Fall 2020 > Covid-19 Health and Safety Protocols at BHMS


COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols at BHMS 

The purpose of this plan is to lay out the protocols and procedures for restarting the 2020-2021 school year with students, faculty, and staff returning to a hybrid model of in-person and remote instruction over the course of the year.


Our plan for reopening reflects the collaborative work of administrators, faculty, staff, members of the Board of Trustees, parents, and medical professionals.  The plan was developed under the guidance of the New York State and New York City Departments of Health, the New York State Department of Education, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), Independent School Management, the American Association of Pediatrics, and the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS).  

General Expectations

The policies and practices described in this document are intended to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in our community and are informed by the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New York State Education Department and the New York State Department of Health. We all need to work together to keep everyone safe. We ask that all members of the community follow these safety procedures to help protect our students, faculty, staff, caregivers, and families.

  • Follow federal, state, and local guidelines
  • If anyone in your household tests positive for COVID-19, notify the COVID-19 Safety coordinator at (929) 359-7135 right away
  • Stay home if sick or exposed to COVID-19 and notify the COVID-19 Safety coordinator at (929) 359-7135 right away
  • Use appropriate face coverings
  • Practice and reinforce good hygiene practices at home and at school, in particular, the importance of frequent handwashing and respiratory etiquette
  • Screen each of your children on a daily basis (before leaving for school) for COVID-19 symptoms using the Magnus Health screening app
  • Make sure your child’s medical forms are up to date before the first day of school
  • Make sure your child’s demographic information is accurate so we can quickly get in touch with you or your emergency contacts if your child presents symptoms of COVID-19 at school

Social-Emotional Well-Being

As always, the social-emotional well-being of our community is an important part of the curriculum and experience at BHMS. This area of focus is even more important for us going forward. Dr. Kathy Reiss, our school psychologist, is working with a number of faculty volunteers who work in all areas of the school, to design ways to support everyone throughout the 2020-2021 school year. Dr. Kathy Reiss is also available to all students, parents, faculty, and staff to offer support and guidance. She can be reached at kreiss@bhmsny.org.

Phase-In Schedules

To begin the year, we will have a phase-in plan for students to return to in-person learning. The phase-in schedule is designed with a number of factors in mind, including the age of the students and the ability to work with and teach the students how to maintain appropriate social and physical distancing.

  • Twos Phase-In will begin on September 24
  • Preschool Phase-In will begin on September 24
  • Lower Elementary Phase-In will begin on September 29
  • Upper Elementary Phase-In will begin on October 5
  • Middle School Phase-In will begin on October 5

Student Cohorts and Program Locations

Students will be assigned to cohorts in order to reduce class size and limit in-school interaction with other students. Cohorts will generally be limited to 8-15 students (except in the case of Middle School where a cohort may be 17 students). Cohort groups of students will not intermingle or interact with students from other cohorts. Cohort assignments will not be changed during this time. In order to accommodate these smaller cohorts, we will relocate certain groups of students to other areas in the school as follows: All Twos/Preschool/Kindergarten cohorts will be located on the first floor and will be comprised of eight cohorts:

  • Two-year-old students will be split into two cohorts who will attend class after an extended phase-in period on either a three-day schedule (Mon-Wed) or a two-day Schedule (Thurs-Fri).
  • PK3/PK4 students will be split into four cohorts of mixed aged students in their assigned classrooms and after an extended phase-in period will attend four-and-a-half days a week.
  • Kindergarten students will be split into two cohorts in the Firehouse and after an extended phase-in period will attend four-and-a-half days a week.

Lower Elementary students will be split into six cohorts and will be located on the second floor, in the Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary suites. Each of the three classrooms will be split into two cohorts and will attend four-and-a-half days a week.

Upper Elementary students will be split into six cohorts and will be located in the Middle School suite and the 3rd floor Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) space. Each of the three classrooms will be split into two cohorts and will attend four days a week, with the fifth day remote.

Middle School students will be split into two cohorts (one 7th grade and one 8th grade) which will be located on the 4th floor in the Gym. The 7th grade cohort will attend classes two mornings a week at school. At midday, they will go home to have virtual mixed aged classes with the 8th grade students. The 8th grade cohort will attend classes two mornings a week at school. At midday, they will go home and attend virtual mixed aged classes. Both cohorts will attend classes virtually on Friday.


Our plan is grounded in five guiding principles, which speak to our Mission and Montessori Philosophy:

  1. Safety: The health and well-being of our community are of paramount importance at BHMS.
  2. On-Campus Instruction, Remote Instruction, and Wellness: Promoting and supporting social and emotional wellness for our students, whether learning in person or remotely is an important value that the school is uniquely positioned to provide throughout the course of a BHMS education
  3. Educational Excellence: Our program is designed to prepare students with the creativity, collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills essential for success in our complex and rapidly changing world however the curriculum is delivered. While health circumstances may necessitate certain changes or restrictions on student life, our ultimate goal is to support our students’ learning and development as seamlessly as possible.
  4. Flexibility & Adaptability: BHMS recognizes that any plan that we design to respond to a public health emergency must be flexible and able to adapt to circumstances beyond our control. Our overarching goal is to create a continuous learning structure that is durable enough to adapt to possible future public health emergencies while still allowing us to maintain as much on-campus instruction as possible.
  5. Community: BHMS is above all things a community, one that includes families, faculty, staff, and alumni. We believe that a rich and connected school community continues to be an important part of school life, whether we are on or off campus. We will plan events, protocols, and procedures with a healthy, connected, strong school community in mind.

