Above all, our most important principle is to prioritize student, faculty, and staff health, safety, and well-being. To that end, we have taken important steps to build our school wide strategy of safety.
We have formed a task force composed of educators, medical professionals, lay representatives from our Board , and administrators to guide us in the process of reopening.
Directors of Health & Safety
Additionally, to ensure protocols are adhered to, we have hired a part-time school nurse as our Health and Safety Director for our camp and school to lead this initiative at each building and satellite locations when we are back in session.
Our strategy is outlined below:
Our approach is based on research including policies set by our Health Committee, guidelines provided by the Los Angeles County Health Department, analyzing numerous publications, attending webinars, and closely following local and regional regulations and guidelines. This work continues to be refined, and as long as guidelines allow, we are committed to opening the doors in a safe manner.
Our Approach to Safety
Our approach to safety is based on four factors:
Each of these critical areas help shape our approach to ensure our policies and protocols provide the necessary conditions to mitigate risk of exposure to COVID-19.
1. Social Distancing and Reducing Camper/Student Density
Infectious disease experts have promoted social distancing as an essential strategy in the containment of COVID-19. By their nature, schools are high-density, which can promote disease transmission.
We recognize that to effectively reduce the risk of infection, we must implement effective social distancing policies. When all campers/students and faculty attend camp and/or school at the same time, it is difficult for us to adhere to best-practice guidelines. For instance, classrooms cannot accommodate our current average class sizes, while maintaining adequate physical distancing.
When we approached our classroom spaces with a goal of sitting children 6 feet apart, we found that few classrooms would safely seat our classes. Therefore, the impact of distancing on our usable facility space became an important consideration moving forward.
To deal with this, we expanded our usable space by, placing large outdoor tents on our property and renting additional space. By doing so, we have been able to quadruple our usable space.
2. Health Screening and Preventative Hygiene
Another essential factor recommended by health care professionals involves mandating health screenings and preventive hygiene, which begins with hand washing and use of masks/shields. Coupled with physical distancing, these are the most effective strategies in containing COVID-19.
Health Screening: VTHS is requiring individual temperature and symptom screenings prior to entering the buildings each morning as long as it is deemed as an effective method in preventing COVID-19 transmission. Our goal is to prevent symptomatic children and adults from entering our buildings. Included in the health screenings will be our employees, security guards, parents and vendors.
Everyday hygiene practices are another key factor to prevent virus transmission. As has been well-documented, hand washing many times daily with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is critical. In addition to hand washing, frequent use of alcohol- based hand rub with formulations containing 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol is a simple yet effective way to prevent the spread of pathogens and infections. Other preventative measures include coughing or sneezing into tissues or the inside elbow, avoiding touching your face, maintaining 6 feet distance when possible, wearing masks, and removing/replacing masks safely.
We have already installed hand sanitizing dispensers throughout our buildings.
If a child or adult develops symptoms while on our campus, we will have the individual in an isolated room at their location. The individual will be cared for by one identified person, who will wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and follow infection control practices designed to decrease the risk of transmission. We will call parents and arrange for the child to be picked up.
3. Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting
The third factor in VTHS’s operational strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to ensure our cleaning protocols follow guidelines established by the CDC. Our cleaning regiment considers the important differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, and we will be using cleaners that are approved by the CDC for combating COVID-19. We will implement a strict routine for frequent cleaning of classrooms, hallways, common areas, doorknobs, railings etc. when camp or school is in session along with a rigorous night-time disinfectant routine.
4. Communications, Training and Coordination
We plan to establish clear expectations for our VTHS community, a structure that is sustainable, and is flexible to adapt to changing realities. In addition to existing communications channels, we will implement signage in our buildings with our protocols, hygiene and social distancing reminders.
We need all members of our community to accept new responsibilities within this changed culture. Acting with self-awareness and sensitivity to others.
Specific Areas of Enhanced Protections
Security and Building Access
While at VTHS we pride ourselves with our open-door policy, at this time non-essential visitors will be restricted from school buildings temporarily, until we can ensure our new protocols have become standard and routine. This will include family visitors. Essential visitors include vendors, package delivery vendors, and facility specialists.
Essential visitors will need access for entry through our security, that will incorporate a temperature and symptom check prior to entry. Signage at the entrance will indicate our health hygiene policy, including masks and hand sanitizing upon entering the campus.
2020-21 school year will present enhanced challenges as we attempt to mitigate risks of COVID-19 exposure for students who ride vans to and from school. At this time, we do not feel comfortable providing transportation for our children. We will continue to closely monitor the California and Los Angeles guidelines for transportation throughout the year and will communicate with you at a later date if guidelines change enough for us to feel that we can provide transportation in a safe manner.
In order to ensure that employees, and campers/students remain safe, Valley Torah High School employees must practice social distancing whenever possible. This includes, without limitations, staff rooms, break rooms, hallways, offices, and in staff meetings. Employees are expected to socially distance during meetings, training, and should avoid unnecessarily congregating before or after the school day. If you are high risk or have concerns with physically attending the campus, please reach out to Valley Torah High School administration. Additionally, employees must limit the amount of nonessential visitors and volunteers on campus. Accordingly, nonessential volunteers will not be permitted onsite for the day camp sessions or school (once school is in session).
Instructors must keep groups together to the extent practicable to limit the amount of access the campers have with other groups. All desks, to the extent practicable, should be separated by a minimum of six feet from other desks. If distancing is not practicable and desks must be within close proximity to one another, contact the school administration to obtain partitions to place between any and all desks which are not six feet or more apart. Consistent with the Governor’s orders on indoor singing, instructors should not promote activities which involve singing indoors in order to minimize the amount of particles which are distributed between participants through the shared air space.
Instructors should ensure there are adequate supplies within the classroom to minimize sharing of high touch materials including pencils, pens, rulers, erasers, and the like. To the extent possible, use of classroom supplies should be minimized to one group of children at a time and should be disinfected between uses of different groups.
Valley Torah High School requires all employees to maintain up-to-date vaccinations. In the event that a vaccination is publicly released for COVID-19, employees shall obtain the vaccination for the safety of staff and campers. Employees will be required to certify that they have obtained necessary vaccinations and to provide a copy of the certification upon request. Valley Torah High School understands the need and right to privacy of employee's medical information. In recognition of the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act, Valley Torah High School will not disclose the name of employees, including employees who report that they tested positive for COVID-19, and will keep any and all medical health information regarding employees as confidential medical information in compliance with ADA requirements.