. We teach them in ways that are gentle, fun and age-appropriate, explaining 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 innate curiosity, outweighs the discomfort or hassle of following these guidelines. These adjustments will be made easier to adopt by the fact that they will be 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 staying positive.