Vaccinations, masks and air flow key for West Hartford schools reopen plan

View of Hall High School in West Hartford.

WEST HARTFORD — A vast majority of the children eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine have gotten at least one dose, aligning with the current reopening plan heading into the start of the school year.

Nearly 85 percent of West Hartford residents between the ages of 12 and 17 have gotten at least the first dose of the vaccine, with more than 75 percent of that age group fully vaccinated, according to data from the state Department of Public Health.

Under the current reopening plan, officials are encouraging staff and eligible students to be vaccinated “as this is the best mitigation tool to keep our community safe.”

Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for those younger than 18 and none are approved for those younger than 12, though Pfizer and Moderna have begun trials for children ages 5 to 11.

“Through our partnerships with the West Hartford/Bloomfield Health District and UConn Health, we have been able to provide clinics for both staff and students, and will continue to do so if needed,” officials wrote in the plan’s summary.

However, anyone who is sick is advised to still stay home.

If there is a positive case reported in school, vaccinated students and staff no longer need to quarantine if they are asymptomatic. This also applies to after-school activities and sports, which are set to go on as planned, according to the reopen plan.

Students seated 3 feet away or more from the positive case also no longer have to quarantine, as long as they don’t have any symptoms and were wearing masks, according to the reopening plan.

Principals are arranging rooms to meet the 3-foot space requirement where space allows, according to the plan.

Masks are still mandatory for everyone inside all schools and buses, regardless of vaccination status.

“Schools will continue to have masks available for any student or staff member who does not have one, and schools will continue to teach proper mask behaviors,” according to the plan. “Families are asked to wear masks during drop off and pick up.”

Hand washing and sanitizing will also continue in the schools, with students washing their hands before and after lunch, as well as after outdoor activities. All classrooms and school offices also have hand sanitizing stations.

Cleaning overall will not be as deep as last year.

“Contaminated surfaces are not a significant risk of transmission of COVID-19, and our routine daily cleaning is all that is needed in our school buildings,” according to the plan.

The school ventilation will still run at maximum capacity under state guidance, as well as opportunities for students and staff to be outside where COVID is believed to not be as easily spread.

“At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, we contracted an outside HVAC mechanical engineering firm to review our systems and approve updates and plans for each school,” according to the plan. “We have created and will continue to utilize outdoor learning spaces at each school to encourage having students outside whenever possible.”

Officials cautioned the plan might change based on the current situation and state and federal guidelines and requirements.

“We will continue to be flexible in our approach in compliance with state guidance and best practices,” school officials said in the reopening plan’s summary.

Connecticut Media Group