LEA Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Service
Pursuant to the Federal American Rescue Plan Act, Section 2001(I)
Introduction and Background
As announced in the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE)’s April 28, 2021 broadcast, in March 2021 President Biden signed the Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, Public Law 117-2, into law. The ARP Act provides an additional $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) to States and school districts to help safely reopen, sustain the safe operation of schools, and address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s students. As with the previous ESSER funds available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), the purpose of the additional funding is to support local educational agencies (LEAs) in preparing for and responding to the impacts of COVID-19 on educators, students, and families. Additional information on ARP ESSER may be found in the NJDOE’s funding comparison fact sheet.
Section 2001(i)(1) of the ARP Act requires each LEA that receives ARP ESSER funds to develop and make publicly available on the LEA’s website, no later than 30 days after receiving ARP ESSER funds, a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services for all schools (Safe Return Plan) A Safe Return Plan is required of all fund recipients, including those that have already returned to in-person instruction. Section 2001(i)(2) of the ARP Act further requires that the LEA seek public comment on the Safe Return Plan and take those comments into account in finalization of the Safe Return Plan. Under the interim final requirements published in Volume 86, No. 76 of the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), an LEA must periodically, but no less frequently than every six months through September 30, 2023, review and, as appropriate, revise its Safe Return Plan.
Pursuant to those requirements, LEAs must submit to the NJDOE and post on their website their Safe Return Plans by June 24, 2021. The NJDOE intends to make LEA ARP ESSER Fund applications available in EWEG on May 24, 2021 and LEAs will submit their Safe Return Plans to the NJDOE via EWEG. To assist LEAs with the development of their Safe Return Plans, the NJDOE is providing the following template.
This template incorporates the federally-required components of the Safe Return Plan. The questions in the template below will be included in the LEA ARP ESSER Fund application in EWEG. LEAs will submit responses to the questions within the LEA ARP ESSER Fund application in EWEG by June 24, 2021. The NJDOE hopes that this template will allow LEAs to effectively plan for that submission and to easily post the information to their websites as required by the ARP Act.
Note that on May 17, 2021, Governor Murphy announced that upon the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year, portions of Executive Order 175 allowing remote learning will be rescinded, meaning that schools will be required to provide full-day, in-person instruction, as they were prior to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The NJDOE and New Jersey Department of Health will share additional information regarding State requirements or guidance for health and safety protocols for the 2021-2022 school year as it becomes available.
Template: LEA Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services
LEA Name: IRVINGTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Date (mm/dd/yyyy): Date Revised (mm/dd/yyyy):
1. Maintaining Health and Safety
For each mitigation strategy listed below (A–H), please describe how the LEA will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff and the extent to which it has adopted policies, and a description of any such policies, on each of the following safety recommendations established by the CDC.
- Universal and correct wearing of masks
In order to ensure the correct wearing of masks, there are signs posted in each building that demonstrate the correct wearing of masks. Additionally, District nurses are training students, staff and teachers on correct wearing of masks during classroom sessions and individual interactions. Furthermore, the District produced a “How to Wear a Mask Properly” video for our students.
- Physical distancing (e.g., including use of cohorts/podding)
Physical distance is being achieved in several ways. First, the number of students present in classrooms has been limited as the District is on A/B cohort schedule. Student desks are spaced pursuant to CDC guidelines and desks are equipped with proper shields. In the Fall, we will be continuing with social distancing; however, we will be trying to accommodate a fully housed classroom.
- Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
Handwashing and respiratory etiquette is accomplished through teaching and modeling techniques. District nurses have been teaching students through classroom demonstrations the correct ways to wash their hands and to address respiratory concerns. The teaching staff has been modeling this behavior around the classroom and school, in general.
- Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation.
The District will continued to maintain a healthy environment with basic and deep cleaning. We clean our schools on a daily basis including classrooms. Recycle bins will be placed around the school premises, both inside and outside.
However, we will conduct deep cleaning at the end of each week. Specifically, the cleaning staff/custodians are set aside one day each week to tidy up and declutter the classrooms.
Teachers/staff will continue to regular disinfection of all surfaces in their classrooms, especially doorknobs, desks, chairs, sponges, activity tools and toys, sinks, computer screens, keyboards, and light switches.
Cleaning staff/custodians will continue to disinfect bathrooms, kitchens, and common areas several times a day. Making sure each room in the school has cleaning supplies on hand for everyday use. In addition to handling any accidents.
