COVID-19 Information

Our Campus, Our Community: 2020–2021 Reopening Plan

These plans may be updated to comply with evolving applicable government health mandates. We will continue to follow the recommendations from the CDC and Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education. We have sought, and will continue to seek, advice from area hospital- and university-based medical experts.

Guiding Principles

As we approach this year together as a school community, all members of the community—students, families, faculty, and staff—will be asked to commit to these shared goals and expectations:

1. Each of us has a responsibility to others in the community to adhere fully to the School’s health protocols and guidelines—staying healthy and safe this year will require a shared community effort.

2. All of us need to stay flexible as we respond as a school community to an unpredictable year. We are prepared at Ellis to shift to a fully remote mode of school if we need to at any point, and families must be ready for that possibility.

3. We all need to acknowledge, and accept, that school will look different this year—at Ellis, in Pittsburgh, and around the world—as we all weather this pandemic. These times ask much of all of us, and we will ride through them together with great success if we continue to practice patience, flexibility, and kindness and give each other grace. Our children will be watching all of us as we do so. Our greatest hope is that our students' memories of this year will be filled with moments of great learning, both about the academic content and skills that infuse our program, but also about how a caring community comes together in challenging times.

Health Protocols

Given the ever-changing nature of public health guidance, regulations, and other circumstances related to COVID-19, these protocols are subject to change without notice.

The protocols include:

  • Daily symptom screening and temperature checks that families, faculty, and staff must complete at home and submit by 7:15 a.m. Individuals who fail or do not complete the screening but still arrive at school will immediately be sent home.
  • Face masks required for students, faculty, and staff
  • Clear protocols for handling students/faculty/staff who develop coronavirus symptoms during the day, known exposures, and positive cases. We are employing increased nursing staff to support this.
  • Extensive hygiene practices, cleaning, and sanitation 
  • Limitations on visitors—only students, faculty, and staff will be allowed on campus as we start the school year. We hope to be able to ease this restriction as the year progresses, depending on local virus conditions and guidelines.
  • Adherence to local health department requirements around travel

Please read the full health protocols below:

List of 10 items.

  • Daily Screenings and Magnus Health App

    Screening for COVID-19 will happen every day BEFORE students, faculty, and staff arrive on campus. Ellis’ online health record system, Magnus, has created an app to assist our community in checking for COVID-19 symptoms at home. Each morning before 7:15 a.m., all students/families, faculty, and staff must go to the Magnus app and answer questions regarding COVID-19 signs and symptoms, including a daily temperature reading. Results must be submitted for every student and employee before entering the school. The app will let each person know if they are cleared to be on campus. If the results show that a person should not attend school, they must stay home and seek medical attention. Please do not send your child to school if they are sick or have signs and symptoms of COVID-19. We will not allow them to enter the campus and they will be sent home immediately. Faculty and staff will be held to the same standards.

    Upon arrival at school, there will be staff guiding students into their divisions. Upper School (US) students/faculty/staff will enter only through the US entrance, Middle School (MS) students/faculty/staff will enter through the main reception area, and Lower School (LS) students/staff/faculty will enter through the open main gate. Everyone will be asked to maintain a social distance of at least six feet, wear a face covering, and sanitize their hands as they enter school. At each of the three entrances, a staff member will make sure the Magnus report has given the student/faculty/staff member permission to attend school for the day. If not, they will be pulled aside and sent home immediately. If cleared, students will head straight to their assigned first classroom for the day. 

    There will inevitably be some situations in which a student fails the screening test due to other known health conditions unrelated to COVID-19, such as a student already under the care of a physician for a persistent cough related to allergies. In such situations, a family must communicate directly with the School Nurse to provide required documentation from their child’s pediatrician and receive instructions about school attendance.

    If a screening was not done at home, the student/faculty/staff member will be sent home immediately and should attend school remotely for the day. If a screening was done at home and was not passed, the student/faculty/staff member should stay home and seek medical attention; they will be sent home immediately if they come to campus. In order for us to be able to remain safely at school together as a community, it is imperative that everyone takes full responsibility for completing the screening process at home every day.

    Please note, in addition to requiring that all families complete the Magnus app screening at home before coming to school, we will also be taking temperatures each day during arrival for a randomly selected sample of students. 

