Q&A: Health and Safety
Health screening and response to illness
Q: What health screening will happen at home?
A: Prior to arriving at school, NCS expects that parents and/or guardians conduct a quick, daily health screening of their child at home, taking an oral temperature (non-contact thermometers are often inaccurate) and assessing for other COVID-19 symptoms. Parents would then report this information through the Magnus Mobile app. The app will notify the parent whether the student should come to school or stay home.
Those advised by the app to keep a child at home need to email NCSAbsences and contact your healthcare provider for further guidance.
Faculty and staff must undertake a similar daily assessment.
Q: What health screening will happen at school?
A: Once at school, a student who shows COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cough, fever, or runny nose, would be sent to the school nurse to be assessed in an isolated health environment. If the nurse confirms the possibility of COVID-19 symptoms, parents and/or guardians would be asked to pick up the child as soon as possible and take her home. As the student waits to be picked up, she would remain in one of two designated areas with independent air-distribution systems: the Lower School Assembly Room and the Dance Studio in the Carriage House, adjacent to the Athletic Center.
The student must be seen by a healthcare provider before returning to school. If the student tests negative for COVID-19 and/or the provider has an alternative explanation for the symptoms, she may be able to return to school with medical clearance.
Q: Will NCS require students, faculty, and staff to test negative for COVID-19 before they can return to campus?
A: Testing asymptomatic individuals at one single point in time would not provide useful information, given that exposures can occur on a rolling basis and can take an extended time to receive results. Emerging technologies may simplify testing in the future. Our approach relies on consistency in health screening, universal masking, personal hygiene, facilities cleaning, and physical distancing to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Q: What happens if my child tests positive for COVID-19?
A student who tests positive for COVID-19 must stay home and isolate. She may return to campus after 10 calendar days if 1) She is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-suppressing medications, and 2) respiratory symptoms have resolved. She will not need a subsequent negative test to return to school.
Q: What if my child has seasonal allergies or frequent headaches?
A: Our in-school screening does not differentiate between symptoms of allergies and COVID-19, and NCS will err on the side of protecting health and safety. Consider consulting with your child’s healthcare provider about optimizing management of these ongoing conditions to minimize the risk that symptoms may be confused with COVID-19. Anything you and your daughter’s physician can do to “tune up” her allergies before coming to campus will eliminate disruption and stress.
Q: What should our family do if our child or family member has had a COVID-19 exposure?
A: Anyone who has been in close contact with a person with COVID-19 should not enter NCS until after being evaluated by a healthcare provider or after completing a 14-day quarantine period without becoming symptomatic or diagnosed with COVID-19. If the person is an NCS student, the school nurse should be notified of this quarantine.
As far as family members, the best course is to check with your healthcare provider for assistance in evaluating the level of exposure and next steps.
Q: What if the exposed family member does become symptomatic (in other words, gets sick)?
A: The sick individual needs to isolate for 10 days, starting at day 1 of symptoms, and the rest of the family needs to quarantine for 14 days, with the NCS student resuming remote learning. This is because it can take up to 14 days after exposure for contacts to develop symptoms.
Q: If we can’t feasibly isolate my family member with COVID-19 (i.e., I am caring for her while sick), does the quarantine recommendation change?
A: All family members in this situation should wear masks indoors and wash hands often. The family’s 14-day quarantine would start at the last day of the ill individual’s 10-day isolation period.
Q: Will we be notified when someone at NCS tests positive for COVID-19?
A: Yes, NCS would notify parents, faculty, and staff by email. The school would also reach out directly to families and employees who were in close contact with the confirmed positive case. For reasons of privacy, NCS will not share the names of individuals who tests positive for COVID-19.
Q: Will the D.C. Department of Health also contact me if my child tests positive for COVID-19?
A: The health department in the city or county where you live may contact you. In addition, you will be contacted by NCS staff members who will assist the D.C. Department of Health by conducting contact-tracing interviews.
All positive COVID-19 tests must be reported to the health department by laboratories or ordering providers, and by a student’s school. The goal with this outreach is to break the chain of transmission, and NCS urges anyone contacted by a health department to assist their investigators.
Q: What protocols does NCS follow with cleaning and disinfection?
