Health and safety Plans for Fall 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic Response Task Force’s Campus Support and Community Health working group spent the last several weeks analyzing the interim guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and more specifically the CDC’s Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic decision tree. Members of our working group crafted plans, procedures, and/or protocols for each item listed on the decision tree.

The CDC guidance dovetails with the interim guidance from New York State released earlier this week. Schools in New York State are required to submit their re-opening plans for approval. We will share our full plan with our school community once it has been submitted to New York State later this month.

The 2020–2021 academic year will be remarkably different from any other year — with unprecedented challenges and unique opportunities for building community. We have separated key elements of our plans into the drop-down sections below. The information below is based on the interim New York State Guidelines. Our plans will be updated following the release of the final state guidelines and the approval of our plan by New York State.

Protecting members of our community

ECFS monitors guidance, directives, and requirements issued by New York State and New York City to ensure we comply with all relevant provisions. In the event that guidance, directives, or requirements change, we will review our plans and revise them, if necessary, to ensure compliance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), some members of our community need to take extra precautions in order to protect themselves. Additional information about populations at higher risk for severe illness can be found here. Reasonable accommodations are made for those members of our community who cannot engage in school activities, whether they are academic, co-curricular, or other related programming.

  • Students: Information regarding accommodations for students can be found in divisional student and family handbooks. The School is committed to ensuring that students are provided with equal access to the School’s programs and services, in accordance with applicable law. The School may require documentation regarding a student’s request and will make reasonable accommodations to enable a student to participate in the program where doing so does not pose an undue burden to the School or a threat to the safety of the school community.

  • Employees: Information regarding accommodations for employees can be found in the employee handbook. ECFS is committed to complying with all applicable laws providing for nondiscrimination in employment against qualified individuals with physical or mental disabilities, including employees who are pregnant or who have recently given birth. The School will provide employees at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 with reasonable accommodations that allow them the opportunity to perform the essential functions of their job in a safe and efficient manner.

  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers: The School is committed to ensuring that parents, guardians, and caregivers are provided with equal access to the School’s programs and services, in accordance with applicable law. The School may require documentation regarding the request and will make reasonable accommodations to enable participation where doing so does not pose an undue burden to the School or a threat to the safety of the school community.

Ahead of the academic year

ECFS considered requiring a negative COVID-19 test before students and employees began the academic year. The New York State guidance and CDC guidance advise to not conduct COVID-19 testing or require testing or antibody testing of students or employees. New York State and the CDC note that the decision of whether a test needs to be conducted should be determined by a healthcare provider or the local department of health.

The School also expects employees and families to adhere to any quarantine orders issued from New York State. Additional information about these orders is available from New York State here.

All employees will receive training on applicable precautions, policies, protocols, and/or procedures in advance of the academic year, either remotely or in person. Employees will be notified in advance of necessary physical distancing, requirement of face coverings, health and hygiene practices, etc. The School will confirm completion of or arrange for completion of any specialized training needed by employees in specialized roles, like nurses, who may have more frequent or concentrated contact with potential or confirmed COVID-19 cases.

ECFS maintains a “warm line” to our points of contact within the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. Contact is initiated for consultation when a question arises and expertise from the local public health agency is needed. Contact will also be initiated for reporting purposes should such a directive be issued by New York State or New York City. ECFS also continues to monitor a variety of public health and municipal regulatory agencies for additional guidance that would require the School to effectuate a change in planning or response.

Arrival/dismissal and school entrances

In general, parents, guardians, caregivers, and visitors will not be permitted open access to school buildings. They will be allowed on our campuses for pick-up or drop-off at designated locations and entrances while maintaining appropriate physical distancing. We anticipate the lower schools will have both staggered arrival times and staggered dismissal times.

Daily screening

ECFS requires a daily screening for the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and history of exposure to potential or confirmed cases of COVID-19. All employees will complete a confidential daily pre-arrival questionnaire administered through the Magnus Health app before reporting to work. Students or their parent/guardian will complete a daily pre-arrival questionnaire administered through the Magnus Health app before departing for School.

