The Road Forward – June 28, 2022 update
1.1 Vaccination – Per EO253, all staff are required to show proof of vaccination or submit weekly negative tests. We required this for the first day of school, earlier than mandated by the state. The vaccine is also highly recommended for eligible students. We have offered first, second, and third shots clinics for students and staff. Vaccination status (students and staff) has an impact on exclusion rules.
1.2 Communication – Weekly as well as historical data is posted on the website. Updates to the plan will be communicated (and public comment will be collected) every 60 days, as required by law, at a board meeting.
1.3 Masks – Per the Governor, EO 251, expired March 7, 2022. Decisions about masking are now up to the individual district. As of March 7, 2022, masks are optional in the Metuchen Public Schools. There are several times when masks must be worn: anytime in the nurse’s office, when returning early from isolation following a positive diagnosis (or presumed positive) or from quarantine following a close contact exclusion with nurse clearance on days 6-10 (unless you return on day 8 with a negative test result from day 5-7). Staff and students are still encouraged to mask. Mask effectiveness varies. In increasing order of the level of protection, masks include cloth, surgical, and N95. The district reserves the right to reinstate the mask mandate at any time at our discretion. Situations that might warrant reinstating the mask mandate include but are not limited to: the weekly CALI report showing high COVID activity (orange status), high level of COVID activity within the Borough, outbreaks in specific classes or school buildings. We may also require masks for a specific school or district event.
1.4 Maintain Physical Distancing and Cohorting – We will try to maintain 3 feet when possible (6 feet between students and adults when possible). Assigned seating and seating charts will be used whenever possible. We are limiting in-person meetings when practical. Spectators at games and concerts may be limited during times of high virus activity.
1.5 Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette – Instructions will be posted in buildings. Nurses can provide instruction. Frequent reminders will be offered by teachers and administrators. We have installed true HEPA filters in all rooms.
1.6 Meals – We have a mostly-traditional lunch program. There will be some school-specific modifications like additional lunchrooms, for example. We will eat outside when possible. We have installed true HEPA filters in the cafeterias.
1.7 Transportation – We are operating our regular routes. Students will have assigned seats. Windows will be open when possible. Distancing on buses cannot be guaranteed. Masks are still encouraged but not required.
2.1 Limited Use of Shared Supplies and Equipment – Students are not using locker rooms to change clothing for PE. Student-athletes will still have access to locker rooms for storage and then supervised changing after school hours.
2.2 Cleaning and Disinfection – Our “process cleaning” protocols are in effect. Additional cleaning supplies will be in all rooms.
2.3 Improving Airflow – We have MERV13 filters in our unit ventilators and rooftop units. We have completed some internal HVAC work while we await our contractor. Our unit ventilators have all been checked and are controlled by our new Building Management System. We will encourage open windows when possible. Fans, if appropriate, should blow outwards. We will encourage outdoor activities whenever possible. We have installed true HEPA filters in all rooms.
3.1 Parental Screening – Educational materials will be sent to parents with reminders to check their children every day. Parents should keep children home for regular sick day absences when they are sick. Parents should provide details when reporting absences. We are no longer requiring daily screening questionnaires.
3.2 Response to Symptomatic Students and Staff – separate areas from routine visits to the nurse.
3.3.1 Definition of COVID-19 Compatible Symptoms- the district follows the NJDOH’s most updated description of compatible symptoms.
3.3.2 When Illness Occurs in the School Setting - the student or staff member is isolated and sent home
3.3.3 Exclusion – the following individuals are to be excluded:
Sick with COVID compatible symptoms (worse than baseline for chronic conditions – work with your school nurse)
Close contact - adults and students who are not yet fully vaccinated
For further details, always see the COVID-19 Exclusion Criteria in the latest public health recommendations for schools.
Per the COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Local Health Departments for K-12 Schools, we are implementing the shortened quarantined guidelines from 10 days to 5 days.. There are some exceptions to this and the school nurse must be the one to clear an individual to return earlier than 10 days.
In order to return to school on day 6, following a positive test result, the following conditions must be met:
Contact the school nurse for clearance on day 5
Experience improved symptoms or no symptoms on day 5
Be 24-hour fever free without fever reducing medication
Have a mask on at all times, except while physically eating or drinking (including remaining masked while getting food or talking at lunch) on days 6-10. When unmasked to consume food or beverages, distance from others to the greatest extent possible.
Excluded close contacts are eligible to return on day 6 if asymptomatic.
A close contact who becomes symptomatic should quarantine immediately and test.
All close contacts are recommended to test on day 5.
Household close contacts:
If positive person wears mask consistently, then other household members who are not fully vaccinated start quarantine after positive person’s day 5
If positive person does NOT wear a mask consistently, then other household members who are not fully vaccinated start quarantine after positive person’s day 10
Exclusion - Sports and Extracurricular:
Excluded students cannot participate in sports or any extracurricular activities when quarantined
If cleared to return on days 6-10 following a confirmed or presumed positive result, participation in sports or any extracurricular activities may be limited by the school nurse or district physician. Participants must remain fully masked during this time, which may limit participation by nature of the activity. The nature of the activity may also be a factor in determining if a student can participate on days 6-10.
Additionally, the school nurse, or district physician, may require additional testing requirements following periods of exclusion.
Travelers: Unvaccinated travelers should follow the recommendations of the CDC and self quarantine for 5 days. However, we are no longer automatically excluding any travelers.
Quarantine instruction is available only for those under COVID quarantine (see our district-developed Quarantine Instruction Plan for details)
4. Contact Tracing - a close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of a positive individual for 15minutes over a 24 hour period; EXCEPTION – in school settings, the definition excludes students (not adults) within 3-6 feet as long as both student and infected student were fully masked. One can avoid quarantine by producing proof of vaccination. Lack of proof is equivalent to unvaccinated. Close contacts are identified when exposed to a positive individual during days 1 to 5 of their quarantine or up to 48 hours before the test.
5. Testing - We continue to partner with Boyt for testing for both symptomatic and asymptomatic staff and students and the families of staff and students.
COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Local Health Departments for K-12 Schools: https://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/documents/topics/NCOV/RecommendationsForLocalHealthDepts_K12Schools.pdf
NJDOE and NJDOH, The Road Forward: https://www.nj.gov/education/roadforward/docs/HealthAndSafetyGuidanceSY2122.pdf