Health & Safety FAQ

  • Updated 8/28/2020

    Health & Safety FAQ


    1.  How are we going to ensure that we start school safely on September 8th? 

    The health and safety of our students and staff is our number one concern and we will do everything we can to mitigate the risk of getting COVID-19. We are recommending that our school families and teachers stay local and do not travel anywhere out-of-state the two weeks before school opens. It is important that we remain vigilant and continue to wear face masks and maintain social distancing even when out and about locally so that we can reopen schools as planned. According to health officials, it is clear that masks *plus* social distancing are the most effective preventative measures. 


    2.  How many infections in-District will be “required” to close the school/district?

    There is no requirement or specific guidance on this. This is a District decision and will be made in conjunction with the Westchester County Department of Health and our school medical director. Parents should be prepared for periodic closures from anywhere from 24-72 hours for cleaning as necessary. 

    3.  What have you done to evaluate ventilation in each of the learning areas?  ie. Hepa filters, airflow studies, windows being open, air purifiers, etc.

    NYSED Department’s guidance for re-opening schools requires the District to “maintain adequate, code required ventilation (natural or mechanical) as designed.”  We are meeting this requirement.  We have replaced our HVAC filters with increased MERV filtration up to the capacity of what our HVAC systems are capable of.  Additionally, NYSED guidelines recommend “increasing ventilation with outside air where possible.”  We are doing this in areas and classrooms where we can.  HEPA filtered air purifiers will be installed in areas with no windows and no access to outside ventilation.

    4.  What is the District doing to support students emotionally during this time?

    Along with physical health and well-being, our schools and District feel strongly that social emotional well-being is a priority. All District staff will complete SEL training before the beginning of the school year. Teachers and staff will be participating in a highly recommended mental health support program called Psychological First Aid (PFA). PFA provides intervention strategies and is an evidence-informed modular approach to help children, adolescents, adults, and families in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event or disaster. PFA is designed to reduce the initial distress caused by traumatic events and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping in order to prevent the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychological First Aid is NOT Mental Health First Aid. Each two-hour training will be tailored to each specific developmental level and will allow for built in Q&A in order to target specific staff concerns related to the reintegration of students during/post the covid-19 pandemic.


    5.  Will the District be testing staff and students regularly for COVID-19? 

    The District is not engaged with testing of staff or students. Staff or students who are symptomatic will be immediately isolated and sent to an outside provider for testing. 

    The District will rely on self-identification of high-risk persons utilizing the following procedure:

    • Communication of high risk attributes to school community
    • Providing a link to the District COVID-19 Screening Application for self-reporting before entering the buildings


    6.  Are face coverings/masks required in school and what kind are acceptable?

    • Face coverings/masks are required by all students and staff at arrival and dismissal and throughout the time that they are in the buildings. That includes during hallway transitions and other building movements, on school buses, in restrooms and certainly in classrooms, the Commons, gymnasium and auditorium.
    • Face coverings can be removed inside the buildings only when eating or drinking and at those times individuals must maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing.
    • The District will supply all students with 2 cloth face masks at the beginning of the school year.
    • This District will supply all teachers and staff with 2 cloth face masks as well as 1 face shield at the beginning of the school year. The Dobbs Ferry PTSA is planning to donate 1 clear face mask to all teachers. Surgical masks will be available throughout all buildings for students or staff who have forgotten, misplaced, or soiled their face coverings.
    • Face mask breaks can be taken only outside of the school building, but 6-foot social distancing still needs to be maintained on school property at all times.
    • Acceptable face coverings for COVID-19 include but are not limited to cloth-based face coverings (e.g., homemade sewn, quick cut, bandana) and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose. Masks with one-way exhalation valves or vents are not considered adequate for source control of COVID-19 and are strongly discouraged. Face shields worn without other face coverings are not considered adequate protection or source control against COVID-19 and should not be used.
    • Cloth-based face coverings or disposable masks shall not be considered acceptable face coverings for workplace activities that require a higher degree of protection due to the nature of the work. For those types of activities, N-95 respirators or other PPE used under existing industry standards should continue to be used, in accordance with OSHA guidelines.
    • The District will obtain and maintain adequate supplies of cloth face coverings for school staff and students who forget their masks, and adequate supplies of PPE for use by school health professionals.
    • Face coverings must be cleaned or replaced after use or when damaged or soiled, may not be shared, and should be properly stored or discarded.
    • Students who do not adhere to the requirement to wear a face covering may be assigned to a remote only learning option if non-compliance is continued.
    • Students who have an IEP or 504 Plan that indicates that they are unable to medically tolerate a face covering, including students where such covering would impair their physical health or mental health, will not be subject to the required use of a face covering. Those students must provide a physician’s note, which will be reviewed by the District Medical Director.


