Friends Select School will continue to follow local public health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations and guidelines to plan for the 2021-22 school year. We will remain flexible and adapt as the guidelines change and our whole community has the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In order to have students and employees at Friends Select for in-person instruction, here are some of the health and safety protocols we will be using to begin the 2021-22 school year:

Updates:

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Physical Distancing

We are encouraging physical distancing based on current recommendations and to the extent possible in common spaces and within classrooms. These measures may include:

  • Spacing of desks and furniture in classrooms where possible
  • Limiting the amount of people allowed in specific spaces such as classrooms, common areas, the dining hall, and recess areas, including minimizing cross-divisional contact
  • Fewer students and increased spacing on buses operated by Friends Select
  • Meetings should continue to have the option to take place in a virtual setting. This will be determined by the meeting clerk.
  • Eliminating large gatherings of unvaccinated students, until vaccines are available for all age groups

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To start the school year, we are requiring everyone to wear face coverings at all times while at Friends Select, after reviewing recommendations from many different local and national resources.

The face covering policy and requirements at Friends Select will be based on our percentage of community vaccination coverage and level of community and/or in-school transmission. There may be times that we will be able to revise and reduce our face covering policy; at those times, anyone who wishes to continue to wear a face covering, including those who are immunocompromised or are vaccinated and feel more comfortable wearing a face covering, may continue to do so. We could also still suggest students/employees ill with a non-COVID respiratory virus wear face coverings until fully recovered.
 
Face coverings worn on Friends Select’s campus and inside buildings must fully cover the mouth and nose. Signage regarding the use of face coverings are posted at the entrances and in common areas. When worn properly, wearing a face covering helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses by reducing droplet transmission between people. As a reminder, face coverings do not replace the need to maintain physical distance, frequent hand washing, and routine cleaning and disinfecting.

 

Approved Face Coverings

A face covering (or mask) is defined as a covering of the nose and mouth that goes below the chin and is secured behind the head or ears.

Approved:

  • Disposable 3-ply masks are preferable to other masks in reducing COVID-19 transmission, although certain cloth masks are acceptable. Disposable masks should be replaced each day, and when soiled, wet, or damaged. 
  • Cloth face coverings must be made of at least a double layer of tightly woven fabric or heavier material. Cloth masks should be laundered each day and replaced when soiled or wet. They should properly fit to avoid having to touch or reposition the mask. 
  • Clear masks or masks with clear mouth panels worn by teachers may also serve to support youth in need of visual facial cues. 

Not approved:

  • Masks with exhalation valves
  • Single layer gaiters
  • Bandanas

Students will be required to arrive at school with a minimum of two face coverings per day. One will be kept as backup and will be changed if wet, soiled, or misplaced. Cloth face coverings are recommended to only be worn for one day at a time and must be properly laundered before being used again. Friends Select will have a limited supply of “back-up” face coverings for emergency needs, or a parent/guardian may be asked to deliver a face covering to school.

Employees are expected to wear face coverings and are encouraged to bring their own face coverings that meet their individual preferences/comfort. Friends Select will provide basic 3-ply disposable face coverings and a reusable face shield for employees if requested. Protective gloves will be available for cleaning or touching soiled items, etc. Any additional PPE needs can be discussed and obtained through the school nurse.

When universal face covering requirements can be lifted, we may still require unvaccinated students and staff to remain using face coverings. Many vaccinated students, employees, and guests may also choose to wear a face covering for a number of reasons. Anyone who prefers to wear a face covering is encouraged to do so.

Allowable exceptions for removing face coverings:

  • During assigned lunch or snack breaks, when sitting at a safe distance from others
  • During outdoor activities such as PE classes, athletics, etc. 
  • During the incorporated “face-covering breaks” that will be planned throughout the day at appropriate times, especially in lower grades
  • If working alone in an enclosed single-person office or workstation
  • Teachers who choose to wear a mask during the day may switch to using a face shield (or specific clear face covering) to maximize communication/learning experiences, if at an appropriate distance of at least 6 feet away from students. Face covering is worn when within close proximity to student(s).
  • Extenuating medical circumstances that interfere with the ability to wear a face covering (to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis). Contact the school nurse if necessary.

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We will continue to reduce the number of people within the building as much as possible, and we will revisit this protocol once all students have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Upon reopening in September, this will include:

  • Arranging for certain administrative staff to work remotely
  • Limiting people entering the building to only students, faculty, staff, and invited guests 
    • Please note: Parents and guardians cannot freely enter into the school building, unless by appointment or if invited to an essential event. 

We are minimizing the mixing of students to reduce risk of exposure and assist in contact tracing if needed. This may include: 

  • Cohorting of unvaccinated students into grade level groups where possible for students in grades Pre-K - 6. 
  • Limiting the use of shared spaces between different cohorts of students (ex. timing the use of the playground, roof, and gymnasium to not mix cohorts) and between students in different divisions.

