The Mount Laurel Leaflet

Back to School Issue - August 25, 2021

A Safe Return to School - Layered Prevention Strategies

Welcome Back to School

On Thursday, September 9 all students will return to school for daily full-day instruction. We will be returning to our regular full-day schedules in all of our schools. As we prepare our buildings and plans, we are aware of the challenges a new school year brings. We have come a long way and look forward to your children receiving a comprehensive full-day educational program this school year from our excellent teachers and staff. Our Back to School Plan follows the guidelines set forth by the New Jersey Departments of Education and Health as outlined in "The Road Forward: Health and Safety Guidance for the 2021-2022 School Year" document.


It will take all of us working together to minimize disruption to student learning and keep our schools open safely. We focused our reopening on using a layered prevention approach. Below we have provided information on a number of areas in which we will be focusing as we return all of our students safely back to school.


According to the American Academy of Pediatricians, "Everything possible must be done to keep students in schools in-person". We must all work together to do our part not to disrupt in-person learning for our students.

Keeping District and School Pandemic Response Teams Intact

In August 2020, each school formed a School Pandemic Response Team, led by the Principal and included a school nurse, head custodian, guidance counselor, parent representative, and other key school staff. Our schools will keep their teams in place to continuously review and monitor conditions at the building level. School Pandemic Response Teams will report back and share information with the District Level Committee for needed guidance and support.

Vaccinations

The most important thing we all can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible. Vaccines are safe, effective, readily available, and free. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. As a result, nearly 75% of our student population are not vaccinated, this is why it is important for everyone eligible to get vaccinated.


We have been communicating to you about vaccine clinics, however, all eligible persons, including students 12 years and older, should get vaccinated now. Vaccinated adults and students will not have to quarantine if they are in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.


Use the New Jersey Vaccine Appointment Finder to search for available vaccine appointments.


They will still need to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following exposure and if they experience symptoms, isolate themselves from others, be clinically evaluated for COVID-19, including SARS-CoV-2 testing, and inform their health care provider of their vaccination status at the time of presentation to care.


Governor Murphy's Executive Order 253, signed on August 23, requires all staff and volunteers in our schools to be fully vaccinated by October 18, 2021, or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. This provides another layer of prevention in helping us protect your child(ren) and our staff.

Screen for Illness Every Day, Stay Home When Sick

One of the easiest ways we can avoid the need for unnecessary contact tracing and quarantining is to make sure your child is not sick before coming to school.


Parents/caregivers are strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of illness every day as you are the front line for assessing illness in your child(ren). Students who are sick should not attend school. Should your child be sent to school sick, please know that our schools will be following the exclusion criteria for students and staff provided by the NJDOH. Health screenings are an important mitigation measure in our layered approach


If your child does have signs of illness keep them home and contact your school nurse. We have provided an easy-to-use screener you can review each day with your child to ensure they are coming to school symptom-free and ready to learn!


The Daily Health Screener is updated to align with the NJDOH guidance. This can change as guidance changes. The Daily Health Screener is completed on an honor system by you and does not need to be submitted to your school.

Definition of COVID-19 Compatible Symptoms

Parents should not send students to school when sick. For school settings, the NJDOH recommends that students with the following symptoms are promptly isolated from others and excluded from school:
  • At least two of the following symptoms: fever (measure or subjective), chills, rigors (shivers), myalgia (muscle aches), headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, congestion, or runny nose; OR
  • At least one of the following symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, new olfactory disorder, or new taste disorder.

Masks

As we welcome our students back to school, we will follow Executive Order 251 signed by Governor Murphy on August 6, 2021. Executive Order 251 states:


All public, private, and parochial preschool programs and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools (collectively “school districts”), must maintain a policy regarding mandatory use of face masks by staff, students, and visitors in the indoor portion of the school district premises, except in the following circumstances:


  • When doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, such as when the individual is exposed to extreme heat indoors;
  • When the individual has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face mask without assistance;
  • When a student’s documented medical condition or disability, as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Educational Plan pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, precludes the use of a face mask;
  • When the individual is under two (2) years of age;
  • When the individual is engaged in activity that cannot physically be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating or drinking, or playing a musical instrument that would be obstructed by a face mask;
  • When the individual is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anaerobic activity;
  • When a student is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals; or
  • When wearing a face mask creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.


