Safe Return: 2021 School Opening
The Morris School District is committed to providing exceptional learning experiences in a safe, healthy, and inclusive environment. Our Safe Return Plan aligns with the The Road Forward from the NJ Department of Education and the NJ Department of Health, as well as with recommendations from the CDC and our local health department. Please remember that any aspect of our plan is subject to change in the event of a shift in local, state, or national conditions. We will continue to post regular updates on the Coronavirus Update Center (see the Quicklinks menu at the top of the page).
Click on the drop-down tabs below for a description of the protocols we have implemented to protect our students, staff, families, and community.
For an overview of some of the differences between this year's opening plan and last year's, please refer to our School Opening Comparison Chart.
- Social Distancing
- Daily Symptom Screening
- Response to Symptoms
- Contact Tracing & Quarantine
- Bus Transportation
- Personal Hygiene Practices
- Cleaning & Disinfecting
- Nursing Services
- Water Bottle Filling Stations
- Athletics & Extracurricular Activities
- Performing Arts Classes (Music, Theatre, etc.)
- Physical Education
- School Breakfast & Lunch
Masks Required Indoors and on Buses. As per Governor Murphy's Executive Order No. 251, all students, staff, and visitors are required to wear a mask at all times in our school buildings and on school buses. If a student forgets their mask or if it becomes unusable, a disposable mask will be provided. Preschool and elementary students will take "mask breaks" outdoors in a safe and controlled manner at coordinated times during the school day. Individuals may be exempt from wearing a mask under certain conditions (see pages 4-5 of Executive Order No. 251).
Be sure the mask fits snugly and that it completely covers both the mouth and nose. Please do not use masks with exhalation valves. Plastic face shields are not permitted as a substitute, except for students who are exempt from wearing masks due to a documented medical condition or disability. Bandanas, snowboarding gaiters, or other coverings without straps or ear loops will not be accepted.
We recommend that students bring an extra mask or two each day, stored in a ziploc bag or other sanitary container. Cloth masks should be washed after use; be sure to dry thoroughly before wearing. Dress code policies apply to face coverings insofar as objectionable images and slogans are not permitted.
Students will not wear masks when outdoors, eating meals and snacks, or engaged in high-intensity physical education indoors. In these cases, other protective measures will be implemented to maximize everyone's safety. Please see Performing Arts tab for requirements in those contexts.
3 Feet of Social Distancing in Classrooms. Classrooms will be arranged with desks in rows, at least 36 inches apart and facing the same direction, if possible. If this arrangement is not possible because of lack of space or furniture restrictions, students will be grouped in pods (still at 3 feet apart) within the classroom, and plexiglass dividers will separate students. Seating charts will be used to facilitate targeted contact tracing and avoid unnecessary quarantines.
6 Feet of Social Distancing During Lunch. Students will be spaced 6 feet apart during indoor lunches and will be facing the same direction when seated in lunchrooms. Outdoor lunch will be arranged whenever possible. At the PreK-5 level, seating charts will be used during lunch to facilitate targeted contact tracing and avoid unnecessary quarantines.
At the middle and high schools, students will use the cafeteria, classrooms, hallways, common areas, and/or outdoor spaces to ensure 6 feet of social distancing during lunch.
Protocols for Staff. Unvaccinated staff members must complete a daily COVID/Attendance screener (Google Form) each day of work prior to their arrival in the building. Vaccinated staff members do not need to complete the form but should still self-monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 each day. If a staff member exhibits symptoms or has been exposed to COVID-19, they must contact their building secretary, immediate supervisor, and Paula Mendez for instructions.
Protocols for Students. Families should monitor their children for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and complete a symptom check at home each morning prior to their children leaving for school. The Daily Student Screening linked below includes a list of symptoms of COVID-19 as well as situations that may have resulted in exposure to COVID-19. Please keep your child at home and contact the school nurse if you observe any of the listed symptoms or if you answer YES to any of the questions in the Daily Student Screening.
When to Stay Home and Contact School Officials.
Students and staff should stay home if:
- They develop any symptoms of COVID-19:
- Fever (100 or above)
- New cough
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore Throat
- Congestion/runny nose
- They test positive for COVID-19 (viral test, not a blood test) or are awaiting test results.
- They have been directed by a healthcare provider to get tested for COVID-19 or are assumed to be positive based on a healthcare provider's assessment.
- Someone in the immediate household has tested positive for COVID-19, is awaiting test results, has been directed by a healthcare provide to get tested, or is assumed to be positive based on a healthcare provider's assessment.
- In the past 14 days, they have been in close contact with someone outside of their immediate household who either tested positive for COIVD-19 or is assumed to be positive. "Close contact" is defined as being within 6 feet for a total of at least 15 minutes' cumulative time over a 24-hour period.
