Gesher Health & Safety Plan


The following Health and Safety Plan has been revised with guidance from state and federal guidelines as outlined by the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia and Fairfax County Departments of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was developed by our COVID Working Group with input from medical advisors, professionals, and considering the best research available. 

Our team has worked to ensure that safeguards are in place to help protect our students, staff, and families for the 2021-2022 school year. While no plan can eliminate all risk, we have created a plan designed to establish multiple layers of risk mitigation and will continue to revise this plan based on feedback and advice from experts. The following is the most recent update of the Health and Safety Plan based on information available on August 13th, 2021.

Pikuah Nefesh (“safeguarding life”) is a bedrock principle of Jewish law. Our best approach to minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on our campus community is to embrace a shared sense of responsibility for one another’s well-being. Gesher encourages every member of our community (parents, students and faculty) to take steps to protect those in our community most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and other communicable illnesses. We continue to be extraordinary grateful to our community for the ways we 

The ongoing pandemic remains disruptive and unpredictable, and the circumstances on which this plan is based, and over which we have little to no control, could change quickly and force us to reevaluate our approach with little notice.

We are reminded that Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh B’zeh or כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה — we are all responsible for one another in this extraordinary moment and that, as a community we can work to protect and safeguard each other. The pandemic has  required flexibility, adaptability, resilience and a deep belief in the value of humanity and in each other. We are confident the Gesher-JDS community has been and will continue to be prepared for the challenge.

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As we look forward to starting school this fall, we ask that every parent and student at Gesher commits to our community pledge. Our collective goal is to create the safest and healthiest possible environment for our students as we navigate this pandemic.
Like never before, we must embrace the mandate of “ כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה,” (All of Israel is responsible for one another). The guidelines we have put into place at school are there to allow our students and our faculty to both learn and stay healthy. We are all in this together. We will do our very best to ensure that IN school the guidelines we have outlined will be followed and we ask for your commitment that OUT of school your family also will follow best practices in keeping virus spread to a minimum. Some of these practices include:

  • For unvaccinated individuals: Mask wearing indoors at all times, and outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained
  • For vaccinated individuals: Masking indoors when in public spaces and outdoors while in large gatherings
  • Social distancing in group situations or in public spaces
  • Taking extra caution to NOT send children with symptoms of illness to school
  • Responsible hand-washing/sanitizing
  • Informing the school if anyone in your immediate family contracts COVID-19
  • Following school travel guidelines

Please review and commit to this pledge, as well as the guidelines outlined herein, with all of your family members.

