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Reopening PHS

Covid-19 and PHS

This page provides information and resources for Presidio Hill School families regarding PHS and Covid-19. 

PHS reopened with distance learning on September 2nd, 2020 and we reopened on-campus learning for students on October 26th, 2020. Concurrently, we also offer a vibrant distance learning program for families who choose to continue in distance learning for the time being.

This page details the specifics of our on-campus plans and protocols, as well as information about the PHS distance learning and hybrid learning plans.

On September 14th, PHS submitted a Reopening Application to the San Francisco Department of Public Health and we were approved to reopen on Monday, October 18th. Click here to see our updated Application to Reopen


On-Campus Learning FAQs

PHS has made significant updates to our on-campus spaces and protocols, the below FAQs should provide specific information for students, families, and staff about these changes. Significant updates include COVID testing for students (before a return to campus and every two weeks while on campus) and staff (every week while on campus), classroom location changes for many cohorts, walking flow patterns throughout campus, and updates to our distance learning program. These FAQs are according to our current plans, protocols, and understandings and are subject to change. 

What exactly is being required before we return to campus?

This list is subject to change but right now, PHS is requiring that parents/guardians complete the following before being allowed to attend classes on campus: 

  • A negative COVID-19 test for your student within 14 days of your on-campus start (as close to the start date for your cohort as possible)
  • Signed Acknowledgement of Risk (we will notify you when this is available, you will sign on the PHS School Forms Online portal) 
  • Signed PHS Community Health Agreement (we will notify you when this is available, you will sign on the PHS School Forms Online portal)
  • Completion of all training videos and health screen app set up for your specific cohort
  • Confirmation of emergency contact information for our SchoolMessenger system (we will share information about this in a separate communication in the next few weeks). 
What do parents/guardians need to have their students bring to school each day (PPE/ student supplies, Chromebooks)?

We will provide a list and this will be ready at least one week prior to the return. We ask that students bring three clean masks to school with them each day (ideally cloth), and Middle School students will need a fully charged Chromebook each day. Lower School classrooms will determine Chromebook needs and will communicate the details in an upcoming Friday Letter. 

We suggest wearing layers as much as possible. Doors and windows will be open for the full course of the day, and students will be spending time outside on campus and in the Presidio regularly. On rainy days, students should have boots, raincoat or poncho, and an umbrella.

Will students have access to backpack hooks (TK-2) and lockers (6-8)?

No, students will keep their backpacks, sweaters, and supplies near their individual desks. We need to maximize space–and discourage lingering and gathering–in hallways as much as possible. Lockers will not be assigned for 6th and 8th grades and may be determined necessary for 7th grade students (who will be learning in outdoor classrooms on the roof yard). Backpacks should only carry essentials: lunch/water bottle, masks, Chromebook, and necessary supplies.

What are the thresholds for having class on campus? Are we fully committed to reopening, even if half the class states they will stay home? What happens if that is the case?

We are fully committed to reopening as long as we are approved to do so by SFDPH. Resources and staffing will be assigned as soon as we have a clear idea of how many students will be returning to school on campus. Lizzy Laidlaw (in collaboration with Lisa) will serve as the primary distance learning coordinator. 

Can you tell me more about the Distance Learning plan?

The Presidio Hill School distance learning schedule will be available for students who choose to opt out of returning to school on campus. The specifics of the distance learning plan will vary across grade-levels and will be determined based on a number of factors, including teacher input, classroom routines, and student numbers. We are committed to providing learning experiences for students who cannot attend in person, however there are aspects of in-person learning that cannot be fully replicated remotely. Human sustainability is one of our goals and when classrooms have learners in two different locations requires additional resources and bandwidth. We are working on a model that will allow classroom connections to continue but will likely require more asynchronous participation from students who remain at home. 

Lizzy Laidlaw will serve as the Distance Learning program coordinator for all grades and as a liaison between students/families participating in distance learning and teachers. Teachers will be involved in helping decide what distance learning will look like for their specific cohort and will be leading curriculum development and learning assessment for their students. Students participating in distance learning will have at least once daily opportunities for interactions with their on campus classmates. Some of the additional elements of the distance learning plan we are considering include: on campus buddies for distance learners, videoing of on-campus lessons and, depending on the cohort/grade level, live interactions and lessons by Zoom for on campus and distance learning students. 

