Health and Safety

The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school campuses. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

The following protocols and procedures will be in place in all district schools for the 2020-21 school year should in-person schooling resume. Anyone with questions or concerns should contact our COVID-19 safety coordinator Superintendent of Schools Dr. Timothy Mundell at or (518) 872-1293.

For more information about how health and safety protocols and trainings will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan at

Health Checks

The district has developed resources to educate parents/guardians and staff members regarding the careful observation of symptoms of COVID-19 and health screening measures that must be conducted each morning before coming to school. The resources include the requirement for any student or staff member with a fever of 100°F or greater and/or symptoms of possible COVID-19 virus infection to not come to school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list of Coronavirus symptoms was used to develop these resources.

The BKW Central School District will implement the following practices to conduct mandated health screening:

  • Staff and students will be required to complete a daily health self-screening via an online health application, Any student or staff member who exhibits any of the symptoms of COVID-19, or has been in contact with anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 must stay home from school and quarantine until documentation confirming their health is provided.  
  • If students or staff do not have the ability to complete at home screening via the app, they are asked to call the district with their health affirmation or complete a paper affirmation and send it to school with their student.

Social distancing, face coverings & PPE

The district has developed a plan with policies and procedures for maintaining social distancing of all students, faculty, and staff when on school facilities, grounds and transportation.

Social distancing- 6 feet of space in all directions between individuals or use of appropriate physical barriers between individuals that do not adversely affect air flow, heating, cooling, or ventilation, or otherwise present a health or safety risk.

  • 6 feet markings in hallways and entrance/ exit routes.
  • Classrooms will be marked to indicate  6 feet of space between desks and work spaces.
  • Separate entrance/egress points will be clearly labeled to prohibit bidirectional flow of traffic at doors.
  • Each building will provide signs indicating appropriate social distancing for the environment and the importance of wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible.
  • Additional restrooms will be allotted for student use to help increase social distancing.  Physical barriers will be used in an effort to increase distancing.  Signs reminding students/staff of proper hand hygiene will be posted in various areas.

Students, staff, and visitors will wear face-coverings consistently throughout the school day, including on the school bus, traveling from the bus into the building, during all other transitions, and always when social distancing of at least six-feet cannot be maintained. Students who are unable to medically tolerate a face-covering will not be required to wear one, and a medical excuse (doctor’s note) must be provided to the district in such cases. Certain high needs special education students will also not be required to wear face-coverings in keeping with their identified disability. In such cases, this accommodation should be part of a student’s IEP. Students will be allowed to remove face-coverings during meals so long as they are properly socially distanced. During instruction, while appropriately socially distanced there will be “mask breaks”,

Students at the elementary level (Grades K-6) will be required to wear a mask during classroom instruction. The teacher will also use his/her professional judgment if a mask break is needed sooner, for example, once every 15 minutes. The classroom teacher may also plan a mask break outside where students can be spaced out even further than in the classroom, which will also allow for some movement. The students will also be required to wear face masks during any transition, such as arrival or dismissal, or anytime they are in the hallways. Students will not be required to take a mask break if they so choose. The teacher will also have the ability to provide individual students with a mask break if there is an extenuating circumstance.

Students at the secondary level (grades 7-12) will be required to wear a mask during classroom instruction. All teachers will provide a mandatory student mask break during each period. Mask breaks should be offered when students are not required to actively engage in conversation. Teachers will determine how to best divide and implement mask breaks within these guidelines. Students will be allowed to keep their mask on during a mask break if they so choose. Teachers will also have the ability to provide individual students with a mask break if there is an extenuating circumstance.

Face-coverings will be provided to students and staff, if needed, at no cost. Acceptable face-coverings for COVID-19 include, but are not limited to, cloth-based coverings and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose. Face shields may be used by some school staff, but they are to be worn in addition to face masks, not in place of them.

Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school, so there may be periods of time when masks are not worn.

Cloth face masks that cover both the nose and mouth that include, but are not limited to, homemade sewn masks, “quick cut” masks and bandanas are acceptable. Surgical masks are also acceptable. More information about masks and mask care can be found at the Centers for Disease Control website:

What if students refuse to wear a mask? Just as any other instance in which a student refuses to follow school rules, teachers and other staff will work toward compliance with the student. Short term non-compliance may result in short term removal from class. Chronic non-compliance may result in an involuntary shift to remote learning. It will be very important for families to be proactive in discussing the importance of wearing masks at school. We want to ensure everyone’s safety.

