The New School’s Guide to Operations During a Pandemic

This document is your quick guide to procedures related to COVID-19 at The New School for the 2020-2021 school year. Because the situation with the virus is constantly evolving, the policies and procedures outlined in this handbook will be reviewed and updated as needed to keep the school and our community as safe as we can.

*There is no one hundred percent guarantee that people in our community will be able to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus, but the procedures and practices outlined in this guide will mitigate risk factors.   

The State of Maine has issued a framework for returning to school.  There are six components that must be in place for schools to safely reopen.  These are listed below  and our explanation for how they will be implemented at TNS follows.  

6 Requirements for Safely Opening Schools in the Fall

  • Symptom Screening at Home Before Coming to School (for all Staff and Students) Students (parents/caregivers) and staff members must conduct self-checks for symptoms prior to boarding buses or entering school buildings each day.  Schools should provide information to families in their primary language to support them in conducting this check.   Any person showing symptoms must report their symptoms and not be present at school.  Schools must provide clear and accessible directions to parents/caregivers and students for reporting symptoms and absences.
  • Physical Distancing and FacilitiesAdults must maintain 6 feet of distance from others to the extent possible. Maintaining 3 feet of distance is acceptable between and among students when combined with the other measures outlined in this list of safety requirements.  6 feet of physical distancing is required for students while eating breakfast and lunch, as students will be unable to wear masks at that time.   A “medical isolation space” (separate from the nurse’s office) must be designated for students/staff who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms during the school day. Adequate ventilation is required for classrooms, with schools having flexibility in implementation such as using properly working ventilation systems or outdoor air exchange using fans in open windows or doors.Groups in any one area, room, or classroom must not exceed the Governor’s gathering size limits.
  • Masks/Face CoveringsAdults, including educators and staff, are required to wear a mask/face covering. Students age five and above are required to wear a mask/face covering that covers their nose and mouth. (Updated 7/31/20) Masks are recommended for children ages two to four, when developmentally appropriate. (Updated 7/31/20).  Masks/face coverings must be worn by all students on the bus. Face shields may be an alternative for those students with documented medical or behavioral challenges who are unable to wear masks/face coverings. (Updated 8/12/20). The same applies to staff with medical or other health reasons for being unable to wear face coverings. Face shields worn in place of a face covering must extend below the chin and back to the ears.
  • Hand HygieneAll students and staff in a school must receive training in proper hand hygiene. All students and staff must wash hands or use sanitizing gel upon entering the school, before and after eating, before and after donning or removing a face mask, after using the restroom, before and after use of playgrounds and shared equipment, and upon entering and exiting a school bus.
  • Personal Protective EquipmentAdditional safety precautions are required for school nurses and/or any staff supporting students  in close proximity, when distance is not possible, or when student require physical assistance. These precautions must at a minimum include eye protection (e.g., face shield or goggles) and a mask/face covering. Classrooms and/or areas that have been used by an individual diagnosed with Covid-19 must be closed off until thorough cleaning and sanitization takes place. 
  • Return to School after IllnessSick staff members and students must use home isolation until they meet criteria for returning to school.

Daily, at Home Symptom Screening:

  • Everyday, before leaving the house to come to school, all families and staff will conduct an at-home symptom screening.  Please refer to the following info-graphic to help you decide whether it is safe to attend school.

Daily, at home Symptom Screening (cont):

  • If staff or students stay home because they are unwell,  contact the school ASAP. 
  • People who stay home because they are unwell should not return to school until they have been symptom free for 48 hours.
  • If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and suspect you have come in contact with someone who was positive for COVID, you should consult with your doctor and get tested.  
  • If you have come in contact with a Covid-19 positive individual, you must quarantine for 14 days or provide a negative test before returning to school.
  • If there is a confirmed COVID-19 case within the TNS community (student, staff or their immediate families), the school will immediately go remote for 14 days. The New School will contact the CDC and follow their guidance for further response. 