This Executive Order went into effect on Monday, August 9, 2021. The order aligns with the Mount Laurel Public Schools’ masking requirements for students, staff members, and visitors, which were in effect last year. Finally, whenever students and staff are involved in outdoor activities, although it is recommended masks be worn, it is not required.


Please note parent self-attestations, individual or parental testimonials or simply submitting a physician’s note is not sufficient. A medical exemption is subject to review by school medical personnel prior to final approval.

Your Guide to Masks by the CDC

Visit this site to get more information on how to select, wear, and care for your mask.

Transportation

All staff and students must wear masks while on school buses regardless of vaccination status.


Our buses will be operating at full capacity.

  • If bus occupancy allows, we will maximize the physical distance between students.
  • If a bus is not air-conditioned, bus windows will be open to increase the airflow.
  • All high-touch surfaces on school buses will be cleaned often and at least daily.
  • Seating charts will be maintained for assigned seating for contact tracing purposes.


Bus passes will be sent out to all students on Monday, August 30th.


Please be aware currently there is a national shortage of qualified school bus drivers. As a result of the bus driver shortage, it has become necessary to combine some bus stops and to service other areas with small buses. Thank you for your patience as we work through this nationwide shortage.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

We are committed to following all the necessary cleaning procedures to reduce the spread of contagions within all our facilities. The maintenance supervisor in consultation with the building principal will continue procedures for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection. These procedures include cleaning/disinfecting schedules, targeted areas to be cleaned, and methods and materials to be used. Additionally, this will include:
  • Routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that are frequently touched.
  • Maintaining hand sanitizing stations with alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • For classrooms with existing handwashing facilities, preparing stations with soap, water, and alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Sanitizing bathrooms daily, or between use as much as possible.
  • Cleaning and sanitizing drinking fountains.

Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette

The district provides and maintains hand sanitizing stations with alcohol-based hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol):


  • In each classroom (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer).
  • At entrances and exits of buildings.
  • Near lunchrooms and toilets.
  • Children ages 5 and younger will be supervised when using hand sanitizer.
  • For classrooms that have existing handwashing stations, the district prepared stations with soap, water, and alcohol-based hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol).

Students will be encouraged and informed to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds at regular intervals, including before eating, after using the bathroom, and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. In general classroom teachers and support staff will:


  • Limit the use of supplies and equipment to one student at a time and clean and disinfect between use.
  • Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high-touch materials.
  • Avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, and other games or learning aids, or thoroughly clean and disinfect them between use.
  • Keep each student’s belongings separated from others’ and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, or areas.

Ventilation

The district maintains quality ventilation, including operational heating and ventilation systems in all indoor facilities. Our mechanical ventilation systems are designed to bring in fresh outdoor air to mitigate the buildup of odors and pollutants. The filter(s) for all HVAC units are maintained according to manufacturer recommendations by certified HVAC staff. In addition, our unit ventilators and air filtration systems are equipped with ionic air purifiers which exceed the MERV 13 filters for maintaining high standard air quality indoors.


HVAC upgrades were made to district systems as part of a district-wide bond referendum in 2018. The Mount Laurel School District maintains high-quality and well-maintained HVAC systems and air-conditioned units in all school buildings.

Contact Tracing and Quarantining

Contact Tracing will take place in the school setting whenever a positive case of COVID-19 is identified in school. Our School Nurses will contact all individuals and parents whose children have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 person. Our school nurses work closely with the Burlington County Department of Health who determine the need for any individuals to quarantine.


The COVID-19 Exclusion Criteria for Persons Who Have COVID-19 Compatible Symptoms or WhoTest Positive for COVID-19 are as follows:

  • Ill individuals with COVID-19 compatible symptoms who have not been tested or individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 should stay home until at least 10 days have passed since symptom onset and at least 24 hours have passed after resolution of fever without fever-reducing medication and improvement in symptoms.
  • Persons who test positive for COVID-19 but who are asymptomatic should stay home for 10 days from the positive test result.
  • An alternate diagnosis (including a positive strep test or influenza swab) without a negative COVID-19 test is not acceptable for individuals who meet COVID-19 exclusion criteria to return to school earlier than the timeframes above.


