Reopening and COVID-19 FAQ’s
Updated August 26th
Q. What model is the District considering for reopening schools this fall?
A. Based on updated guidance from the Chester County Health Department and input from CHOP and Penn medical specialists, the recommendation was to begin school under a fully virtual model. This recommendation was based on a review of the trend of the data with regard to the positivity rate and incidence rate of COVID-19. Benchmarks and models for school reopening generated by PA DOH and PDE also supported a fully virtual model of reopening. The District will continue to monitor and evaluate data to inform moving to a blended model of reopening beginning in early October.
Q. When will students attend school under the Blended Learning Model?
A. Blended Learning: Learning in School with Learning at Home: Students will be assigned to Cohort A or Cohort B. Cohort A will attend school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other Friday. Cohort B will attend school on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Friday. Cohorts will be determined by a student’s last name, most likely A-K for Cohort A and L-Z for Cohort B.
Q. What model of school reopening do I need to be prepared for during the school year?
A. The levels of COVID-19 in our community as well as evolving research and guidance will impact how “open” schools are during the year. Schools and families need to be prepared to pivot with short notice among all three models-being fully open, a blended learning model with students being in school part-time, and schools being closed at any point during the school year.
Q: When will our community know the details of the health and safety plan for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year?
A: The Health and Safety Plan, required by PDE, for reopening school was approved by the School Board on August 14th, 2020 and can be found on the District’s website at the following link: https://www.rtmsd.org/userfiles/354/my%20files/approved%20rtmsd%20school%20reopening%20health%20and%20safety%20plan-%20july%2029,%20revised%20august%2014.pdf?id=7452
Q. Under the model of Blended Learning: Learning at School with Learning at Home, how will students be assigned to a cohort?
A: Student schedules will be assigned alphabetically to support families with students in multiple grades. For any individual situations (example: siblings with different last names) please contact your child’s school who will work with you to address the scheduling conflict.
Q. If school opens under the option of Blended Learning: Learning at School with Learning at Home, am I able to request a change to the cohort that my child is assigned to (i.e. my child was assigned to the Monday/ Wednesday/Friday group but I need them to go to school on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays)?
A. Parents with hardships will be addressed on a case-by-case basis at the school level, whenever possible. RTMSD cannot guarantee individual requests (beyond ensuring students in the same family have the same schedule) can be accommodated given the strict capacity issues for classrooms and buses.
Q. Will staggered schedules be used to accommodate increased car line traffic?
A. Yes, we are considering staggered schedules to adjust to an expected increase in students being driven to school. We may need to use multiple entrances which will impact bus schedules. Any change to bus schedules will be posted the third week of August.
Q. What will the Fully Virtual: Learning at Home option look like?
A. Parents can elect to have their child “attend” school virtually. Students will participate in synchronous learning activities from kindergarten through 12th grade that follows their typical schedule for in person learning. Learning resources and assignments will be delivered through the digital platforms utilized in the spring: Seesaw (K-2), Google Classroom (3-5), and Schoology (6-12). Synchronous learning opportunities will provide a structure to the school day and access to our high-quality instructional program delivered by RTMSD teachers. Students will not be expected to be “online” all day but will have a schedule where they participate in live teaching and then time to complete assignments and independent work. The schedules for virtual learning can be found at the following links:
Q. Will be child be required to be online all day?
A. No, children will be online at various times during the day for live interactive teaching with the expectation of 1-2 hours for elementary students total, and 3-4 hours for secondary students total. They will not be expected to be continuously online but should expect some live teaching sessions for up to 30 minutes per content area/course and then a release to independent, offline work.
Q. Will a fully virtual model remain an option when school opens for in person learning?
A. Yes, this option will remain available for families throughout the school year. We ask that that parents make a decision that they can commit to for at least a marking period/trimester.
Q. What if I enroll in the Fully Virtual option but my work schedule changes and I have to send my child to in person instruction?
A. We understand that family situations change and our goal is to be flexible. We ask that parents make a commitment to a marking period/trimester but to reach out if the fully virtual program is not working for their student or family situation.
Q. If a family chooses to enroll in the Fully Virtual option, will they be given supplies such as textbooks, workbooks, and art/music supplies?
A. Yes, students will be provided these supplies. Some supplies such as science materials may be available on a rotating basis.
Q: Distance learning did not work well for my student last spring. What improvements were made in the event that we are in a Blended Learning or Fully Virtual learning environment again?
A: When we closed our school on March 16, we had to quickly pivot and create a Flexible Learning Plan. We’ve had a chance to look back and learn from this experience and examine the feedback we received from staff, parent, and student surveys to develop a strengthened plan that contains more opportunities for synchronous learning and more structure to the school day. Some of the areas that we focused on included making improvements in the areas of virtual live interactions between teachers and students, providing a consistent way for students to find and organize their work, returning to a traditional grading/assessment model, and standardizing virtual instruction to reflect best practices.