- In the past 14 days, they have returned from international travel.
School officials must be notified when any of these situations apply, as follows:
- Parents/guardians should contact the school nurse on behalf of their child
- Staff members should contact their building secretary, immediate supervisor, and District Nursing Coordinator Paula Mendez
Our nursing staff will inform the student or staff member what action, if any, is necessary and whether quarantine is warranted. Quarantine guidelines will vary for the above situations depending on whether or not the student or staff member is vaccinated against COVID-19. Regardless, please stay home and notify school officials to receive further instructions.
In addition to the daily symptom screening conducted at home, symptoms will also be monitored at school. If a student exhibits symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they will be safely and respectfully isolated from others. Parents/guardians will be notified immediately and are expected to pick up the student promptly. The student should begin self-isolation at home and will be instructed to follow up with their healthcare provider immediately to determine if testing and quarantine are warranted.
Students must be fever-free for at least 48 hours without the aid of fever-reducing medicine before they may return to school. In addition, if the student is unvaccinated, clearance to return to school after a fever and other symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will require a negative result on a COVID-19 test.
Similarly, any staff member suspected of having COVID-19 will be sent home and instructed to follow up with their health care provider immediately to determine if testing and quarantine are warranted. The staff member must be fever-free for at least 48 hours without the aid of fever-reducing medicine before they may return to school. In addition, if the staff member is unvaccinated, clearance to return to school after a fever and other symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will require a negative result on a COVID-19 test.
If an individual who has spent time in any of our buildings or buses tests positive for COVID-19, we will notify local health officials, staff, and families that a case has been confirmed and follow all other required procedures. The local health department will guide us in determining the identification of close contacts for quarantine purposes. Quarantine guidelines will vary depending on whether the individual is vaccinated or unvaccinated.
Contact Tracing. Our nursing staff will continue to partner closely with the local health department to determine close contacts of any individuals who test positive for COVID-19. (A close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet of a positive case for at least 15 minutes' cumulative time over a 24-hour period.)
Seating charts will be used in classrooms and on buses in order to determine close contacts as precisely as possible and avoid any unnecessary quarantines.
Quarantine. Quarantine at home is required for any individual who:
- Tests positive for COVID-19
- Returns from domestic or international travel and is unvaccinated
- Is identified as a close contact and is unvaccinated*
*Guidelines from the NJDOH/NJDOE for close contacts as of August 20, 2021: "In the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) where both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time. This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting." (The Road Forward)
Please note that criteria and timeframes for quarantine will depend on local and state-wide rates of transmission and the associated risk level at any given time. The Morris School District considers the recommendations of the local health department, the NJ Department of Health, and the CDC when making decisions regarding quarantine. These recommendations will likely change as the pandemic evolves.
Additional quarantine guidelines apply if the student or staff member is a household contact of a positive individual (that is, if someone in the same household tests positive). Because such situations are complicated and nuanced, please be sure to remain in contact with the school nurse on behalf of your student (or Paula Mendez if you are a staff member) so that the required timeframe for quarantine can be properly adjusted.
Our transportation protocols align with all guidance from the NJ Department of Education, the NJ Department of Health, and our local health department. Students, staff, and drivers are required to wear a mask while on the bus. If a student forgets their mask, a disposable mask will be available for them on the bus.
Each school bus is cleaned and disinfected in between routes, and a thorough cleaning and disinfecting is completed at the end of each day.
Buses will be operating at full capacity this year; students will not be socially distanced. Seating charts will be used to facilitate targeted contact tracing and avoid unnecessary quarantines.
Frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing will occur throughout the day. All classrooms, hallways, and entry points are equipped with automatic hand sanitizers. Teachers and staff are trained on all protocols related to social distancing, respiratory etiquette, and sanitizing requirements for classrooms. Students will be reminded, through age-appropriate signage and teacher direction, when and how to properly wash hands according to CDC recommendations, and parents are encouraged to review and reinforce these practices at home. We will continue to follow and remind students of the CDC's guidance on general hygiene during the coronavirus pandemic.
Snack time for elementary students and lunch for all grade levels will be carefully coordinated and monitored to ensure students' safety; outdoor eating areas will be used whenever possible.
We will continue to adhere to existing required facilities cleaning practices and procedures and will follow any new specific requirements of the local health department as they arise.
Custodial and Maintenance staff clean and sanitize the school buildings on a regular basis using EPA-approved products. They have received additional training to comply with all COVID-19 cleaning and sanitizing requirements and guidelines. High-touch surfaces and high-use areas are cleaned and sanitized multiple times during the school day using EPA-approved products. Building staff also support the routine cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces and commonly touched areas within the classrooms and offices.