    7.  While the majority of people are social distancing, appropriately wearing masks, etc within the community, there is a sense among teens that this is NOT happening with their peers (e.g. riding in cars with others, hanging out in people's homes, or not social distancing). Is there a way for the school to support and encourage communication so that students and families recognize what is recommended actually is the social norm?  

    This is definitely a concern which is why the High School’s Hybrid Model is clearly the safest solution. Engaging all students in public health awareness will be critical for both in-person school and outside of school interactions. There is no question that teens are the least likely to engage with the wearing of masks regularly and social distancing protocols when they are with their friends. Teachers will continually remind students of the importance of complying with these safety protocols.


    8.  Why were no community medical doctors included on the transition planning committees? We have a large population of very skilled doctors (and therapists) and I only saw the one contracted pediatrician included?

    The health and safety guidelines the District must follow comes from our NY State and Westchester County Health Departments. In addition, the District’s pediatrician/medical director is on the Task Force and  is up-to-date on the  COVID-19 data and recommendations. Pediatricians from Pediatrics-on-Hudson have been consulting with us regularly since schools closed in March to make sure we are mitigating the risk of infection among students and staff as much as possible as well as advising us on the safest ways to move forward.


    9.  Has the District thought about having students and parents sign an acknowledgement agreement for the mask-wearing rule, similar to a student code of conduct?  

    We currently have not considered this but we have added language to the Code of Conduct to address this issue. This is something that we can discuss.


    10.  Has DFSD considered implementing a "paper" or saliva-based rapid test that could be administered by nursing staff? If no, why not? 

    While a promising technology, this is not currently a widely available testing strategy; it is currently recommended that schools themselves NOT perform testing, but rather provide resources for testing; rapid point of care technology that is molecular (NOT antigen based) is in the very near horizon and will likely become available in the community as schools reopen; while current PCR testing (a type of molecular testing, is more accurate than Antigen testing) is associated with delayed turnaround time.


    11.  If my child wakes up with a runny nose/ cough and no fever, what do we do? Can she go to school?

    Absolutely NOT. Parents will be required to submit a daily attestation that their child is not exhibiting any of these kinds of symptoms.


    12.  Will deep cleaning occur nightly or in between cohorts/classes?

    All classrooms and areas will be cleaned and sanitized between cohorts. 


    13.  What is the communication plan for if/when a child or teacher in the class is exposed to covid? Do cohorts/classes go remote at that point, or just individuals? 

    Areas used by a sick person will be closed off and not used again before cleaning and disinfection. Parents will be notified as quickly after receiving the appropriate guidance from the County Department of Health. Classes would go remote because the class would more than likely be quarantined.  


    • Does this include the classroom or area that the sick person was in? 
      • Yes 


    • What happens to students in a class that a sick child/teacher was in? Will those students be sent home? 
      • This is still being determined by health officials. Students may be moved while the sick student's case is investigated -  ie this student is NOT COVID pos (yet) so could have a number of other illnesses and test COVID neg and return to school, so presumably class is up and running. They will be relocated for the remainder of the day while cleaning takes place. This very issue is actively being discussed with DOH now 


    • Is this for any sickness or only Covid symptoms though there are so many. 
      • Only COVID symptoms 


    • Is there another designated area to use if there is another sick person right after or will cleaning and disinfecting be done immediately?
      • Yes 


    • If a sick person has Covid symptoms, will the District notify families directly of possible exposure? 
      • The District will only notify for COVID positive cases in accordance with the Westchester County Department of Health. 


