District officials preparing COVID-19 response
March 13, 2020
General Brown Central School District administrators are continuing to monitor all guidance from local, state and federal agencies regarding the respiratory illness caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
At this time, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus in the school district. If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the district, all members of the school community will be notified.
As the situation evolves, local, state and federal officials continue to update their guidance for school districts. The district’s administrative team has been meeting to discuss the district’s policies, procedures and emergency response plans to ensure the district is prepared to meet the needs of its students and staff members should the virus affect the GB community and the district's operations.
Latest guidance regarding school closures
On March 12, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York state is banning all gatherings of more than 500 people. Because of this, the district has canceled several immediate events, such as the Dexter Elementary PTO dance and the GB Junior-Senior High School dance. District officials are meeting to review upcoming events and activities and develop contingency plans in the event that the district is forced to cancel more events or activities, or close a school.
On March 9, the New York State Department of Health and New York State Department of Education released guidance that states if a student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19, the state Department of Health requires an initial 24-hour closure of the school to assess the situation and develop a plan to as to any further required closure or other necessary precautions.
The latest state guidance says, “schools are not expected to make decisions about closing or canceling events due to COVID-19 on their own.”
In the event that the guidance changes, the district will provide as much notice as possible if it must cancel an event or close school. Notifications will be shared on the district website and via SchoolMessenger as soon as possible.
The district has infectious disease protocols in place and has been taking steps, such as cleaning and disinfecting throughout its schools, to minimize the spread of viruses and a variety of other illnesses. Staff have been sanitizing building spaces and school buses using an electrostatic sprayer, which applies a coating of disinfectant on surfaces, and the district has ordered an additional three sprayers.
In addition to their routine cleaning, custodial staff have been paying particular attention to cleaning and disinfecting on a more frequent basis common areas with high traffic, such as student and staff restrooms, as well as high-touch surfaces across all buildings, such as door handles.
Teachers have been asked to stress in their classroom conversations the importance of handwashing- and proper handwashing techniques, and schools have displayed posters from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that highlight steps to prevent the spread of colds and flu, which are similar to the prevention steps for COVID-19.
Hand sanitizer dispensers are available in the buildings, especially in areas of high traffic, such as school building main offices.
“We are looking at how we can enhance the measures we already have in place and monitoring the guidance that is coming out from our public health officials,” Superintendent Barbara Case said.
- There are a number of steps that students, staff and community members can take to minimize the spread of all respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Heavily soiled hands should be washed.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
If you or a family member begin showing symptoms of a respiratory disease and suspect it may be COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider. Before going to your healthcare provider’s office, inform them that a case of COVID-19 is suspected, and follow their advice.
It is also important to remind everyone that exposure to COVID-19 can occur from any person-to-person contact and is not limited to a particular race or ethnicity.
In the event that a school or the district must close, staff members are preparing online resources, as well as hard-copy instructional packets, to provide students educational materials in an effort to maintain the state-required continuity of instruction.
District officials are also developing a plan for those students who rely upon the district's free or reduced-price meals program and will communicate directly with those students’ families in the event of a school closure.
The district will continue to share information as it becomes available on the district website. Any time-sensitive, critical information will be shared via the district’s SchoolMessenger notification system, which sends email, text message and phone call notifications, depending upon how parents subscribed to the system.
More information about COVID-19
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- New York State Department of Health: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
In addition, New York state has established a Novel Coronavirus Hotline, which can provide additional information. Call 1-888-364-3065 with questions or concerns about travel and symptoms.