Q. Under the Virtual Model, will AMP still be offered?
A. Yes, AMP will continue to be offered in a virtual format with live instruction provided for lesson instruction and modeling.
Q. What makes the RTMSD fully virtual option a better choice than cyber charter school?
A. The fully virtual option is delivered with the expertise of our faculty who understand best practices of instruction as well as curriculum alignment with RTMSD and PA Standards. Our teachers know our students and understand where students need assistance including continually monitoring their progress. RTMSD has consistently offered an educational program that results in consistently high achievement for students. Enrollment in the Fully Virtual: Learning at Home option allows students to seamlessly return to in person instruction when students are able to or want to return to in school attendance. All the cyber schools that RTMSD students currently attend are on the state’s list for either Comprehensive Support and Improvement or Targeted Support and Improvement. This means they fall into the lowest 5% of state Title I schools for achievement and/or have a graduation rate of less than 67%.
Q. How does the blended model and fully virtual model provide services to students with Individualized Education Plans?
A. Services and programs will continue to be offered. Your child’s IEP team will review the implementation of specially-designed instruction and related services with regard to the blended and fully virtual model. For specific questions, Dr. Frances Garner, Director of Student Services, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What measures are being put into place to protect student and staff health and safety?
RTMSD has been working closely with the Chester County Department of Health officials to address student and staff health and safety. Safety and health protocols and procedures have been developed in the areas of personal hygiene, environmental hygiene, face coverings, physical distancing, and symptom monitoring. These procedures and protocols are more fully defined in the Health and Safety Plan.
Q: When in person learning resumes, will the school district try to prepare students for a different kind of school day, given that some social distancing and face coverings will be in place?
A: Yes. The district will actively work to prepare and acclimate students, and make the return to school as positive as possible. We will be sensitive to the mental and emotional health needs and concerns of our students and families. During the first few weeks of school, a focus on community building, orienting students to new routines, clarifying expectations, and reestablishing a sense of security and safety will take place.
Q. When in person learning resumes, will attendance policies be flexible to account for more student absences due to the need to stay home more often?
A. Yes, as we are asking parents to cooperate with keeping their child(ren) home when they are sick, we anticipate more student absences. We will be adjusting our Attendance Policy to allow for more days of absences.
Q. What changes are being considered for choral classes?
A. Choral classes may continue with singing occurring in outside spaces or large indoor spaces where students can be spaced at least 15 to 20 feet apart.
Q. What about the band and instrumental program?
A. Special considerations including use of specialized bell covers and masks, additional distancing requirements, and playing outdoors have been integrated into the classroom for these activities.
Q: What guidelines will the district follow in order to make decisions about student and staff safety?
A: The District will follow guidelines and considerations established by numerous agencies and organizations that have provided guidance, including the Chester County Department of Health. We are also working closely with other districts in the region to implement common protocols. It is, however, the responsibility of local school districts to determine what safety measures are reasonable, practical, and feasible.
Q. Will face masks be required to be worn at school by students?
A. Face masks are important to help protect from the spread of COVID-19. To comply with the PA Department of Health Order, students will be required to wear face masks when they are on school buses and throughout the school day, except when they are eating lunch. We ask that parents provide a face mask to their child but we will have additional face masks for students who board the bus without one or arrive to school without one.
Q. Will face coverings be required to be worn by at school by staff?
A. All staff will wear face masks while on school property unless they are in their classroom/office working alone.
Q: What is the current physical distancing guidelines for students in a classroom?
A: The most recent guidance recommends that students should be spaced at a minimum distance of six feet from one another when feasible. The Blended Model of opening allows for physical distancing of 6 feet in classrooms.
Q. Can you talk about the analysis that has been done on all schools and classroom spaces?
A. RTMSD Response Teams have assessed every square foot of space in our school buildings to see how many students we could safely have in those instructional areas, as well as our larger areas (cafeterias, gyms, large group instructional rooms) while maintaining social distancing.
Q. How will rooms be configured for physical distancing?
A. Under the Blended Model, seating will be established at 6 feet minimums with desks all facing forward. Seating at lunch tables will be on one side of table or in a zig-zag manner with 6 feet minimums so children are not sitting directly across from each other.