    Download the App for Apple Devices 
    Download the App for Android Devices 
    App Instructions from Magnus 

    If you have any technical difficulties with the app, please contact Rick Walker at walkerr@theellisschool.org or contact Magnus directly at Magnus Health SMR—by phone at 877-461-6831 or by email at service@magnushealthportal.com. Also, please feel free to consult the Magnus Health Privacy and Security page at www.magnushealth.com/privacy-and-security/.
  • Health Practices

    We ask that all students, faculty, and staff follow health practices that reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other germs during school, including:
    • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Stay home if you are sick
    • If you need to cough or sneeze, use a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hand. Turn away from other people.
    • Use single-use tissues. Dispose of the tissue immediately.
    • Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or using tissues.
    • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth (viruses can transfer from your hands and into the body).
    • Do not share cups, glasses, dishes, cutlery, or water bottles.
    Every classroom will have hand sanitizer to use before entering the classroom and exiting the classroom. Frequently touched surfaces will be cleaned regularly throughout the school day. At the beginning of the school year, students will be taught about these practices and signs will be placed around the school buildings to remind everyone to follow these steps to reduce the spread of germs.
  • If a Person Presents COVID-19 Symptoms on Campus

    If faculty, staff, or students present COVID-19 symptoms during the school day, they must go straight to the School Nurse’s office. LS students will stop by the LS assistant desk and don a surgical mask (provided by the School) and sanitize their hands before going to the School Nurse’s office. Symptoms include at least one of the following: cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing OR two of the following: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste/smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomachache. MS students, US students, staff, and faculty must stop at the entrance to the School Nurse’s office and don a surgical mask and sanitize hands before entering if they present these signs or symptoms.

    At this time the School Nurse will don all necessary Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to prevent exposure before assessing the patient. If the School Nurse finds the patient is presenting COVID-19 symptoms, they will be placed in a designated isolation room until they go home and the School Nurse will watch over them while in isolation. At this time an additional School Nurse-on-call will be called to help serve the other students on campus. If the symptomatic person is faculty or staff, they will go home immediately and seek medical attention. If the symptomatic person is a student, a parent or guardian will be contacted to inform them their child needs to be picked up from school as soon as possible and seek medical attention.

    The family of the symptomatic individual must:
    • Follow-up with their medical provider and be advised to seek testing.
    • Individuals who test positive will be isolated per CDC guidelines and may return to campus after meeting criteria to discontinue home isolation, getting medical okay to return, and sending medical okay directly to the School Nurse before arriving on campus.
    • Individuals who test negative may return to campus after meeting standard school criteria of being fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine, getting medical okay to return, and sending medical okay directly to the School Nurse before arriving on campus.
    • If individuals are unable to obtain testing, they may return after either of the following: 1) exclusion for 10 days from symptom onset and at least 24 hours after fever resolution (if present) and improved respiratory symptoms; or 2) medical provider provides documentation of a more likely cause of symptoms (i.e. alternative diagnosis). In this case, individuals must also be fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine. In both instances, get medical okay to return and send directly to the School Nurse before arriving on campus.
    The Ellis School must:
    • School Nurse tells Head of School. After-school Programs/Athletics will send information to the School Nurse if individual shows symptoms after hours.
    • Hardcopy and email instructions will be sent home by School Nurse with the individual. School Nurse keeps records of symptoms.
    • School Nurse keeps track of when the individual should return to campus.
    • No information will be shared with the community.
    • The isolation room will be sanitized.
  • If a Person Comes in Contact with Someone with COVID-19

    The family or employee must:
    • Exposed individual quarantines for 14 days.
    • Get medical okay to return and send it directly to the School Nurse before arriving on campus.
    The Ellis School must:
    • School Nurse tells Head of School
    • School Nurse keeps records of exposures.
    • School Nurse keeps track of when the individual can return to campus.
    • No information will be shared with the community.
    • No sanitization needed.
    Close contact is defined by our local public health officials as being when a person has been within less than 6 feet of someone who has a known case of COVID-19 during that person’s infectious period, for longer than 15 minutes.

    If anyone in your household becomes a close contact, all Ellis students in the household will be required to quarantine for 14 days from the last household exposure to the case.
  • If a Student or Employee Learns that They Have a Confirmed Case of COVID-19

    If any student or employee learns that they have a confirmed case of COVID-19, they must contact the School Nurse immediately (macleodl@theellisschool.org) and NOT return to campus, attend any school-related activities, or come into contact with any member of the Ellis community until approved to do so (see below). 