Moreover, the District provided well-fitting, multi-layer mask to staff and students to help prevent virus particles from entering the air or being breathed in by the person wearing a mask. Good ventilation is another step we took to reduce the number of virus particles in the air. It is an important component of maintaining healthy environments, and an instrumental COVID-19 prevention strategy for our students and staff. Below are ways we improve the ventilation in our schools, whether in a large building or a classroom.
Bring in as much outdoor air as possible.
- Open windows and doors. Even just cracking open a window or door helps increase outdoor airflow, which helps reduce the potential concentration of virus particles in the air. If it gets too cold or hot, adjust the thermostat.
Ensure Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) settings are maximizing ventilation.
- Our ventilation systems are serviced and meet code requirements. They should provide acceptable indoor air quality, for the current occupancy level for each space.
- Set HVAC systems to bring in as much outdoor air as your system will safely allow. By reducing or eliminate HVAC air recirculation, when practical and with expert HVAC consultation.
- Increase the HVAC system’s total airflow supply to occupied spaces when you can. More air flow encourages air mixing and ensures any recirculated air passes through the filter more frequently.
- Disable demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) controls that reduce air supply based on occupancy or temperature. This way the air supply will remain constant throughout the day.
- For simple HVAC systems controlled by a thermostat, setting the fan control switch from “Auto” to “On” will ensure the HVAC system provides continuous air filtration and distribution.
- Running the HVAC system at maximum outside airflow for 2 hours before and after the building is occupied to refresh air before arrival and remove remaining particles at the end of the day.
- We install portable air cleaners that use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to enhance air cleaning wherever possible, especially in higher-risk areas such as a nurse’s office or sick/isolation room.
- The District inspects and maintains exhaust ventilation systems in restrooms, kitchens and ensures exhaust fans are on and operating at full capacity while the school or childcare program is occupied and for 2 hours afterward.
- Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the State, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments
Irvington Public School works with the local Department of Health on any matter involving a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. We ensure that, if we are aware of a possible exposure, we notify the affected staff member and have them tested immediately. Further, any student or staff member, present at a District building, with symptoms of COVID-19, are immediately sent to the building isolation room, assessed by the building nurse, and referred for testing. Any person suspected of having COVID-19 is not allowed to return to the building without a negative COVID-19 test.
- Diagnostic and screening testing
Any person entering a District building must have their temperature taken. If the temperature is 100 or higher, the party is immediately sent to the isolation room and assessed by building nurse. The building nurse will then determine if a COVID-19 test or other medical attention is necessary. Should a COVID-19 test be needed, the person will be sent for an exam and is not allowed to return to the District until they present a negative COVID-19 test result. Furthermore, beginning July 1, and staff not providing proof of full vaccination must be tested every two weeks.
- Efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible
All educators, other staff and students are encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccination. As an incentive, anyone who takes the COVID-19 vaccine on a school day will have their leave day reimbursed. Further, as a matter of course, our Superintendent sends regular communication regarding available vaccination sites and encourages everyone to take the vaccine. Starting in July, in collaboration with the Township Health Department vaccination sites will be located within the school building. This will service students and staff.
The District has a communication strategy through School Messenger, postings on District website, and flyers to keep encouraging everyone 12 years of age and older to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can is the message on a weekly basis. In conjunction with the efforts of the Township of Irvington, vaccination is being given at the Irvington Health Center Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Testing centers are also located at Township Council Chambers three days a week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. In addition, two of our schools (Chancellor Avenue Elementary and Irvington High School) are testing centers on every Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Simultaneously, Essex County is vaccinating eligible educators, other staff, and students at various locations to help stop the pandemic up to 6:00 pm daily Monday through Saturday. The eligibility is based on residency, place of work, and a valid ID card; and it is free. The time is deliberately chosen to accommodate availability due to school schedules. Vaccination records for District’s employees are kept with the Human Resources Department and at the Office of the Superintendent.
- Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to the health and safety policies
The District continues to ensure that the special education department continue to work with families to conduct IEP meetings, and to provide appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to the health and safety polices. Students with disabilities will continue to receive special education and related services, as required by their Individualized Education Plans (IEP), and will receive the services delineated in their IEP in-person and not remotely.
The case managers and IEP team members will continue to monitor special education services to determine progress toward a student’s IEP goals. Appropriate educational programs, full-time related services; resources and tools will be provided to support these accommodations
Busing will continue to be provided to and from school for all eligible students. Buses will be assigned at a diminished capacity based on routes. Students, Bus Aides, and Bus Drivers will be required to wear masks at all times on the bus if they have not been vaccinated. Social distancing on the bus will be implemented to the extent possible. Windows will remain open on the bus to provide extra ventilation except in inclement weather. Each student will have his or her temperature taken before getting on the bus. Buses will be regularly cleaned and disinfected based on CDC guidelines. Bus drivers will clean the buses between routes if they are transporting multiple schools in the morning or afternoon.