    14.  How will the District screen students and staff each day before coming to school? 

    • Prior to entering any school buildings, all employees, parents, students and visitors will be required to complete a mandatory health screening assessment at home, including a temperature check, prior to departing for school. This will be completed using a web based application that can be done on a computer or smartphone at  A Spanish language version of this mandatory health screening assessment will also be provided. 
      Employees and parents will be required to certify “No” to all of the following in order to be permitted access to school buildings:
      • If they have had any of the following COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days or at a level of severity or frequency that is more than typical for the individual: 
        • Fever or chills (greater than 100°F)
        • Cough
        • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
        • Fatigue
        • Muscle or body aches
        • Headache
        • New loss of taste or smell
        • Sore throat
        • Congestion or runny nose
        • Nausea or vomiting
        • Diarrhea
      • If they have had a positive COVID-19 test in the past 14 days
      • If they had close contact (defined as being within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more) with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case in the past 14 days.
      • If they have traveled internationally or from a state with widespread community transmission of COVID-19 per the New York State Travel Advisory in the past 14 days
    • Kiosk temperature scanners will be installed at entrances for building visitors.
    • Hand-held temperature scanners will be available in multiple places in each building.
    • Random temperature checks will take place daily as students and staff enter the buildings.


    The District will take steps to ensure that any process has multiple avenues of completion and is not used as a basis to exclude students from school. Students who may require screening to be completed at school will be treated in a confidential manner and will have the screening completed as quickly as possible to minimize time away from class. For example, kiosks that check temperatures will be placed at school entrances.

    If an individual presents with a temperature of greater than 100.0°F, the individual must be denied entry into the facility, or sent directly to a dedicated area prior to being picked up or otherwise sent home.


    15.  What happens if a student or staff member tests positive for coronavirus? 

    In the event a student or District employee tests positive for COVID-19 or is exposed to a person who tests positive for COVID-19, the parent, student or District employee should immediately notify the District by contacting:

    • The nurse’s office at the school that the student attends or the employee works in
      • Springhurst nurse’s office: 914-693-1503 ext.1467
      • Middle School nurse’s office: 914-693-1500 ext. 3046
      • High School nurse’s office: 914-693-1500 ext.3046
    • For District personnel not assigned to a school building, the employee should contact Human Resources at 914-693-1500 x3029

    If a student or District employee tests positive for COVID-19, the District will immediately notify the New York State and Westchester County Health Departments and cooperate with contact tracing efforts, including notification of potential contacts, such as workers or visitors who had close contact with the individual, while maintaining confidentiality required by state and federal law and regulations.


    16.  It seems that the District is still waiting for guidance regarding testing and contact tracing, two of the most important issues that concern the safety of our kids at school and staff. How will the DFSD handle both of these issues?

    All contact tracing is done by the Westchester Department of Health, but schools cooperate and provide information that will be helpful. The District has a COVID Coordinator who will be the responsible party in the District for contact tracing.


    17.  What are the next steps after a person self-reports? 

    In the event that the school is notified that an employee or student has been exposed to COVID-19 and is quarantined, or if a family member has been diagnosed with or presumed to have COVID-19 and/or is being isolated, what procedures will be followed?

    • Personnel and students with known exposure to someone with diagnosed or presumed COVID-19 will be instructed to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.
    • If a student is excluded from school due to COVID-19 symptoms or has had a positive COVID-19 test, his or her siblings or other students living in the same household will be questioned, and if they exhibit symptoms, they will also be required to stay home. If they do not exhibit symptoms, they may still be excluded from school and asked to self-quarantine.
    • The custodial staff will be informed so that all desks, lockers, and workspaces of the person are thoroughly disinfected. If the school is not open when notification occurs, the custodial staff will wait 24 hours or as long as possible prior to disinfecting and instead will block off the area so that others do not have contact. However, if that is not possible or school is in session, the cleaning will occur immediately.


