COVID-19 & GCS
Reimagining What We Do
January 7, 2021
Groton Community School has implemented protocols and strategies to keep our children, families and staff healthy and safe during the coronavirus pandemic, while still offering fun and engaging educational experiences for young children. Everything we do has required a twist or a new take during COVID-19 times, but we have found that the essence of Groton Community School remains the same! All that we learned as educators while operating remotely has broadened our horizons beyond the classroom, and this knowledge continues to help us stay connected with families and our community while operating on site once again.
The following protocols are currently in place:
HEALTH & SAFETY ATTESTATION
Groton Community School works diligently to adhere to all current state and licensing requirements regarding COVID-19, and works closely with the local Board of Health and the MA Department of Public Health, to provide a healthy and safe environment at our school. While some requirements had eased since the beginning of the pandemic, rising cases have brought them back. For example, our licensing agency (the MA Department of Early Education and Care) reissued a mask mandate for adults. In some cases, our GCS requirements exceed those of the state, as we take protecting our children, families, and staff very seriously. We provide information on our school website “Family Login” page with important information families should know.
Parents/ Guardians must complete an annual attestation before their child attends the GCS school year and/or GCS Camp Programs regarding their adherence to COVID-19 health and safety measures.
DAILY HEALTH MONITORING
Parents/ guardians are required to monitor their child’s health and lack of close contact with COVID-19 on a daily basis prior to arrival at GCS. Staff will likewise monitor their own health and contacts daily, as well as monitoring the health of children throughout the day for potential COVID-19 symptoms.
No one (regardless of vaccination status) is permitted or can remain in the program with the following symptoms:
- Fever (100 degrees F and higher), chills, shaking chills
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- New loss of smell/taste
- Muscle aches or body aches
OR any of the following when in combination with other symptoms:
- Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)
- Sore throat
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Nasal congestion or runny nose, (not due to other known causes, such as allergies)
Individuals with new symptoms should stay home, notify the school, and get tested for COVID-19. GCS requires a negative test result (PCR or rapid antigen) or doctor’s note to return if absent due to the symptoms listed above. While children or adults with a sick family member can still come to school if they have no symptoms themselves at this time, we ask that you use discretion and common sense.
ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE
As you may have heard, recommendations for isolation (for positive cases) and quarantine (for close contacts) has been updated.
GCS is following the recommendation to shorten isolation for positive individuals (IF specific conditions are met) and quarantine for close contacts to a minimum of 5 days (IF asymptomatic), followed by a strict mask protocol for an additional 5 days.
Isolation and quarantine in the same household can be complicated. The local Board of Health is an excellent resource to guide you: www.nashoba.org/public-health, in addition to your doctor. Unless the positive individual is completely isolated from others in the home with a separate area and bathroom (distancing and wearing a mask for a full 10 days in the home) the quarantine timeline for unvaccinated (or not up-to-date) family members begins when the positive family member’s isolation ends (on Day 11).
Please note that GCS requires a conversation with an administrator regarding return for COVID-19 positive individuals, and a negative test on Day 5 or later after close contact (not in the same household) in order to return to school.
Any test (rapid antigen or PCR) performed by a medical professional (doctor’s office, lab, urgent care, testing site, etc.) is preferred.
Proof of a negative rapid antigen home test is permissible in the case of symptoms without close contact, and also after quarantine for asymptomatic individuals after close contact (if properly timed).
Proof of a negative rapid antigen home test is not acceptable in the case of symptoms after close contact in order to return to school.
Please note, a positive result for a rapid antigen home test is considered COVID-19 positive. Please inform your doctor and GCS ASAP.
Proof of home testing can be a photo including the child’s name, date of test, and the negative card/strip result.
All test results can be emailed to email@example.com.
Families are urged to consult with their doctor for testing guidance. Massachusetts residents have a number of options to get tested for COVID-19. For more details, visit www.mass.gov/gettested. Other options may be found by entering “COVID test near me” in Google.
The MA Department of Early Education & Care (EEC) will be offering No-Cost COVID-19 drive-through testing for the child care community at locations across Massachusetts. Click to find free testing information for enrolled children, child care providers /staff, as well as household members who have:
- COVID-19 symptoms
- Have had close contact with anyone with COVID-19, OR
- Have had possible exposure to anyone with COVID-19
Touchless hand sanitizer dispensers and pumps are available throughout the building, in addition to adult and child sinks in every classroom. We ask children and adults to please sanitize their hands when entering the building, and have procedures in place throughout the day for handwashing.