Cafeterias and other lunch areas will be cleaned and sanitized between uses. Bathrooms will be cleaned and sanitized daily, and between uses as much as possible according to protocols outlined by the EPA. Buses are cleaned and sanitized in between bus runs and at the end of the day.
Cleaning supplies have been purchased and/or have been ordered to support frequent cleaning and sanitizing throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Cleaning/sanitizing checklists have been compiled into a procedural manual for use in the 2021-22 school year.
Nurses' offices at our schools have been outfitted with additional resources, including touchless temperature scanners and protective personal equipment (PPE) for our nursing staff.
An isolation room has been designated in each school so that students and staff who develop symptoms can be safely and respectfully isolated from others and attended to. We will follow all guidelines and requirements of the local health department regarding reporting and contact tracing and ensure adherence to privacy laws.
All nurses have been trained on protocols for screening, isolation, and exclusion from school according to CDC, NJ Department of Health, and local health department guidelines.
Our nurses will continue to work in close partnership with district families regarding the monitoring of students' symtoms, COVID test results, and quarantine procedures. A diretory of school nurses may be found HERE.
Each of our classrooms and large capacity spaces have unit ventilators that meet required standards for air exchange. Units are systematically and periodically checked to ensure that they comply with guidance for recirculated air. Windows for all classrooms are in working condition and will remain open whenever practicable. Air purifiers with three layers of filtration--pre-filter, H13 True HEPA, and active carbon composite for odors--have also been added to every classroom and large group area.
All schools are equipped with water bottle filling stations that have no-touch sensor activation. Students are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles to school each day, as they will not be permitted to drink directly from the water fountains.
Students will be given water breaks during the day to stay hydrated. Please be sure your child is drinking enough water at home, especially on hot days.
FMS and MHS athletics will follow their regular season schedules. Temperature checks are no longer required for participation in games or practices. Students and coaches must wear masks on buses and when in the building (including in locker rooms), except when engaging in high-intensity activity.
Clubs and extracurricular activities will resume in-person meetings. Students will be spaced 3 feet apart to the extent practicable. Masks are still required in the building during after school hours as well. Food will not be permitted at club or extracurricular meetings.
The following protocols apply to indoor visual and performing arts classrooms and activities (Dance, Media Arts, Music, Theatre, Visual Art):
Masks: Masks should be utilized by all performers except wind players where the instrument itself should be masked with a bell cover. Wind Players may have a normal mask around the neck when playing the instrument which should be used to cover the mouth and nose when not playing. Specially designed player masks are not necessary. NOTE: Flutes and Recorders do not need any covering as they do not generate aerosols.
Timing: In spaces with good ventilation, indoor rehearsal time should be limited to 50 minutes followed by one air exchange before resuming (a minimum of 3 air changes per hour should be used or 1 air change every 20 minutes). If there are spaces with higher air change rates, longer rehearsal times may be considered.
Social Distancing: Students will be spaced 3 feet apart to the extent practicable.
For Outdoor Activities: There are no mask, distancing, or time limitations for any outdoor visual and performing arts activity. No mitigations are needed (subject to level of local transmission rates).
Proper hygiene and ventilation strategies will be a priority at all times, both indoors and out.
Students will wear masks indoors during gym; accordingly, activity will be low to moderate intensity so that masks can be worn comfortably. At this time, locker rooms are not accessible for changing; students should plan accordingy in terms of appropriate dress and footwear.
PE classes will take place outside whenever possible so that students can safely remove their masks.
Breakfast and lunch will be provided in individually packaged "grab-and-go" bags to avoid students congregating on line. Students will eat breakfast in their homerooms and will be spaced 6 feet apart.
Students will be spaced 6 feet apart during indoor lunches and will be facing the same direction when seated in lunchrooms. Outdoor lunch will be arranged whenever possible. At the PreK-5 level, seating charts will be used during lunch to facilitate targeted contact tracing and avoid unnecessary quarantines.
At the middle and high schools, students will use the cafeteria, classrooms, hallways, common areas, and/or outdoor spaces to ensure 6 feet of social distancing during lunch.
Cafeterias and other lunch areas will be cleaned and sanitized between uses.
School start and dismissal times will return to our normal academic year schedule. Please click the button below for regular, early dismissal, and delayed opening schedules.
Remote learning will only be available for students who:
- Are quarantining after being officially identified as a close contact
- Test positive for COVID-19
Under these circumstances, quarantined students will use their district-issued Chromebook to view the in-person classroom via Google Meet and will have access to assignments via Google Classroom (K-5) or Canvas (6-12).
Additional support will be provided to elementary students and others who require it.