Classroom spaces have been configured to maintain the physical distancing guidelines of three feet. This was done to ensure the ability to properly distance student desks, which will be facing in the same direction. Students will be directed to adhere to the plan created for each classroom in order to reduce contact with others while maintaining a safe learning environment.
Equipment will not be shared among students, and individual supplies will be provided to facilitate mastering the standards especially in Visual and Performance Arts
2. Ensuring Continuity of Services
- Describe how the LEA will ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff’s social, emotional, mental health, and other needs, which may include student health and food services. (1000 character limit)
Based on the latest available health and safety data in our communities and state, we will begin instruction in September with 100% of students engaged in-person learning. We have established clear communication protocols to ensure that all stakeholders are actively engaged in a continuous flow of dialogue that fosters and supports a positive sense of identity, community, and belonging.
The district used real-time data collected on learning loss and has identified key instructional priorities for the 2021-2022 school year. Additional information was collected from parents, students and staff’s need surveys. The goal is to maintain a high degree of consistency and continuity in student learning as learning loss and gaps are addressed. We will continue to actively work on developing innovative ways to leverage all staff to fulfill our students’ academic, physical, and social emotional needs.
The district will make a substantial effort to monitor and support the mental and social-emotional health of students and staff. Increased availability of School Counselors to provide emotional and mental health support to those in need. The IBOE will continue to prioritize the social and emotional well-being of our staff, students, and their families using a multi-tiered system of support. Students’ social-emotional health will be supported through positive staff attitudes, affirmation displays, and time allotted daily for self-reflection and mindfulness, in groups or individually. As well as time for self-expression, for students to express their feelings through journaling, drawing, writing or another medium that makes them feel inspired.
There will be embedded cross-curriculum support throughout the school day that utilizes age-appropriate academic instructional units. There will be a focus on building connections with our students through the frequent use of check-ins with all students by various personnel during snack time and any other transitional times. We will continue utilizing Restorative Practices to build a positive, healthy culture that makes all stakeholders feel valued and important. Our staff will collectively build relationships with every student, creating an inclusive culture that fosters personal well-being and academic growth.
On-going Professional Development will be provided addressing mental health and wellness issues. We will continue to utilize Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and other grade level or content specific teams to provide opportunities for collaboration around best practices for student engagement and instruction.
IBOE will continue to work closely with our food services provider to remove barriers to access to breakfast and lunch services. We will ensure that we collect and process all meal applications to qualify as many students for free and reduced lunch as possible. In addition, we will ensure that all meal providers follow all health and safety guidelines.
3. Public Comment
B. Describe how the LEA ensured that the plan is in an understandable and uniform format; is to the extent practicable written in a language that parents can understand or, if not practicable to provide written translations to a parent with limited English proficiency, will be orally translated for such a parent; and upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability as defined by the ADA, will be provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent. (1000 character limit)
To help inform reopening plan, the district sought feedback and input from various stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, other staff, students, parents/guardians of students, local health department officials, local public safety officials, and employee unions’ representatives (Irvington Administrators Association and Irvington Education Association). Engagement efforts included representation from all stakeholders groups at reopening subcommittees meetings, online surveys, other meetings, and one-on-one conversations.
The district remains committed to communicating all elements of the reopening plan to students, parents and guardians, educators, other staff, and visitors. The plan will continue to be available to all stakeholders at the district website at irvington.k12.nj.us and it will continue to be updated throughout the school year, as necessary, to respond to local circumstances. Every effort has been made to ensure that the reopening plan is accessible to all individuals in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A/AA.
Timely and effective communication about the reopening plan, including health and safety protocols and schedules are of paramount importance to all stakeholders. At the same time, the district is particularly mindful that frequent communications are accessible in non-English languages and to all caregivers (this is particularly important for children residing with grandparents or other kin or foster caregivers). The Reopening plan on the District’s and Schools’ website are accessible to all stakeholders in translated versions such as Spanish, Haitian Creole, and French for parents/guardians with limited English proficiency.
The District is committed to establishing and maintaining regular channels of communication through the following:
- School Messenger to inform families, staff and community members
- Internal staff emails
- Home mailings
- District’s and School’s websites
- Local TV Channel 36
- Local Newspaper – Irvington Herald
The Reopening plan and any changes made during the school year were disseminated by the Superintendent of Schools at public engagement sessions and are also amplified across the District’s social media accounts, including Twitter.