Q. What are your plans for school buses?
A. There will be a seating chart and we ask families to sit together when possible. We are also redoing our routes so there will only be two students per seat. Bus seats will be labeled for students to easily identify seating arrangements/ assignments on the school bus. Students will be loaded onto the bus filling the seats in the back of the bus first to limit students walking past other students to get to a seat. Bus drivers and attendants will be supplied with a face mask/face shield, gloves and gowns (for students requiring more hands-on support). Student bus riders will be expected to wear a face mask. The bus driver will supply students with a mask if they do not have one. The bus will be cleaned between runs and at the end of the day with hydrostatic disinfection sprayers.
Screening and Symptom Monitoring
Q. Will students be screened every morning?
A. We are asking all families to screen at home by responding to a daily Prescreening Symptom Checklist that can be responded to on a computer, tablet, or phone. Students must be fever free (without fever reducing medication) for 72 hours. It is important to everyone’s health and safety that parents engage in a true partnership and spirit of cooperation with the District in monitoring their children’s health. Please do not send your child to school if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 or if they are sick. Symptoms of COVID-19 are listed below. Families with children who are sick are encouraged to have their child access instruction occurring in their classrooms through virtual, livestreaming opportunities.
Chester County Health Department Symptom Monitoring Checklist
- Take temperature with temporal or forehead touchless thermometer
- Are you taking any medication to treat or suppress a fever? Yes/No
- Are you currently experiencing any of the following symptoms?
Column A (1 or more symptoms)
Column B (2 or more symptoms)
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of smell or taste (without congestion).
- Fever/elevated temperature*
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Congestion/runny nose
*Fever/elevated temperature is based upon the mode by which the temperature is obtained:
Axillary and temporal 99.5°F or higher
Oral 100.4°F or higher
Q. Will there be temperature checks for students before they get on the bus and for students and staff each day?
A. No, temperature checks will be part of the daily Prescreening Symptom Checklist that parents and staff have to complete. Temperature checks are not a robust measure of protection as many children are asymptomatic. Attempting to temperature check students upon entrance to buses or arrival to school created congestion that could increase the risk of COVID-19.
Q: If a student is sick, or exhibiting signs of COVID-19, what will you do? What will happen if a parent sends their child to school sick?
A: Our school nurses and health clerks will continue to assist students who are found to be ill, or become ill at school. They will isolate the student, notify the student’s parent/guardian, and will send the student home if they display concerning symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath, coughing, or other flu-like symptoms. Families will be required to follow up with their primary care physician.
Q. What will happen if the school learns that a staff or student has been in close contact to an individual confirmed positive for COVID-19?
A. The Chester County Health Department completes all contact tracing of individuals with a confirmed case of COVID-19. If the individual is in school, they will be isolated immediately and the parent/guardian will be contacted to pick them up. Staff will leave immediately or be isolated in the nurse’s office until someone can pick them up if need be. Decisions regarding isolation requirements of staff or students while in school will be made by the school nurse in the building, who will then notify the administration and the Chester County Department of Health and follow their guidelines. Doctors' notes will be required for students/staff to return to school and will follow the decision tree from the Chester County Health Department. The District has been assigned an investigator from the Chester County Department of Health and will follow their recommended process for reporting potential COVID-19 exposure/illness. The Chester County DOH will conduct all contact tracing with cooperation from the District for names, addresses, and phone numbers of potentially exposed students/staff. The decision tree for days for isolation and quarantine follow the Chester County Health Department requirements and are included in the Health and Safety Plan.
Q. If there is a diagnosis of COVID-19 in a school building, what will happen?
A. RTMSD will work closely with the Chester County Health Department to determine the appropriate next steps if there is a COVID-19 diagnosis in a school. The response to an individual case will depend largely on the circumstances surrounding the case and contact(s) the individual had within the school setting. The District has been assigned an investigator from the Chester County Department of Health and will follow their recommended process for reporting potential COVID-19 exposure/illness. The Chester County DOH will conduct all contact tracing with cooperation from the District for names, addresses, and phone numbers of potentially exposed students/staff.
Cleaning, Sanitization, Disinfection, and Ventilation
Q. How will the building be cleaned and disinfected when schools reopen?
A. Sanitation and disinfection of high-touch surfaces (door/sink handles, handrails, light switches, desks at the secondary level, bathrooms, fountains, sensory room, shared materials) and objects (staplers, copiers, phones, keyboards, coolers, gym equipment) within the school will occur several times daily. All buildings will be fully cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected at the end of each day. At the secondary level, desks and chairs will be disinfected between class periods.
Q. What is RTMSD doing to ensure clean air circulation in buildings?
A. Maintenance staff conduct routine and preventative maintenance on all mechanical, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing systems – including replacing air filters. In areas where an indoor air quality concern is identified we use high efficiency particulate air fan/filtration systems to enhance air cleaning. The District follows standards from ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) and HVAC systems will continue to run as normal and will have 15 fresh air exchanges per hour and 15 cubic feet per minute per occupant. Rooms will be monitored daily for temperature, relative humidity, and dew point. Filters will be checked monthly and changed quarterly. When applicable, windows will be opened to increase outside air movement.