Physical Distancing

All people in the building will be required to maintain six feet of physical distance both inside and in the outdoor portions of the school facilities. As a reminder, we will install signs in all areas of the school: hallways will be designated and marked accordingly with signage and directional arrows, stairwells will be assigned to be used by specific cohorts of students and their teachers.

Inside the classrooms, students will have individual work areas arranged to make sure students are appropriately distanced at all times. Students will have access to their own individual materials that would normally be shared freely within the classroom, such as work rugs, pencils, scissors, etc. and laptops. Any instructional materials that need to be shared, like Montessori materials will be properly disinfected between uses.

Arrival and Dismissal Routines and Protocols

Before arriving at school each day, families will self screen each of their children via the Magnus Health App and answer the screening questions developed in accordance with associated CDC recommendations regarding COVID-19 symptoms. The questions may change from time to time as the CDC modifies their guidance. Information collected during this process is confidential.

Students will also complete a touchless temperature check at the entrance to school each morning by the school nurse or a trained staff member. BHMS requires individuals to immediately disclose if and when their responses to screening questions changes, such as if they begin to experience symptoms, including during or outside of school hours.To avoid congestion, we will use all three entrances to the building. Students will enter and exit the building through the designated entry/exit point (Court Street, Bergen Street, or Dean Street).

To limit the number of people in the building, parents and caregivers are not allowed to come into the building unless they have a pre-arranged meeting with a teacher or staff member. In those instances, parents should enter through the Bergen Street entrance. Bikes, strollers, and scooters are not allowed into the school building.

Daily Schedules and Building Use

We have developed a schedule that aligns with our educational philosophy and Montessori tenets of experiential learning. The schedule prioritizes in-person learning for four and a half days a week for students ages three through third grade and a hybrid approach of in-person learning and remote learning for fourth through eighth grades.

Many spaces on the campus will be reconfigured to accommodate smaller numbers of students and individuals in a single classroom or area. Student schedules will be adjusted to include fewer transitions within the building. Shared outdoor spaces will be scheduled so that all students have opportunities to be outdoors (weather permitting).

Face Coverings

All students will need to wear face coverings unless an accommodation based on the student’s individual circumstance is necessary. Students will be able to take off their face coverings during meal times and for short breaks, so long as six feet of physical distance is maintained.

Faculty and Staff will be required to wear face coverings at all times while in the school building, except during designated meal breaks or when they are alone in a room or office.

Appropriate Face Coverings are defined as homemade sewn, quick cut, or surgical masks that cover the mouth and the nose. Disposable paper masks will be available in case someone forgets to bring their own.

Meal Time

During meal times, individuals will maintain six feet of space. Students and teachers may remove face coverings to eat. As always, classroom teachers will be informed by the school nurse of any students in their classroom with a food allergy. Additionally, no sharing of food or drinks will be permitted.


BHMS will adhere to and promote hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection protocols as set forth by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We will provide training to all students, faculty, and staff on proper hand and respiratory hygiene.

These protocols include:
  • Temporarily suspending the use of reusable dishes, cups, and utensils during this public health emergency
  • Instructing individuals on when and how to wash hands
  • Instructing individuals on proper respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette

The school nurse will take a lead role in working with our community on all proper hygiene and handwashing instruction. Students and faculty and staff will wash their hands at the start and end of the school day, before and after eating, after toileting, and frequently throughout the school day as necessary. Signs will be posted throughout the school to remind and inform individuals regarding proper handwashing protocols.

Technology Protocols

BHMS will allow students in Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, and Middle School to take their school-assigned laptop home if it is necessary for successful remote learning. Consistent with our mission and our financial aid procedures, the school will also evaluate on a case-by-case basis request to provide Internet access to facilitate remote learning. Families interested in either of these options should complete the Remote Technology Request Form. Technical Support is available from 8:00am-4:00pm, Monday through Friday for all faculty, students, and families by visiting help.bhmsny.org.

Canvas, our learning management system (LMS), will serve as the primary hub for information about student schedules and links to their learning. Parents and students will log into Canvas using their school provided accounts (students) or through the Veracross portal (parents).
  • It eliminates the need to email parents weekly or even daily with assignments and other class information
  • It provides an additional level of security
  • It will house “living” documents that can be updated, eliminating the need for emails if there is a change or correction to the material
Students and families will have an opportunity to learn about Canvas prior to the beginning of the school year. We will continue to use Zoom as our tool for synchronous instruction, class, and small group meetings, and parent conferences.

