Gesher Reopening Plan

The following Campus Reopening Plan has been created 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 2020-2021 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 draft of the Health and Safety Plan based on the information available on August 14th, 2020.

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. Toward that end, new attendance policies and new routines will be adopted for staff and students.

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 Bazeh 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 months ahead will require flexibility, adaptability, resilience and a deep belief in the value of humanity and in each other. We are confident the Gesher-JDS community is prepared for the challenge.

Submit a question

  • The school Campus Reopening plan will be posted on the Gesher Reopening website
  • The School Nurse will regularly disseminate information on COVID-19 prevention habits to CDS 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. 
  • In order to effectively provide instruction to all of our families during the 2020-2021 school year, we plan to provide developmentally appropriate concurrent learning via #GesherConnected as an option for families that have health concerns or are quarantined. See the section below on concurrent learning. 
  • 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 throughout the fall semester.

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:

  • Mask wearing indoors, and outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained
  • Social distancing in group situations or in public spaces
  • Responsible hand-washing/sanitizing
  • Informing the school if anyone in your immediate family contracts COVID-19
  • Following state travel guidelines

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

  • Professional development may occur online or on campus. In the case of on-campus training, staggered schedules, mitigation, and social distancing guidelines will be observed.
  • The School Nurse will provide 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 Reopening Plan will be presented to staff via email or in an online format prior to staff entering the buildings.  
  • Additional professional development and educator planning time was added in to in-service week in August as an integral part of the campus reopening process.
  • Educators will be teaching in both the physical classroom and the #GesherConnected classroom.
  • Adults within the school should attempt to maintain a distance of 6 feet from other people as much as possible, particularly around other adults.
  • Gesher will limit the number of students and adults in classrooms and arrange seating based on social distancing guidelines (6 feet of separation throughout the day) to the maximum extent feasible. Interaction among groups of students will also be restricted to grade level only. Middle school will be considered one group.
  • 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 one way hallways, 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 and may deliver instruction remotely where appropriate.
  • Student furniture and seating are being evaluated to ensure social distancing in classrooms.
  • Large communal spaces and outdoor spaces may 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 will be assigned to minimize share points
  • No full-school or large group gatherings will be held in person. Whenever possible, virtual group events and meetings will replace traditional gatherings, including class siyumim (ceremonies).
  • 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 will be disabled and water bottle filling stations will be installed throughout the building
  • Signs will be 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 will attend a train-the-trainer information session that describes the protocols for handwashing, covering coughs/sneezes, and face coverings (https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/fact-sheets.html). All professional development will follow the CDC guidelines (e.g., participants seated six feet apart, individual handouts, etc.). 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 with clarification for schools from the Virginia Department of Education in consultation with the Department of Health, and until further notice:
    • All adults are required to wear a face covering while on the Gesher campus
    • All children (over the age of 2) are required to wear a face covering while on the Gesher campus.  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 or drinking, when outside and at least 6 feet apart, when napping, or having a “face covering break.”
  • A mask will be provided for faculty and staff if you do not have one; however, we recommend that you find masks that you are comfortable wearing. 
  • 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.
  • Exceptions to this requirement due to medical conditions or other circumstances will be made on a case-by-case basis by the School Nurse in conjunction with the Head of School.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • All 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​.
  • Siblings of the student with possible COVID-19 symptoms should also remain at home until there is a definitive diagnosis for the potentially ill student. Healthy siblings may return when the ill student has a medical diagnosis from a healthcare provider that is not related to COVID-19. The nurse or designated staff member will verify that the siblings of ill students remain at home as appropriate per our school policy.
  • All staff and students will have their temperatures checked when entering the building using a contactless thermometer.  Tympanic thermometer may be required based on results of the screening or the appearance of symptoms at the discretion of the school nurse.
  • Any staff member or student (and their siblings), with a temperature of 100°F (37.7°C) or higher will be sent home immediately.
  • 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.
  • New attendance policies will be adopted for Gesher staff and students. 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.
  • 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, but in many cases, a quick return to school will be possible if all concerns are addressed by the student’s primary care pediatrician. 
  • Important notes:
    • “Close contact” = following the guidelines of the Fairfax County Health Department close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of a confirmed or presumed case, for 10 minutes or more at a time, without a face covering. 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.
  • All cases of COVID-19, and all of their close contacts, will be expected to quarantine for up to 14 days.  They are expected to have no contact with other members of the school community during that time. The exact duration of quarantine and the criteria for return will be decided on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the Fairfax County Health Department. 
    • If a child/teacher/parent tests positive for COVID-19:
      • Those in close contact need to quarantine for 14 days.  For example:
        • 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.
        • Should there be multiple positive cases within one classroom, we will follow the guidance of the health department.
