Health and Safety Protocals
Gaston County Schools is committed to maintaining the care and safety of students, teachers, and staff at all times. In adherence to protocols outlined by the State of North Carolina, students returning to school for in-person learning will follow a set of prescribed guidelines to ensure our commitment to health and safety on school campuses.
Daily health screenings will take place for students and employees as they arrive at school. Students who have a higher than normal temperature, do not feel well, or start to exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus) while at school will be isolated in a designated area, and the school will contact the student’s parent/guardian to ensure the child gets home safely. Employees who have a higher than normal temperature or start to exhibit symptoms will be sent home. In addition, employees who are not feeling well should stay at home. Parents are encouraged to keep a child at home if the child is not feeling well.
Personal protective equipment
The N.C. Department of Emergency Management has provided personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies for Gaston County Schools. Based on enrollment, each school will receive a certain number of thermometers, face shields, gowns, and surgical masks. School nurses will provide training for appropriate use of PPE.
Face coverings required
As schools reopen, all K-12 students will be asked to wear face coverings for protection and to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The state will provide five cloth face coverings for each student, teacher, and staff member. The face coverings will be cared for and maintained by students and staff members. An exception will be allowed for students with medical conditions or disabilities.
Visitors to schools
Non-essential visitors will be limited in school buildings and on school campuses until further notice to help ensure a safe environment for our students and employees.
Handwashing and cleaning
Daily schedules must allow for frequent handwashing, and schools will regularly clean and disinfect classrooms, bathrooms, buses, equipment, furniture, etc. throughout the day. High traffic and touch areas will be a top priority for frequent cleaning.
The role of school nurses and social workers
School nurses and social workers play a vital role in supporting schools and providing care for students. Schools will designate a staff member as the COVID-19 contact person to coordinate all aspects of management and referral for presumptive cases when a school nurse is not on campus because the nurse is assigned to multiple schools.
The school nurse (or designated staff member) will provide continuing education for school staff regarding proper use of PPE, social distancing of six feet, and other health and safety precautions. They will respond to parent calls and work to answer questions from stakeholders.
School social workers also have a critical role in supporting schools, students, and families, especially in efforts to make contact with a parent/guardian if a child is exhibiting symptoms while at school. Social workers will not be allowed to transport children who are sick, but they will be allowed to go to a student’s home to communicate with parents/guardians about the need to pick up students.
School bus safety protocols require that a bus is cleaned between each route. Students will sit one child per seat while family members will be allowed to share a seat. Schools will also establish procedures for maintaining the care of a student who arrives at the bus stop without a face covering and for those students exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Bus drivers will participate in a health screening prior to driving their route(s) for the day.
Social and emotional care for students and staff
Gaston County Schools takes a “whole child” approach to the care of students, and through our school counseling programs and mental health services, support will be provided to students to ensure a healthy social and emotional state of being.
Through direct contact with students and families, observations, and feedback from teachers and staff members, counselors will work to address the social and emotional needs of students, especially at a time when the coronavirus has heightened concerns about students’ social, emotional, and mental well being. With age appropriate information and programming, information will be available to students, parents, teachers, and staff. Our counselors and other student support personnel will work to assure students that they are safe and that adults are available to support and help them.
Each morning through in-person meetings or a remote learning platform, students will be provided a daily check-in opportunity to ensure they are present, safe, and well. Counselors, classroom teachers, and administrators will work together to create programming to address student concerns, safety, and well being.
Support for employees
Gaston County Schools will work to support teachers, school staff members, and other employees through our Human Resources Department.
The Human Resources Department offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide support for all school district employees. Human Resources will work to inform employees about the EAP and ensure that EAP information is readily available for employees at all schools and central department buildings.
Additionally, the Human Resources Department will provide information at all schools and central department buildings about work accommodations for high-risk employees and the leave option that is available through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Human Resources also will provide guidance to schools and central office departments about how to assist employees who have been exposed, tested positive, or displayed symptoms of COVID-19. Guidance from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services the Center for Disease Control (CDC) will be used to provide direction for an employee who has been affected by COVID-19 about the safe return to work.