Weekly Screening Survey:

  • Families and staff will be asked to complete a short weekly health survey so we can continually assess COVID-19 risks that may come up during the school year. 
  • Our weekly survey will enable you to self-report additional COVID-19 exposure risks (outside of school) for your student during each week.. Only one (adult) household member needs to fill out this survey, which should take less than 2 minutes. 
  • The survey will be a Google form that will be shared with each family on Friday night. We ask that you fill it out and submit it each week by Sunday evening.
  • The information in this form will help you and the school assess COVID risk factors each week.
  • All information will be kept confidential.

Medical Isolation Space/access to health care at school

  • If during the day a student begins to feel ill, they should inform one of the core teachers (Josie, Christine, Ally or Evan). A symptom screening (including temperature check) will be performed and the parent/guardian will be contacted to collectively determine whether the student needs to go home or rest in our designated medical isolation room– the former art room.
  • Per our normal wellness policy, if a student has a temperature over 100 degrees or has vomited or had diarrhea, they will be sent home and cannot return to school until they have been symptom free for 48 hours without medication.  Please note, this is an increase from prior years.

Distancing policy/guidelines:

  • Minimum recommended distance between students in public schools is 3 feet.  At The New School we will aim for 6 feet as often as possible.  
  • There are marked spots on floors and at tables where people can sit and stand safely for learning activities.
  • Each room has a maximum capacity for masks on and for eating.  These are posted clearly in
  •  and out of the rooms. (Discovery Room 12/8, ½ Room 10/6, Common Room 7/6, Front Office 2/1, Blue Office 1/1, Fish Bowl 3/0, Kitchen 4/2/0 during lunch, Art Room 4/3, Science Room 7/4)
  • We have several outdoor classroom spaces which we will utilize for as long as the weather permits. Staff and students are encouraged to dress for being outside.

Hand hygiene:

  • Students and staff will thoroughly and frequently wash their hands throughout the day (minimum 20 seconds with soap) 
  • Direct teaching about hand washing will occur in the first week of school
  • Required handwashing: Upon arrival at school, before and after eating, after using the restroom
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers are located throughout the building and people are encouraged to use hand sanitizer as they exit/enter rooms and periodically throughout the day
  • People are encouraged to bring their own personal supply of hand sanitizer
  • Hands should be cleaned after touching masks and before/after touching common surfaces

Cleaning stations, cleaning protocols:

  • At the end of every class block, the students & staff in each classroom will disinfect surfaces, sweep, and 

Remove trash to maintain classroom cleanliness

    • Staff will work with students to create a plan to clean the rest of the school
  • Wednesdays, while the school is closed,  our professional cleaning company ( will perform a thorough cleaning of the building
    • The first deep clean will take place on Thursday, the 3rd and then every week on Wednesdays.  They will be cleaning all surfaces and doorknobs, phones, cleaning toilets and bathrooms, mopping floors, consolidating trash, vacuuming etc.
  • Stocking and restocking cleaning stations will be done by staff.


  • The school has a small, portable clothes washer. 
  • Cleaning rags will be laundered daily by staff.  
  • Laundry will be dried on a clothesline outside.  
  • If weather does not permit outdoor drying, there will also be a clothesline in the art room.

Outdoor Learning Spaces:

  •  During the fall we will utilize outdoor learning spaces as often as possible. 
  • We will have 3 dedicated outdoor classrooms (Tent, pavilion and covered discussion area)


  • This fall windows in the school  will be open in the building for cross ventilation
  • Fans will be running to enhance air circulation
  • We have reprogramed our air exchanger to turn over air in building frequently and are currently investigating having a second system installed in the back half of the building prior to winter.


  • Parent/Guardian must sign a separate Permission slip for staff to transport students using the school vans this year.
  • During the pandemic, the vans will only be used to transport students to locations 15 minutes or less away from the school and will only be used at 50% capacity.  
  • All occupants will wear masks when in the vans.  
  • Maximum air circulation will be maintained using the windows and fans in the vans. 
  • Interior of the vans will be sprayed with aerosol disinfectant after each use.  
  • All occupants will wash or sanitize hands before and after van trips.

