Special School District of St. Louis County Return-to-School Guidance

  • Overview

    The purpose of this plan is to outline guidelines for returning to school following federal, state and local recommendations. These guidelines have been carefully considered to address and promote the safety, health and welfare of our school community.

    However, COVID-19 mandates and recommendations are ever-changing as additional information is shared by our local and state health departments and state and national regulatory agencies which, in turn, will change our community’s practices.

    Reopening requires all of us to move forward together using recommended best practices and maintaining safe daily habits in order to reduce our risk of exposure to COVID-19. Remember: we’re all in this together!

    What is COVID-19?

    COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new coronavirus, which has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. There is no specific antiviral treatment nor vaccine for COVID-19 at this time. People with COVID-19 should receive treatment and care to help relieve symptoms.

    Symptoms of COVID-19

    People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with the following symptoms may have COVID-19 and should stay home and contact their healthcare provider:

    • Fever or chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Sore throat
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea

    This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.

    Transmission of COVID-19

    Transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is believed to be spread mainly from person to person:

    • Between people who are in close contact with someone with the virus.

      The CDC as of the date of this document defines a close contact as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the identified positive person is isolated.

    • Via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes and then those droplets land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, possibly entering that person’s lungs.

    It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not considered the main reason for spread of the virus.

    Practices to Prevent Transmission

    Strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will be practiced by all staff/employees:

    • social distancing (specifically, staying 6 feet away from others when you must go into a shared space).
    • frequently washing hands or use of alcohol-based (at least 60% alcohol) hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
    • wearing cloth face coverings.
    • avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • staying home when sick.
    • cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

    Screening Procedures/Staff

    • Employees should self-monitor for symptoms at home prior to coming to work/school as outlined in strategies to prevent transmission.
    • Employees will be required to have their temperature checked upon entry to the building with a non-contact thermometer.
    • Any temperature 100° F or above will be considered a fever and staff will be asked not to return until fever-free and in accordance with CDC Return Guidelines.
    • Staff members will notify their direct supervisor of absences by following District policies and procedures. Staff members should notify Human Resources for any COVID-19 specific absences or leaves.

    Screening Procedures/Students

    • If a student is sick, he or she should stay home.
    • Families should notify the school using the absence reporting procedure if they will not be sending their child to school due to concerns over COVID-19.
    • School attendance secretaries will be required to ask the parent/guardian for the reason for a student’s absence. Parent/guardian will need to specify whether it is due to respiratory illness, fever, etc. (not just “out sick”).
    • A temperature check will be done prior to a student getting on the bus. Any student with a temperature of 100° F or above will not be allowed on the bus. An adult must be present at the bus stop.
    • Temperatures of students transported to school by families or by EMT/cab will be checked by a staff member at the front vestibule of the school.
    • Families must develop a plan in the event a child gets sick at school to pick up the child and need to provide up-to-date emergency contact numbers.
    • If a student is identified as having a fever at school, the student will be placed in an isolation room. Families will immediately be called to pick up.
    • Any student with a temperature of 100° F or above or with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will be asked not to attend school and not to return until fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication or a note from a healthcare provider (MD, NP, DO) indicating that student may return to school.

    Bus Transportation Procedures

    The following strategies will be implemented during school bus transportation:

    • Students are encouraged to wear a cloth face mask if physically able and when harm (e.g. increasing hand-mouth/nose contact) does not outweigh risk (potential COVID-19 risk reduction) while on the bus.
    • The number of students on a bus will be limited to promote physical distancing as much as possible.
    • Staff members checking temperatures will be provided with a District-issued non-contact thermometer, gloves, disinfectant wipes, mask and goggles or face shield and/or other PPE per CDC recommendations at the time student transportation resumes.
    • Any student with a temperature of 100° F or above will not be transported to school.
    • Any student identified with a fever will also be reported to dispatch by the driver/monitor/aide and dispatch will notify the student’s school attendance secretary and transportation will be cancelled for 24 hours unless a note from a healthcare provider (MD, NP, DO) indicating that student may return to school is provided.
    • All buses will be wiped down after each route – entry handrail, front/back of seats, windows, window handles, seat belts, walls, steering wheel, door opener, etc.
    • Hand sanitizer will be available on the bus.
    • There will be tissues on the bus and a disposal hamper will be available on buses.

    Face Masks or Face Shields/Staff

    Staff members will have face coverings (cloth masks, reusable face shields).

    Protocol for face coverings:

    • Wear a cloth mask while on any SSD campus.
    • May remove cloth mask and don face shield for forward facing instruction or communication; AND 3-6 feet from person; AND no one beside or behind you.
    • Cloth mask AND face shield must be worn for direct student care activities.
    • Cloth masks must be worn during transitions (such as in halls or not able to physically distance).
    • Face coverings may be removed when using restroom or eating lunch as long as physical distancing is maintained.
    • If alone in the office and door closed, may remove face covering(s).

    Face Masks or Face Shields/Students

    • Students should wear family-provided cloth masks or face shields if physically able.
    • Students will be encouraged to wear a face mask if there are circumstances that put them in close areas. Wearing masks when in a hallway is highly recommended.

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

    SSD will provide its staff in partner districts with any necessary PPE that is not provided by the partner district.

    Staff at SSD schools will be separated into the following categories to ensure adequate distribution of personal protective equipment:

    Tier 1: Staff who do not have direct contact with students or staff that do not perform direct student care activities (i.e. secretaries, custodial staff):

    • will be required to wear cloth facial coverings to work and will maintain physical distancing as much as is feasible (6 feet apart).
    • will have access to District-provided disposable gloves, disinfectant, and access to perform handwashing or use hand sanitizer.

