COVID-19 & GCS

Keeping GCS Healthy and Safe

September 4, 2022

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 current state and licensing requirements and recommendations regarding COVID-19, and works closely with the local Board of Health, the MA Department of Public Health, and our licensing agency the MA Department of Early Education and Care, to provide a healthy and safe environment at our school.  We take protecting our children, families, and staff very seriously.  We provide information on our school website’s “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 our school’s COVID-19 health and safety measures.

 

DAILY HEALTH MONITORING

Parents/ guardians are required to monitor their child’s health and any 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 (100.0° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Muscle aches or body aches
  • Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)
  • Sore throat when in combination with other symptoms
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea when in combination with other symptoms
  • Headache when in combination with other symptoms
  • Fatigue when in combination with other symptoms
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in
    combination with other symptoms

Individuals with symptoms of concern should notify the school and get tested for COVID-19.  GCS requires a negative test result (rapid antigen or PCR) or a doctor’s note to return due to the symptoms listed above.  Please see information below regarding Testing.  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.

If tested negative, the staff member/child can stay or return to school if conditions are met in our  Children’s Illness Policy for non-COVID-19 related illnesses.  

EXPOSURE AND ISOLATION

Our GCS Exposure and Isolation Policy is informed by the MA Department of Public health (MDPH) and our Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) licensing agency.  Updates are made on an ongoing basis.  Please refer to our GCS Exposure and Isolation Policy for details.

Close Contact is defined as someone who was less than 6 feet away from an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three separate 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). An infected person can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 starting 2 days before they have any symptoms (or, for people without symptoms, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date).

Helpful information from the state and CDC is also available with regard to Understanding Risk Exposure as well.

Please note that GCS requires a conversation with an administrator regarding return to school for positive individuals or close contacts.

 

TESTING

Proof of a negative rapid antigen home test is permissible in the case of symptoms, after close contact (if properly timed), or after having COVID-19.

Please note, a positive result for a rapid antigen home test is considered COVID-19 positive.  Please inform your doctor and GCS ASAP.

To submit proof of home testing, please describe the reason for testing in your email and  include the individual’s name and date of test with a photo of the negative result.  All test results should be emailed to testresult@grotoncommunityschool.org

OPTIONS

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.

 

MASKS

At this time, masking is not required for children or adults under normal circumstances, regardless of vaccination status.  Please know that we may need to make an adjustment to reinstate the mask protocol if things change with regard to the prevalence of the virus. 

Masking is still required under certain circumstances for a brief period of time (i.e., for 10 days after close contact and when returning after isolation due to COVID-19).

We want to reassure families that we encourage all individuals to make their own decision for themselves and their child(ren).  Anyone who wishes to wear a mask – child or adult – will be supported in that decision.

*An individual is up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccination if they have received all recommended doses in their primary series COVID-19 vaccine, and a booster dose when recommended.

 

COVID-19 VACCINATION

Our EEC licensing agency and the MA Department of Public Health strongly recommend that all educators and children receive the COVID-19 vaccine primary series and all boosters, as they become eligible for them.   All GCS staff are strongly encouraged to be up-to-date* for COVID-19 vaccination, and we gladly welcome vaccination for children.   The VaxFinder site can help you find vaccination clinics.

COVID-19 vaccination status for staff and children is maintained with other immunization records in staff and children’s files.

*An individual is up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccination if they have received all recommended doses in their primary series COVID-19 vaccine, and a booster dose when recommended.

 

HAND HYGIENE

Touchless hand sanitizer dispensers and manual pumps are available throughout the building, in addition to adult and child sinks in every classroom.  Everyone is asked to please sanitize their hands when entering the building, and/or wash hands in the classroom at arrival time.  We have procedures in place throughout the day for handwashing, as well.

 

DISTANCING

We have preferred using the phrase “physical distancing,” instead of “social distancing,” as we have still been very social together!  Children and staff interacted with one another, engaged in great conversations, and shared in activities together.  Teaching strategies, gentle guidance and structuring the environment accomplished physical distancing.  At this time, the need for physical distancing has been lifted.

 

VISITORS

During the pandemic, GCS Teachers and Staff warmly greeted children in the lobby, and escorted them to their classrooms.  With a downward trend in close contacts and cases early spring 2022, GCS took the next step toward gradually opening up the school to GCS families.  There are currently no limitations for family members.

While we continue to use caution regarding non-essential visitors throughout the building, we are now welcoming limited visitors to our programs.

CLASSROOM GROUPS

Previously, children remained with their classroom group (cohort) throughout the pandemic, and did not intermingle with other groups.  However, classroom groups could gather together outdoors if adequate distancing was maintained between each group.

At this time, the need for cohorting has been lifted, and classroom groups are now permitted to interact with each other indoors and outdoors.

CLEANING & DISINFECTING

As a children’s center, cleaning and disinfecting is something that we naturally do, and we will continue our enhanced efforts due to COVID-19.  We clean and disinfect everything in classrooms each day.  Cleaning checklists ensure every area is done on a daily basis.

SNACKS AND MEALS

During the 2022-2023 school year, we are returning to sharing some family-style snacks, instead of children bringing their own food exclusively due to COVID-19.  Families are asked to provide a healthy snack for the class on a rotating basis.  Children in Full-Day classes bring a lunch and their afternoon snack from home.

Children are invited to bring their own water bottle, and Teachers will happily refill them.

We ask all families to avoid peanut and nut products due to the prevalence of food allergies to these items.  An Individual Health Care Plan is created in partnership with families and medical professionals for children with allergies.

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.

Groton Community School has always valued outdoor play each day. In addition to unstructured playground time (swings, climbing structures, trike track, sand area, balancing logs, pretend play, music experiences, gardening, grassy areas), nature “hunts”, “story walks” and other outdoor games and activities provide structured experiences.

TRAVEL

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.  All individuals (regardless of vaccination) are asked to test after travel and before returning to school if travel involved some risk of contracting COVID-19. Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days are exempt from travel restrictions.

CDC COVID Data Tracker

GCS specifies the following additional risk factors to consider:

HIGHER RISK SCENARIOS

  • Travel outside of Massachusetts or adjoining states
  • Travel by air/bus/train
  • Travel to vacation destinations or stays with non-family members
  • Situations involving crowded gatherings while indoors
  • Attending events with large crowds, both indoors and out

LOWER RISK SCENARIOS

  • Travel within Massachusetts or neighboring states
  • Travel by family car
  • Travel to stay with family
  • Small gatherings while indoors
  • Attending small 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.

STAY INFORMED

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.

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