Face coverings should not be placed on:

  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Students where such covering would impair their health or mental health, or where such covering would present a challenge, distraction, or obstruction to education services and instruction
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
  • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance

The district will instruct students, parents/guardians and staff, contractors and vendors on:

  • The proper way to wear face coverings
  • Proper use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Washing hands before putting on and after removing their face covering
  • The proper way to discard disposable face coverings and other PPE
  • Using the health screening affirmation app

Question: When, specifically, are face-coverings required for students and when are they not required? And what about during instructional time?


Infection control strategies

  • Student supplies will be individually assigned. Items for shared use will be disinfected between student use.
  • Library books, and other common materials will be quarantined for at least three days prior to reuse.  
  • Student lockers will be spaced. Students will be encouraged to carry limited supplies each day.  
  • Sharing of individual student supplies will be strictly prohibited.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer stations will be provided in areas of congregation. 
  • Students will be 6 feet apart during instruction as per guidance from the CDC.  
  • Students will travel in cohorts as much as possible throughout the day.
  • Teachers will travel to classrooms to instruct cohorts throughout the day. 

Facility Alterations and Acquisition

To increase instructional space during the school day, cafeterias and auditoriums will be used. These areas will be sanitized between student cohort use. 

Plumbing Facilities and Fixtures

  • Additional restrooms have been allocated for student use in the secondary school.
  • Water fountains will be made available and will be regularly sanitized.


  • Filtration system updated to a MERV 8 air filter.  
  • To the extent possible, room doors will be kept open to allow for increased air flow throughout the building.
  • Recent building project upgraded the amount of ventilation in both buildings.  

Management of ill persons, contact tracing and monitoring

The district requires students, faculty, or staff members who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to report to the nurse’s office. If there are several students waiting to see the school nurse, students must wait at least 6 feet apart. The district has designated areas to separate individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 from others until they can go home or to a healthcare facility, depending on severity of illness. One area will be used to treat injuries, provide medications or nursing treatments, and the other area will be used for assessing and caring for ill students and staff. Both areas will be supervised by an adult and have easy access to a bathroom and sink with hand hygiene supplies.

A student who has been sent home by the nurse for COVID-19 related symptoms must be seen by a healthcare provider and meet the outlined conditions for return to school- present a note from the healthcare provider clearing the student for return to school, have a negative COVID-19 test, and have symptom resolution.

Berne-Knox-Westerlo Elementary School

  • COVID-19 symptom isolation area: TBD
  • Treatment/medication area: TBD

Berne-Knox-Westerlo Secondary School

  • COVID-19 symptom isolation area: TBD
  • Treatment/medication area: TBD

PPE requirements for school health office staff caring for sick individuals include both standard and transmission-based precautions. In areas with moderate to substantial community transmission, eye protection (e.g., goggles or face shield) should be added. When caring for a suspect or confirmed individual with COVID-19, gloves, a gown, eye protection, and a fit-tested N-95 respirator will be used, if available. If an N-95 respirator is not available, a surgical face mask and face shield will be used.

School health office cleaning will occur after each use of cots, bathrooms, and health office equipment (e.g., blood pressure cuffs, otoscopes, stethoscopes). Health office equipment will be cleaned following manufacturer’s directions.

Disposable items will be used as much as possible (e.g., disposable pillow protectors, disposable thermometers, disposable thermometer sheaths or probes, disposable otoscope specula).

Aerosol Generating Procedures

Respiratory treatments administered by nurses generally result in aerosolization of respiratory secretions. These aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) potentially put healthcare personnel and others at an increased risk for pathogen exposure and infection. The district requires the following PPE to be worn during AGPs: gloves, N-95 or a surgical mask with face shield, eye protection and a gown. PPE will be used when: suctioning, administering nebulizer treatments, or using peak flow meters with students who have respiratory conditions.

Treatments such as nebulized medication treatments and oral or tracheostomy suctioning will be conducted in a room separate from others with nursing personnel wearing appropriate PPE. For nebulizer treatments, if developmentally appropriate, the nurse will leave the room and return when the nebulizer treatment is finished.

Cleaning of the room will occur between use and cleaning of the equipment should be done following manufacturer’s instructions after each use.  

If Students or Staff become Ill with Symptoms of COVID-19 at School

The district requires students or staff with a temperature, signs of illness, and/or a positive response to the questionnaire to be sent directly to a dedicated isolation area where students are supervised, prior to being picked up or otherwise sent home. Students will be supervised in the isolation area while awaiting transport home and will be separated by at least 6 feet. Students will be escorted from the isolation area to their parent/guardian. Students or staff will be referred to a healthcare provider and provided resources on COVID-19 testing.

Return to School after Illness

The district has established protocols and procedures, in consultation with the local health department(s), about the requirements for determining when individuals, particularly students, who screened positive for COVID-19 symptoms can return to the in-person learning environment at school. This protocol includes:

1.      Documentation from a health care provider following evaluation

2.      Negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result

3.      Symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation

The district will refer to DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Public and Private Employees Returning to Work Following COVID-19 Infection or Exposure” regarding protocols and policies for faculty and staff seeking to return to work after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or after the faculty or staff member had close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19.