In general, curricular topics and benchmarks-focused learning goals will be consistent across formats but assignments may vary depending on learning format (distance learning vs on-campus) and the needs of individual students. Attendance will still be taken and students and families participating in distance learning will continue to have ongoing access to teaching teams for support, to provide and receive feedback, and to facilitate bi-directional communication. We understand and respect that this is a family decision and one that must be made carefully, with respect to the impact on the student experience, classroom community, and teacher load. More information will be shared in the next few weeks as plans develop.

How much movement will there be between one cohort’s two rooms? How will my student have regular access to the lead teacher and other students (in the same cohort but not in the same room)?

In lower school, if your child’s class is split across two classroom spaces the class is still considered one cohort in accordance with SFDPH directives. In this case, children and teachers may shift across spaces as long as safety guidelines are upheld (e.g. maintaining distancing, sanitizing surfaces of desks that were previously occupied, etc.). There will be one teacher in each of the class’ two rooms, but those teachers are not permanent for that class and will shift to serve all students equitably. In middle school, each section is a single cohort and students will not be intermingling across cohorts in the same grade or beyond that grade. Teachers in middle school will teach multiple cohorts, though teacher exposure to multiple cohorts will be minimized to support safety in accordance with SFDPH directives. Middle School cohorts may be rearranged as early as Rotation 5.

What does on campus recess/lunch look like?

We will have one to two recesses and one lunch per day outside for each cohort. Whether on campus or in the Presidio, students will have “break” and “snack” periods and must wear a mask at all times unless while eating or drinking. During the “snack” period, students may remove their masks to eat and drink, will be spaced at six feet intervals, and will not be allowed to speak while their masks are off. During inclement weather, lunches may be held indoors with the same protocols.

How will things change based on the weather (if AQI is higher than normal, if it is drizzling/raining, etc)?

PHS is currently re-visiting our air quality protocols. In previous years we determined that during orange zone times (AQI above 100), students would all be required to wear smoke-safe masks. During any red zone times (AQI above 151), all classes and all recesses will be moved indoors. During any purple zone times (AQI above 201), on-campus classes would be canceled. With the added complication of COVID-19 and our commitment to maximizing airflow, we will adjust the threshold for school closures due to air quality–if the air quality is expected to reach the red zone (AQI 151 or higher), PHS will not hold classes on campus. If we need to close school because of air quality concerns, we would announce the decision before the school day begins through our SchoolMessenger system and students would participate in distance learning for the day. 

For inclement weather: drizzle: there will be minimal changes to our protocols - students will likely eat and play outdoors in their raincoats. For heavier drizzle/rain: we plan to keep students indoors for lunch and break periods (following the same protocols as eating outdoors) and will keep the windows and doors open, and air filters on, as much as possible. Students should plan to bring layers for rainy days. 7th Grade students may need to shift to distance learning during heavier rain days; we will plan to determine if this is the case before the beginning of the school day.

What happens if someone in a class is sick (not necessarily COVID-19), but hasn’t gotten a COVID test?

Presidio Hill is following the SFDPH guidance closely to determine protocols for students who may be sick returning from their illness. Here is the Quick Guide from SFDPH for students exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. For students who have some symptoms of COVID-19 (determined according to this COVID-19 Symptom List from SFDPH, PHS will send the student home, recommend testing, and keep the cohort open. PHS will be requiring a daily health screen completed by the parents/guardians and will also be completing visual symptom checks for every student and adult entering campus. If a student presents signs of illness before entering campus, PHS will conduct a temperature check. If a student becomes ill after they have arrived on campus, they will be brought to one of two campus “Care Rooms” (one in each building) where they will remain until they are able to be picked up. Here is the SFDPH guidance PHS will use to determine when and how a student can return to campus after presenting symptoms of COVID-19. Finally, parents/guardians of students with pre-existing conditions which may present as a COVID-19 symptom (e.g. asthma), should be in touch directly with their division director before returning to campus.

