Planning To Reopen - DESE Vocational Education Guidance, Part 2
By now the vast majority of school districts have begun the 20-21 academic year and every reasonable precaution has been taken to ensure the safest possible environment for our students. Much of the discussion has focused on the traditional classroom setting, but how has the current COVID-19 pandemic affected Vocational schools were learning requires hands-on, in-person, group learning? The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has offered guidance for vocational technical schools and comprehensive schools offering vocational technical programs. The guidance includes appropriate safety measures to promote the safety of students, teachers, and staff. This guidance may also be used as a reference for other related programs, such as Innovation Pathways and Connecting Activities. The following highlights DESE guidance. For complete details click here.
NOTE: COVID-19 is highly transmissible. Individuals should follow these universal precautions regardless of the extent of mitigation needed:
- Follow healthy hygiene practices
- Stay at home when sick
- Practice social distancing
- Use a cloth face covering (with some exceptions) in community settings when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
The current state of the COVID-19 pandemic is continually evolving. What is true today may not be tomorrow. At this time, the evidence suggests schools have not played a significant role in COVID-19 transmission and that children, particularly younger children, are less likely than adults to be infected with COVID-19.
As always, work with your local health officials to determine a set of strategies appropriate for your community’s situation.
(See our Planning to Reopen series of blogs for more information regarding CDC, EPA, FDA, Mass EEA, Mass DESE, and OSHA safety requirements). To review the administration's reopening guidance from the state click here. To view Governor Baker's full report click here).
CVTE Program Specific Guidance
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has compiled program specific guidance for CVTE schools. This guidance provides additional considerations on how to effectively apply the guidance above to CVTE programs, including exploratory programs, cooperative education (co-ops), clinical placements, and internships.
Health And Safety Practices
In DESE’s initial fall school reopening guidance, the goal was to identify the safe return of as many students as possible to in-person school. This required the establishment of new health and safety recommendations to be followed in our schools this fall. DESE medical advisors have indicated that it is not one mitigation strategy, but a combination of several strategies that will substantially reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in school settings. These measures include staying home when sick, symptom screening, physical distancing, use of masks, frequent hand hygiene, creating student cohorts as feasible, and improving ventilation as feasible.
Career/vocational technical education programs must adhere to DESE's and other agencies’ COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, BUT ALSO, adhere to the federal and state guidelines for safe workplaces, and industry-specific protocols when and where ever applicable.
Additionally, CVTE programs should follow the below guidance.
- Maintain safe student collaboration. Student collaboration, such as group projects, is a core part of vocational technical education. Student collaboration is permitted if modified to accommodate all applicable health and safety guidelines. Programs will need to modify projects so that students can work collaboratively while still wearing masks and maintaining 6 feet of distance when feasible; 3 feet being the minimum distance allowed.
- Use proper eye protection. When used, face shields do not replace eye protection. Industry-standard eye protection must still be used when required.
- Use proper hand coverings. Technical programs must follow industry guidelines on the use of protective hand coverings (gloves).
- Focus on safety training. Consider designating “Safety September” to focus on safety training, including establishing new protocols necessary to mitigate COVID-19 for each CVTE program, with regular updates.
- Prepare outdoor workspaces. When possible, it is preferable for students to work outdoors. Make sure any outdoor work sites are outfitted with the required safety equipment. For instance, a work site may require fire extinguishers, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protected outlets, and first aid kits, among other items.
- Provide safe transportation. Student transportation (by van, bus, or other approved vehicle) should follow the same capacity guidelines, health and safety guidelines, and cleaning and disinfecting guidelines outlined in DESE’s Fall Reopening Transportation Guidance.
- Maintain safe equipment and materials sharing practices. Sharing equipment and materials should be minimized when feasible, but it is permitted as outlined in DESE’s Guidance for Courses Requiring Additional Safety Considerations.
- Minimize personal belongings onsite. Students should come to their class/program/technical area prepared and in uniform each day. Programs should follow the locker guidance in the Fall Reopening Facilities and Operations Guidance.
- All customers or visitors must comply with DESE and industry health and safety standards, including wearing masks at all times.
It is important to note that CVTE specific guidance from the Massachusetts DESE is intended to be in place ONLY for the first two months of the school year. This is consistent with the way many CVTE programs already operate, in which the initial months of the school year are dedicated to training and preparing students for work in program settings. The Department will provide additional guidance in the coming months based on updated state guidance and COVID-19 trends.
While the administration continues to work with communities to implement best practices and protocols for reopening our schools we will continue to share with you guidance from the CDC, EPA, FDA, Mass EEA, Mass EEC, Mass DESE, and OSHA and the Governor's office to follow as we prepare for the new school year.
Also, we at SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley know that not every community has access to the resources necessary to meet the strict cleaning guidelines to ensure a safe environment for our children. For those communities, we are here to help!
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The Disaster Remediation Teams at SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley are specialists in cleaning services and we adhere to the highest cleaning and sanitation standards. We are prepared to clean and disinfect your schools, according to protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We have years of experience in dealing with biological contaminants, and we will go beyond the scope of work of "normal daily cleaning". Call SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley today for a free consultation - (617) 332-9000.
All of us here at SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley want you and your loved ones to stay safe and know that we will make it through this together! Rest assured, we will continue to do our best to keep you up-to-date and informed!