The district requires that individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus complete quarantine and have not developed symptoms before returning to in-person learning. The discharge of an individual from quarantine and return to school will be conducted in coordination with the local health department.

COVID-19 Testing

In the event of a positive COVID-19 test of a student or faculty member, parents in the building will be notified with a letter sent home with their student. An alert will also be issued to parents on the district website and Blackboard Connect. An automated message will also be sent to phones registered on student information cards. 

In the event that a large-scale testing will need to be conducted at the school, the district administration will work with the following providers the Albany County Department of Health and local media to notify district stakeholders.

Contact Tracing

The district will notify the state and local health department immediately upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 diagnostic test result by an individual within school facilities or on school grounds, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors of the district.

To assist the local health department with tracing the transmission of COVID-19, the district has developed and maintained a plan to trace all contacts of exposed individuals in accordance with protocols, training, and tools provided through the New York State Contact Tracing Program.  

Districts may assist with contact tracing by:

1.      Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members

2.      Ensuring student schedules are up to date

3.      Keeping a log of any visitor which includes date and time, and where in the school they visited

4.      Assisting the local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual in accordance with the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYS Contact Tracing Program

If/when COVID-19 cases are discovered in the school, in consultation with the local health department, the district will do the following:

  • Each building nurse will manage students and staff who report symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, they will provide the Albany County Department of Health with timely updates of any positive cases in staff and students.
  • Students/staff with symptoms consistent with those known of COVID 19 will be isolated in an area, with visual staff supervision, until they may be signed out by a parent/guardian. If a person presents with a temperature, sent to a dedicated area waiting for pick up or immediate medical care. 
  • In the case of a suspected positive case, custodians will close off the affected rooms for a minimum of three hours before they disinfect the contents of the room. Students and staff will not be allowed back into the room until after it has been sanitized.

Confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state laws and regulations. School staff should not try to determine who is to be excluded from school based on contact without guidance and direction from the local health department.

For more information about how COVID-19 containment efforts will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan at

School Closures

A closure refers to contingency plans, protocols, and procedures for decreasing the scale or scope of in- person education and/or closing the school. The district will collaborate with the local health department to determine the parameters, conditions or metrics (e.g., increased absenteeism or increased illness in school community) that will serve as early warning signs that positive COVID-19 cases may be increasing beyond an acceptable level.

Schools in New York state have received new guidance about how the state is tracking COVID-19 infection rates and the metrics it is using. The state has implemented a color-coding system as a means to identify COVID-19 “hotspot” or “microcluster” areas. We want to share information about how this color-coding system may impact our schools. 

New York state is using a color-coded system to track COVID-19 infection rates by region. The system identifies regions that exhibit certain metrics related to COVID-19. The color coding includes Yellow, Orange and Red zones. Yellow indicates a “precautionary zone,” Orange indicates a “warning zone” and Red signifies a “hot spot” or “microcluster.”

On Dec. 11, 2020, Governor Cuomo updated the metrics to include regional hospital bed and ICU capacity into the color zone formula.

  • ALL COLORS: 15 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a 7-day average
  • YELLOW: 7-day rolling positive test average above 3 percent for 10 days. Hospitals: The region is in the top 10 percent in the state for hospital admissions per capita over the past week and is experiencing week-over-week growth in daily admissions.
  • ORANGE: 7-day rolling positive test average above 5 percent for 10 days. Hospitals: The region has reached 85 percent hospital capacity. Alternatively, a geographic area may also become an Orange Zone if the New York State Department of Health determines the area or region’s rate of hospital admissions is unacceptably high and a zone designation is appropriate to control the rate of growth.
  • RED: 7-day rolling positive test average above 6 percent for 10 days. Hospitals: A red zone will be implemented in a region where hospital capacity is within 21 days of reaching 90 percent, even after the cancellation of elective procedures and a 50 percent increase in bed capacity in hospitals in the region.

It’s important to note that the color-coded system applies to entire communities, not just schools. Even if a school district does not have any or few confirmed cases of COVID-19, it may be included in a color-coded zone based on the region’s metrics.

For more information about how school closure information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of the reopening plan at

Health Hygiene

The district will emphasize healthy hygiene practices for students and staff by providing initial and refresher education in hand and respiratory hygiene, along with providing adequate supplies and time for frequent hand hygiene. Signs will be posted throughout the school (e.g., entrances, restrooms, cafeteria, classrooms, administrative offices, auditorium, custodial staff areas) and regular messaging will be shared with the school community. Signage will be used to remind individuals to:

1.      Stay home if they feel sick.

2.      Cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering when unable to maintain social distance from others or in accordance with any stricter policy implemented by the school.

