COVID-19 Information, 2020-21 School Year

The EMS plan for opening school on August 25 was made in consultation with medical advisors, faculty, parents, the EMS Board of Directors, and the Virginia Department of Health. The VDH believes our advantages of a smaller community, use of mostly private transportation, conscientious families for home health screening, and mitigation plans that meet or exceed state requirements for schools allows for operating in person.

Important Documents

Your questions answered....

General Details...

  • Classes for all students K-12 begin at 8:30 a.m
  • K-5 students may arrive at 8 a.m., and should be dropped off at the bridge.
  • 6-12 students may arrive at 8 a.m., and must go to first block class.

Drop off for middle and high school:

  • Middle school students should be dropped off and enter through the auditorium entrance behind of the Upper Building.
  • High school students who drive should park in the dining hall parking lot and walk to the front entrance.
  • High school students who are being dropped off should be dropped off at the front entrance in the drop off loop.
  • Student drivers with a middle school rider should park in the auditorium parking lot and enter through the auditorium entrance.
  • Students who bike to school can lock their bike during the day by the gym entrance (and enter the front door) or behind the school in a covered area near the loading dock (and enter the auditorium entrance)

Lunch

  • Elementary students should pack for the foreseeable future.
  • 6-12 students can pack or purchase lunch

End of Day:

  • School ends at 3 and students must be picked up by 3:15; accounts will be billed for after school care for all ages. Students in the Upper Building (6-12) after school must stay in the dining hall until they are picked up.
  • Students who drive or bike or walk will be dismissed promptly at 3 to exit the building. Students who are being picked up will be dismissed a few minutes later to stagger exiting the building.

Choral, Orchestra, Band Details for Grades 9-12 

Our music instructors have spent extensive time researching the risks of making music together with corona virus in the air. They will implement best practices, using distancing, masks, technological work-arounds, to implement music teaching.

Choir classes will be taught outdoors with 10 feet of spacing between singers due to the tendency of singing to produce high volumes of aerosol. Student voices will be amplified using a combination of sound equipment and megaphones. Strings classes will maintain social distancing indoors. Wind classes will practice in a large space  using extended distancing.
  • 9th to 12th grade orchestra (both winds and strings) will meet Monday and Thursday after school, 3:05 to 3:30 p.m. and Wednesday morning before school, 8 to 8:25 a.m.
  • Choral ensembles meet during 1st block (for 11th and 12th grade students) and 4th block (for 9th and 10th grade students) as part of students' pre-arranged class schedule.
  • Middle school choral and instrumental opportunities also occur during the school day as part of students' pre-arranged class schedule

What About Athletics?

In conversations with medical professionals and our school administration, we have made the decision to not have traditional Fall sports at this time. This decision keeps us in line with Virginia Phase 3 Guidelines for schools. As you can imagine, this has been a very difficult decision.

We are working to create an intramural program for all students, skill development programs for our Middle School and JV teams, and our Varsity teams will practice on a reduced schedule in hopes that state guidelines change to allow regular competition, especially in moderate to high risk sports. The timetable for these activities will be finalized at a later date.

Andrew Gascho, Athletic Director

July 30, 2020

What if... ?

Upon learning of COVID-19 touches within our school community, we will be in contact with the VDH about our immediate and longer-term response.  This is what we imagine those responses might look like.

Our FIRST line of defense is prevention. Any hint of illness with an unknown cause requires your student to STAY HOME!  Any unprotected close contact (<6’ for at least 15 minutes) of a student with a COVID-19 positive person or a self-quarantined person with possible exposure - STAY HOME!

  • A 2nd grader is coughing, sneezing, and has a runny nose more than usual. EMS will have the student wait in a safely isolated area until their parent/guardian can pick them up. For young children who have limited exposure because of parent oversight, we will inquire about possible COVID exposures. Generally, these will have been with direct family members or childcare providers, both of whom would likely exhibit COVID symptoms before a child. 
    • If there was no likely exposure, the student would go home and not return to in person schooling until symptom-free for 24 hours without fever reducing medications. 
    • If there was exposure, the student would stay home, be recommended for testing, and follow 14-day self-quarantine expectations.  This situation is why self-containment and mask-wearing is so important. 
      • This student is considered a Direct Contact and their 2nd grade peers are Indirect Contacts. Generally, the VDH recommends Indirect Contacts self-monitor. 2nd grade parents will receive a letter informing them their child was an Indirect Contact of COVID-19 and ask them to self-monitor for any symptom. As usual, any symptom requires the student to stay home and communicate with the school. 
      • In the event of a positive test result from a 2nd grader, classes would spin online for the recommended time by VDH to ensure no living virus in the area. Return-to-School Policies will be enforced for students who have been sick. 
      • A positive COVID test result for an EMES student will result in each family being informed of their student’s exposure risk, school attendance plans, and given guidance based on VDH’s recommendations.
  • A 7th grader complains of a sore throat to classmates. Peers should encourage the student to visit the school’s Guidance/Nurse Office and inform the teacher who will request the same. The student’s symptoms will be treated and parents called to pick up the student. A very similar protocol to that described above for the 2nd grader scenario will be followed. Naturally, because of 7th graders changing classes, the communication with parents will be with a larger population of the student body.
    • Note: If there happens to be an outbreak of sore throats and the Harrisonburg area is experiencing a spike in cases, it is possible the VDH will recommend EMS shift to an online environment for a period of time.
  • A 12th grader develops a suspected fever when at school. The student should immediately report to the Guidance/Nurse Office. A conversation on possible exposure and contacts at school will be noted. Symptoms will be evaluated, treated, and the student will be requested to go home, track symptoms, and get tested. EMS will be in immediate conversation with VDH and EMS families will receive a letter their child had potential contact with a student who was sent home with COVID symptoms. The letter will give specific recommendations and directions in regard to school plans. VDOE COVID Info for Parents.pdf 

If symptoms worsen and/or test results come back positive, individuals who had close contact (<6’ and 10-15 minutes or more, especially if the symptomatic person was not consistently wearing a mask around them) are likely to be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Additionally, the school may need to spin online for 24 - 72 hours to clear the building of any virulent viruses. If a significant portion of the student body are discovered to be Direct Contacts (middle & high school since they share the same building), we may deem it most effective to require Distance Learning for a 2-week quarantine period.

While these scenarios share predictive responses, they emphasize the importance of: 

  • Proactive measures to stay at home with the hint of sickness. 
  • EMS’s commitment to communicate clear expectations with you as situations arise based on VDH’s recommendations AND our intention to keep student/family names confidential.
  • Our top priority will be the health safety of our students, faculty, and community-at-large.