     Tier 2: Staff that have direct contact with students and perform direct student care activities, such as toileting, diapering or feeding (i.e. teachers, paraprofessionals):

    • will be required to wear cloth facial coverings to work and will maintain physical distancing as much as is feasible (6 feet apart).
    • will have access to District-provided disposable gloves, disinfectant, and access to perform handwashing or use hand sanitizer.
    • will also have access to disposable gowns, gloves and surgical face masks if providing student care and there is a concern for exposure to bodily fluid.

    Tier 3: Nursing staff and any staff member that will be assigned to assist in the nursing office or sick student isolation rooms:

    • will be required to wear cloth facial coverings to work and will maintain physical distancing as much as is feasible (6 feet apart).
    • will have access to District-provided disposable gloves, disinfectant, and access to perform handwashing or use hand sanitizer.
    • will wear medical grade mask, eye protection and gloves when providing nursing interventions.
    • will use clinical judgement to evaluate the risk of exposure and implement further PPE as appropriate for themselves and other Tier 3 non-nursing staff.

    Appropriate PPE must be utilized in conjunction with universal precautions and proper hand hygiene. PPE supplies will be provided to all staff at the beginning of each school week prior to student arrival and supplemented throughout the week as needed. Supplies will be tracked/monitored and distributed to ensure all have access to needed supplies.

    Should PPE be in short supply due to demand, CDC PPE strategies will be followed, and alternatives may need to be provided.

    Alterations to School Environment to Promote Social Distancing


    • Desks will be rearranged in classrooms to maximize space between students, 3-6 feet apart, with elimination of seating where students face each other.
    • Recess or break times will be staggered to decrease the number of students on the playground and in hallways.
    • Breakfasts and lunches will be delivered to classrooms on disposable trays; single use utensils and individual condiments will be used.
    • Passing time between classes will be staggered.
    • Water fountains will be disinfected frequently.
    • After-school activities, student meetings, sports, etc. will be suspended.
    • Assemblies and other large group gatherings will be suspended.
    • Communal school supplies will be eliminated, and each student will have their own school supplies for their own use only.
    • A hand-washing schedule will be adopted with school-wide reminders for staff and students throughout the day.
    • Lessons and practice sessions for students on when and how to wash hands will be conducted.
    • There will be a disinfecting schedule for restrooms and all doorknobs, counters, tables, desks, and school surfaces.
    • Classroom staff will routinely sanitize computer equipment.
    • Movement of students around the building will be limited (e.g. restrooms, PE, music, art).

      • If feasible, the same cohort of students will be kept together throughout the school day. Physical distancing will be practiced, and frequent hand washing, and respiratory etiquette will also be followed. By assigning students to cohorts and limiting exposure to other cohorts within the same building, close contacts of potential cases can be limited.
      • If possible, PE, art, and music staff will travel to classrooms.

    • CBI/CBVI trips will be suspended.

    Hand Washing

    • Hand washing or the use of hand sanitizer will be encouraged upon entering a building, before eating, after eating, after restroom usage, before any group activities and before boarding school buses.
    • Hand washing will be recommended any time the face/mouth are touched.

    Cleaning and Disinfecting

    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidelines regarding cleaning and disinfecting school buildings and other areas.
    • This will be done in coordination with the District’s custodial service provider, CleanTech.
    • Gloves and disinfectant wipes will be available to all staff to provide additional cleaning of their personal workspaces.
    • CDC's Cleaning and Disinfection Protocols

    When a Case Is Identified/Staff

    • The Human Resources department will verify there is a confirmed case of COVID19.
    • The health care provider who handles the positive test/diagnosis is required to contact the health department of a confirmed case.
    • Human Resources will notify the District’s medical team of a confirmed case.
    • The District will take direction from the St. Louis County Department of Health regarding the need for contact tracing and employee notifications.
    • The District will ensure all areas the confirmed case visited are deep cleaned immediately.
    • The District will only close buildings based on guidance from the health department in the event of a confirmed case.
    • Staff members identified as those in “close contact” with a confirmed case will be subject to mandated quarantine by the health department or their health care provider.
    • Close contact is currently defined as being less than 6 feet away for more than 15 minutes without a facial covering starting 48 hours before illness onset.
    • Staff that are mandated to quarantine will be required to follow the District’s leave policies and practices for reporting absences.
    • Staff who would like to apply for FMLA or the temporary FMLA amendments covered by FFCRA should contact Human Resources for information and/or to be provided an application.
    • Staff will be required to provide Human Resources a medical clearance to return to work following any absences resulting from a confirmed case or a quarantine mandated by a health care provider or the health department.

    When a Case Is Identified/Student

    • Any student with COVID-19 like symptoms will be escorted to an isolation room, will be given a mask, if he or she can tolerate wearing one, and will be evaluated by a school nurse.
    • Assigned staff will stay with the isolated student while awaiting guardian pick up.
    • Student’s desk, chair, etc. in the classroom he or she vacated will be disinfected by custodial staff.
    • After the isolation room is vacated by a symptomatic student, it will be closed for disinfection by custodial staff.

    This pandemic has caused stress on staff and students, from prolonged absences to fear of the unknown. It is important to note that school districts may choose to implement plans differently based on local Board of Education and leadership decisions or due to guidelines established by local government authorities. This guidance to the extent possible was established with the current known factors as of July 20, 2020