Q. Has the District considered using outside spaces for learning?
A. Yes, weather permitting, when possible, outside spaces can be utilized for learning activities?
Q. I am worried about the emotional state of my students. Will that be addressed?
A. We understand that many of our students will arrive to school having experienced some level of stress from the impact of COVID-19 and the school closure. Social emotional and mental health resources will be available to support our students. Especially for the first two weeks of school, a daily, explicit focus on social emotional learning activities will be implemented throughout the day, including under the virtual model for school reopening. Schools may use morning meetings, advisory periods, and CE blocks to support this implementation as well as integrating development of skills into learning activities throughout the day. We know how important the positive relationships are between students and teachers and that all students need this relationship to be “ready to learn”. We will spend a great deal of time creating those bonds the first weeks of school to ensure those connections are made. During professional development in June, our faculty and administrators participated in training in a social-emotional-ethical learning framework as well as trauma-informed approaches. Teacher teams have been working throughout the summer to develop implementation of these approaches. Professional development in these areas also continued when teachers returned in August.
Q. Will on-site before and after school care continue for elementary students?
A. Yes, Leading Edge Kids (formerly Springboard) will continue to offer before and after school care for elementary students following the procedures and protocols of the District’s Health and Safety Plan. Information can be accessed at https://www.leadingedgekids.com.
Leading Edge will also now provide care for school age children up to age 13 throughout the day to assist those families who need to work outside the home while school remains fully virtual.
Q. If athletics and extra-curricular activities continue in the fall, will students selecting the Fully Virtual: Learning at Home option be able to participate?
A. Yes. They will need to complete the Symptom Screening Checklist prior to attending any school activity and will be required to comply with all safety and health protocols.
Q. What about special needs students?
A: Services will be provided in each model. For students with significant educational needs (i.e. PASA eligible), students will be provided as close to a full day as possible, five days per week. Students with IEPs with medical conditions who are not able to return to school will continue to receive educational services through the virtual learning format. We are working closely with special needs students and their families to answer any questions and meeting any individual needs they may have. Questions can be directed to Dr. Frances Garner, Director of Student Services, at email@example.com
Q. What about technology for students who may need to move to the remote learning option for a short period of time?
A. We will have devices for all our students and will help support internet accessibility for those devices.
Q. If I decide to homeschool my child, what do I need to do?
A. Parents may elect to provide home instruction for their school-aged child in lieu of attendance. Parents/guardians must provide notice of intent to homeschool for the 2020-21 school year by August 15, 2020. Additional information about home instruction is available at https://www.rtmsd.org/Content2/regulations or by reaching out to Ms. Bernadette Dacanay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. Where will students be eating meals when we return to in person learning?
A. Lunch will be served in several areas of the building including the cafeteria, auxiliary gyms, and large group instruction rooms, and libraries. Food and Nutrition Services is currently exploring meal service options in collaboration with school administrators. School populations and their participation will be the main drivers of our meal service possibilities - impacting how meals are served and where meals are consumed.
Q. Will school lunches be available to students on days when they are not physically in the building?
A. Lunch will be available for pick up on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Penncrest High School from 7:00-8:00 AM and at Media Elementary School from 3:00-4:00.
Q. What happens if someone shows symptoms of COVID-19?
A. The District follows the health recommendation from the Chester County Department of Health. The decision tree for exclusion from school can be found on pages 19-21 of the Chester County School Guidance at https://www.chesco.org/DocumentCenter/View/59143/School-Guidance-?bidId=
Q. What happens if the school learns that a student or staff member tested positive for COVID-19?
A. The District will notify the Chester County Department of Health who will investigate and conduct contact tracing, and provide appropriate guidance to the District with regard to any needed exclusion from school for students and staff, closures of potentially affected areas for cleaning, and any needed notification to members of the school community.
Q. How will the students who need to visit the nurse’s office routinely be separated from those students who may be suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms?
A. To allow for separation between nurse visits and potentially COVID-19 impacted students, each nurse’s office has been equipped with an area of the nurse’s office which is separated off from the rest of the nurse’s office by protective sheeting to form an isolation area to assess students with potential COVID-19 symptoms.
Q. What about fire drills?
A. The District will continue to conduct the required fire and security drills when in person learning resumes. During these drills, adherence to social distancing and masking will be required. Schools can be flexible in how to conduct drills by involving certain sections of the building/grade levels/floors of the building on different days in order to adhere to social distancing requirements.