2021-2022 COVID-19 Response

In the 2021-2022 school year, we will take a layered approach to protecting our community against COVID-19, employing five major components which will work independently and together to decrease the chances of transmission in the building. These components are:

  1. Vaccination
  2. Masking
  3. Testing
  4. Physical Distancing
  5. Ventilation

Regular hand-washing and daily disinfection of the school building will also help us maintain a safe school environment. More details of each of the five protective layers, as well as the protocols for unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals in the event of a case of or exposure to COVID-19; travel guidelines; student illness; and other considerations related to the pandemic are available below. While many of our protocols will be familiar to returning families as they follow closely the health and safety procedures of the 2020-2021 school year, we encourage all families to review them in full.


 

Vaccination

  • All staff are required to be vaccinated before returning to school in August.

  • Students ages 12 and over are encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but are not yet required to be vaccinated to attend school. If your child is vaccinated, please submit that information to the Immunizations section of Magnus Health. 

  • When younger students become eligible for the vaccine, we strongly recommend the vaccine for them as well.

MASKING

Studies continue to confirm the importance of masks as a first line of defense in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and masks will be central to our layered approach to community safety in 2021-2022.

  • All staff, students and visitors to the building will remain masked, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Parents should reinforce with their child(ren) the importance of wearing a mask at school.

  • Parents should purchase at least five masks for their child(ren) that can be washed on a regular basis and rotated during the week.

  • Physical barriers will be placed on desks during Lunch and Snack when masks can't be worn.
  • Outdoor play and activities will be an opportunity for a mask break. 

  • Neck gators, scarves or other makeshift face coverings are not permissible.

  • An extra supply of surgical masks will be available at school in case a mask issue arises during the day.

  • Students that are unable to consistently wear a mask properly will be asked to work with a nurse or administrator to resolve the issue.

When choosing masks, keep in mind that an extra filter between cloth layers (Happy Mask or Enro brands) adds an increased layer of protection, as does a cloth mask over a surgical mask. Parenting has compiled a list of multi-layered face masks for children and many of the masks recommended by Wirecutter come in children's sizes.

IN-SCHOOL TESTING

VCS will continue to partner with Back To Work Solutions to offer in-school testing. Back to Work Solutions is comprised of Premier MD, which conducts TeleMed visits with testing participants in the days leading up to their test, and TOPLAB, which processes the testing samples. Both Premier MD and TOPLAB are now in-network providers for Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, which will eliminate billing issues for many families.

  • In-house testing for unvaccinated students will be conducted on a weekly basis.

  • In-house testing for the vaccinated population will be conducted on a monthly basis. 

  • Test results are generally available within 24-72 hours, but usually within 48 hours. 

A TeleMed visit is required for each participant prior to testing day. The process for scheduling and completing Telemed visits will be familiar to returning families and is straightforward:

  • You will be prompted to schedule your child(ren)'s Telemed visits through text and/or email. Please schedule your TeleMed visit for at least 48 hours before your child(ren)'s scheduled test to allow the necessary time for the prescription to be processed by the lab. 
  • Once the visit is complete, the student's prescription will be sent directly to TOPLAB; an additional copy will be sent to VCS. There is no need to print out the prescription and bring it to school on testing day.
  • Any student without a prescription will not be able to complete the test at school.

As always, families are also free to test their child(ren) outside of VCS at their facility of choice and forward the results to the Nurses' Office. Results for unvaccinated students must be submitted by Friday of each week; results for vaccinated students must be submitted during their scheduled testing week.

DISTANCING

  • Classroom configurations will ensure a distance of 3-6 feet is maintained between students for the majority of the school day. 
  • Outside of school, we ask that families use their best judgment around the mixing of mask-less children indoors and continue to avoid large-group indoor settings. 

VENTILATION

  • Windows will be kept open whenever possible and air exchanges will be promoted between our three connected buildings, increasing ventilation throughout the school.

 

STUDENT ILLNESS

As many illnesses can look like COVID-19, it is critical that we err on the side of caution when assessing any student who does not feel well. While we will not be requiring daily symptom screening on the Magnus app this year, please reach out to the Nurses' Office by email between 7:30 – 8:00 a.m. if you have any questions or concerns regarding your child attending school. 