Shared supplies:

  • We encourage students to bring their own school supplies and a supply list was issued at the beginning of the school year.
  • When it is necessary to use communal supplies, students will be given clean supplies and then asked to put their supplies in a clearly marked, designated spot in each classroom for later disinfection/cleaning.

Personal supplies:

  • Students should have a sealable container labeled with their name to hold their personal supplies.
  • Sharing supplies is discouraged this year to minimize the risk of transmission


Mask Policy: 

  • Everyone is  required to have an approved face covering and to wear it at all times except as outlined below.
  • Masks must cover the nose and mouth.  A well fitting mask should cover your face from the bridge of your nose to under your chin. It should be loose fitting but still secure enough to stay in place. People should make sure they can talk with their mask on and that it doesn’t irritate them, so they are not tempted to touch it or pull it out of place, which could limit its effectiveness.
    • Acceptable face coverings include: disposable non-surgical mask, homemade and store bought cloth masks that tie or have elastic ear loops.  
    • Unacceptable face coverings: Additional research has recently come out that suggests the listed face coverings below are ineffective in preventing particle spread. 
        • scarf, bandana, neck gators, valve masks 
    • Face shields are not advised either unless used in addition to a face mask,
      • To use a plastic face shield alone requires a doctor’s order.
  • Everyone in the building will be required to wear a face covering while indoors 
    • The exception to this will be if eating.  When eating, people should sit facing away from others, and maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from others.  Hands should be cleaned before and after eating.  Care should be taken with used masks.  Surfaces must be disinfected after eating.
  • Students do not need to wear face coverings when outside as long as 6 ft distance is maintained.
  • Mask breaks will be given during class–People will go outside, keep a 6 foot distance from one another, and wash/sanitize hands after touching masks
  • Everyone should bring at least one spare mask. 
  • Masks should be changed if they become damp.  
    • Used reusable masks should be placed in a sealed container and taken home to be laundered. Disposable masks should be thrown out in one of the 4 trashcans with lids in the school (located in bathrooms, science room, and Discovery room). 
    • Clean hands after changing masks.
  • The school has a limited supply of masks if people need a replacement during the day

Lunch Procedures: 

  • People are encouraged to eat outside and maintain a safe distance from one another
  • In order to eat indoors, people must spread out in the school and be at least 6 feet away from each other.
  • People should not directly face each other while eating.
  • Maximum room capacities for eating are posted for each room. 
    • (Art Room–3) (Science–4) (Common Room–6) (½ Room–6) (Discovery Room–8) 
  • In order to allow people safe access to the kitchen during lunch, there will be no eating in the kitchen during lunch.
  • Before and after eating, people should wash hands and spray and wipe down table surface with disinfectant

Kitchen Policy:

  • Kitchen will not be open for cooking. 
  • Community dishes, utensils, mugs, and glasses will not be available for use this year.  
  • Food may be stored in the refrigerators in labeled containers
  • Microwaves, electric tea kettle, toaster ovens are still available
    • Before and after using shared resources (like the microwaves) people must wash hands
  • Everyone should have a water bottle and/or travel mug (hot beverages) that stays with them throughout the day.
  • Dishes should be taken home at the end of the day and not left out to dry near the sink.

Open Campus 

  • At this time (8/30/2020) we are asking parents about their comfort level with having Open Campus this fall.  Once we have heard from all families, we will make a decision about Open Campus procedures.

Arrival Procedure

  1. Arrive → Hand hygiene
  2. Put away personal belongings
  3. Say “Hi,” to advisor [attendance taken → Advisor fills in electronic spreadsheet]
  4. Go to tent
  5. Morning Announcements including where classes are being held, events, etc.