Important Exception:

In an indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) where both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time. This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.


Parents will be notified when a positive case of COVID-19 occurs in their classroom along with directions about whether there is a need to quarantine or not. The confidentiality of the positive COVID-19 individual will be protected and not disclosed.

Classroom Protocols

Our classrooms will be equipped with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for routine cleaning. Students will help with keeping classroom space and materials clean along with our staff.


In most cases, especially in upper grades, students will be seated in rows facing forward. However, all students in classrooms will be properly masked during instruction and when working in groups on projects together. Shared materials will be discouraged when possible.


Younger students in our elementary schools, often are seated at tables together and will be properly masked. Plexi-glass table dividers and student barriers are no longer required as they are not effective in reducing the spread of contagions in the classroom as per the CDC.

What's the Latest on Lunch?

For the 2021-2022 school year, all school meals are free to all students. At the start of the school year, parents/students will need to order their lunches in advance online like last year. Then students will receive their lunch in a grab-and-go style in the cafeteria. Once the year is underway we will monitor other lunch options.


We are committed to making our school lunch experience as pleasant as possible for our students while at the same time maintaining health and safety measures as follows:

  • Requiring everyone to wear masks in the cafeteria when not eating and drinking.
  • Wearing masks while going through the lunch lines.
  • Re-masking once students finish their meal.
  • Encouraging hand-washing or the use of hand sanitizer before and after eating.
  • Avoiding self-serve food options, at least at the start of the school year.
  • Discouraging students from sharing meals.
  • Employing routine cleaning between groups.

How will lunch look in our school cafeterias?

Students will be seated according to assignment or by homeroom, depending on the school. This is to ensure we have podding/cohorting table by table in our cafeterias so that in the event a positive case of COVID-19 occurs we can effectively contact trace and quarantine the affected persons.


Students will not be required to sit facing the same direction 6ft apart while they eat lunch like last year. this layout will not permit our cafeteria and lunch service to operate effectively with all students in person full day.


Physical distancing will not be possible in all circumstances when we return with 100% of all students to their school buildings. Our schools will do their best to physically distance where space allows and when it does not disrupt normal operations.

Recess

Students in grades preschool through 6th grade will be returning to a regular recess schedule. In 2018, the Mount Laurel Schools incorporated recess in grade 5 as part of their regular school day as per a state mandate. We included 6th grade in the recess schedule as well. Students will be returning to this schedule in September along with a new and improved schedule. During recess, our schools will try to cohort students on the playground and outside where possible to control for contact tracing and to reduce the chance of a COVID-19 outbreak.


Although it is recommended by the CDC during large gatherings and crowds, masks are not required for students and staff during outside recess.

Remote Instruction for Quarantining Purposes Only

A full-time remote learning option is no longer available to parents for the 2021-2022 school year, all students are required to attend in-person and for the full day.


Our schools will do their best to keep students learning in the event they must quarantine. A 100% of students will be in person, therefore quarantining students will receive remote instruction including the opportunity to join their peers and teachers through Google Meet and Classroom. Specific information will be provided to you from your school principal regarding your child in the event they have to quarantine.


However, students with underlying health conditions that may make them more susceptible to or exacerbate the symptoms of COVID-19 may be eligible for home instruction per the process outlined at N.J.A.C. 6A:16-10.1 or as required by the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan.

Dates to Remember

September

2

Kindergarten Orientations

All Elementary Schools @ 1 PM


6

Labor Day

Schools Closed


7-8

Rosh Hashanah

School Closed


9

First Day of Classes

Preschool/K-8 Full Day


14

Back to School Night

Countryside/Parkway


16

Yom Kippur

Schools Closed


21

Back to School Night

Fleetwood/Larchmont


22

Back to School Night

Hillside/Springville


23

Back to School Night

Hartford


29

Back to School Night

Hartford


30

Back to School Night

Harrington

October

5

Back to School Night

Harrington


7

Back to School Night

Lenape

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