    The family/employee must:

    • Follow the Allegheny County Department of Health guidelines.
    • Get medical okay to return and send it directly to the School Nurse before arriving on campus. Individual may not return to campus until they meet CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation.

    The Ellis School must:
    • School Nurse and Head of School confer with Allegheny County Department of Health and convene response team to determine what portion of the school community is at risk. (Response Team: HOS, School Nurse, Director of Operations, Division Head(s), Assistant Head, Director of Athletics)
    • Director of Finance and Operations arranges sanitization of the affected area after 24 hours.
    • Head of School sends communication to the entire school community explaining that there has been a case and identifying which part of the School the individual spends their time in.
    • A portion or all of the School will shift to remote learning for 14 days.
  • Recent Travel

    Members of the Ellis community are expected to adhere to guidelines from the Allegheny County Department of Health and the CDC regarding travel, including all quarantine guidelines, upon returning from travel outside our local area.

    As of March 5, 2021, in alignment with the Governor's lifting of Pennsylvania travel restrictions, students who travel outside of Pennsylvania will no longer be required by the School to quarantine for 10 days or have a COVID-19 test upon return. We urge all families to remain mindful of the school community’s health when making decisions about travel, avoiding travel to high case areas and diligently following all mitigation measures while traveling.
  • Face Coverings on Campus

    All students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear face masks at all times on campus. Students of all ages, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, must wear masks throughout the day, both inside and outside, except when eating/drinking or during vigorous exercise as directed by athletics faculty. Pre-kindergarten students will not wear masks while napping. Mask breaks will be provided for all students.

    Students should either wear surgical masks or multi-layered cloth masks that can be reliably secured (e.g., ear loops or secure loops around the back of the head or neck). We ask that families choose masks within these guidelines that fit their child well and provide good nose and mouth coverage. Neck gaiters and bandanas will not be allowed. The school has a large backup supply of surgical masks in child sizes that will be available to students during the day if their mask is lost or damaged.  
  • Criteria for Closing School

    The decision to dismiss school, shift to remote learning, or cancel school events is made in coordination with local health authorities. Schools are not expected to make decisions about dismissal on their own. 

    Scenarios for closing all or part of the campus may include:

    • Faculty, staff, or students were at school with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Dismiss for 2–5 days for disinfecting all or part of the facilities and to allow the county to begin contact tracing.
    • There is a substantial transmission of COVID-19 in the local community and government entities require that schools close as part of a community effort to slow transmission. If Allegheny County moves into the Yellow Phase of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 process, we will evaluate whether or not to continue conducting school on campus.
  • Facilities Protocols

    Non-essential personnel will not be permitted on campus. This includes but is not limited to parents/guardians, volunteers, prospective vendors, and salespeople.
    Students in the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools will remain separated during the school day. Mixing between grades will be kept to a minimum. Students will never spend indoor class time in groups larger than 25, with most groups being much smaller (9–15).

    The campus will be deep cleaned and sanitized prior to the beginning of the school year and on a regular basis throughout the year. High touch surfaces and common spaces will be continually disinfected during the day, including water bottle filling stations, door handles, light switches, playground equipment, student desks, and bathrooms. 

    Students, faculty, and staff will be required to bring individual water bottles from home.

    All individuals in the school will sanitize or wash their hands on a frequent basis. Hand sanitizer will be made available in all common areas, hallways, and in classrooms where sinks for handwashing are not available. Signage will be posted to remind students and staff of proper hygiene and social distancing protocols. Where needed, stickers will be placed on floors to mark six-foot intervals and define traffic flow.

    Classrooms and common areas will be ventilated with an additional circulation of outdoor air when possible, using windows and doors. HVAC intakes and returns will be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Ventilation systems have been set to allow the maximum amount of fresh airflow.

    High-traffic hallway use will be limited, by either staggering the end of classroom periods to reduce the number of students in the hallways simultaneously and designating some hallways for one-way traffic. All students will be required to wear face coverings at all times in the hallways.
    Only products that are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against COVID-19 will be used to disinfect.

    Two nursing areas have been established, one for suspected COVID-19 isolation and one for other students needing medical attention. These areas will be disinfected throughout the school day.