Increasing hand washing and hand sanitizing practices and stations:

  • Hand sanitizing stations are available in each classroom and additional stations have been placed at entrances, playground/outdoor recess areas, and throughout the building.
  • Students and employees will be required to wash/sanitize hands before and after certain activities like eating, recess, and shared activities/lessons.
  • We will incorporate scheduled time throughout the day for hand washing breaks (depending on the developmental stage of each age group).
  • Hand washing signs and instructions will be posted. 

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Emotional Well-Being

In addition to physical health safety with regard to COVID-19, we are also aware of and are committed to attending to the emotional health needs of the Friends Select community. To that end, the following programming is being implemented:

  • Training and/or guided discussions with faculty and staff on managing difficult emotions and uncertainty during unpredictable times, and awareness of the social-emotional needs of children across the age-span. 
  • Available small-group meetings for faculty and staff with an outside facilitator to offer them support in their critical roles.
  • Access for faculty and staff to meet with the school’s psychologist or counselor.
  • Ongoing monitoring of our students' emotional well-being by our school's psychologist and school counselor, together with divisional guidance teams, through contacts and communication with students and faculty, and making themselves available to parents and guardians. 
  • Regular check-in groups with middle and upper school students by our school's psychologist, school counselor, and middle/upper school learning specialist. 
  • Programming for parents and guardians in the form of small groups, topical discussions, providing links to resources, and also guest-speaker programming on child development, supporting children to manage difficult emotions, and building resilience in children. Where possible these programs will be recorded and made available for members of the community.

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The Friends Select facilities team is responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of school buildings during the day and their vigilance has been key to our success during this pandemic. The facilities team will continue to monitor, clean, and disinfect entrances, railings, restrooms, common areas, and other high-touch points in these spaces. A third-party custodial service is being used to clean the building every evening. They will monitor all restrooms and hand sanitizing stations to ensure that hand soap is available.

Though contact transmission is not as much of a concern as it was earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to use disinfecting supplies that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criteria. Key products include: Eco Labs Peroxide based multi-surface disinfectant/cleaner and Victory electrostatic sprayer system, both a handheld and backpack. Other cleaning and disinfecting supplies that meet CDC and EPA standards also may be used.

All faculty and staff are provided with cleaning supplies to use in classrooms and offices to allow them to clean as needed and during  periods of high-use, when facilities are unable to clean areas between student groups. Students, faculty, and staff are instructed to clean their classroom areas and workspaces before and after use and before and after meals with particular attention to high-touch surfaces.

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Proper Ventilation / HVAC System

Our heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system has been professionally evaluated by Burns Engineering and has been updated in the following ways based on their report:

  • We use MERV 13 filters for better filtration, and we are increasing the frequency of filter changes.
  • We are increasing the run time of our HVAC system to increase circulation. This will pull air from the room and supply the filtered air back in.
  • We are limiting our economizer mode so we keep a higher level of outside fresh air coming into the building.
  • We are running our bathroom exhaust system 24/7.
  • A mechanical contractor performs quarterly maintenance on all of our HVAC equipment to ensure proper function and maximum benefits.
  • UV light systems have been installed into all possible HVAC equipment. 
  • We have installed ionic polarization systems on all of our large air handlers. (This puts a charge in the air that helps capture small molecules and is more effective at killing COVID than UV lights. We are using both.) 
  • Small HEPA air filtration systems have been added to all rooms that are not suited for a UV system. 
  • Ceiling fans have been reversed to pull air upwards.

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Busing and Transportation

  • Prior to boarding the bus each morning, parents/guardians/caregivers will perform a quick symptom screening survey via Ruvna, our online emergency management application. 
  • Bus drivers and passengers must wear face coverings while on the bus.
  • The number of students on the bus may be limited to maintain physical distancing and will depend on the division/age group. 
  • Students will use hand sanitizer when entering and exiting the bus.

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We are continuing some health protocols to further reduce risk of exposure, including:

  • Daily health screening of students and employees through use of a daily screening app provided by Ruvna to help families and employees determine if they should go to school
  • Monitoring temperatures of those entering the building through temperature screening kiosks at each entrance to the main building
  • Adhering to strict policies for Illness During COVID-19 and Returning to School after illness, as developed by the CDC and PDPH
  • Performing contact tracing for any possible COVID-19 exposures within the school building or school-related activities (through interviews, examination of schedules and contact points, etc.) 

In order to enter the building to attend class or perform their work, members of our community must be free of symptoms potentially related to COVID-19 and other infectious illnesses. At this time, these symptoms outlined by the CDC include one or more of the following:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Fever/Chills, temperature greater than or equal to 100.0
  • Runny nose or new sinus congestion
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • New GI symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

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Friends Select strongly encourages all members of the community to maintain all recommended vaccinations, including COVID-19 and Influenza. We will keep records of vaccinations through SchoolDoc. For more information and assistance with COVID-19 vaccinations, please contact the school nurse.