At a minimum, the questionnaire will determine whether the individual has:

  1. knowingly been in close or proximate contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 or who has or had symptoms of COVID-19;

  2. tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in the past 14 days;

  3. has traveled internationally or from a state with widespread community transmission of COVID-19 per the New York State Travel Advisory in the past 14 days; and/or

  4. has experienced any symptoms of COVID-19, including a temperature of greater than 100.0°F, in the past 14 days.

The questionnaire will also include a field for users to input their current temperature. Based on the questionnaire response, users will be prompted with instructions to either stay home or attend work/School.

Off-campus activities

  • Students may not leave campus after their morning arrival. No off-campus permissions will be granted to student grades that might typically be permitted to leave campus during the day.

  • Day and overnight field trips, service-learning trips, and international trips have been postponed through December 2020.

Face coverings and healthy hygiene practices

Healthy hygiene practices

All students and employees will be trained in healthy hygiene practices like hand washing, proper use of personal protective equipment, and covering one's nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Signage will be posted throughout the campuses to remind our community about healthy hygiene practices, particularly hand washing in bathrooms.

Hygiene stations will be deployed throughout the campuses that contain disposable masks and gloves. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the campuses via wall-mounted dispensers. Tissues and disinfecting wipes will be available in each classroom.

Wearing face coverings

The CDC recommends wearing face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. ECFS will provide cloth face coverings to each student and employee at the beginning of the year. No one is required to wear the ECFS-provided face covering, but a face covering is required when on campus unless in a single-occupant room, outdoors physically distanced from others, or when eating and drinking physically distanced from others. Schedules within the school day will be adapted to provide periods for face covering removal in large or outdoor areas physically distanced from others. Students and employees who cannot medically or psychologically tolerate wearing a face covering should make a request for a reasonable accommodation as outlined in the "Protecting members of our community" section above.

All students and employees must adhere to the CDC’s guidance on washing cloth face coverings. For individuals wearing a disposable face covering, the manufacturer should be consulted to determine instructions for use.

Other practices

Upon arrival to campus, students should have all necessary items in a bag so that they can more easily wash their hands or apply sanitizer. To reduce waste, students should also come to campus with a reusable water bottle. Water fountains are being converted to contactless bottle filling stations.

Campus spaces and supplies

Physical distancing

A campus facilities assessment has been conducted that accounts for physical distancing in classrooms where desks are spaced a minimum of six feet apart. A variety of furniture changes have been made, such as removing Harkness tables and replacing them with individual desks. Changes like this allow us to optimize space use while accommodating necessary physical distancing. Turning desks to face the same direction rather than facing each other can also reduce transmission caused from virus-containing droplets (e.g. from talking, coughing, sneezing).

Where possible, visual aids like painter’s tape, stickers, and/or decals will be used to illustrate traffic flow and appropriate spacing to support physical distancing. Signage is being developed and deployed at eye-level to help aid physical distancing.

Shared supplies

Every effort will be made to eliminate sharing of supplies and materials. Supplies and materials that cannot be designated for single-student use must be wiped with anti-microbial cleaning wipes between uses. In cases like this, a bin should be designated for used supplies that need to be wiped. Where necessary, ECFS may need to assign a specific set of supplies or materials to a single student, or require that a student bring their own supplies from home, such as writing implements.

Cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation

Intensifying cleaning and disinfection

Our intensified cleaning and disinfection practices will continue to take place every evening. Throughout the day, high-touch or high-use areas like doorknobs, light switches, handles, faucets, sinks, etc., will also be cleaned and disinfected.

The custodial teams will continue use of several products included on the EPA’s registry of cleaners confirmed for use against COVID-19. These products include Virex, Clorox Disinfectant Wipes, Clorox Disinfecting Bleach, and Lysol. The custodial teams have also employed electrostatic chemical sprayers to apply disinfectant to high-touch surfaces like fitness equipment, desktops, tabletops, seats, and more. Please be assured that appropriate training and use of personal protective equipment are our norms.