***Late arrivals must check-in at office 

***Early departures must have parent permission communicated to front office & check-out at office


  • We are working to reduce the number of people in the school at all times.  
  • People visiting should call ahead from the parking lot before entering the school. 
  • Visitors are strongly encouraged to call ahead before making a trip to school.  
  • Visitors should enter only through the front door. 
  • There are signs on the doors with directions for visitors.
  • Visitors will be expected to follow all safety protocols while in the building.
  • Parents and Guardians are welcome to come to the school provided they follow the above guidelines and adhere to the other protocols in the building (masks, hand hygiene, health checks, etc)
  • Prospective Families will be welcome to tour the school on weekends and Wednesdays. 
  • Guest Speakers will be digital or outside only this year.

Hybrid Classes for sick or quarantined students

  • If a student is ill or has to self-isolate, teachers will work with each student individually to best meet their needs depending on their situation
  • We will offer a Zoom team call at beginning of the quarantine period to work with the family to design an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP)
  • Teachers will create alternative assignments when appropriate
  • Families can expect daily check-ins from at least the advisor

Sick or Quarantined Teachers 

  • If a teacher is unable to teach in person at school while in-person learning is happening, we will work with them and their classes to establish whether we will hire a substitute teacher or they will teach from home via Zoom, or some combination of these options. 

Online platforms 

  • All teachers will use Google Classroom for posting class materials and assignments
    • All assignments should be submitted via Google Classroom
  • Students all have gmail accounts with a address which enables them to access the Google suite of applications
  • Direct instruction for use of Google Classroom will be given during Advisory in the first weeks of classes
  • We will be using Zoom for video conferencing.
    • Each teacher has their own Zoom Account through the school.  Paid Zoom accounts have increased security measures and unlimited time.

Psycho-social supports

There is a great deal of research available that indicates relationships and personal connection are crucial to student well-being in general and specifically during the uncertainty of this pandemic. The nature of how we educate students at TNS has multiple support systems embedded within it.  These include: 

    • Advisory
    • Direct communication with families about student well-being
    • Flexible, individualized approach to education where we modify expectations according to student needs

This year, we will strive to ensure safe, In-person learning whenever possible

    • If we have to switch to Remote Learning again, we have built in supports including daily check-ins

Our holistic approach to working with adolescents includes Implementing small mindfulness moments throughout the day, encouraging physical activity throughout the day and discussion of health and nutrition in advisory and as a whole school

We do not have a councilor or a social worker on staff, but encourage families to access services if they need them. 

Last spring, we found this to be a valuable resource:

Plan for identifying when we go remote, when we quarantine, etc

We will pay attention to the State of Maine Color system as one component for deciding if we will hold in-person instruction. Our schedule this year was built with CDC guidelines in mind and meets the requirements for safer in-person instruction during the pandemic.

If York County is Green we will operate a four day a week schedule with Remote Wednesdays.

If York County is Yellow, we will engage the parent community in discussion about whether to amend the schedule to fewer days to limit exposure.   Further Hybridization is possible if families elect to learn remotely during a Yellow status.

If York County is Red we will go remote for a minimum of 14 days and engage the parent community in discussion about limited in-person opportunities like meeting outside or in very limited capacity. 

When someone in the community has tested positive, the school will immediately go remote for a minimum of 14-days.  The CDC will be contacted and we will follow their guidance before returning to school.


    • The New School will be open 7:30am- 5pm M-T-TH-F 
  • Wednesdays, the school will not be open to the public. Students will follow our Remote Wednesday schedule from home.


Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission

Mental Health and COVID-19 – Information and Resources

Building Resiliency to Isolation & Loneliness: How to Increase Our Resiliency During the COVID-19 Crisis

Stay vigilant to stop the spread of Coronavirus

Zoom Fatigue: Don’t Let Video Meetings Zap Your Energy

Distance Learning Is Taking an Emotional Toll on Students

NAMI- National Alliance on Mental Illness