3.      Properly store and, when necessary, discard PPE.

4.      Adhere to social distancing instructions.

5.      Report symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.

6.      Follow hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection guidelines.

7.      Follow respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.

Hand Hygiene

Students and staff must carry out the following hand hygiene practices. 

  • Wash hands routinely with soap (any kind) and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Dry hands completely after washing. Use paper towels to dry hands if available instead of a hand dryer if they are available.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol. Hand sanitizer should be rubbed on the hands until it is completely absorbed. DO NOT dry hands if sanitizer is used.

Hand washing should occur:

  • Before and after eating (e.g. snacks and lunch)
  • After going to the restroom or after assisting a student with toileting
  • After using a tissue
  • Before and after using shared materials
  • Before and after putting on or taking off face masks
  • After coming in from the outdoors
  • Anytime hands are visibly soiled

Respiratory Hygiene

The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. Therefore, the district will emphasize the importance of respiratory hygiene.

Students and staff must carry out the following respiratory hygiene practices:

  • Cover a cough or sneeze using a tissue. If a tissue is used, it should be thrown away immediately. 
  • If you don’t have a tissue when sneezing or coughing, sneeze into your elbow.
  • Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.
  • Face coverings are protective. Wearing a face covering will keep the respiratory droplets and aerosols from being widely dispersed into the air.

For more information about how hygiene information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of the reopening plan at

Cleaning and disinfecting

The district will ensure adherence to hygiene and cleaning and disinfection requirements as advised by the CDC and DOH, including “Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection of Public and Private Facilities for COVID-19,” and the “STOP THE SPREAD” poster, as applicable. Cleaning and disinfection logs will be maintained that include the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection.

Examples of facility types where cleaning and disinfection frequency will be distinguished include:

  • Bathrooms
  • Athletic training rooms, locker rooms
  • Health offices, isolation rooms
  • Administrative offices (main office, reception area)
  • Frequently touched surfaces in common areas (door handles, elevator buttons, copy machine keypads, etc.)
  • Breakrooms
  • Cafeterias/Kitchens
  • Computer labs
  • Science labs
  • Classrooms
  • Maintenance offices and work areas
  • Bus Garage
  • Buses, school vehicles
  • Libraries
  • Large meeting areas (auditoriums, gymnasiums, music rooms)
  • Playgrounds (cleaning only)
  • Outdoor seating areas (plastic or metal)

Students, faculty, and staff will be trained on proper hand and respiratory hygiene, and such information will be provided to parents and/or legal guardians on ways to reinforce this at home.

The district will provide and maintain hand hygiene stations around the school, as follows:

  • For handwashing: soap, running warm water, and disposable paper towels.
  • For hand sanitizing: an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol for areas where handwashing facilities may not be available or practical.
  • Accommodations for students who cannot use hand sanitizer will be made.

Regular cleaning and disinfection of the facilities will occur, including more frequent cleaning and disinfection for high-risk and frequently touched surfaces. This will include desks and cafeteria tables, which should be cleaned and disinfected between each individual’s use. Cleaning and disinfection will be rigorous and ongoing and will occur at least daily, or more frequently as needed. 

The district will ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of restrooms. Restrooms should be cleaned and disinfected more often depending on frequency of use.  

For more information about how cleaning and disinfection information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan at

Vulnerable populations/accommodations

We recognize that some students and staff members are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, live with a person who is at an increased risk, or simply do not feel comfortable returning to an in-person educational environment. It is our goal that these individuals are able to safely participate in educational activities. Accommodation will be made where possible.

Visitors on campus

No outside visitors or volunteers will be allowed on school campuses, except for the safety and well-being of students. Parents/guardians will report to the front office and not go beyond unless it is for the safety or well-being of their child. Essential visitors to facilities will be required to wear face coverings and will be restricted in their access to our school buildings. Vendors who arrive in the district will be required to complete a health questionnaire prior to entry.   

Visitors must follow all safety protocols as listed above.

School safety drills

The district will conduct fire (evacuation) drills and lockdown drills as required by education law and regulation and the fire code without, exceptions. Schools must continue to conduct mandatory fire and lockdown drills according to the existing statutory schedule. Drills will be conducted in a manner that maintains social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students to respond in emergencies.

Modifications to Lockdown Drills may include, but are not limited to:

  • Conduct lockdown drill in the classroom without “hiding”/ “sheltering” but provide an overview of how to shelter or hide in the classroom.
  • In the event of of a hybrid instructional model, safety drills will be conducted on a staggered schedule so that all students participate in it.