Wake County Schools

Wake schools leaders release initial guidelines for masks, buses and screening protocol

Posted June 23, 2020 7:41 p.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2020 11:46 a.m. EDT

— In a virtual meeting Wednesday of the Wake County Board of Education, nurse Kelly Creech outlined recommendations schools should take in August to protect students and staff members during the pandemic.

The guidelines are based on recommendations from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Creech noted that the following WCPSS guidelines do not override those issued by the federal, state or local level.

Masks

Masks will be strongly recommended for staff and students. Masks will be required for visitors and for any staff member assisting a symptomatic child.

Exceptions are allowed for students and staff who cannot wear a mask for behavioral, religious, mental or physical reasons.

Face coverings will be provided at schools and on school buses for students and staff who don't have one. If a person is issued a reusable mask, it will be their responsibility to wash it and bring it back to school.

Screening

All students, staff and visitors should take their temperatures before coming to school. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher must stay home.

Screening will also be performed on-site at schools each day. A staff member, wearing a mask and gloves, will take temperatures, washing or sanitizing their hands frequently. People waiting to have their temperature taken will stand 6 feet apart.

Any staff member with a fever of 100.4 or higher will be sent home. Students with fevers will be escorted to a waiting area, where a staff member will stay with them until parents or guardians can pick them up.

The school will notify Wake County Public Health of any staff or students who do not pass the screening, and they will notify the NCDHHS.

On the school bus

Parents and older students will be asked to fill out a daily questionnaire, called a "attestation checklist," and bring it with them to the bus stop. If a student does not have the form, the bus driver will take the time to ask them those questions. Temperatures will not be taken on the bus.

If a bus rider does not pass the screening, he or she will not be allowed on the bus. The bus driver will not leave the student alone, but will park in a safe spot where they can keep the student in their field of vision until parents can pick them up.

The student's parents or guardians will be called, and the transportation supervisor will be notified of the bus delay.

Water fountains

Individuals should not drink from water fountains. If a student is thirsty and does not have a water bottle, they can ask a staff member for a cup and use it to get water from the fountain.

Hand washing and sanitizing

There will be regular opportunities for students to wash or sanitize their hands. Sanitizer stations will be placed at building entrances and exits, in classrooms and outside the cafeteria.

Social distancing

Social distancing markings will be on floors and walls in hallways, stairways, offices, bathrooms and outside the building.

Staff will monitor hallways and bathrooms to enforce social distancing.

Classroom furniture will be spaced apart, and students can only gather in groups if there is room for social distancing

There will be limited use of classroom materials, and materials will be sanitized between each use. Soft materials, like stuffed toys or clay, should not be used.

P.E.

Students do not need to change clothes for gym and will be allowed to participate as long as they are in safe clothing and shoes.

If someone is exposed to COVID-19

Any student or staff member exposed to someone with COVID-19, even if they have no symptoms and/or test negative, must stay out of school for 14 days.

If someone is diagnosed with COVID-19

Any student or staff member diagnosed with COVID-19 must remain out of school until at least 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive test.

If someone develops symptoms, they must stay out of school until it is safe to return, based on:

-Has it been at least 10 days since the first symptoms were reported?
-Have they had at least three days without a fever (without medication)?
-Have they had at least three days without COVID-19 symptoms such as coughing and trouble breathing?

People who test negative may return to school once they feel well for 24 hours and have no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.

Many more discussions to come

More specific guidelines will be made soon for other departments such as athletics, special education, transportation, budgeting, counseling, facilities and maintenance and more.

The Wake County Public School System is gathering input from parents, teachers, school administrators and others to figure out how best to approach a return to school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Traditional-calendar schools are set to reopen on Aug. 17.

Gov. Roy Cooper is set to give some guidance next week on reopening schools statewide. He recently said districts need to prepare three plans that incorporate various levels of classroom and remote instruction.

Wake County school leaders are now trying to figure out how everything from safety and sanitation to online versus in-class learning will work.

Having a mix of online and in-class learning – students would rotate between an actual classroom and virtual setting for a set number of days – is a popular idea, according to Keith Sutton, chairman of the Wake County school board.

"It could be one week on, one week off or four weeks on, four weeks off," he said.

Some big details need to be hammered out, including how working parents will navigate having their students at home.

“We are exploring partnerships across the community, in terms of childcare and making childcare available,” Sutton said. "We’ve not yet had any conversations about the district covering the cost of that, but we are certainly looking at creating partnerships with organizations such as the YMCA, the city, track-out camps, things like that."

As for in-class learning, he said schools across the district are large enough to facilitate social distancing, and students and staff will take other precautions.

“Students are going to be wearing masks. Employees are going to be wearing masks," he said.

Maintenance staff is also updating their protocols.

At a work session Tuesday, district operations officials spoke at length about how they would handle a coronavirus outbreak at a school, noting crews have already gone through drills to prepare.

During the latest practice run, 18 maintenance workers wearing protective gear went in two-person teams into a middle schools, where they sanitized the rooms by spraying everything with an EPA-approved sanitizer. After a thorough cleaning, a team places a sticker outside the door of the room or an entryway.

The middle school took five hours to clean, and everyone must stay out of a school for 48 hours after cleaning before it is safe to re-enter, officials said.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.