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Hillel Academy in Tampa is opening using new COVID-19 safety procedures

Administrators say "size is their superpower"
Posted at 3:11 AM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 07:51:09-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillel Academy in Tampa is preparing to reopen in-person classes with new safety precautions in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. School resumes for the 2020-2021 school year on Wednesday, August 12.

"Our teachers are spending the first three days of school not just teaching how to do things around school, but the why and what is the virus?" said Allison Oakes, Head of School at Hillel Academy Tampa. "...We've been spending an extraordinary amount of time getting ready to teach during a pandemic."

Hillel Academy is the largest Jewish Day School in the Tampa Bay area.

Administrators said they have the advantage of a much smaller student population compared to most public schools. With just 160 students and a large, 12-acre campus, Hillel is using the space to its advantage to spread children out.

Students will be required to wear masks on campus and temperatures will be taken three times a day. While administrators say a temperature check does not guarantee a student or staff member is COVID-19 free, they say it may greatly reduce the spread of other illnesses.

One of the biggest changes Hillel Academy administrators made due to COVID-19 is children will now remain in a cohort, or a "bubble," to reduce risk of exposure to kids in other cohorts.

Students will be spaced out six-feet apart, with individual workspaces. They will also be provided with their own individual school supplies and bring their own water bottle, which is sent home to be washed each day. Hand sanitizer will be provided for each station.

Children will also be practicing good hygiene throughout the day, including whenever they enter or leave a work station.

"Our kids will be hand sanitizing and washing their hands like they've never done before," Oakes said.

Teachers who may be at high-risk for COVID-19 or immune-compromised are able to teach remotely from their home while students are attending class in person. Those students will be supervised by another staff member.

Students also have the option for remote learning.

For teachers who are instructing in person, they are encouraged to use outdoor spaces for learning and playing as much as possible. This to encourage students to move their bodies and get a break from inside while working to reduce the potential for exposure.

Lunches will be served inside classrooms. Teachers will also be using disinfectant cleaner several times throughout the day in classrooms and high-traffic areas like hallways. Specific staff members will be assigned to spray bathrooms three times a day.

There are also procedures in place if someone falls ill during the middle of the day and that could signal a case of COVID-19.

If someone in the school presents a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher or has symptoms of cough, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, persistent sore throat, loss of taste or smell, of difficulty breathing, they will be immediately separated from others.

In the case of a student falling ill, parents will be called to pick that student up. The school is recommending the child see a doctor and getting tested for COVID-19. If symptoms improve and the individual is fever-free for 24 hours without medication, they may return to school.

Read the other guidelines on planning for sickness in Hillel Academy's COVID-19 Playbook.