    Steps have been taken to maximize the flow of outside air, and all plans were developed in consultation with ventilation experts. Ellis school buildings all have separate air exchange systems. We have been running all systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the past few weeks and will continue to do so throughout the year. All systems will be set to allow maximum fresh air flow. Filters have been upgraded to reach a MERV rating of 11 and will be replaced monthly. Room vents will be sanitized daily. All windows have been checked, screens repaired, and windows will be open whenever weather allows. Air purifiers are being installed in the Visual Arts classrooms given the particular configurations of those spaces.
  • Updates to Protocols

    As local, state, and federal guidance changes in response to the pandemic, any requirements imposed by these government bodies will supersede plans created by The Ellis School.

Arrival and Dismissal Procedures

Arrival and dismissal procedures have been revised to eliminate congestion and ensure that no student attends school who has failed the daily screening.

List of 2 items.

  • Arrival Procedures

    The daily arrival process this year is designed to ensure that every student entering campus has completed and passed the required daily screening. This is a crucial step in reducing the likelihood of exposures or cases on campus. Families must complete this screening using the Magnus App by 7:15 a.m. each morning. This will allow us to have an accurate list of students who may not attend school that day.  

    If a screening was not done at home, the student/faculty/staff member will be sent home immediately and should attend school remotely for the day. If a screening was done at home and was not passed, the student/faculty/staff member should stay home and seek medical attention; they will be sent home immediately if they come to campus. In order for us to be able to remain safely at school together as a community, it is imperative that everyone takes full responsibility for completing the screening process at home every day.

    The arrival procedures are as follows:
    • All students are required to wear face coverings as they enter campus.
    • Parents may not accompany students onto campus, with the exception of parents of pre-kindergarten students, who may walk them to the entrance of their classrooms and must wear face coverings. All other parents must remain in cars. Staff will greet younger students at cars to welcome them. Parents who walk or bike with their child to school can accompany them to the main gate but may not enter campus, and must wear face coverings.  
    • Families are asked not to bring students to school until 7:45 a.m. to give us time to receive the daily screening information from all students.
    • Students who must arrive before 7:30 a.m. (e.g., students riding busses with early routes) may only enter at the main reception desk. They will be directed to the auditorium where they will be seated with social distancing, and they must continue to wear their face coverings while supervised by a staff member. At 7:30 a.m., the School Nurse will check that they have completed and passed the daily at-home screening. If they have, Middle and Upper School students will be released to their classrooms immediately and Lower School students will be released at 7:45 a.m.
    • Students arriving between 7:45 and 8:00 a.m. will enter through designated entrances, with social distancing, by division—Lower School through the main gate, Middle School through the reception area, Upper School through the main Upper School entrance. All other access points will be inaccessible for entry.
    • Staff will be at each of the three entry points and will check that students have completed and passed the daily screening. Students who have not completed or passed the daily screening will be directed to the School Nurse in the auditorium. The main gate to the courtyard will be closed at 8:05 a.m., after which Lower and Middle School students must enter by, and check in with, the School Receptionist, and Upper School students must enter through the Upper School entrance and check in with the Upper School Division Assistant. For all late arrivals, the staff will check that the student has completed and passed the daily screening. If not, they will be directed to the School Nurse.
  • Dismissal Procedures

    We will have a staggered dismissal between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. this year.

    Car Line Dismissal
    Car line dismissal times will be based upon a student’s age and division, with younger students dismissing first. Families are expected to follow the schedule below to reduce congestion and to ensure the health and safety of the community. Cars will not be allowed to enter the driveway or parking lot outside of their assigned window. 
    • Pre-kindergarten: 2:30–2:45 p.m.: Pre-kindergarten families arrive in the car line and pre-kindergarten students are escorted to cars from classrooms as soon as families arrive.
    • Kindergarten to Grade 4: 2:45–3:05 p.m.: Families of students in kindergarten to grade 4 arrive in the car line and students are escorted to cars from classrooms as soon as families arrive.
    • Middle and Upper School: 3:10–3:25 p.m.: Families of Middle and Upper students arrive in the car line no earlier than 3:10 p.m. and Middle and Upper School students walk outside to the car line.
    PLEASE NOTE: Families with students in multiple divisions should contact a Division Assistant for instructions on a pick-up time to accommodate the difference in end-of-day class schedules.

    Bus Dismissal
    We are waiting for additional transportation information from public school transportation offices and will update you as soon as possible with details on bus dismissal times.