A: NCS’s longstanding daily practice has been to wipe down high-touch surfaces throughout the school, including chairs, desktops, dining tables, switches, knobs, and handles. In March, we began using electrostatic sprayers with a chlorinated-water disinfectant solution in each room and common areas and in bus interiors after each trip. All upholstery and carpets in our buildings are steam-cleaned monthly.
Once we return to campus, we will undertake more frequent cleaning and disinfection around the school during the day, as well as a nightly deep cleaning. On Wednesdays, when no students will be on campus, enhanced cleaning and disinfection will be performed.
Q: What role will students play in cleaning classrooms?
A: When students enter a classroom, each should use hand sanitizer and grab a single disinfecting wipe for her desk surface. At the end of class, the teacher will distribute additional wipes so that students may clean their desk and chair before departing. Finally, each student should use hand sanitizer while exiting the classroom.
Q: What sort of filtration improvements have been made to the school?
A: NCS is upgrading HVAC filters to MERV 13, the most efficient that fit our systems. Portable HEPA filter systems, which also increase ventilation and filtration in classrooms, have been added in Hearst and Whitby halls. More information is on this page.
Q: How will classrooms be different this year?
A: The introduction of social distancing requirements means that each classroom contains fewer desks than before, spaced at least 6 feet apart. Desks all face in one direction, toward the teacher and the whiteboard, and they may not be rotated or otherwise moved.
Q: I understand that hallways and classrooms have been reconfigured. How about restrooms and locker rooms?
A: We are closing off stalls and turning off sinks in restrooms so that only one may be in use at a time. There will be limited access to locker rooms for clothes changes only.
Q: How would cleaning protocols change after a positive COVID-19 test result by a school member?
A: Surface cleaning and disinfection would target areas where that person was in the 48 hours before developing symptoms. Any indoor room where the person ate or drank (i.e., was without a mask) would receive special attention to surface cleaning and disinfection. The HVAC filters in these areas would need to be replaced as part of the clean-up. Classes may meet in different rooms for a brief period as well.
Q: Will I be able to meet with people inside the school buildings to discuss my child?
A: Non-essential visitors to NCS are not allowed inside, including parents and most contractors. For the moment, parents should not expect that a forgotten item may be timely delivered to their child.
Q: How often will NCS clean lockers and/or cubbies?
A: We are closing off lockers, the Middle School hook room, and Lower School cubbies. Students will need to keep their possessions in backpacks, carrying them to and from school daily.
Q: Will NCS require the use of face masks when on campus?
A: Yes, everyone at school will be required to wear a mask throughout the day, except when eating or drinking. The mask should cover the nose and mouth at all times, whether a person is inside or outside.
NCS will provide each student, teacher, and staff member with two three-ply masks made of cloth materials that follow WHO recommendations for preventing the transmission of COVID-19. Families may also provide students with other masks that meet these standards. Masks should be laundered after one day of use, or if visibly soiled.
Q: Why is NCS not recommending N-95 masks for students, faculty, and staff?
A: Medical experts have advised that N-95 masks are not necessary for routine interactions and need to be reserved for front-line medical workers. A cloth three-ply mask is sufficient for personal protection.
Q: What should my child do with her mask while she is eating, drinking, etc.?
A: Any mask removal should be for as short a time as possible. First, the student should sanitize or wash her hands before removing the mask. We recommend that the mask be removed by touching only the elastic straps around the ears or head. After it has been taken off, the mask should be kept in a plastic bag. Before putting the mask back on, the student should sanitize and wash hands.
Q: Is there any advantage to handwashing vs. using hand sanitizer?
A: Medical experts, including the CDC, say that both methods are equally effective.
Q: Where can students, faculty, and staff access hand sanitizer in the buildings?
A: NCS has added several dispensing machines and positioned them at the entrance to each classroom and throughout our campus.
Q: What is the school’s protocol on travel? If a member of my family travels in the days before classes resume on campus, will my student be asked to do anything differently?
A: Students and faculty/staff who travel out of town before the start of blended learning will be asked to continue with remote learning until 14 days after returning home from any of DC Health’s list of high-risk states. Similarly, a student, teacher, or staff member who travels to a high-risk state while classes are taking place on campus will be asked to engage in remote learning for two weeks upon returning home.
Students whose parents travel out of town do not need to quarantine unless that parent develops symptoms.
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