  • The school Gesher Health and Safety Plan will be posted on the Gesher website
  • The School Nurse will regularly disseminate information on COVID-19 prevention habits to Gesher families. 
  • Gesher will regularly send educational reminders home including CDC information and reminders to parents to keep children at home if sick with any illness. 
  • Health mitigation will be posted in highly visible locations throughout the buildings to promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of germs in ways that are easily understandable for both children and adults.
  • All Gesher staff, students, and families will be trained in developmentally appropriate ways on social distancing guidelines and safety protocols in this document, including parent/guardian information sessions.
  • We will host regular Parent Town Hall meetings to communicate significant updates to protocols.
  • Professional development on COVID-19 protocols occurs regularly through staff meetings 
  • The School Nurse provides training for staff in COVID-19 mitigation practices and effective and age-appropriate ways to communicate these practices with their students.
  • Any time-sensitive updates to information in the Gesher Health and Safety Plan will be presented to staff via email and during staff meetings.
  • Gesher will limit the number of students and adults in classrooms and arrange seating based on social distancing guidelines (3 feet of separation throughout the day, 6 feet during snack and meal time) to the maximum extent feasible. Interaction among groups of students will also be restricted to minimize risk. Middle school will be considered one cohort.
  • In order to limit student movement throughout the building and cross-group exposure, students will remain with stable cohorts throughout the day.
  • If movement of a class needs to occur, student movement will be coordinated to maximize social distancing, including the use of hallway markings, staggered movement of classes, and spacing of students.
  • All Specials classes (art, music, physical education, library, and Israeli dance) will consider unique programming needs and plan activities using the same COVID-19 transmission risk-mitigation protocols outlined in this document.
  • Student furniture and seating are being evaluated to ensure social distancing in classrooms.
  • Large communal spaces and outdoor spaces will be used as classrooms and flex areas to accommodate activities that require movement and students to spread out.
  • Gesher will safely provide regular opportunities for physical education, outdoor play, and recess for students. When in communal or outside recess areas, emphasis will be placed on cohorting students and limiting the size of participating groups. 
  • Restroom occupancy will be limited to small numbers of students at a time, and students will follow social distancing guidelines when transitioning to the restroom.
  • Restrooms are assigned to cohorts to minimize share points.
  • Full-school or large group gatherings will be held outside. Whenever possible, virtual group events and meetings will replace traditional gatherings. We will continue to monitor local and state guidance, community transmission rates and our medical advisory team when making decisions about large events.
  • Handwashing will be built into the school schedule.
  • Hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol) stations are located throughout the building, and faculty and students will be instructed in their location and proper usage.
  • Water fountains have been disabled and water bottle filling stations  are available throughout the building
  • Signs are posted on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 (properly washing hands, promoting everyday protective measures, and properly wearing a face covering) in visible locations throughout the buildings.
  • All staff attend a train-the-trainer information session that describes the protocols for handwashing, covering coughs/sneezes, and face coverings. All professional development will follow the CDC and/or VDH guidelines . Teachers will then train their students on the protocols they learned during the aforementioned sessions and reinforce these protocols in age-appropriate ways throughout the year. 
  • Gesher Jewish Day School will also share information from public health organizations such as the CDC and Virginia Department of Health on hygiene and disinfection strategies for COVID-19 transmission prevention at home and in the community.
