Reopening: Facilities & Safety

If you don't feel well, stay home. - Superintendent Schmettan
Watch Superintendent Schmettan address your questions about facilities & safety

As school reopens, there will be many new policies in place to ensure the safety of everyone returning. The new policies revolve around four preventative pillars from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  1. Maintain social distance of 6+ feet
  2. Wash hands with soap and water often (or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol)
  3. Routinely disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  4. Cover mouth and nose with a mask when around others

The district is also upgrading building ventilation where possible, and has purchased an online subscription called SafeSchools to further educate students on proper safety practices. All MS/HS students will take this training on respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene, and the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. ES students will learn the same information from their classroom teachers and through interactive videos.

In this article:

  1. Social Distancing Measures
    a. Hallways
    b. Cafeteria
    c. Transportation
    d. Classrooms
    e. Illness Rooms
  2. Masks and Gloves
  3. Hand Washing
  4. Ventilation
  5. Sanitation
  6. What happens if someone contracts COVID-19?

This post is part of our coverage on PJSD reopening. For more, visit

Video from High School Principal Mr. Haruthunian walking through the new facilities and safety policies

All media used with permission from the Port Jefferson School District

Social Distancing

COVID-19 spreads most easily when people are close together, so the majority of new policies ensure that social distancing is maintained at school.

Some policies that are put into place for this reason are:

  • A hybrid model that decreases the amount of students in school
  • A modified bell schedule to decrease the density of students in the hallways
  • Classrooms (and the cafeteria) with the desks spread out at least 6ft apart
  • A suspension of extracurricular activities until September 21st
  • Barriers installed at the point of sale and point of pickup when buying school lunches
  • All desks facing one way to decrease the chance of spread through droplets
  • Large passenger buses are reduced to 30%, with the capacity capped at approximately 21 passengers


How students interact with each other will also be determined by social distancing. On each day this fall, the school population will be cut in half with the hybrid model, and the time between periods has been extended from three minutes to five minutes. To keep social distancing while traveling from classroom to classroom, the hallways have been split in half where on one side students will walk in one direction while on the other side, students will be walk in the other direction—similar to a roadway. There will be arrows showing students what side is designated to which direction.

The stairwells are "one-way stairwells," with a "down stairwell" and an "up stairwell". Physical markers on the wall will indicate which stairwell is dedicated to which direction.


HS cafeteria tables have been replaced by spaced-out desks; MS cafeteria tables have been marked to indicate where students can sit. In both cases, students will all be facing the same direction when eating. They will be able to take off their masks, but must remain socially distant from each other. On nicer days, HS students will have the opportunity to eat outside. At the ES, students will eat in their classrooms, which will be sanitized right after lunch.


There will be staggered arrival/dismissals, with students split between arrival/dismissal one or two. For example, Bus C will go out on the first arrival, pick up students from the first half of the route, and drop them off at the school. After that, Bus C will go out again to pick up the students from the second half of the route and drop them off at the school for the second arrival. This will work the same for dismissals as well to prevent the crowded traffic that happens at the beginning and end of the school day.


Fortunately, many of the larger spaces at the schools did not have to be repurposed, but there are some changes in where some classes will be held. For example, the band and chorus classes will take place in the auditorium since that is a bigger space that allows for better social distancing.

Desks are separated in classrooms and there will be physical markings such as a line of tape on the floor indicating where the front of a desk will be or other symbols that will indicate where chairs have to be. The Library will have many of these social distancing markers as well to promote social distance to students.

The district has also started a 1-to-1 Chromebook initiative to eliminate the normal sharing of school technology. The computer lab above the library and other computer labs in the school will be repurposed as classrooms for teachers who need the bigger spaces to maintain social distance.

Illness Rooms

Mrs. Federico, the high school nurse, has been preparing two nurses' offices: one will be the ïllness/isolation room (previously the well-fit room). That office will only be helping students who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms and need to be treated right away. The second one will be the standard injury and medication room (the current nurses' office). Students can go there with any non-COVID medical needs. In both offices there will be plastic curtains between all the beds/chairs and everything will be wiped down after a student occupies an area.

If a student is having an issue or needs us—we are always here.  We just need to make sure we keep the student and ourselves safe! - Mrs. Federico

Masks and Gloves

Since COVID-19 primarily attacks the respiratory system, and because the mouth and nose are the only means of transmission between the respiratory system and the outside world, wearing a mask prevents the virus from both entering and leaving your body.

It is mandatory to wear masks everywhere in school and on the bus. If a student does not have a mask on, the school will provide one. If a student has a condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, they will not be forced to wear one, however they will wear face shields. The district is recommending a three-ply surgical face mask as they seem to be the most effective—however, according to the New York State Department of Health, "any cloth face covering is acceptable" including gaiter scarfs, a cloth bandanna, and surgical masks.