  • Please keep your child home from school and visit your pediatrician whenever they complain of feeling poorly; this may include cold symptoms, gastrointestinal distress or any significant fatigue not explained by a late night or excessive activity.
     
  • Any fever, even a low grade one, should keep a child home for the day until it is resolved or diagnosed by your pediatrician.
     
  • If your child is unvaccinated and tested for COVID-19 you should keep your child home until a test is returned as negative.
     
  • Children who have been quarantined by the VCS School Nurse may access Virtual VCS so they can keep up with their academic work; children who are ill should take the time away from school to rest and recover.
     
  • Out of an abundance of caution, any student that complains of feeling ill during the school day will be sent home regardless of the absence of fever. 
     
  • Due to the possibility of transmitting illness to other students, a parent or caregiver must pick up any child that is ill at school within an hour of being called by the Nurse. 

THE QUARANTINE PROCESS: Positive cases & exposures

  • If your child is unvaccinated and has been tested for COVID-19 following an exposure you should keep your child home until a test is returned as negative. Children who are waiting for a COVID-19 test result may access Virtual VCS so they can keep up with their academic work.
     
  • Anyone who tests positive will quarantine at home for 10 days following the positive test result, regardless of vaccination status. Contact tracing will be performed and close contacts evaluated for quarantine as well. The relevant Pods will be notified of positive cases once all contact tracing is complete. 
     
  • Should a household family member test positive for COVID-19 the quarantine procedures will be different based on the individuals’ ability to isolate as well as the vaccination status of household members.
     
  • If a vaccinated individual is exposed to a positive case of COVID-19, they do not have to quarantine, but must be tested 5 days after the exposure. If the test comes back positive, they will be asked to quarantine for 10 days. 
     
  • Remote learning is available for any students that are required to quarantine.
     

  • Remote teaching may be employed if a staff member requires quarantine.

TEST & RETURN POLICY

  • If an unvaccinated student tests positive, that child's entire Pod – and anyone determined to have been a close contact – will be asked to shift to remote learning while the optimal window for testing (between 3-5 days) is determined. 
     

  • On the established testing day, Back to Work Solutions will send a mobile unit to students' homes to administer PCR tests to the entire Pod on the same day, with results anticipated that evening. 
     
  • Upon receipt of a negative test result, students may return to school.
     
  • If a student is exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 at home, the ill family member will need to be able to isolate away from the student for them to qualify to Test & Return. When isolation of the positive family member is possible, the student may receive a PCR test 3-5 days after exposure and return to school upon the receipt of a negative result. If isolation is not possible, a period of quarantine will be required, and the student will participate in their classes remotely.

Communication around positive cases

  • When a positive case has been identified, contact tracing will immediately be conducted and all close contacts –  including the Pod of the positive individual, will be notified. The entire community will not be notified of every positive case.
     

  • Our communication policy is the same regardless of vaccination status: breakthrough cases in staff or vaccinated students still require quarantine, and the Pods and other close contacts of those individuals will be notified.

school breaks & travel Precautions 

  • Following any significant school break, we will require students and staff to submit a negative PCR COVID-19 test to the Nurses' Office prior to returning to school, regardless of vaccination status. While we will make testing available at VCS following school breaks whenever possible, families may also fulfill this requirement through at-home PCR tests by Pixel LabCorp (now available for use in children) or by visiting any testing site convenient to you that will provide a result in the required time frame.
     
  • Although NYS no longer has travel guidelines, the CDC still recommends that unvaccinated individuals test 1-3 days before leaving their destination and 3-5 days upon return. A 7-day quarantine is also recommended. Considerations such as the case rates in the travel destination should factor into the degree of caution one should exercise upon returning home. Click here for the full CDC recommendations for international travel and here for the recommendations for domestic travel.

contacting the nurses' office

  • The VCS Nurses' Office can be reached at nurse@vcs-nyc.org or by calling the Front Desk.
  • Parents are encouraged to reach out to the nursing staff from 7:30 – 8:00 a.m. to ask questions or express concerns prior to the school day. We do ask that parents always err on the side of caution when considering whether to keep a child home who isn't feeling well, even if the illness appears mild or unrelated to COVID-19.