    • 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 caution is advised).
  • 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 the Fairfax County Health Department and with the goal of maximizing the safety of all members of our school community.
  • Families and staff are responsible for notifying Nurse Ramesh Cohen 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 anyone 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.
  • 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:
  • Staff who become ill at Gesher with COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home immediately, along with their children at Gesher who are considered close contacts.
  • 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). Siblings of students with a fever (without a definitive diagnosis) will be considered a “close contact” and also be sent home. 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 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 (within about 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) 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 or isolation.
  • The school will communicate to staff and families regarding the situation while maintaining privacy of the affected individual(s).
  • Staff, students and close contacts may return to campus after receiving clearance from a physician or the Fairfax County Department of Health. The school nurse must be notified prior to return to ensure the appropriate criteria have been met.
  • Gesher’s maintenance staff has cleaned and disinfected the entire campus over the summer of 2020 while it was unoccupied.
  • 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 will be cleaned and sanitized daily.
  • Gesher Jewish Day School will make every effort to limit the amount of touching of shared equipment. When possible staff will clean and disinfect the equipment between uses.
  • Individuals classrooms, offices, and communal spaces will be cleaned at the end of every day.
  • Water fountains will be disabled and water bottle filling stations will be installed on each floor.
  • 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. Our Campus Reopening Task Force is working with our maintenance team to review the ventilation system and the maintenance being performed before the start of school.
  • All students’ belongings such as backpacks, jackets and other outerwear, lunchboxes, must be separated from others’ and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, lockers, or other areas. Families will be asked to limit sending unnecessary personal belongings to school with their children.
  • Gesher will ensure that there are adequate supplies to minimize the sharing of high-touch materials as much as possible (e.g. textbooks, art supplies, science equipment, etc.) or limit the use of supplies and equipment to one group of students at a time and clean and disinfect between uses. For devices and materials that MUST be shared, Gesher will ensure cleaning and disinfecting between uses.
  • In addition to the Chromebooks issued to our 3-8th grade students as part of our 1:1 Chromebook program Students in Kindergarten through Grade 2nd will be provided with Gesher Chromebooks with a goal of achieving as close to 1:1 model as possible. All shared devices will be cleaned between each use. 
  • In the event of a student, class, or whole school quarantine, Gesher will support families in need of borrowing a device with the ability to do so. Care of this device is the responsibility of students and their parents, and its usage is governed by applicable Gesher technology policies.
  • Until further notice there will be no parents, guardians, or other guests permitted inside the school building. All meetings with teachers or administrators will be conducted remotely and by appointment only.
  • Whenever possible, deliveries will be left in the main entry vestibule.
  • Any and all visitors to campus must complete screening procedures
  • Exceptions to this policy due will be made on a case-by-case basis by the School Nurse and in conjunction with the appropriate administrator.
  • Without exception, 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 8:10am and dismissal will close at 3:45pm. Our building will not be open for extended days at this time. 
  • With the need to keep cohorts of children and staff together, and not mix groups, Gesher school hours will be from 8:30am-3:30pm.
  • All carpools and authorized pick up contacts must be registered in FACTS. Carpools will 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 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.
  • When the cars pull up into the dropoff line, we will load and unload the cars at the marked spots. 
  • 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. 
  • 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 busses after each use. 
  • All students riding busses will be spaced out every other seat and only siblings will be seated together. 
  • 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 2020-2021 school year as the COVID-19 situation evolves throughout the course of the year.
  • Meals purchased through the Gesher Fresh Lunch Program will be delivered by cart to the classrooms and be wrapped and covered. 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.
  • Gesher will install touch free water bottle stations around the school.
  • Students should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer 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.
  • Gesher Jewish Day School will make every effort to limit the amount of touching of shared equipment. When possible staff will clean and disinfect the equipment between uses.
  • All students will need to wash their hands before and after recess.
  • Students will have staggered times on the playground in order to keep cohorts together for playtime.
  • At this time, Gesher will not offer Before and Aftercare services or afterschool programs due to the restrictions around mixing groups of kids that are placed into cohorts.
  • Gesher will also not offer fall sports due to the restrictions around social distancing and team sports. Winter and Spring sports are in the process of being evaluated and more information will be released prior to the start of those seasons.
  • In the event that a student must be quarantined, they will have the ability to remotely join the class to participate in concurrent learning. Utilizing video chat and educational technologies, teachers will make every effort to facilitate the ongoing learning of the quarantined student while teaching students in school.  We continue to concretize these plans and will share them in the coming weeks.
  • 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 to discuss reopening procedures and distance learning options.  
  • Staff who are in a CDC classified high-risk category should speak to their immediate supervisor about their specific situation and about working options and health and safety precautions.
  • 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. 
  • The GesherConnected platform has been improved so that it delivers the most authentic, relevant, and empowering learning experience possible to students of all ages and continues to support the academic and social-emotional needs of students who are at-risk.