Elevators and Stairways

We will clearly mark the limited capacity of our elevator with signs and stairways with directional signs.

HVAC and Ventilation

We have consulted our service providers to evaluate the HVAC system in all areas and to make modifications as necessary to increase outside airflow as well as filter and condition air throughout the building.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Routine cleaning is an everyday practice that BHMS uses to maintain a healthy environment. Surfaces frequently touched by multiple people, such as door handles, bathroom surfaces, and handrails will be cleaned regularly with the appropriate detergent.

We have upgraded our outside cleaning service to a higher level of cleaning, installed plexiglass shields in our reception area, installed touchless sink and toilet fixtures, and have hand sanitizer stations located throughout the school. All outdoor areas, such as the roof playground, the outdoor classroom, and the terraces will be cleaned routinely.

Early Morning and Afterschool Care

Because our early morning and after school programs would likely bring together students who would otherwise have spent their day in different, carefully cohorted groups, we do not plan to run our normal Early Morning Drop-Off or Montessori Afterschool Program (MAP) in the fall. We know this may present challenges for some families, but the health and safety of our community is our number-one priority.

Nurse’s Office

The nurse’s office has been expanded to include a consultation space as well as a separate quarantine space. The quarantine space will be used to separate students, faculty, or staff who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day until they can go home or be picked up by a designated contact. The quarantine room allows for the visual supervision of symptomatic students by a staff member who is physically distanced.
Anyone who screens positive on arrival or becomes symptomatic at school will immediately be escorted to the nurse’s office and placed in the quarantine room. The school nurse will have appropriate PPE for her use in caring for any individuals. The nurse will reach out to the parents and emergency contacts of students who develop symptoms during the school day. Students will be required to be picked up from the school within one hour.

Administrative Offices

All meetings (both administrative and parent) will be held via Zoom and some offices may at times operate entirely remotely. The maximum occupancy for office spaces will be clearly posted at the entrance to each space.

Employee Screening and Health Protocols

Before arriving at school each day, faculty and staff will self-screen via the Magnus Health App and answer the screening questions developed in accordance with associated CDC recommendations regarding COVID-19 symptoms. The questions may change from time to time as the CDC modifies their guidance. Information collected during this process is confidential.

Faculty and staff will also complete a touchless temperature check at the entrance to school each morning by the school nurse or a trained staff member.


In-person visitors to the building (including parents) will be limited to absolutely necessary visits only and will require advance scheduling. BHMS will temporarily suspend all use of our facilities by outside entities.

Events and Large Gatherings

During this public health emergency, BHMS will temporarily suspend all in-person community events. All meetings, Parents Association events, or other gatherings will take place remotely or be postponed until we can safely gather in person.

Required School Safety Drills

BHMS will conduct fire drills and lockdown drills as required by law and regulation and the fire code without exceptions. We will continue to conduct mandatory fire and lockdown drills according to the existing statutory schedule. Drills will be conducted in a manner that maintains physical distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students to respond in emergencies.

School Closure

The school will continue in-person learning when the New York City infection rate remains at or below 3% using a seven-day average as reported by the City of New York. If the level of COVID-19 infections in New York City rises above 3% in any seven-day period, BHMS will transition to full Remote Learning for at least seven days OR until the level of COVID-19 infections remains below 3% for a seven day period AND The City of New York and the Department of Health clears a return to in-person learning. BHMS will work closely with the NYC Department of Health and the NYS Department of Health to monitor the infection rate of our community and will act on their guidance along with the guidance and recommendations of our medical advisory team in our decision-making processes.

In the event that there is a positive case of COVID-19 within our community, the infected individual and possibly the cohort of students and teachers connected to the individual (based on a medical evaluation of the particular case) will need to isolate. Discharge from isolation or quarantine will be coordinated with the NYC Department of Health on a case by case basis.

ncreased community infection rates or an increased number of quarantine or isolation cases may warrant reducing in-person instruction or the closure of the school. These decisions will be made in close consultation with the NYC Department of Health and the NYS Department of Health. If we need to close the school and transition to remote learning, a period of transition will take effect to allow faculty, staff, and students to make any needed adjustments and preparations.

School Communications

While we are in this public health crisis, we know clear and regular communication with our community is especially important. We plan to share information in the following ways:

  • Email: for regular updates and school information
  • SMS Text Message: for urgent announcements
  • Canvas (our Learning Management System): for academic schedules and information related to classroom work
  • Website: for our COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan, Information about Reopening, an archive of past communications, and health and educational resources for families
We realize that this school year, families will need to be directly in touch with their teachers more frequently than before. Within the BHMS Parent Portal, families/caregivers can find staff and teacher email addresses and phone numbers. Teachers will be available to talk during their scheduled office hours, or at other points throughout the school day as their schedule allows. When possible, we ask families to schedule an appointment in advance.

For questions regarding this plan or 

to report COVID-19 related illness or exposure,
please contact Chris Koble, COVID-19 Safety Coordinator

(929) 359-7135