Safe Return Plan

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: Ridgewood Public Schools

Date (mm/dd/yyyy):  06/21/2021 Date Revised (mm/dd/yyyy): 6/22/2022

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. 

1. Maintaining Health and Safety

Universal and correct wearing of masks

Should districts be authorized to make decisions on a local level, the District will collaborate with the VOR Health Department, the school physician and district mental health coordinator to determine local guidelines while considering the risks/benefits for the physical/mental health of the students and staff. Currently, face coverings are required in classrooms as per the State guidance for K-12 schools. Signs are placed at all building entrances as a reminder of this policy. Face coverings may be removed during physical education and music classes when individuals are in a well-ventilated location and are able to maintain a physical distance of six feet apart. Considerations are made for excessive heat. If a student is unable to wear a mask, parents will be expected to provide medical documentation. This is subject to change based on updated guidance.

Physical distancing (e.g., including use of cohorts/podding)

In accordance with guidance issued by the Governor’s Executive Orders, the New Jersey Department of Health and the Village of Ridgewood Health Department, all instructional and non-instructional rooms in schools and district facilities will be configured to maintain physical distance to the maximum extent practicable while considering instructional best practices and the risk/benefit for the physical, mental, and social-emotional health of students and staff. This is subject to change based on updated guidance.

Handwashing and respiratory etiquette

Fully functional hand sanitizer stations with alcohol-based hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol) are located at all public entrances in each building, as well as at regular distances in each hallway and instructional space. There are fully functional hand washing stations with soap in most elementary classrooms and all staff and student bathrooms which are located throughout the buildings and close to the cafeterias. Any elementary classrooms that do not have sinks will have hand sanitizer. A schedule of sanitizing and/or hand washing will be disseminated in each school, 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.
Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation

All spaces will be cleaned daily by the custodial department using the following three-step process: (1) remove all visible soil from all surfaces with attention to high touch areas, (2) thoroughly disinfect all hard surfaces using hospital-grade disinfectant, (3) re-sanitize all rooms using our electrostatic spray applicators with hydrogen peroxide based disinfectant. Bathrooms will be spray disinfected once during the school day on a minimum day at the halfway point of the day. Appropriate cleaning will take place three times per day. All ventilation systems are operable and in good repair, including room unit-ventilators and rooftop units. Units are maintained and filters are changed per manufacturer’s specifications. All windows are operable with opening restrictions for student and personnel safety. Air Conditioner units and filters are maintained per manufacturer’s specifications.

Contact Tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the State, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments

All school nurses are trained contact tracers and work directly with the Village of Ridgewood Health Department to conduct investigations pertaining to any reported positive cases within the district. The District follows all isolation and quarantine guidelines as defined by the New Jersey Department of Health and the Village of Ridgewood Health Department. When a student or staff member comes to the health office and presents symptoms typical of the COVID-19 disease, following the NJDOH guidelines, students will be placed safely and respectfully in isolation. This isolation will be supervised in a reasonable manner, maintaining appropriate physical distancing and appropriate PPE will be worn to protect the staff member. The parent/guardian will be notified and instructed to pick up the child promptly. Quarantine protocols are subject to change based on updated guidance and should the District be authorized to make decisions on the local level.

Diagnostic and screening testing

Parents and students are required to adhere to their responsibility for determining whether to attend school by answering the daily symptom check questions and keeping students home from school when symptomatic; submission of the electronic symptom questionnaire will not be required. Temperature checks will not be conducted as students enter school. This is subject to change based on updated guidance.

Efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible

The District distributed information about local vaccination sites and coordinated registration for vaccination clinics for staff members through the Village of Ridgewood Health Department.

Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to the health and safety policies

Accommodations pertaining to health and safety policies are addressed according to the individual student’s need and in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.

2. Ensuring Continuity of Services

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

Continuity of instruction is assured through daily in-person attendance for all students to advance the goals of the academic program. The District has a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) in place to address academic, social, and behavioral concerns. The Intervention and Referral Services team in all buildings monitors and supports identified students. The School-Based Mental Health Team utilizes the MTSS framework to provide a continuum of social/emotional care that integrates schools, families and communities. Economically disadvantaged students who qualify receive free and reduced lunch, even in the event of school closure. ESSER III funds are being used to provide extended day academic support for students in ELA and math.

3. Public Comment

Describe how the LEA sought public comment on its plan, and how it took those public comment 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.

The plan was presented on the Board of Education Agenda for the June 14, 2021 Regular Public Meeting, as indicated on the Agenda. During the meeting, there were two opportunities for public comment. Additionally, the initial plan presentation was posted on the district website with a link to a Public Comment Form. This form was distributed via the RPS eNews and was open from noon on June 15 through noon on June 21. Feedback from the public was considered in the development of the final plan. The American Rescue Plan presentation is posted on the district website.

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.

Upon request, the District will provide a written or oral translation of the proposed plan options. RPS maintains an extensive list of staff members, including world languages teachers, who are available to assist with translation. Additionally, our Japanese and Korean parent associations collaborate with the district when necessary.  In order to make the plan accessible to individuals with disabilities per the ADA, the district's IT department will use Siteimprove - our accessibility verification tool to make sure it is compliant at a AA level minimum of WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

Briefly describe any guidance professional learning and technical assistance opportunities the LEA will make available to its schools.

The district has created a summer professional development program to facilitate the transition to in-person learning in September. These sessions will encourage teacher reflection on the school year, and will dedicate time to preparation for assessment and curricular adjustments to the academic program. There were two professional development days scheduled in the fall (October and November) to support teachers and staff, and our technology innovation specialists will continue to serve as a resource for technical support in the 2021-2022 school year. An additional after-school in-service program for professional learning has been created for staff to advance their pedagogy and enhance their professional practice.