    18.  In the event a person becomes ill with COVID-like symptoms while at school, what procedures will be followed?

    • Staff will be provided training on how to identify signs of illness in students and staff and the procedure to send symptomatic persons to the school nurse or other designated personnel in each building.
    • The person will be moved to a predetermined isolation room or area to separate anyone who exhibits COVID-like symptoms.
    • The person will be assessed by a registered nurse at the school.
    • The school nurse will complete documentation alerting parents/guardians to the symptoms that were observed in their child at school.
    • Transportation arrangements will be made to transport the sick person home or to a healthcare facility.
    • Areas used by a sick person will be closed off and not used again before cleaning and disinfection.
    • When possible, custodial staff will wait 24 hours (or as long as possible) before cleaning and disinfecting the area in accordance with procedures contained in the reopening plan. If it is not possible to wait 24 hours, wait as long as possible.
    • Persons who had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 will be advised to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms and to follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop. If a person does not have symptoms, they will be instructed to follow appropriate CDC guidance for home isolation.
    • Sick staff members and children will be advised not to return until they have met CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation.
    • The District will consult with the Westchester County Health Department regarding the current Local Hospital Capacity when making decisions on school closures.


    19.  When and under what conditions may persons return to school following illness, diagnosis of a confirmed COVID-19 case, or following quarantine? 

    • Symptomatic and untested: Persons who have not received a test proving or disproving the presence of COVID-19 but experience symptoms, may return to school if all the following conditions are met: 
      1. At least ten (10) calendar days have passed since symptoms first appeared; and
      2. Fever-free for at least 72 hours (without the aid of fever-reducing medicine); and 
      3. Other symptoms have improved (for example, cough or shortness of breath have improved); and
      4. Documentation of evaluation by a health care provider clearing individual for return to school

    • Symptomatic and untested but received alternate diagnosis from Healthcare Provider: If a Healthcare Provider (HCP) provides a diagnosis of a known chronic condition with unchanged symptoms, or a confirmed acute illness (e.g., laboratory-confirmed influenza or strep-throat), then persons who experience symptoms may return to school if all the following conditions are met:
      1. A note signed by the HCP explaining the alternate diagnosis is provided before returning   to school; and
      2. A note signed by the HCP explaining that COVID-19 is not suspected is provided before returning to school; and
      3. The return to school is according to the usual guidelines for the alternate diagnosis.
      4. NOTE: a signed HCP note documenting unconfirmed acute illnesses, such as viral upper respiratory illness (URI) or viral gastroenteritis, will not suffice.

    • Symptomatic and test positive: Persons who experience symptoms and who test positive for COVID-19 may return to school if all the following conditions are met: 
      1. At least ten (10) calendar days have passed since symptoms first appeared; and 
      2. Fever-free for at least 72 hours (without the aid of fever-reducing medicine); and 
      3. Other symptoms have improved (for example, cough or shortness of breath have improved); and
      4. Documentation of evaluation by a health care provider clearing individual for return to school, as well as release from isolation per DOH guidance

    • Symptomatic and test negative:  Persons who experience symptoms but test negative for COVID- 19 may return to school when all the following conditions are met:
      1. Documentation of a negative COVID test; and 
      2. Fever-free for at least 24 hours (without the aid of fever-reducing medicine); and 
      3. Other symptoms have improved (for example, cough or shortness of breath have improved); and 
      4. Documentation of evaluation by a health care provider clearing individual for return to school

    • Asymptomatic and test positive:  Persons who experience NO symptoms but test positive for COVID-19 may return to school when all the following conditions are met: 
      1. At least ten (10) calendar days have passed since the date of the positive test;  or
      2. If symptoms develop, at least (10) days have passed since the symptoms first appeared, fever-free for at least 72 hours (without the aid of fever reducing medicine), and symptoms have improved; and
      3. Documentation of evaluation by a health care provider clearing individual for return to school, as well as release from isolation per DOH guidance.

