Since announcing the district’s plan to gradually transition to Plan B, which is a blend of both in-person and remote learning, Asheville City Schools has received quite a few frequently asked questions.
Thanks to your inquiries, the school system’s FAQ webpage has been updated!
Question: Will there be universal testing of all students and staff before returning to in person learning regardless of A/B option?
- No. Federal coronavirus guidance does not recommend universal testing of all students and staff in K-12 schools. Instead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations suggest testing efforts for K-12 students should focus on those with symptoms of the virus and those who may have had exposure to infected individuals.
Question: What kind of health and safety measures are being taken when students return to campus under Plan B?
- Face coverings are required for all students and staff on buses and school campuses.
- Daily temperature checks will be taken before staff and students enter an Asheville City Schools campus.
- Social distancing will include spaced seating on buses and in class, marked reminders on floors, and fewer people in the building.
- This means non-essential visitors and activities involving outside groups and organizations will be limited, and activities that involve bringing together large groups of people (like assemblies, performances and field trips) are discontinued until further notice.
- Staff will follow prescribed cleaning and disinfecting recommendations.
- Teachers will be encouraging increased handwashing and proper sneezing hygiene, and hand sanitizers will be available in each classroom.
Question: What happens when a student gets sick? Will they be required to quarantine at home?
- Students who present symptoms at school will be sent home, with directions from public health officials. Check this NCDHHS flow chart to see how school nurses will screen individuals for COVID-19 symptoms.
- If a student is unable to leave the school immediately, they will be monitored away from other individuals in a privacy room until they are able to be picked up. Each school will have an area for isolation, as well as an area for nurses to provide routine care. School nurses have worked with individual principals to establish these areas, based on the logistics of each school.
Question: What are the tracing procedures and protocols in place?
- Contact tracers with Buncombe County Health and Human Services will notify an individual if they have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive case. As a reminder, close contact is defined by the CDC as “anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes over a 24 hour time period.”
- Asheville City Schools will follow the directions shared by Buncombe County Health and Human Service to carry out their recommendations for contacting students, staff and families as well as their specific cleaning protocols.
- We will consult with our local health department to determine whether they believe closing a classroom or an entire campus is required. Please take note that there may be no need to close the school if BCHHS determines that close contacts are excluded and there is sufficient space to continue normal operations.
Question: How will class transitions be handled?
- In general, students will not be transitioning out of the classroom. Adults will transition into those classrooms to offer different services or instructional content.
Question: How will rooms and meeting areas be cleaned and arranged? How often will they be sanitized?
- Rooms will have unnecessary items removed to reduce the number of frequently touched surfaces requiring disinfecting
- Each building will have a custodial member assigned as the “high-touch” sanitizer to specifically clean frequently touched areas in the building throughout the school day. This is to include door knobs, door handles, water-bottle filling stations, flat surfaces in common areas, bathrooms, general office workspaces, etc. This individual will cycle throughout the building during the work day.
- To reduce the possibility of cross-contamination and aid in contact tracing, staff and students will only spend time in a limited number of spaces on a daily basis. This schedule will continue throughout the pandemic. More specifically, students will be assigned the same bus/bus seat, classroom/class seat, bathroom, etc. throughout this event.
- Each room on every ACS campus has been measured and assigned a “50% Capacity” maximum number based on each person requiring 36 sq. ft to maintain social distancing
- Water fountains will be disabled. However, the water-bottle filling stations will be open for students to get water as needed. Disposable cups will be provided for students and staff. Students may bring a bottle from home if they choose. The water-bottle filling stations will be sanitized multiple times throughout the day.
- All spaces will be sanitized with a CDC-approved virucide after the occupants leave the building each day.
Question: Knowing the virus is aerosolized and gets into heating and cooling systems, how will these systems be tested and maintained?
- The Asheville City Schools Maintenance Department has taken the following steps within the past two months:
- Hired an outside, third-party consultant to inspect the functionality of all HVAC systems. The third-party consultant is prepared to go through the systems again in the month of October. They made recommendations to our Maintenance Department, which our staff have continued to follow including: outside air flow, indoor humidity maintenance, air filtration, etc.