For buildings with central air conditioning systems, the School is working with a certified HVAC contractor to install highest rated (MERV) filters that meet or are above the current New York State requirements. For rooms with window air conditioners and split unit (ductless) air conditioners, the School is working with a certified HVAC contractor to install the highest appropriate filters based on unit specifications. For rooms without central air conditioning or window units, the School will install air purification systems with appropriate filtration. To date, the CDC guidance has recommended increasing outdoor air to these rooms by opening doors and windows.

Other controls

Where possible during peak use times, doors will be latched in an open position to minimize necessary contact.

Planning for students or employees who get sick

Any student or employee who is sick is encouraged to stay home. The daily screening questionnaire will reflect this encouragement. The School will track student and employee absences and follow up accordingly.

The New York State guidance lays out protocols should a student or an employee get sick and notification need to be made to members of the school community. This protocol will be adapted and included in our full plan, which will be submitted to New York State and made available to our community.

Bus transportation

  • Bus riders and drivers are required to wear a face covering.

  • To limit possible physical interaction among students, students are required to board the school bus by filling the back rows first, and then progressing forward. When leaving the bus, students should exit in the opposite order.

  • Windows and roof hatches will be opened to increase ventilation when temperatures are above 45oF.

  • Selby employees will undergo a daily pre-arrival screening and will be required to wear personal protective equipment at all times.

  • School buses will be cleaned and disinfected at the beginning of the day, end of the day, and between each route that utilizes the bus.

  • To protect the health and safety of our students and to ensure there is adequate capacity on our buses, employees are only permitted to ride morning or afternoon buses when Selby has confirmed that there is the capacity for them to do so.

  • The Department of Education Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) is responsible for designing the standard operating procedures for all publicly provided yellow bus routes. The School will provide additional information from OPT when it becomes available.

Dining services

Ethical Culture and Fieldston Lower

  • With limited space to physically distance in our dining halls, students will eat meals in their respective classrooms.

  • Lunch meals will be pre-ordered each week, individually packaged and labeled in disposable containers, and delivered to the students' classrooms.

  • Daily snacks will be provided in prepackaged containers. Bulk container snacks (e.g., a tub of goldfish) will not be available.

Fieldston Middle and Fieldston Upper

  • With limited space to physically distance in our dining halls, students will eat meals in their advisory or at another predetermined location.

  • Lunch meals will be individually packaged, grab-and-go meals in disposable containers. Students and employees will enter through the 700s building door and will follow floor decals to ensure physical distancing while waiting in line.

  • All food and beverages will be provided by a food service worker. All self-service stations — including salad and deli bars, soup stations, and beverage stations — will be suspended.

  • The traditional breakfast program will be suspended to encourage students to meet directly at their first period classroom. Dining Services will provide satellite pickup stations throughout the divisions in the morning so students may pick up prepackaged products (e.g., wrapped fruit, NutriGrain bars, etc.).

  • The World Restaurant Station will be closed to accommodate a salad/sandwich station.


  • Family-style and self-service buffets will be suspended. Products must be prepackaged or served directly by a food service worker. CaterTrax will be updated to remove noncompliant product or service options.

  • Temporary staff will not be permitted to serve at ECFS catering events.

  • Any Dining Services employee required to stay for an extended day — which may include evening catering events — will undergo a second round of signs/symptoms and temperature screening.


  • All utensils and flatware will be disposable products with priority given to compostable, biodegradable, or recyclable products.

  • Dining Services employees will be required to don personal protective equipment as required by law, including face coverings and gloves. Regular and ongoing hand washing will be required of all Dining Services employees at all divisions and will be strictly enforced.

  • Dining rooms will be partitioned to provide increased workspace for AVI employees to prepare and organize lunch service. Kitchens will practice physical distancing and will limit the number of employees entering the space at a given time. No visitors will be permitted in the kitchen.

  • To ensure the safety of our food and to reduce the School's dependence on single-use plastics, hand fruits, pastries, and bagels will not be served in the faculty lounges.

  • Contactless deliveries will be utilized for food and supply deliveries.