COVID 19 Health & Safety Measures & Protocols
SAFETY: Student and staff safety are critical.
CARE: Our most vulnerable students and staff need to be at the center of our plan.
LEARNING: Student academic learning and social, emotional, behavioral and mental health are imperative.
FLEXIBILITY: We will be nimble, flexible and emotionally balanced in our approach. We must rapidly respond to updated guidelines and feedback and have contingency plans.
EQUITY: We make decisions with equity as our guiding light.
Most students will be learning remotely. In order to keep students and staff who are physically present in our buildings as safe as possible, HPS will implement a detailed plan which includes:
- A personal responsibility Return to School Safety Pledge for Students (PDF) | En Español (PDF) to stay home when ill and follow all other precautions, required of each student, family and staff member.
- Masks required for all staff and students in grades PreK-12, unless prevented due to a medical condition or behavior concern. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff members, especially those who work with the most vulnerable students.
- Social distancing in classrooms of at least 6-feet and smaller groups of students in each classroom.
- Enhanced cleaning procedures, including cleaning high-touch surfaces multiple times a day, regular cleaning daily and deep cleaning between cohorts of students.
- Proper ventilation and classes outdoors at the discretion of teachers to promote fresh air. We have purchased 449 Carrier OptiClean HEPA air filtration machines and installed them in all 385 academic classrooms, as well as cafeterias, gymnasiums, and other district locations.
- Staff training on new safety and health procedures.
- Extremely restricted access to all buildings by non-HPS employees.
- Quick access to COVID-19 testing through local testing sites.
- Contact tracing to quickly inform students, families, and staff if possible exposure to COVID-19 has occurred.
HPS is taking prudent and practical preventative measures, in alignment with CDC and DESE guidelines, to improve air quality in our buildings and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
We have recently invested in new equipment to improve air quality in our buildings. Read our 1-27-21 press release about HEPA filters:City of Holyoke Invests in Air Quality Improvement Devices for HPS Classrooms. We have also invested in air purifying ionizers that have been installed throughout the district. These “bipolar needle ionizers” are one of the few HVAC technologies that have been tested as proven neutralizers of the COVID virus and also destroy other common forms of bacteriological microorganisms that can cause respiratory irritations. They significantly improve the air quality in our buildings, are self-cleaning, and are long-lasting compared to disinfecting UltraViolet light bulbs which have a much shorter lifespan. We have also invested in, and are distributing, more air purifiers to schools.
Furthermore, we have purchased top of the line disinfectant sprayers that dispense a mist spray electrostatically to all touchpoints and have a very short dwell time. This is the latest technology available, and we are excited to have it for use in our deep cleaning process.
- Heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) preventative maintenance is conducted as prescribed by the recognized industry standards and established preventative maintenance procedures.
- Building maintenance staff is working with service providers to ensure timely service of all equipment in our buildings.
- Ensure we are ever vigilant in checking and increasing outside air exchange rates to the specific equipment’s full potential.
- Maintain and review with regularity all preventative maintenance and inspection records to ensure and confirm that maximum HVAC efficiencies have been provided.
- Upgrade and replace air filters with greater regularity to reduce COVID-19 transmission potential.
- HPS has air conditioning in many of its buildings, most of them are window units. Where possible, we will ensure that all classroom windows are functioning properly so that windows can be opened to allow increased ventilation and fresh air into the classrooms. In areas that may be of concern, we will work to secure air purifiers to circulate clean air. In addition, cleaning and disinfecting is being done daily to ensure spaces safe for learning.
We have developed a COVID-19 response protocol for when an individual who displays symptoms similar to COVID-19 or tests positive for COVID-19. This response includes working closely with the Holyoke Board of Health and the HPS response team which will consist of the school/building Nurse, Supervisor, HR, and Custodian. See the Safety and Wellness section on page 35 of the Return to School Plan for detailed information about our COVID-19 Response Protocols.
Any child who becomes ill must report to the nurse immediately, who will contact the parents/caregivers for pickup. At each school, a specific room is maintained for students with COVID-19 symptoms that is separate from the nurse’s office or spaces where other ailments are treated per DESE’s operations and facilities guidelines (July 22).
At each school building, the school nurse is the primary point of contact for COVID-19 concerns; their contact information will be shared with all staff and families. While specific responses may vary, there are some common elements for each possible COVID-19 scenario.
- For suspected COVID-19 symptoms, the nurse will evaluate symptoms, separate the symptomatic individual from others, the custodian will clean and disinfect spaces visited by the person, the individual will be referred for COVID-19 testing and advised to stay at home while awaiting results.
If the test is positive, the individual will remain home at least 10 days and until at least 3 days have passed with no fever and improvement in other symptoms. They will be expected to monitor symptoms, notify the school and personal close contacts, and answer the call from the local board of health or Massachusetts Community Tracing Collaborative to help identify close contacts to help them prevent transmission. Contact tracing will be initiated promptly by the school nurses whenever an individual is known to be displaying symptoms related to COVID-19. When there is a confirmed COVID-19 case, this information will be shared with the Holyoke Board of Health. When appropriate, close contacts of a known COVID-19 positive individual will be notified and advised to get tested or quarantine for 14 days. All staff will be notified when there is a confirmed case in the building. It is important to note that names of individuals are not provided to staff or families. Importantly, the individual’s identity will be protected throughout this process.
- COVID-19 Vaccine Information
- Food Access for Students & Families
- Emergency Care Planning during COVID-19 and Beyond for Children and Youth with Special Healthcare Needs
- #COVID-19 and Routine Vaccinations: What Parents Need To Know | En Español (PDF)
- The Great Body Shop COVID-19 related Family Connection Activities
- CDC – Stop the Spread of Germs (PDF) | En Español (PDF)
- Bring Learning Home: Ideas and Resources for Families from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
- COVID Face Covering Decision Guide (PDF) | En Español (PDF)
- NASP – Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19 | En Español (PDF)
- Cloth Face Coverings | En Español (PDF)
- How to Make a Mask Video
- Brainpop – Coronavirus child-friendly video on Brainpop
- CDC – Fight Germs. Wash Your Hands |Acabe con los microbios. ¡Lávese las manos!