  • In addition to supplies provided by the school, students will be asked to provide an allotment of these hygiene supplies at the beginning of the school year and may be called upon to replenish them throughout the year.
  • As per the Governor of Virginia's order and based on the guidance and recommendations of the Fairfax County Department of Health, Gesher JDS will continue to require universal masking throughout the building for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
    • All adults are required to wear a face covering while inside our building unless they are eating or drinking AND distanced.
    • Regardless of vaccination status, all children (over the age of 2) are required to wear a face covering while inside the building. Students must bring their own masks to and from school each day to be cleaned.
  • Face coverings may be removed when at least 6 feet apart and: eating, drinking or napping.
  • Masks will be required for outdoor play (running around), but may be removed when outside, distanced and seated.
  • A mask will be provided for faculty and staff if they do not have one.
  • Masks must either be a new disposable mask or freshly laundered cloth mask. Cloth masks must have at least two layers and may not contain exhale valves as they do not provide adequate communal protection. 
  • When requested, faculty will be provided with face shields to further prevent transmission.
  • Education will be provided to staff and students on the proper use of face coverings to cover the nose and mouth, how to maintain hand hygiene when removing face coverings for meals and physical activity, and for replacing and maintaining (washing regularly) face coverings.
  • We will continue to monitor local and state guidance regarding masking and may update protocols during the school year.
  • All staff, parents/guardians on behalf of students, and essential visitors will complete a brief COVID-19 Health Screening prior to entering any Gesher Jewish Day School building. This screening will include questions about symptoms and potential contact with COVID-19 infected individuals. The nurse or designated staff member will review the COVID-19 Health Screening for family compliance.
  • Staff and students are not allowed to enter school if they exhibit symptoms consistent with COVID-19. A list of COVID-19 symptoms can be found here.
  • Social distancing will be maintained during the daily entry process and face coverings must be worn.
  • After the screening procedure, students will go directly to class and not congregate in halls or other areas.
  • The School Nurse and other staff will monitor State, Fairfax County Health Department, and federal guidance on community transmission. If the school is aware of an increase in COVID-19 symptom-related absences or an increase in community spread, increased surveillance may be implemented.
  • When a child is absent, families will be required to notify the school of the student’s absence and reason by a designated time each day.
  • The School Nurse will maintain privacy in the management of all health information.
  • Identifying which students or staff need to be quarantined and who may remain in school is not a simple process. Our general policies are based on established guidelines, but in specific cases, we will follow the lead of the Fairfax County Department of Health. 
  • We will err on the side of sending a student home when there is any concern that he or she poses a risk of infecting others, if they have any COVID19 symptoms which are new and unusual for that child. For children who are sick with new or unusual symptoms and without known exposure to COVID-19:
    • If no medical evaluation, the child will remain home for 10 days from onset of symptoms.  If, after being out for 10 days, the child is feeling better and has not had a fever for at least 24 hours, the child may return to school. 
    • If the child is evaluated by a healthcare provider and found to have another diagnosis explaining their symptoms, they may return to school per standard return to school protocols (i.e. strep on antibiotics for 24 hours) and must be fever free for 24 hours and feeling better.
    • If the child is evaluated by a healthcare provider and no other diagnosis is made, a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) will be required before returning to school. We will not accept at home tests, only provider conducting COVID tests.
  • In the event of a student, class, or whole school quarantine, Gesher will provide loaner devices for any student that needs a device. Care of this device is the responsibility of students and their parents, and its usage is governed by applicable Gesher technology policies.

