FAQ – COVID SAFETY PROTOCOLS (ON-CAMPUS)

The following FAQ outlines the safety procedures regarding COVID-19 for St. Stephen’s Episcopal School (School).

The safety procedures are informed by resources issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Texas Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) (collectively referred to as Guidelines). These safety procedures may be modified based on any amendments to the Guidelines.

Are the safety processes fixed or will additional / revised processes be added during the school year?

The School will adopt new procedures as per the Guidelines and in consultation with public health experts. Parents will be notified directly by the School in the event of updates. Updates will also be provided on the School website.

What should my child bring to school?
  • Students should bring water bottles from home filled with water to last throughout the school day. Refills cannot be permitted.
  • Students are asked to bring their own snack.
  • Students should either bring their lunch or order from Simply Fresh.
  • Orientation and Primary students are asked to maintain three (3) sets of clean clothes in the classroom, as directed by their teacher. Students may not borrow clothes from another student.
  • Primary, Elementary, and Middle Years students are requested to bring two (2) cloth masks. 
What will be asked of each student in order to keep the classrooms safe for everyone?
  • Students will be guided to thoroughly wash hands upon arrival and throughout the day.
  • Students will be asked to use hand sanitizer between washing. Orientation, Primary and Lower Elementary students will be supervised while using sanitizer.
  • All students and adults will clean their shoes by stepping in a sanitizing bin and, subsequently, a drying in bin before entering the buildings.
  • Primary, Elementary, and Middle Years students are asked to bring a cloth mask to wear daily “as feasible” (pursuant to current recommendations by the CDC). 
  • Students will be guided to socially distance.
    What will be done if my child and/or other students forget what is required?
    • Signage will be posted to remind everyone in the community and in the classrooms of the safety expectations.
    • Students will be reminded and redirected to comply with safety expectations.
    • St. Stephen’s teachers are skilled at developing an appropriate classroom culture so that school isn’t scary, but yet expectations are clear.
    Will my child always be 6 feet away from his/her teacher or classmates?
    • While a distance of 6 feet is best, faculty will be managing students as they move about the classroom, playground and/or other learning spaces.
    • Distancing will be encouraged and teachers will prepare classrooms to support distancing among the students.
    • Classroom seating, nap and work areas will be arranged and “spaced as much as possible, ideally 6 feet apart”, per HHS licensing requirements.
    Will parents be allowed in the classrooms?

    At this time, parents are not allowed in the classrooms.

    What can I do as a parent to support the School’s efforts to maintain a safe environment?
    • Parents are asked to notify interimhead@ssesh.org immediately if their child(ren) is/are exposed, test positive for COVID-19 or are diagnosed with any communicable illness.
    • Parents can support the community by not bringing sick children to campus and arriving immediately to pick up their child if their child becomes sick at school.
    • Parents are asked to arrive to school on time in order that all students participate in the arrival process together, while respecting social distancing.
    • When arriving early to pick up their child, parents are asked to use the main entrance and the separate exit and to be patient with the process for gaining access to the building and retrieving their child. All adults on campus are subject to health screening and temperature checks and must wear a mask while on campus.
    • Families are asked to comply with quarantine requirements below.
    • Parents of young children are asked to unbuckle and remove children from the vehicle at morning carpool and practice social distancing.
    • The same parent/caregiver is recommended to make drop-off and pick-up, each day.
    Will my child be attending classes in other spaces on campus?
    • All students will participate in PE in the gym or outdoors. High-touch surfaces and materials will be sanitized between groups.
    • Until further notice, Orientation and Primary students will remain in their homeroom for the duration of the school day. The exceptions are PE (in Pecore Hall and outside), Chapel, and the playground.
    • Elementary movement around campus will be limited. 
    • Middle Years will move about campus as usual.
    What changes will teachers make to their classrooms or the school day?
    • Teachers will utilize outdoor learning spaces as often as possible.
    • Books and learning materials will not be shared among classes.
    • Students will be provided personal use items such as pencils, rulers, markers, etc. Students will not use such items from a collective supply.
    • Teachers will ventilate classrooms by opening windows, when safe and appropriate.
    • Distancing will be encouraged in all classrooms. Classroom seating, nap and work areas will be arranged and “spaced as much as possible, ideally 6 feet apart”, per HHS licensing requirements.
    • Soft toys and items not easily cleaned have been removed from the classrooms.
    • All students and faculty in the Orientation and Primary programs will have multiple changes of clothing available in order to change any clothing with secretions on it. 
    • Field Trips are deferred until further notice.
    Will groups of students mix while on campus?
    • Learning will continue to occur in separate homeroom classes, with the following exceptions:
      • Primary 1 & 3 may enjoy recess outdoors together;
      • Primary 2 & 4 may enjoy recess outdoors together;
      • Lower El students may combine for lessons;
      • Upper El students may combine for lessons and specialist classes.
      • 7th and 8th graders may combine for lessons and specialist classes.
    • Our Extended Care Cohorts are as follows.
      • 3 Cohorts in Orientation
        • Orientation 1
        • Orientation 2
        • Orientation 4
      • 2 Cohorts in Primary
        • Primary 1 & 3
        • Primary 2 & 4
      • 1 Cohort in Lower Elementary 
      • 1 Cohort in Upper Elementary and Middle Years
    What safety processes will be required of employees, guests, vendors and other adults?
    • To gain access to the buildings, all adults will be screened and will wear masks.
    • Adults will maintain social distancing.
    • Classroom access will be limited to faculty, appropriate administrators and designated personnel from HHS.
    • Adults will be asked to wash hands regularly and to use hand sanitizer.
    • Faculty and staff are encouraged to limit their exposure to cohorts off campus, as well.
    ** When will my child/family be required to quarantine? **