- Massachusetts Department of Public Health – How to Stop Spreading Germs | En Español (PDF)
- Household Checklist | En Español
- Running Essential Errands | En Español
- Stress and Coping | En Español
- Caring for Children | En Español
- Seeing Other People Wearing Masks Story Booklet
- “Mask Story” coloring booklet |En Español
- Coping with Stress and Fear about COVID-19 (Infographic) | En Español
- Tips to make COVID-19 isolation and quarantine easier | Consejos para facilitar el aislamiento y la cuarentena de COVID-19
- Information and Guidance for Persons in Quarantine due to COVID-19. | En Español
- 10 Tips for At-Home Quarantine or Self-Monitoring | En Español (PDF)
- Information and Guidance for Persons in Isolation due to COVID-19 | En Español
- Video: 10 Tips for at home quarantine or self-monitoring
COVID-19 Weekly Public Health Report
Mass.gov contains weekly information about cases in Massachusetts (Search for Holyoke)
This data includes:
- Case and testing information by city/town
- Contact tracing cases and outreach
- Individuals released from isolation (recovered)
- Cases and case rate by age for last two weeks
- Probable cases
- Cases and deaths in Long Term Care Facilities
- Infection control survey results at nursing homes
- PPE Distribution
Trusted Resource Sites
The Reopening Leadership Team (RLT) carefully reviewed all guidance released by DESE, which was informed by the MA COVID-19 Command Center’s Medical Advisory Board (a group of physicians and other health experts), Dr. Sandra Nelson (MD, Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital), Dr. Lloyd Fisher (President, Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics), and many other members of the MA medical and educational community. HPS solicited input from families and staff through surveys and town hall meetings and reviewed data about the level of engagement during the Spring 2020 remote learning. HPS has also carefully considered the evolving health data and environment in Holyoke and Massachusetts. HPS leaders will meet at least weekly with Sean Gonsalves, Registered Sanitarian, Director of the Holyoke Board of Health to review health metrics and continue to refine our return to school plans.
Facilities Safety Videos
Our facilities team is hard at work maintaining a safe and healthy environment for staff and students. View the videos below that show all the steps we are taking at HPS. (Also, read our press release: Read our 1-27-21 press release City of Holyoke Invests in Air Quality Improvement Devices for HPS Classrooms to learn more about the HPEA filters that have been installed in all classrooms, as well as cafeterias, gymnasiums, and other district locations.
School Safety Efforts & Protocols in the Event of an Unforeseen Emergency
We would like to remind you of our ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of our students and staff and to inform you of our protocols in the event of an unforeseen emergency. The Massachusetts State Police, Holyoke Fire and Holyoke Police Departments are strong partners with whom we collaborate with regularly to review appropriate safety protocols in our schools. These protocols focus on the appropriate awareness, prevention, preparation, and response to incidents. We conduct drills and review emergency procedures throughout the school year to test preparedness as part of monthly District Crisis team meetings. Our staff has been trained in school evacuation, lockdown, shelter-in-place, and will soon be trained in reunification procedures.
Please see below for more detailed information about these protocols and how you can help.
School Evacuation Information (On-site and Off-site)
Off-site evacuation: When an incident occurs that requires us to move students to an off-site location, we will communicate directly with families about a designated reunification location to pick-up their children. In such an event, we ask that families present a photo ID and sign-out a child before they are allowed to be dismissed. Clear signs will be posted to provide specific directions to families.
Enhanced Lockdown or Shelter-in-Place
- Lockdown procedures are utilized when there is an imminent and serious internal threat to the safety of students and staff in the building (i.e. intruder). Staff and students are asked to remain in their current location and are given direction on how to remain safe.
- A shelter in place may be needed in the event of a medical emergency, a chemical spill, low-level school threats or police activity around a school. In these cases, students are generally asked to remain secure in their present location, but normal school functions (such as teaching and learning) can continue.
During these events, it is not possible for anyone other than public safety officials to enter or exit a building.
The lockdown or shelter in place is not lifted until the school leader or emergency personnel communicates an “All Clear” message to the school.
Parents will be notified of an emergency action in the event that it has an extended impact on the school day or if the incident impacts student safety.
How can you help?
- Update your school’s nurse if there are any changes to your child’s health and/or medication status.
- Please keep your emergency contact information updated with the school: cell, email, work and home numbers.
- Notify your school office if the adult responsible for picking up your child has changed. During an emergency, we would ask that you do not call the school as phone lines need to be kept open for emergency communication. We will inform you via our district-wide notification system once we know that all students and staff are safe.
- It is important that all families who enter our schools visit the main office first. We will then ask you to follow our visitor sign-in and identification procedures. If you have any questions or concerns about a school’s procedures, please do not hesitate to contact the principal.
- In the event of an emergency, please do not immediately drive to your child’s school. Extra congestion will preclude emergency personnel from accessing a school. We will provide information through the media and our district-wide notification system. Students and staff will not be able to access their cars during a lockdown or evacuation.
- If you are aware of any threats to our schools, please contact your child’s principal immediately. You might have information that could prevent a potential safety issue at a school.
Also, as a reminder, schools will conduct searches of student clothing, desks, lockers and/or automobiles in the interest of safe-guarding students, their property and school property, as per the HPS handbook. We appreciate your partnership and cooperation as we take important steps to ensure that all children in Holyoke are educated in safe and nurturing school environments.