- Hired an outside, third-party to inspect the air-quality within each ACS building.
- Changed the minimum level air filters in our HVAC air handlers required by federal regulations to the higher grade MERV-13 filters. This is the grade of filter used in hospitals and care-centers.
- Purchased and will continue to purchase outdoor pavilion tents for schools to set-up outdoor learning areas. This will only of course be effective as the temperature and weather allows us to use those areas.
Question: Will family members who test positive be required to notify the school and self-quarantine their students?
- Yes. As part of our daily medical screening questions, students will be required to answer if they live with someone who is waiting for COVID-19 test results or has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Question: Will students be required to wear face coverings throughout the entire school day? How will mask breaks be incorporated into the daily routine?
- In Asheville City Schools, the safety of our students and staff is always our TOP priority. We believe the use of masks/face coverings are essential in protecting our Cougar Family and preventing the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, per the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services guidelines, face coverings are required for everyone in our schools and on our buses – including students, staff, and any visitors to campus. If students, staff, or visitors do not have a mask, one will be provided for them.
- If parents or families have a medical reason why your child cannot wear a mask, please contact your child’s school.
- Please know that mask breaks will be built into our daily schedule. Breaks will be scheduled according to building protocols and will occur when students can maintain a distance of six feet from others for the duration of the break. Mask breaks should take place outside whenever possible, and if held indoors, windows should be opened for the duration of the break.
Question: Will an all-district email go out if there is a positive case of COVID-19 amongst a student or staff member?
- We understand the desire to know if you or your family might be at risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19 and we want to do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID in our community. If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracing will occur and close contacts will be contacted by communicable disease staff in alignment with our state-adopted Crisis Management Plans and current procedures. Should there be any concerning trends or an outbreak (5 or more cases) at a school, Buncombe County Health and Human Services and the district will send out a notification to staff, school families, and to the community through all available communication channels. Furthermore, clusters and outbreaks will be included on the NCDHHS website. Both the health department and ACS will provide as transparent reporting as possible while still protecting confidentiality. However, please understand the district will not provide personally identifiable information of an infected person.
- Additionally, in collaboration with BCHHS and Buncombe County Schools, Asheville City Schools released its first COVID-19 reporting form on Thursday, November 5th. Moving forward, the Dashboard will be updated once a week, each Thursday at 9:00 AM. Please know the Dashboard will be linked on our Return to Learn webpage. It combines staff and student numbers and includes:
- -New Cases
- -Active Cases
- -A Case Count Of Those Released From Isolation
The reporting form is organized by school and includes numbers from the Central Office as well. However, it does NOT include staff working remotely or students learning in a remote setting.
Curriculum & Instruction
Question: If a student/class is required to quarantine, how will they keep up with their school work while missing two weeks or more of in-person learning?
- Students will complete work and assignments at-home in the remote environment, just as they would with any other sickness (flu, virus, etc).
Question: Will there continue to be a virtual option for students and families who feel unsafe or who have higher risk factors and need to limit exposure as much as possible?
- A completely virtual option will be available for any student/family who chooses, regardless of the reasoning for selecting this option.
Human Resources/Internal Communications
Question: What happens when a teacher gets ill? Will that teacher be paid for time away even if it is far more than their regular allowed sick days?
- When a teacher becomes ill, he or she may use their own sick leave or use the emergency federal COVID leave, which is 80 hours of paid leave.
Question: Who should I reach out to if my classroom is not being cleaned?
- Classroom teachers should notify their building level administrator for all custodial concerns and needs. The principal or assistant principal will then inform the school custodians about all cleaning needs. Also, school administrators will notify the school’s maintenance department for additional support.
Question: Should there be a classroom or school exposure, do we have enough substitutes to adequately staff the building? What is a substitute’s role under both remote learning and Plan B?
- Currently, the district has employed over 100 substitute teachers. We are not utilizing substitute teachers for remote learning; however, the district will be assigning substitute teachers to schools for Plan B. Substitute teachers will follow the regular protocol for instruction.
Thank you for your continued support of Asheville City Schools! Please continue to email the Executive Director of Communications at [email protected] with any questions your family may have.