Can you elaborate about how you will keep students safe in the Presidio/at the park?

Cohorts will be going regularly to shared areas in the Presidio (including Presidio Wall Park) and we will have at least one staff member supervising every six students for grades TK-2 and one staff member for every eight students in grades 3-8. PHS will sanitize any shared restroom facilities before and after each cohort uses the facility and staff members will ensure students use only pre-sanitized restrooms and complete proper handwashing after use. We will also have extensive on-campus handwashing protocols before leaving to and after returning from the Presidio.

If a cohort is traveling to the Presidio, all students in that cohort must go to the Presidio. Committing to returning to school on-campus includes committing to time in the Presidio (including public areas of the Presidio) with your cohort. 

Finally, students will not be allowed to play on shared structures or with shared toys. At PHS this includes the structure, the spinner, and the sandbox and in the park this includes playground structures. We will be facilitating activities and games that encourage student movement and play without the use of shared equipment.

General On-Campus Safety Protocols

PHS is committed to having students safely learning at PHS (and in the Presidio!) and we have many protocols in place to make sure our students, families, staff, and the greater San Francisco community are able to imagine, inquire, and create together with minimal risk. We utilize guidance from health and educational authorities such as Centers for Disease Control (CDC), San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), California Department of Education (CDE), California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), We meet bi-weekly with SFDPH for updates to guidance and to ensure best practices, and we regularly refine protocols based on our own educational expertise and feedback from our community. 

In order to provide safe on-campus learning, we will take precautions to minimize risk that will include those listed below. We have a shared responsibility to our students, staff, PHS families, and San Francisco community to minimize risk as much as possible both on and off-campus. Please make sure to follow all SFDPH recommendations to keep our full community safe and healthy. 

Note: These are our current understandings of best practice and as guidance develops or changes, our protocols may continue to evolve according to community health recommendations.

Stable Cohorts

We plan to have students in stable cohorts when they are on campus. Stable cohorts are a group of students who will stay together for their learning and break times while at school. Several teachers/staff members will be assigned to work with each cohort. Lead and assistant teachers will remain permanently with their cohort, while shared and specialist teachers and administrators may serve one to four separate cohorts.

Cohorts will have a classroom with outside air flow access, and each cohort's classroom will not be used by other cohorts.

Cohort students will not mix with other cohorts physically, though we will prioritize cross-grade and all-school virtual interactions. The size of the cohorts is a size of the lower school class or a middle school section, but physical distancing needs may see some cohorts spread through more than one classroom space. Classroom spaces will be announced once decided.

Daily Health Screenings

Presidio Hill’s pre-entry screening protocol is as follows: 

Option 1 – Procare Self-Screening & Disclaimer
Staff and parents will have the option to take their own, or their student’s temperature and verify that the entry requirements have been met. This will be done using the Procare app that can be downloaded onto phones. 

Do NOT Enter building if:

  • You have been diagnosed or tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 10 days.
  • You’ve been in close contact with someone isolating for, or diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
  • You’ve had any of these symptoms within the last 24 hours: fever / chills / cough / sore throat / shortness of breath / weakness / fatigue / loss of taste or smell / muscle pain / headache / diarrhea / runny or congested nose

Once the entry monitor verifies that the disclaimer has been submitted in the Procare app, the student/staff member will be asked to go directly to their cohort location. 

Option 2 – Lobby Temperature Screening & Verbal Disclaimer
Staff and students that have not followed procedures as in option 1 will have their temperature checked and will be asked to verify entry requirements verbally.

  • Do NOT Enter building if:
  • You have been diagnosed or tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 10 days.
  • You’ve been in close contact with someone isolating for, or diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
  • You’ve had any of these symptoms within the last 24 hours: fever / chills / cough / sore throat / shortness of breath / weakness / fatigue / loss of taste or smell / muscle pain / headache / diarrhea / runny or congested nose

Once it is determined that entry requirements have been met, students/faculty will be asked to go directly to their cohort location.

