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LEA Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Service Pursuant to the Federal American Rescue Plan Act, Section 2001(i)

Introduction and Background

As announced in the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE)’s April 28, 2021 broadcast, in March 2021 President Biden signed the Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, Public Law 117-2, into law. The ARP Act provides an additional $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) to States and school districts to help safely reopen, sustain the safe operation of schools, and address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s students. As with the previous ESSER funds available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), the purpose of the additional funding is to support local educational agencies (LEAs) in preparing for and responding to the impacts of COVID-19 on educators, students, and families. Additional information on ARP ESSER may be found in the NJDOE’s funding comparison fact sheet.

Section 2001(i)(1) of the ARP Act requires each LEA that receives ARP ESSER funds to develop and make publicly available on the LEA’s website, no later than 30 days after receiving ARP ESSER funds, a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services for all schools (Safe Return Plan) A Safe Return Plan is required of all fund recipients, including those that have already returned to in-person instruction. Section 2001(i)(2) of the ARP Act further requires that the LEA seek public comment on the Safe Return Plan and take those comments into account in finalization of the Safe Return Plan. Under the interim final requirements published in Volume 86, No. 76 of the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), an LEA must periodically, but no less frequently than every six months through September 30, 2023, review and, as appropriate, revise its Safe Return Plan.

Pursuant to those requirements, LEAs must submit to the NJDOE and post on their website their Safe Return Plans by June 24, 2021. The NJDOE intends to make LEA ARP ESSER Fund applications available in EWEG on May 24, 2021 and LEAs will submit their Safe Return Plans to the NJDOE via EWEG. To assist LEAs with the development of their Safe Return Plans, the NJDOE is providing the following template.

This template incorporates the federally-required components of the Safe Return Plan. The questions in the template below will be included in the LEA ARP ESSER Fund application in EWEG. LEAs will submit responses to the questions within the LEA ARP ESSER Fund application in EWEG by June 24, 2021.  The NJDOE hopes that this template will allow LEAs to effectively plan for that submission and to easily post the information to their websites as required by the ARP Act.

Note that on May 17, 2021, Governor Murphy announced that upon the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year, portions of Executive Order 175 allowing remote learning will be rescinded, meaning that schools will be required to provide full-day, in-person instruction, as they were prior to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The NJDOE and New Jersey Department of Health will share additional information regarding State requirements or guidance for health and safety protocols for the 2021-2022 school year as it becomes available.

Template: LEA Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services

LEA Name: Clifton Public Schools 31-0900

Date (06/10/21):                                                                                                                 Date Revised (01/15/2022):

1. Maintaining Health and Safety

For each mitigation strategy listed below (A–H), please describe how the LEA will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff and the extent to which it has adopted policies, and a description of any such policies, on each of the following safety recommendations established by the CDC.

A. Universal and correct wearing of masks: Face masks remain mandatory for K-12 schools, based on CDC guidance. This includes prior to boarding the school bus, while on the bus and until the bus is completely empty.  Schools will teach students how to correctly wear a mask and reinforce their use. Information will be provided to staff and students on proper use, removal and washing of masks. Behaviorists are available to provide mask training interventions as needed. Accommodations for heat, outdoor activities and vaccinated individuals will follow CDC, NJDOH, and Updated COVID-19 Standards Child Care Centers, and COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Local Health Departments for K-12 Schools.

B. Physical distancing (e.g., including use of cohorts/podding):  Social distancing practices in all instructional and non-instructional spaces will be maintained to ensure the health and safety of students and staff at Clifton Public Schools. Student desks and seating in classrooms, cafeterias, multi-purpose rooms, school buses and other spaces will be separated by at least three (3) up to six (6) feet to the maximum extent practicable. Other modifications will include using physical barriers between desks, turning desks to face the same direction, and assigned seating.  In addition, The Board’s Plan regarding recess, physical education, transportation, and wrap-around services follows CDC, NJDOH, and Updated COVID-19 Standards for Child Care Centers, and COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Local Health Departments for K-12 Schools. Appropriate signage, additional school buses to alleviate crowded routes and additional personnel will be used to ensure spacing.

C. Handwashing and respiratory etiquette: Clifton Public Schools will promote behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19 including requiring staff and students to stay home when appropriate; encouraging the practice of hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette; requiring the use of face coverings as mandated; and signs and messages in and around school buildings. Schools will prepare and maintain hand-sanitizing stations with alcohol-based hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol) that will be located in various areas in the building.  School-wide plans were developed where students are required to wash hands for at least twenty seconds at regular intervals during the school day and always before eating, after using the bathroom, and after blowing their nose, coughing, and/or sneezing. If washing with soap and water is not possible, washing with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be used.  Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and the hand hygiene protocol as outlined above should be performed immediately. Appropriate signage and messages will be placed throughout the schools reminding students and staff about frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette. The district will follow CDC, NJDOH, and Updated COVID-19 Standards for Child Care Centers, and COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Local Health Departments for K-12 Schools.

D. Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation:  Schools will continue to adhere to existing enhanced facilities cleaning practices and procedures, and any new specific requirements of the local health department as they arise. All indoor facilities will have adequate ventilation, including operational heating and ventilation systems where appropriate. Re-circulated air must have a fresh air component. If air conditioning is not provided, then windows will be opened when possible.  A/C units will be maintained and changed, and AC filters will be changed according to manufacturer recommendations.  Child-safe fans may be used to increase the effectiveness of opened windows to increase ventilation. Purchase air-purifiers for all classrooms and shared spaces across the district. Clean and maintain air scrubber filters per manufacturer's instructions. 

