ORCSD School Opening Plan 2021-2022

ORCSD School Opening Plan 2021-2022
Posted on 06/04/2021
District LogoPDF Version of the Document reviewed by the ORCSD School Board on 6/2/2021

Recommendations in this plan are based on the review of CDC and DHHS Guidance in conjunction with current local and state COVID data as of May 27, 2021. Both organizations continuously update their guidance on a regular basis. This plan should be reviewed at the August 4, 2021 School Board meeting.

 POLICY-like: directed or approved by School Board  PROCEDURE-like: responsibility of Superintendent
  • Any reduction in school occupancy (except an immediate, short term shift)
  • Process and considerations for changing these decisions
  • Budget and staffing changes
  • School day hours and schedule within the school day
  • Transportation scheduling
  • School meals – breakfast and lunch
  • Recess/breaks
  • Cleaning and disinfection routines
  • Nursing and health screening
  • Extra precautions related to specific activities such as music or athletics
  • Student spacing and PPE required

For the purposes of this document, the following goals are considered:

  1. Provide guidance that the school community, including parents, students, staff, and administrators, can rely on with confidence knowing they will have the support of the school Board.
  2. Create an environment where as, many students as possible physically attend school.
  3. Full in-person days, 5 days per week, with full academic and extracurricular offerings.
  4. Provide guidance for staff and the community when we would consider further relaxing or tightening precautions.
  5. Consider the latest scientific and medical guidance.
This past year has been problematic with many twists, turns, starts, and stops. Fundamentally, what we have learned is that multiple plans and approaches confuse the community and raise anxiety as well as frustration. We need to be clear as to our plans and expectations as we enter the 2021-22 school year.

Current District Data

The data used to inform this recommendation include the diminishing number of students who continue to be remote.

Moharimet is down to 23
Mast Way is down to 57
OR Middle School is down to 58
ORHS is down to 198 (60 are seniors)

Remote learners K-8 continue to decline. High school numbers have been consistent. One major factor contributing to the remote numbers at the high school are related to older students who have taken on jobs and other obligations while remote and are less to do with the pandemic. We anticipate at the start of a new school year these numbers will go down.

Currently, we have 75 homeschool students in the district. Normally we have approximately 60 children homeschooled. We are surveying parents of our home-schooled students to see how many may return to in-school learning.

We had no idea how effective the University’s interventions would be related to student COVID mitigation efforts. A vaccination effort, aggressive testing program, comprehensive isolation plan for active COVID cases, and quarantine for those exposed, all contributed to a sense of confidence that UNH took COVID very seriously. Although Durham numbers soared from February to April, it appears most of those cases were associated with UNH. With UNH students gone for the summer, current Durham numbers are the lowest they have been. Assuming UNH follows the same plan in the fall we would feel comfortable running school normally. We did not see any impact of UNH transmission rates on our school community.

Core Recommendation
Given the considerations outlined above, the goal for the 2021-22 school year is to open school in the fall as close to normal as possible.

In-person School Day

We define opening school as “normal as possible” operating in-person 5 days per week per the school Board approved academic calendar. Most, if not all children are in attendance in their classrooms, we will follow a traditional 5-day per week schedule, and the remote learning option is limited to health-related issues. Students who have a documented medical condition and are not able to attend in-person learning will work with the student services department. This will be on an exception basis only. If necessary, remote support may take the form of a combination of partial live synchronous instruction, asynchronous learning, and/or online instruction such as VLACS. Staff and instruction may not be Oyster River personnel and material. We are investigating a possible shared remote model with local districts.

Until children ages 3-11 are vaccinated, which typically represents grades PK-6, it is prudent to maintain a mask mandate, as well as 3-foot distancing in classrooms and 6-foot distancing in cafeterias. Should vaccinations be allowed for this age group we may change this recommendation to reflect the same guidance offered for the high school. In PK-8, mask breaks will continue to be coordinated for students as needed.

Due to the fact the staff and all high school aged students have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, we could consider eliminating the 6-foot social distancing in the cafeteria, and lift mask requirements throughout the school

Specific Operational Recommendations

School Day

The school day will be 8:45 to 3:15 at the K-4 level and 8:15 to 3:05 at the MS-HS level. The PEP AM session will be M-Th from 8:15 to 10:45 and the PM session will be M-Th from 12:00 to 2:30.

The start and end time of the school day is tied to the number of bus drivers we have to transport children. Currently we are down 8 drivers. We may have to continue to rely on parents to transport students which is less than ideal. Typically, our buses transport 80% of PK-4, 60% of MS and less than 40% of HS children.

ORHS Schedule

The ORHS master schedule will be on an A/B block rotation as revised during the pandemic, which allows maximum flexibility in case we have to move to a completely remote model. The master schedule will be built on 2 houses, one for grades 9-10 and one for grades 11-12.

Classroom Social Distancing

Our current recommendation is to continue classroom social distancing at 3 feet. This allows class sizes to return to the levels recommended in district guidelines, and to fully accommodate an all-in return model. Currently, we are using 3-foot social distancing as recommended by the CDC. Depending on CDC and other health guidelines the recommended social distancing my change. Three-foot social distancing allows us to accommodate class sizes in line with our maximum district guidelines.