Nearly all Friends Select employees have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For employees who have not been vaccinated, we will require weekly COVID-19 testing, for which employees will be responsible. Employees will then report their results to their respective supervisor and the school nurse.
 

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Response to a Student or Employee Who Is Symptomatic

Early detection of symptoms in an individual in the building and subsequent isolation will be utilized to reduce transmission of any communicable disease. Any student or employee who develops symptoms of illness is asked to remain home or will be assessed by the school nurse and further instructions will be given. PDPH and FSS recommends (and may require) molecular PCR testing in the presence of symptoms, and/or when an unvaccinated individual has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, before returning to the school. 

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COVID-19 Testing 

COVID-19 testing is recommended and may be required for any symptomatic member of the community before returning to the school building. In the event an unvaccinated person is required to quarantine after an exposure, COVID-19 testing can be done at day 5-7 in order to shorten the quarantine period. COVID-19 testing is also currently recommended on day 4-5 after travel for unvaccinated people to shorten the recommended quarantine period from 10 to 7 days.

Routine testing of all students and employees prior to their initial return to school or work, or on a regular non-symptomatic basis is not indicated at this time. Routine testing for unvaccinated students and staff may be initiated at times of high community transmission.

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Response to Positive COVID-19 Test 

Consistent with PA regulations for communicable diseases, if an individual in a school or office is confirmed, suspects, or has been in contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19, the school nurse will assess, isolate any needed persons, and consult with the PDPH. Next steps could include, and are not limited to:

  • Contact tracing interviewing to quickly pinpoint whether any individuals were in close contact with the COVID-19 positive person, and provide necessary information for PDPH
  • Quarantining of individuals, the class, a select group, or the entire school
  • Initiating deep cleaning of affected areas 
  • Determining when individuals can resume school or work 

Friends Select has established detailed screening and assessment criteria and guidelines for managing a COVID response, that can be found within Illness During COVID-19 and Returning to School. Additionally, consistent with both notification requirements for other communicable diseases and legal confidentiality, Friends Select will follow PDPH regulations for exposure to a communicable disease. In the event that a student needs to quarantine and is asymptomatic, the student will be required to continue to work asynchronously and independently (students will not be able to Zoom into classes) to complete assignments at home as arranged with individual teachers and divisions. For middle and upper school, students will be able to complete assignments through Blackbaud. Though the school is not providing remote learning to students, if a child is actively engaged in learning independently (or with caregiver support) at home, their attendance will be marked as if they were attending school in-person each day.
 

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Entrances and Exits 

We have established three different points of entry for students from each division. At all three points of entry, there will be staff present to: greet and assist students, ensure use of hand-sanitizing stations and temperature screening kiosks, and check for completion of the daily screening app (Ruvna) before entering the building. 

  • Back entrance (in the parking lot) will be used for lower school.
  • Side entrance (along Race Street) will be used for middle school. 
  • Front entrance (at 17th and the Ben Franklin Parkway) will be used for upper school. 

Later in the morning, the back and side entrances will be closed for security reasons, after which everyone will have to enter the building through the front entrance for the remainder of the school day.

Dismissal will occur mainly via the same divisionally assigned entrances and exits.

  • Students with self-dismissal should leave through their divisional exit.
  • Students taking buses will go to the assigned area to be accounted for and board a bus.
  • Car-line and pickup for lower school will occur via the playground/parking lot area.

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Dining Hall and Meals at School 

The Matthew Huffman ’91 Dining Hall will be used next year for traditional meal services and gatherings. However, meal services may need to be modified for certain grades/divisions (i.e., students who are still in cohorts may have to eat lunch in their classrooms). More details will be provided closer to the start of the school year, based on current guidance from the CDC and PDPH. 

Click here for Details About Lunch for the 2021-22 School Year.

Recess 

  • Outdoor recess and breaks will be planned and encouraged. We are maximizing the availability of outdoor space, including repurposing the parking lot as a space for play and outdoor instruction. 
  • Face coverings can be removed during outdoor, physically-distanced activities.
  • Hand washing or sanitizing will be enforced on the way to and from recess.

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Water Fountains 

  • All water fountains have been modified such that a person can only refill a water bottle and not drink directly from the fountain.
  • It is recommended that all students and employees carry a water bottle with them. 

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Friends Select Parking Lot 

  • The school parking lot will remain repurposed in order to allow for more outdoor space.
  • We will continue to use the area for our “car-line” morning drop-off and afternoon pickup of students.
  • During the school day, the lot will be closed off to vehicles.

Friends Select is providing subsidized parking opportunities at the Towne Park garage for employees that need them, as well as continued use of the Gateway parking lot.

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Athletics 

We expect our athletic program to return this fall using our regular safety protocols, and we will continue to monitor the CDC for any suggestions or updates.

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