All staff are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19. GCS Staff also participate in weekly COVID-19 pooled testing.
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is maintained with other immunization records in staff and children’s files.
All children, staff, and visitors are required to wear masks upon entry into our program. Adults can remove masks while eating, drinking, and outdoors, if vaccinated. Children wear masks with regular “mask breaks” throughout the day, for eating, sleeping, and while outdoors. While we first wondered if this would work with young children, it has been a non-issue. A gentle reminder is all that is needed if a child forgets to put their mask on.
We prefer to use the phrase “physical distancing,” instead of “social distancing,” as we are still being very social together! Children and staff still interact with one another, engage in great conversations, and share in activities together. Teaching strategies, gentle guidance and structuring the environment accomplishes physical distancing. We have redesigned environments with visual cues for children, individual trays and bins, and also use plexiglass dividers at smaller tables. The minimum distance for masked individuals indoors is 3 feet, and 6 feet when not wearing a mask.
Non-essential visitors (including parents/ guardians) who are not vaccinated are limited to the maximum extent possible. Essential visitors and vaccinated/boosted individuals are permitted on a limited basis. For consistency for the children, family member access to the program is still restricted to the Front Lobby.
At this time, children will continue to remain within their classroom group (cohort), and do not intermingle with other groups. However, classroom groups can gather together outdoors if adequate distancing is maintained between each group.
CLEANING & DISINFECTING
As a children’s center, cleaning and disinfecting is something that we naturally do, however, we continue to increase our efforts due to COVID-19. We clean and disinfect everything in classrooms each day at a minimum. If a classroom has one group in the morning, and another in the afternoon, everything is cleaned and disinfected between groups of children. Cleaning checklists are performed in classrooms and school-wide to ensure every area is done on a daily basis.
SNACKS AND MEALS
Under current conditions, we do not share family-style snacks as we had in the past pre-COVID-19. Children bring their own water bottle, snacks, and lunches from home to minimize food handling. Teachers will happily refill water bottles. We ask families to avoid peanut and nut products due to the prevalence of food allergies to these items.
FRESH AIR AND SUNSHINE
Our newly renovated and expanded school has a state-of-the-art HVAC system. Each classroom is equipped with an efficient air purifier that runs 24-7 in addition.
While Groton Community School has always valued outdoor play each day, classes are encouraged to take activities outdoors even more so in COVID-19 times. In addition to unstructured playground time (playground structures, trike track, sand area, pretend play, music experiences, gardening, water play), nature “hunts”, “story walks” and other outdoor games and activities provide structured experiences.
Recommendations regarding travel are continually changing based on the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and differ domestically and internationally. Please inform us of your travel plans and refer to the mass.gov travel recommendations page (www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-travel) for important information when planning a trip for yourself or with your family, and also when planning your child’s return to school. Individuals who are fully vaccinated do not need to test or quarantine when returning from travel. For unvaccinated children, testing (3-5 days after return) and quarantine (for a full 5 days after return) is advisable depending on when/where you have traveled.
GCS specifies the following additional factors to consider:
Higher risk scenarios include:
- Travel outside of Massachusetts or adjoining states
- Travel by air/bus/train
- Travel to vacation destinations or stays with non-family members
- Situations involving medium and large gatherings while indoors
- Attending events with large crowds, both indoors and out
Lower Risk scenarios include:
- Travel within Massachusetts or neighboring states
- Travel by family car
- Travel to stay with family
- Small gatherings while indoors
- Attending outdoor events
We ask for your cooperation and care in following these guidelines, as we are all responsible collectively for the health and safety of our GCS Community.
Please stay tuned for further Groton Community School updates regarding COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Our Family Login page has relevant COVID-19 links, as well as other information pertaining to current families.
We pay close attention to communications from the Board of Health, the MA Department of Public Health, Our licensing agency (the MA Department of Early Education and Care), and the Governor’s office. We ask families (and staff) to please continue to be responsible in monitoring possible COVID-19 symptoms and close contact for their household, to be safe with their interactions within the community, and to please get vaccinated if possible.
Please contact Groton Community School if you have questions about our protocols and policies.