Important notes:

  • “Close contact” = following the guidelines of the Fairfax County Health Department close contact is defined as being within 3 feet and masked of a confirmed or presumed case, for 15 minutes or more cumulatively within 24 hours. In most situations, this also includes siblings, parents, and others who share a household with a confirmed or presumed case. 
  • Close contact with someone with symptoms is not the same as close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.
  • If the child/teacher/parent tests positive for COVID-19 and those in close contact are not vaccinated:
    • They will need quarantine according to the recommendations of Fairfax County Health Department and our medical advisory committee. For example:
      • Unvaccinated siblings of a COVID-19 positive student will have to quarantine.
      • Classmates or carpool members who it is determined were in close contact with the COVID-19 positive student will need to quarantine.
      • No other students need to quarantine unless they themselves were in close contact with the COVID-19 positive individual.
    • For children who are exposed to a known case of COVID-19, they must quarantine. Because the individual circumstances of each situation vary, we will use our medical advisors and Fairfax County Health Department to determine the length of each quarantine.
    • If a child has to quarantine because of exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual, only he/she has to quarantine - not their siblings if they had no direct contact with the COVID-19 positive individual (though close monitoring is advised).
  • If the child/teacher/parent tests positive for COVID-19 and the close contact is vaccinated:
    • The close contact should be sure to wear masks at all times
    • They should take a COVID PCR test 3-5 days after exposure
    • They are otherwise free to attend school
  • It is impossible to predict the full range of situations, and we do expect scenarios that fall short of strict criteria for infection or contact. In each case, we will be guided by the expertise of our medical advisory team and the Fairfax County Health Department with the goal of maximizing the safety of all members of our school community.
  • Families and staff are responsible for notifying the School Nurse and Gesher if they, their child, or any member of their household has been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Students and staff MUST remain home if they or more than one person  in their households are ill with COVID-19 symptoms, test positive for COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms of a confirmed or suspected case.
    • If the student or staff member is vaccinated, they are asymptomatic and have received a negative COVID-19 test, they may come to school.
  • Families and staff must notify the school nurse of any positive cases of COVID-19 in their households or if anyone in their household has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed or suspected case.
  • Students and staff members who are ill with COVID-19 or close contacts of a person ill with COVID-19 should follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for isolation and quarantine:
  • If a student becomes ill at school with COVID-19 symptoms, the child will be isolated to prevent further spread of potential illness pending immediate pickup by emergency contact(s). The school nurse will provide guidance about recommended follow-up treatment and criteria for return to campus.
  • If the school has been notified of a confirmed positive COVID-19 case, the following steps will be taken:
    • The School Nurse will notify the Fairfax County Department of Health and our medical advisory team for additional guidance and to share appropriate information for the purposes of contact tracing and resuming normal school operations as allowable by law.
    • Occupied rooms will be cleaned, sanitized, and ventilated per the current recommendations from the CDC and/or Virginia Department of Health.
    • The school along with the Virginia Department of Health will identify close contacts of a person with a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 from the period 48 hours before symptom onset to the time at which the person was isolated.
    • Close contacts will be notified and should follow CDC guidance for quarantine..
  • The school will communicate to staff and families regarding the situation while maintaining privacy of the affected individual(s).
  • If a student stays home or is sent home with COVID-19 symptoms which are new or unusual without known exposure, Gesher Jewish Day School will require the following to return to school:
    • If no medical evaluation, the child will remain home for 10 days from onset of symptoms. If, after being out for 10 days, the child is feeling better and has not had a fever for at least 24 hours, the child may return to school.
    • If the child is evaluated by a healthcare provider and found to have another diagnosis explaining their symptoms, they may return to school per standard return to school protocols (i.e. strep on antibiotics for 24 hours) and must be fever free for 24 hours and feeling better.
    • If the child is evaluated by a healthcare provider and no other diagnosis is made, a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or Antigen) will be required before returning to school. We will not accept at-home antigen tests for return to school.
  • Gesher maintenance staff will clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects within the school on a regular scheduled basis throughout the school day. This includes door and sink handles, water dispensers, desktops, railings, etc. 
  • Outdoor spaces and equipment are cleaned and sanitized regularly.
  • Individual classrooms, offices, and communal spaces will be cleaned at the end of every day.
  • Water fountains have been disabled and water bottle filling stations installed throughout the building.
  • All cleaning supplies in use are approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use against SARS CoV-2. 
  • Most Gesher Jewish Day School classrooms receive outside air circulated by an air handling system. Most other rooms pull air from the outside from forced air heating/cooling systems. We have updated our filtration to MERV13 and the system is monitored monthly.
  • Vaccinations are an essential tool in our efforts to mitigate risk at Gesher Jewish Day School. In consultation with our Medical Advisors, we strongly encourage you to have your child vaccinated once they are eligible. Every additional member of our community that is vaccinated, children and adults, will enable us to better protect the health and safety of our entire community.
  • All returning staff have been fully vaccinated and all new staff members are required to submit proof of vaccination. Medical exemptions are allowed by law. 