The Board will maintain the current enhanced cleaning/disinfecting schedules. Targeted areas will be cleaned implementing the methods and materials needed to effectively sanitize the areas.  High touch surfaces shall be cleaned using products according to manufacturer instruction. Bathrooms will be sanitized on a regular schedule. Pursuant to the protocols outlined by the EPA, all tables and surfaces in the cafeterias and/or alternative dining areas used in the school district will be cleaned and sanitized between each meal. Stagger the use of instructional equipment and establish a frequent disinfecting protocol for all equipment used by students. Every school bus will be cleaned and disinfected before and after each bus route and disinfected each night. Weather permitting, bus windows will remain open to ensure air circulation.

E. Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the State, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments:  Schools will closely monitor Daily COVID Symptom Screening reports from both staff and students. Procedures for isolation and quarantine will continue as in the 2020-2021 NJDOH guidance.  School Nurses will work collaboratively with the Local Health Department, reporting cases and contacts as required.  District administrators will notify affected students, staff, and community members of the need to isolate and/or quarantine as directed by the school nurse and Local Health Department. Alternative instructional options following district home instruction policies will ensure continuity of instruction for quarantining students.

F. Diagnostic and screening testing:   School Nurses or building administrators will continue to monitor Daily COVID Symptom Screening reports from both staff and students.  Staff or parents of students who have not completed the daily screening will be excluded from school until screening is complete.  In consultation with the Local Health Department, we have concluded that contact tracing is an effective and efficient means of tracking COVID-19 cases and has mitigated in school spread.

G.  Efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible:   Clifton Public Schools continues to work collaboratively with Clifton Health Department to provide vaccinations to staff, community members and eligible students.  The vaccination outreach programs will continue throughout the summer and beyond if necessary.  Clifton Public Schools has also collaborated with local medical facilities to publicize vaccination clinics throughout the county. In collaboration with the Clifton Health Department, district nurses vaccinated over 14,000 community members. Students and staff ages 11 and over have the availability to receive the COVID-19 Vaccination at facilities throughout Passaic County.

H.  Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to the health and safety policies:  In order to assist and support students with disabilities to meet district wide expectations for health safety the MTSS PBSIS programs will be deployed to set the standards and tiered interventions will be used to ensure equitable access. Student IEP and 504 plans will be adjusted as needed. Behaviorists and counselors will provide necessary intervention and resources including trauma informed compassionate classroom, nurtured heart and virtual calming room resources for students and staff will be employed.

2. Ensuring Continuity of Services

A. Describe how the LEA will ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff’s social, emotional, mental health, and other needs, which may include student health and food services. (1000 character limit):  Return to full day, full time, five day per week in-person instruction, similar to pre-pandemic schedules. Instructional pacing and curriculum adjusted for learning acceleration. Individualized instruction expanded through schedule modifications, programmatic changes, and additional staff to provide student instructional support. Pursuant to expiration of portions of Executive Order 175, remote learning is rescinded. Provide home instruction and simultaneous synchronous offerings for quarantining students.​ Provide expanded summer school offerings open to all students for the summer of 2021 and the summer of 2022​: Title 1 and Title 3 Summer School, Summer Accelerated Academic Student Support, Extended School Year, Covid-19 Learning Loss Program​, Expanded Jump Start Program, New before school elementary tutoring program, after school in –person and virtual tutoring options K-12, and Saturday Support Programs​. Additional programs to support the whole-child in transitioning back to full-time in-person learning​ will include: PBSIS Multi-Tiered System of Supports: All schools have completed training for the universal prevention tiers. Expansion of Tier 2​ Interventions. Increased staff to support Tier 3 interventions. Social Emotional Learning Programs​: Nurtured Heart Programs​, Trauma Informed Compassionate Classroom​, Mindfulness, Virtual Calming Resources for Staff and Students​, Additional counseling staff to provide at least one counselor at every elementary school​, Counseling support expanded PK to 12 with additional staff and contracted services. Special Education programs expanded. Return to more normalized extra-curricular offerings. ​ Leverage technology and remote support best practices.​ In accordance with NJDOH recommendations social distancing, barriers and alternative meal locations will be designated as appropriate for each school location.

3. Public Comment

A. Describe how the LEA sought public comment on its plan, and how it took those public comments into account in the development of its plan.  Note, the ARP requires that LEAs seek public comment for each 60 -day revision to the plan. (1000 character limit):  The Clifton Public School District reconvened the Phase 1 stakeholder team from the district “2020-2021 Restart and Reopening Plan” for input from staff, administration, union representatives, Health Department officials, community members and parents. The draft is being presented at the June 10 public Board of Education meeting to allow for public comment and a comment input form is being placed on the district website and shared on social media. This public comment form will remain available for the duration of the plan implementation with responses incorporated into the June 24, 2021 upload and subsequent revisions.

B. Describe how the LEA ensured that the plan is in an understandable and uniform format; is to the extent practicable written in a language that parents can understand or, if not practicable to provide written translations to a parent with limited English proficiency, will be orally translated for such a parent; and upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability as defined by the ADA, will be provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent. (1000 character limit)

The plan will be presented publicly at the June 10, 2021 Board of Education Board Meeting and will be recorded and posted on the district website for future viewing. The posted YouTube recording has closed captions capabilities. The plan will be posted on the district website in compliance with ADA requirements and includes a translation button on each page for non-standard languages. The plan will also be posted in the district's most common languages: Spanish and Arabic. Parents and community members who require additional support to ensure equitable access may request an in-person or phone consultation from the Business Office at 973-470-2275.

Safe Return to In-Person Instruction ARP ESSER Presentation

August 18, 2021 Meeting Presentation: Safe Reopening 2021-2022

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