    • Asymptomatic and close contact to a person with Covid-19: Close contact is defined by the Westchester County Department of Health (DOH) as being within 6 feet of a person displaying symptoms of or testing positive for COVID-19 for 10 minutes or longer. Persons who experience NO symptoms but have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 requiring quarantine (as defined by the DOH) may return to school upon completion of a fourteen (14) day quarantine as outlined by the CDC.
      1. If a potential exposure is at school, the DOH will determine what exposure necessitates quarantine.
      2. Any exposure outside of school should be communicated to the school via the daily screening tool.

    The New York State Department of Health has provided a Screening Flow Chart to explain the process and timelines for symptomatic students and staff to return to school.


    A note on COVID testing:

    1. Students who have been home for 10 days (either because they tested positive for COVID or they had COVID-like symptoms but were not tested) DO NOT need a negative COVID test to return to school as long as they meet all other criteria.
    2. Students who test positive for COVID must stay home for at least 10 days.  Even if they have a subsequent negative test before the 10 day period, they are not allowed to return to school.


    20.  What healthy hygiene practices will be implemented at the school buildings?

    • Signage will be installed near hand sanitizer stations indicating that “visibly soiled hands should be washed with soap and water” as hand sanitizer is not effective on visibly soiled hands.
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60% or more alcohol will be provided for areas where handwashing is not readily available/practical, including throughout common areas of all school buildings.
    • Elementary students will be brought to hand washing locations regularly.
    • Posters reminding all of the importance of handwashing steps will be installed.
    • Posters describing handwashing steps will be installed near sinks.
    • Additional receptacles will be placed around all District buildings for the disposal of soiled items including PPE.
    • The District will remind individuals that alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be flammable and may not be suitable for certain areas in school facilities and on school grounds.
    • Additional handwashing stations will be placed in larger areas now used as extended learning space such as cafeterias, libraries, gyms and other necessary areas.


    21.  How frequently and thoroughly will the District clean the classrooms, hallways and common areas? 

    The District will adhere to hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York and Westchester County Departments of Health (DOH). 

    • All classrooms and areas will be cleaned and sanitized between cohorts.
    • Classroom and office spaces will be provided with appropriate cleaning/disinfection supplies for self-cleaning of shared and frequently touched surfaces.
    • The custodial staff of each building will perform frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout the school day, including:
      • Door handles
      • Rails
      • Counters
      • Tabletops
      • Bathroom fixtures
      • Trash can lids
      • Shared phones
    • Registered disinfectants identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as effective against COVID-19 will be utilized.
    • Daily cleaning log checklists will be completed for each area of the building and maintained by the head custodian.
    • Logs will contain the following at a minimum:
      • Date of cleaning
      • Time of cleaning
      • Scope of cleaning (checkboxes) 
    • Staff will be required to use applicable personal protective equipment to perform cleaning and disinfecting.
    • Once a week we will apply Clorox Total 360 (or equivalent) to most surfaces in our buildings.  
    • If buildings are closed for seven days or more, normal routine cleaning will be performed. This is because the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than this time.
    • Cleaning (removing visible dirt or surface soil) and disinfecting (sanitizing) training will be provided to all employees


    22.  Can hand sanitizer be available on school buses?

    Based on joint guidance issued on August 20, 2020, by the New York Department of Transportation, State Education Department and the Department of Health, school buses are now permitted to install securely mounted hand sanitizer dispensers in the area near the driver and students and staff are now permitted to carry personal size (no larger than 8 ounces) bottles of hand sanitizer. All school buses used by the District will be equipped with such hand sanitizer dispensers. In addition, parents/guardians should encourage their children to use hand sanitizer immediately before they board the school bus.

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