  • Students who are eligible for and received a vaccination should submit a copy of their vaccine card to the School Nurse.
  • For explanatory purposes, in this document, a vaccinated student = 2 weeks post their 2nd vaccination.
  • All meetings with teachers or administrators will be conducted remotely or outside and by appointment only.
  • Any and all visitors to campus must complete screening procedures. 
  • For the time being, we will severely limit visitors into our building to essential vendors, service providers and a small group of volunteers. Any volunteers will need to remain masked in the building and provide proof of vaccination. We will continue to evaluate these procedures during the school year.
  • Exceptions to this policy will be made on a case-by-case basis by the School Nurse and in conjunction with the Head of School.
  • Students will not be allowed to enter the building until 8:10 a.m. and may not congregate in groups on the Gesher campus prior to entry or during dismissal.
  • Our building will open for arrival at 8:10 am.
  • All carpools and authorized pick up contacts must be registered in FACTS. Carpools may be treated as close contacts in the event of a positive COVID case. Any authorized pickups may also be contacted and treated as a close contact in the event of a positive COVID case. We strongly encourage all people in carpools to wear masks while in the car.
  • All parents must fill out a daily health screening through Parent Locker for each one of their children prior to the child entering the school. If your child arrives at school and you have not filled out the form, you will be asked to pull into the parking lot, fill out the form, and then wait in the dropoff line again to enter the building.
  • You must use the carpool line to drop off your child; you will not be able to drop your child off in the parking lot. 
  • When students arrive, they will head straight to the classroom to wash their hands and unpack. 
  • Students, families, and staff will maintain social distancing and wear face coverings on campus during arrival and dismissal.
  • During dismissal, Gesher will require each family to display a car sign on your passenger side window with the family name so we are able to call your child down efficiently during dismissal. 
  • If all students in the car are in 5th grade or older, you may pick up your child/ren in the parking lot. Otherwise, all other students will be picked up from the carpool line.
  • All staff, families, and essential visitors must comply with the screening protocols outlined in the “Monitoring for Exposure” section of this plan.
  • We will be using VARides as our bus company. VARides will clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on the buses after each use. 
  • All students riding buses will be spaced out and only siblings will be seated together until all our students are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. 
  • Students will need to wear masks for the duration of the ride to protect all the riders on the bus. 
  • Due to the importance of keeping the mask on during the ride, students will be unable to eat on the bus. 
  • At this time, Gesher will not have field trips. We will continue to evaluate the possibility of field trips for the 2021-2022 school year as the COVID-19 situation evolves throughout the course of the year.
  • Meals purchased through the Gesher Fresh Lunch Program are individually packaged and  delivered by cart to the classrooms. Teachers will wash their hands before distribution.
  • All students will eat in the classroom or outside when possible.
  • All students in all grades should bring a reusable water bottle to and from school each day. Water bottles should be kept in a student’s designated space (desk/table), cubby, or locker.
  • Students should wash their hands before and after eating.
  • Gesher will have recess on the playground outside, in the gym, or in the classroom. 
  • Outdoor spaces and equipment will be cleaned and sanitized on a regular scheduled basis.
  • Separate equipment bags will be maintained for each cohort of students.
  • All students will need to wash their hands before and after recess.
  • Gesher will be offering aftercare services through wonders.  All students who participate in the program will need to mask and distance and we may consider other mitigation strategies as well.   
  • We are excited to bring back athletics to Gesher this year!  We are working closely with our medical advisory team to develop mitigation protocols.  We release that information closer to the start of the season.
  • In the event that a student must be quarantined, classroom teachers will build an at home learning plan for the student.  Utilizing Google Meet and additional educational technologies, teachers will make every effort to facilitate the ongoing learning of the quarantined student while teaching students in school. The at home learning plan will include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning depending on the age, grade, and what is currently going on in the classroom.
  • In the event that an entire class or the whole school has to quarantine, we will re-engage remote learning for the affected students. 
  • We will communicate and gather feedback continually from parents to improve upon remote learning practices.
  • The School Nurse and other staff members will monitor state, local, and federal guidance on COVID-19 transmission in our community.
  • Families who have students in a high-risk health category should connect with the Principal or Head of School to discuss  distance learning options. 
  • Staff who are in a CDC classified high-risk category should speak to their immediate supervisor about their specific situation.
  • The Social Distancing, Monitoring for Exposure, and Hygiene and Face Covering guidelines in this document were developed to protect the health of students and staff in at-risk groups. 

Some families might choose to travel or see family during the school year or during breaks. We absolutely understand and ask that you communicate with us proactively to help mitigate community risk. Here are a few examples of activities that would be considered higher-risk for unvaccinated students:

  • Any plane travel 
  • Hosting unvaccinated people at your home
  • Attending/hosting an indoor event without masks, particularly over a meal (could be either at home or a restaurant)

Some families may elect or be asked to keep their children home for a period of time and/or test before returning to school to ensure we aren’t unintentionally spreading this virus. At the moment, unvaccinated students can return to school after taking a PCR test on Day 5 after traveling and receiving a negative result. Vaccinated students may return so long as they are healthy and asymptomatic. We are purposely avoiding strict rules around travel and quarantine as we know there are safe ways to travel and gather. We want to be as flexible as we can without risking our communal safety.