    Your child will be required to​ quarantine at home if your child: 

    • Has had known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19; ​
    • Is diagnosed with COVID-19;  ​
    • Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

    See also the new travel protocols in the section below.

    ** When will my child be allowed to return to campus? **

    NEW TRAVEL PROTOCOLS

    • PCR negative result required in the event of any travel outside of Harris County involving (i) airports; (ii) commercial aircraft; (iii) trains; (iv) public maritime vessels, including ferries; (v) intercity bus services; and (vi) public transportation. ​
    • The student may return to school after the student obtains a PCR test, as directed by a physician, that comes back negative for COVID-19.

    A student who has had known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19 may return to school after the student:

    • quarantines for 14 days (from the date of last known close contact) with no COVID-19 symptoms AND
    • obtains a diagnostic test*, as directed by a physician, that comes back negative for COVID-19.

    A student who is diagnosed with COVID-19 may return to school when the following criteria are met:

    • at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications); AND
    • at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; AND
    • at least 14 days have passed since the date of last known close contact; AND
    • the student is not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms; AND
    • the student obtains a medical professional’s note clearing the student for return OR obtains a diagnostic test*, if and when directed by a physician, that comes back negative for COVID-19.

    A student who has symptoms that could be COVID-19** may return to school when the following criteria are met:

    • the student is not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms; AND
    • the student obtains a medical professional’s note clearing the student for return based on an alternative diagnosis OR obtains a diagnostic test*, as directed by a physician, that comes back negative for COVID-19.

    *Currently there are two types of diagnostic tests– molecular tests, such as RT-PCR tests, that detect the virus’s genetic material, and antigen tests that detect specific proteins from the virus. (Source: FDA)

    **Mild COVID-19 symptoms could mimic a cold or “Houston allergies.” Please communicate closely with your doctor.

    What are COVID-19 symptoms?
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • Loss of taste or smell
    • Diarrhea
    • Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19
    What is the definition of "close contact"?

    The School follows the TEA’s definition of “close contact”.

    In general, close contact is defined as: a. being directly exposed to infectious secretions (e.g., being coughed on); or b. being within 6 feet for a total of approximately 15 minutes throughout the course of a day; however, additional factors like case/contact masking (i.e., both the infectious individual and the potential close contact have been consistently and properly masked), ventilation, presence of dividers, and case symptomology may affect this determination.

    Either (a) or (b) defines close contact if it occurred during the infectious period of the case, defined as two days prior to symptom onset to 10 days after symptom onset. In the case of asymptomatic individuals who are test-confirmed with COVID-19, the infectious period is defined as two days prior to the confirming test and continuing for 10 days following the confirming test. 

    What are the new homeroom capacities?

