COVID Procedures 2021-2022

Dear Benchmark Families, 

As we look ahead to another school year, COVID continues to impact our collective health and safety and how schools will be forced to open this fall. With so many of our students not yet of an age to be vaccinated, we are taking the protection of our community very seriously. To that end, we want to let you know what we’re planning for the fall. 

In light of the “substantial transmission” level of COVID locally according to CDC, we will still be required to have safety measures in place, employing layers of mitigation practices as recommended by health officials. However, compared to last year, more features of the school day will resemble pre-pandemic conditions. These plans outlined below are based on local, state, and national recommendations, and are subject to change as circumstances evolve.

We are aware that there continues to be a variety of opinions about the pandemic. We are equally aware that the decisions we make as a school interact with all of those opinions. Please know that we will continue to do our best to balance reason with safety while adhering to health guidelines as necessary.  As always, our greatest goals remain keeping our community members as safe as possible and maintaining an in-person learning environment. We’re not out of the woods yet, so I urge you to continue to do your part for the sake of our school community and continue to model patience as we weather however many months of the storm remain.

Sincerely, 

Chris Hancock
Head of School

COVID Procedures

In-Person Learning

  • We will open for in-person learning in the fall, 5 days per week.
  • We are not planning to support a fully remote learning option, but we are making plans at present to enable temporary remote learning in cases where students or teachers may have to remain home due to the school’s quarantine requirements. 
  • We will be providing a full academic program. 
  • This year, Wednesdays will be regular class days. Our community-building, independent practice work, and social-emotional supports will continue to be built into the school day.

Supplies

  • In the lower school, general school supplies are provided. Your child only needs their mask, backpack, reusable drink bottle, and lunchbox (if applicable). Please put your child’s name on all items. 
  • In the middle school, the required supplies are listed here.
  • Students will be permitted to share materials, such as pencils, books, or electronic devices.
  • Students have access to lockers/cubbies, and will not have to keep their personal items (book bag, etc.) with them at their seats at all times. 
  • Water fountains will be available.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided.

Masking

  • We will require all individuals to wear masks indoors at all times, with the exception of 10-minute mask breaks at teachers’ discretion and while eating. 
  • Students must wear masks on buses. 
  • A reminder that those who choose to wear neck gaiters must double them. A single layer is not sufficient protection against viral transmission. 
  • We will not require masks to be worn outdoors. 

Cohorting

  • At this time, we are not planning to continue with cohorts. 
  • Students will be permitted to move between classrooms for subjects as they would in a typical year. 

Plexiglass

  • At present, we will not have plexiglass on student desks. 
  • We are planning to have plexiglass on lunchroom tables. 

Hand Hygiene

We will continue to promote hand hygiene via frequent handwashing and use of hand sanitizer. 

Recess

  • The playground will be open. 
  • Students may be permitted to interact with students from other classrooms when outdoors during recess. 

Physical Distancing

  • Students in classrooms will be seated three feet apart from each other. 
  • Per the CDC, we will attempt to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between students and teachers/staff, and between teachers/staff may not be fully vaccinated.

Dining Hall and Food

  • Our dining hall will serve the typical school year menu of a hot meal with a vegetarian option, sandwiches, fruit, and dessert. 
  • Families will not need to order their child’s lunch in advance.
  • Students will be able to eat in the dining hall. Due to limitations on numbers for safety during middle school lunchtime, we will have a full tent outdoors adjacent to the dining hall (with heat when needed) and students will have the option to eat lunch there as well. Tent seating will be limited.
  • Students are permitted to bring a packed lunch. 
  • Outside food will be permitted for birthday and classroom parties, but all items must be individually wrapped. While Benchmark is not an allergen-free school, please do be aware of the specific allergy situations in your child’s classroom.

Guided Study/After-school Activities/Sports

  • Guided Study will be offered on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 3-4 p.m. for all but the youngest class, where students' homework requires more supervision.
  • After-school clubs and sports will be available. Please stay tuned for a separate communication regarding club opportunities, sign up, and sports schedule.
  • All Benchmark athletes will be COVID-tested on each game day before playing. 
  • Please see this information from CHOP about returning to sports safely during the pandemic. Benchmark supports these recommendations. 

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • The school will continue to be fully cleaned on every surface every evening, and we will sanitize frequently during the day, particularly on high-touch areas, including doors, desks, and handrails.
  • Bathrooms will be cleaned daily and students will be instructed to use hand sanitizer before entering the bathroom and again when they return to the classroom.
  • We will also continue comprehensive disinfecting as needed using an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer and UVC lamps.  

Illness Procedures

  • We will call parents to pick up children who present with symptoms of illness.
  • Students and staff members are encouraged to stay home if they are sick.
  • See additional information about COVID-19-related screening and illness management in the COVID-19 Attendance and Exclusion Policy

Daily Health Screenings

  • Screenings must be done at home every day prior to attendance at school by 7:15 a.m. using the person-specific link via the Health eTools web-based platform.
  • If not completed, we will follow-up and screen prior to the student, faculty, or staff member entering the school building.
  • We will greet every student’s car, follow up with any questions we or you may have, confirm a “cleared” screening result, and if the student did not screen at home, we will take the student’s temperature.
  • Symptomatic children arriving in cars will not be permitted to enter the school. Symptomatic students arriving on a bus will go directly to the Health Office and parents will be called to pick those students up.
  • See the full screening protocol and details on when individuals may return to school in the COVID-19 Attendance and Exclusion Policy.  Also, this guidance from the Chester County Health Department provides a useful flowchart to guide quarantine in case of exposures. 

Parents & Visitors on Campus

  • Parents and other visitors will be permitted to visit campus.
  • All visitors must be masked.
  • All visitors will be required to enter through the main entrance. 
  • Parents and all visitors will be asked to complete a health screening at entry.


Transportation & Drop-Off/Pick-Up 

Arrival

  • Students should be wearing masks as they exit the car. 
  • Lower school students will be dropped off in front of the school.
  • Middle school students will be dropped off at the gym.
  • All students arriving in cars may arrive between 7:45-8:10 a.m.
  • Carpools with middle school and lower school students will stop at the gym first to drop off middle school students and then go to the front of the school building to drop off lower school students.
  • Students who were not screened at home, according to our records from Health eTools, will be asked the screening questions and will have their temperature checked.

Dismissal

Parents should plan to arrive for pick-up between 3-3:10 p.m.

If you choose not to send your child on a bus, or if you do not have a bus option, late arrivals and early pick-ups will be permitted.

As in a typical school year, students will be allowed to arrive late or be picked up early for appointments. If arriving or picking up during the school day, parents should come to the front door and use the intercom.