Managing Breakfast and Lunch Under Current Guidelines

Based on current guidelines breakfast and lunch times should maintain 6-foot social distancing. Note that the lunch schedule impacts the entire instructional day as the number of lunches required increases when social distancing increases. PEP, Mast Way, Moharimet and the Middle School require 6-foot social distancing due the fact the vaccine is not available yet for 3-11-year-olds.

The master schedule at ORHS can be adjusted to 3-foot social distancing to provide adequate time and space to serve lunch for all 835 students; this would allow 2 lunches and provides more academic time. If we maintain 6-foot social distancing at lunch this would require 4 lunches and reduces academic time.

Managing Recess

At the PK-8 level recess will need to be carefully planned given that there is no vaccine for this age group. At PEP, Mast Way and Moharimet this means keeping numbers manageable on the playground. At the middle school there is limited space due to construction.

Mixed Grade Level Teams at the MS

Middle School Music, PE and World Language will follow the same protocols we have implemented this spring. We will, however, need locations for these programs to occur from October-February. Principal Richard is researching various off-site options for the band and chorus. The High School and Middle School PE programs will cohabitate using the facilities at the High School. World Language teachers will continue to move to the students in the fall as they do now. Tech Ed and “Shop” will occur on site, socially distanced and masked.

Elementary Music and PE

Elementary music moved back into the classroom this spring. We will continue that model, socially distanced and masked. Limitations on singing would remain in effect. Singing outside is an option. PE is dramatically impacted by the lunch schedule. PE can occur during lunch when the weather permits, but because the gym becomes an extension of the lunchroom, when weather is bad, PE cannot occur if the gym is being used as the lunchroom.


A full range of athletic programming for MS and HS is recommended. Individual activities may need to be adjusted to meet health and safety guidelines or NHIAA rules and procedures. We will continue our modified guidelines into the fall unless the pandemic is declared over in which case, we would return to normal pre-pandemic rules.

Large Group Gatherings

Large group school-sponsored gatherings outside of the school day (concerts, sports, events) will be allowed. All spectator attendees of indoor events must wear masks due to the likely variety of ages in attendance. Athletes and performers will follow the same practices as in their classes/practices related to the event.


Due to the fact that we have no ability to know who is vaccinated, visitors will be required to answer the ORCSD prescreening questionnaire prior to entering any school building and wear a mask while on school grounds. We will follow our most recent guidelines for outdoor events.


Capacity on buses will increase to reduce traffic congestion at all schools. Students riding school transportation will wear a mask. Parents have been incredibly cooperative and willing to transport their own children, but this defeats our sustainability goals. As an example, a highly efficient automobile gets about 30 mpg and is generally moving 2-3 passengers equally 60-90 people miles per gallon. A bus with 70 children that gets 11 miles per gallon equates to 770 people miles per gallon. Bus transportation is far more efficient at moving large numbers of passengers than an individual automobile. Buses are also far safer than cars to transport children. The sooner we can return to fully utilizing our buses the better it is for our children and for the environment.


The pandemic has offered a level of flexibility with the current budget. We have also received federal funds in the form of grants that we do not normally receive; these will be short term. We deliberately controlled spending to an extreme degree the first half of the year. As we enter the 2021-22 school year, we will need to apply the same fiscal discipline we have prior to the pandemic.

Conditions where the School Board would consider reducing restrictions and precautions:
  • If the opportunity for vaccination is extended to younger people, precautions described above should be reviewed and further relaxed accordingly.
  • If public health agencies declare an end to the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • If the number of circulating cases is extremely low, as evidenced by zero new cases in Oyster River towns for at least 2 weeks and fewer than 95 new cases statewide in the last 7 days (corresponds to <1 per 100,000 per day, “Low Risk” per covidactnow.org).
  • If the school district obtains the authority from the State to maintain record as to which student and staff are vaccinated and can use that information to manage potential exposure risk.
Conditions where the School Board would consider increasing restrictions and precautions:
  • Unable to maintain staffing due to COVID-19 cases.
  • Changes in FDA or CDC guidance regarding vaccination limitations (i.e. need for a booster injection or emergence of a variant that renders vaccines ineffective).
  • Local active COVID-19 cases rise significantly, in particular if new cases in Durham, Lee, and Madbury exceed 60 in 7 days (corresponding to 25 per 100,000 per day, the “Critical” threshold from covidactnow.org).
COVID Related Challenges to Monitor

Assuming that COVID is still part of our lives in the fall we can predict that some of the same challenges that we faced this school year will re-occur.

  • Students in Quarantine (past practices for absences will be used)
  • Program closures
  • Classroom closures
  • School closures
  • Individual quarantines
  • Athletic program pause
  • Staffing capacity issues
  • Contact tracing challenge
  • Vaccine availability and changes in quarantine rules
  • No close contact quarantine for vaccinated staff and student
  • Because we have no way to verify vaccinations truthfulness of reporting will be a challenge
Final Thoughts

Again, the recommendations in this plan are based on the review of current CDC and DHHS Guidance in conjunction with current local and state COVID data as of May 27, 2021. Both organizations continuously update their guidance on a regular basis. This plan should be reviewed at the August 4, 2021 School Board meeting, along with specific details for reopening.