There will be mask breaks, following guidance from the Academy of Pediatrics. They will occur when students are outside, or doing silent activities when they're not actively expelling air droplets, such as in talking or singing.

Superintendent Schmettan doesn't foresee mask policy infractions, advising for students to "recognize that this is the best safety measure, that although it's an inconvenience, it's gonna keep us in school." If a student chooses to not wear a mask, however, the district will address it first as a "teachable moment," explaining to the student the importance of wearing masks. Should this infraction be repeated, the district will follow its normal disciplinary measures and initiate discussions with the student's family and the rest of the administration.

While students are not required to wear gloves, for added protection against the virus, any staff member handling food must wear gloves.

We are going to be expecting our students wear masks and they take their mask breaks appropriately when they're able to be socially distanced or outside, but that's one of the most important things we can do to keep us in school. - Superintendent Schmettan

Hand Washing

Many changes have been made to help make sure teachers and students regularly wash their hands, whether that be with soap and water or with sanitizer. This way, if there are any viruses on one’s hands, they will be removed and won’t make others sick.

Over the past months, new hand sinks have been added to the school buildings, including one next to the MPR in the MS and one next to the cafeteria in the ES, helping ensure everyone washes their hands as frequently as possible.

Other changes

COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets and contamination of surfaces. To prevent such spread, new ventilation and sanitation methods must be adopted.


Increasing ventilation helps to disperse potentially infectious particles as quickly as possible. However, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that “by itself, increasing ventilation is not enough to protect people from COVID-19.” In general, teachers will be encouraged to take their classes outside when they can. There will be some pop-up tents that will provide some shade if there are especially sunny or hot days. This includes the P.E. and the band/orchestra/chorus classes.

The district will also install “higher efficiency filters, as applicable, to improve HVAC air filtration” and thus reduce the risk of indoor spread of COVID-19.

The schools have a variety of ventilation systems (mechanical, fresh air ventilation, air conditioning units), but not all of the units are built for certain filters like the MERV 13 filters. They did however update the ventilation systems when they could by upgrading the filter systems in those individual units. However, if the ventilation system could not handle the filter upgrade, they could not "burn out the system" in risk of causing a fire and more possible dangers. To improve ventilation, teachers are encouraged to keep their doors and windows open whenever possible unless there is a student with an airborne allergy.


Though surface contact is not the main way that this virus spreads, it is still a real threat. As such, the school will take precautions against COVID-19 by regularly cleaning all frequently touched surfaces like desks, chairs, the seats on buses, etc.

Before COVID-19, the schools were cleaned every night but only went through a disinfecting every Friday. Now, the schools will go through a disinfecting every night. Two part-time custodians have been hired to help with the "high touch surfaces" (commonly touched surfaces) and ensure the school stays consistently clean throughout the day.

What if a student or teacher contracts COVID-19?

  1. The school will report the positive case to the Suffolk County Department of Health in a HIPAA-compliant manner so that your medical privacy is kept. (HIPAA—the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—is a federal law that prevents a patient's medical records and information from being disclosed without the patient's permission).
  2. School will go fully remote for a day while the circumstances around the case are figured out. These circumstances include, ¨Was the person symptomatic when they were in school? When did they first exhibit symptoms? Where in the building were they? Were they socially distant?¨
  3. From there, the school would go to a remote model and decide how long they would have to close the schools and even if multiple schools have to be shut down. This is because this case may have been isolated to one building or one classroom. All in all, these decisions would be based on the person infected and the details surrounding their case.

Other precautionary measures:

If a student at school is suspected of having COVID-19 they will be immediately isolated and a parent/guardian will pick them up while the district figures out the details of the case with the Suffolk Department of Health and follows the steps above.

If a student is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a healthcare provider based on a test or their symptoms or does not get a COVID-19 test but exhibits symptoms, they can return to school if and only if:

  1. It has been at least ten days since the individual first exhibited symptoms
  2. It has been at least three days since the individual has had a fever (without using fever reducing medicine)
  3. It has been at least three days since the individual’s experiencing of the symptoms has improved.

For the past six months, you and the Port Jeff community have shown resilience. Resilience is what will guide us through this school year as these new policies bring us together face to face. If we all, as a community, respect and follow these policies, then we will surely get through this together. Stay safe!

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Teppei Fukuto

Teppei writes for the STEM column. A junior, he enjoys running, Science Olympiad, D&D, and manga. He speaks fluent Japanese and loves listening to music. He wants to see PJHS SciO go to Nationals.

Peggy Yin

Peggy Yin is The Current’s founder. In addition to being an aspiring cognitive neuroscientist, she's an award-winning writer, vocalist, flutist, and kazooist! She is currently attending Harvard.

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