    Distancing will be encouraged in all classrooms. Classroom seating, nap, and work areas will be arranged and “spaced as much as possible, ideally 6 feet apart”, per HHS licensing. Classroom capacity has been reduced per HHS instructions and is as follows:

    • Orientation classes will be capped at 8 or 12 students, based on the size of the room; Napping capacity is 7 or 10 students, based on the size of the room.
    • Primary, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary, classes will be capped at 20 students.
    • Middle Years classes will be capped at 8 or 10 students, based on the size of the room.
    What processes are new to the carpool procedure?

    Carpool procedures can be accessed in the Student and Family Handbook (2020-21), as modified below.

    • Depending on the building, students will be directed to specific doorways for entering and exiting.
    • Due to COVID-19 and in the interest of teacher safety, the same parent/caregiver is recommended to make drop-off and pick-up each day.
    • At drop-off, Teachers/Assistants will take your child’s temperature. Children with a temperature of 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit or more will not be permitted to enter campus.
    • After your child’s normal temperature is confirmed, parents of young children will unbuckle and remove their child(ren) from the vehicle at morning carpool and practice social distancing. 
    • Orientation and Primary programs may be required to implement Emergency Rules by HHS and, if so, carpool will be conducted outside of the school buildings.
    • Primary IV and Middle Years students will not be allowed to disembark from vehicles or enter the Nevers Building at the same time. Please be patient and wait for instructions to exit or remove your child from the vehicle. 
    Will the classrooms be cleaned during the day?
    • In addition to regular cleaning of the campus, high-touch areas and restrooms will be cleaned and/or sanitized during the course of the day, per HHS requirements.
    • Tables, chairs, and learning materials will be cleaned and/or sanitized during the course of the day, per HHS requirements.
    • Soft toys and those not easily cleaned have been removed from the classrooms.
    • Cleaning supplies meet EPA standards, per CDC requirements.
    What are the new communications protocols?

    The School will be using the following new definitions of ON-campus and OFF-campus, which definitions are based on guidance from Harris County. 

    • ON-campus: A School student or employee is “ON-campus” if the student or employee was on campus during the

      • 2 days prior to his/her symptom onset (if they had symptoms) or 

      • 5 days prior to his/her positive COVID-19 lab result. 

    • OFF-campus: A person is “OFF-campus” if

      • The person is not a student or employee of the School or 

      • The student or employee of the School was not ON-campus.

    NEW Communications Protocols

    Scenario: A student has close contact with a person (OFF-campus) who was diagnosed with COVID-19

    • Protocol: Only families in the affected class(es) will receive close contact notices. 
    • Rationale: The School received feedback that these close contact notices cause unnecessary stress when sent to the whole school community.

    Scenario: A student or employee (ON-campus) is diagnosed with COVID-19

    • Protocol: The School will notify all families. The notification will include the class of the student or employee, but will not disclose whether the individual is a student or teacher. Please contact your teacher if you do not know your child’s class number.
    • Rationale: The School seeks to honor families’ need for specific information with the COVID-19 victims’ need for privacy. 

    Scenario: A student or employee (OFF-campus) is diagnosed with COVID-19 or has close contact with a person (OFF-campus) who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

    • Protocol: The School will apply the new definition of OFF-campus. The community will not be notified of either scenario. 
    • Rationale: Neither scenario should present a risk to our on-campus community. 

    Scenario: A student or employee (ON-campus) is diagnosed with COVID-19 and students must be picked up immediately*

    • Protocol: Urgent information on COVID-19 on campus will be shared by text message first, with email(s) to follow. 
    • Rationale: Parents and teachers are more likely to read and respond to text messages. Please make sure to update your mobile phone number in PlusPortals.

    * In the event that a student or employee (ON-campus) is diagnosed with COVID-19 and students must be picked up immediately, the School will generally follow the communications process below.

    1. A text message will be sent to faculty and staff.
    2. A text message will be sent to affected families instructing them to pick up their children. Text alerts will come from 95664. Please save this number as St. Stephen’s Campus Notify.
    3. A text message will be sent to all families.
    4. An email to the community will follow with information on the COVID-19 situation. 
    5. Students and/or employees who have been identified as close contacts will receive a second email with additional information. 
    Why and how has the school modified the class schedule?

    The School has implemented a new schedule, aimed at limiting the interactions of our specialist teachers with multiple cohorts in a given week. Art and PE classes will generally rotate with Music, Spanish and da Vinci classes. In Middle Years, Spanish, Ukulele Choir, Visual Arts, and Da Vinci Lab will rotate with PE, Film, Theatre, and Spanish (via Zoom).