Presidio Hill will also be requiring pre-entry on-campus temperature checks for all adults. We will have an entry monitor stationed at entrances to check compliance for individual entry disclaimers and to do a visual screening of all entering campus (while maintaining physical distance). Signs of sickness that entry monitors will be looking for in students include flushed cheeks, difficulty breathing, fatigue, or extreme fussiness. Children with symptoms, including a fever, will be sent home. Children may return to the facility when they meet the criteria set forth in SFDPH guidance on ​COVID-19 Health Checks at Schools, Childcares, and Programs for Child and Youth​.

If a community member (student or staff) becomes sick after entering campus, they will be quarantined in a pre-identified sick room on campus (one room per building). Both sick rooms are temporary holding spaces with windows that open to the outdoors and are separate spaces where sick students or staff can isolate until they can be picked up.

We will follow the same pre-entry screening if at Rob Hill campground or in the Presidio and will separate sick students/staff according to location if outdoors. 

Class and Campus Schedules (Including Drop Off and Pick Up Plans)

TBD - we currently plan to have a schedule that is close to a full day and will include extensive outdoor learning time, specialist classes, recesses, etc. We currently plan to have students stay in their cohort and classroom as much as possible; specialist teachers will have blocks of classes and will come to each classroom virtually or in person as is safe. We will have single cohort recesses and lunches outdoors. Our drop off and pick up times may be more stringent and we do plan to offer a version of PHS childcare.  Additionally, we will offer regular all-school and buddy meetings regularly - students will have the opportunity to engage with cross-grade friends and with the full community regularly.

Physical Distancing

Presidio Hill School has worked to safely space students and teachers in our existing spaces. By utilizing shared spaces and rearranging or reassigning existing classrooms, we will be able to have approximately 6 feet of space per person in each classroom. Additionally, there will be designated one-direction walking paths wherever possible, limits for the number of students in bathrooms or on shared campus areas, and classroom/ cohort specific sinks. 

Masks and Face Coverings

Masks will be required for all students. Currently, there is no plan for students to have out-of-mask time, though of course they may remove masks when they are eating snacks and lunches (lunches will be held outdoors as much as possible). Details about wearing masks during P.E., in the Presidio, and for our younger students will be decided soon. 

Handwashing and Sanitizing Protocols

TBD - Classroom specific plans, including details for where students at each grade level will be washing hands, will be shared soon. In general, students will be expected to hand sanitize when they enter the building and wash hands before and after all snacks, lunches, and recess breaks. Teachers will do a classroom cleaning/sanitization after every snack/lunch indoors.

Campus Cleaning and Sanitization

The PHS janitorial service are using a cleaning product specifically rated for COVID-19: Sani-T-10. We have expanded sanitization of shared and classroom spaces. More classroom-specific sanitization schedules will be shared when the classroom schedules are provided.

Sick Policy and Attendance

Attendance Notifications: In addition to staying home when ill or if you have reason to believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19, we ask that all families be very clear in their communications about why a student is absent from school. It will help us logistically if you report directly to Martin or your child’s teacher why your child is out so that we do not have to spend time following up. 

Please reach out to your teacher and/or division director for extended absence plans. 

Staff and Student Sick policy: Any students and staff members with cold and flu symptoms must stay home. Our goal is to keep all children, teachers, and staff as healthy as possible during this time and therefore follow the CDC guidelines. Please reference our sickness policy as detailed in the PHS Family HandbookWe ask that children be kept home from school when symptoms of illness first appear (runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, fever, vomiting) and until your child is no longer contagious. Please wait until your child has been fever-free for 24 hours before sending them back to school.

We will share additional information about situations where students get sick while at school as those protocols are developed. 

Please consult directly with your doctor if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and/or have symptoms of respiratory illness.

Other Protocols

Additional protocols including those regarding time in the Presidio, for afterschool and enrichment, for sports teams, and about emergency planning will be shared soon. Please see our reopening Application for additional details.



Presidio Hill School is an inclusive community and COVID-19 does not recognize race, nationality, or ethnicity. Wearing a mask does not mean a person is ill. You can interrupt stigma by sharing accurate information. Please speak up if you hear, see or read misinformation or witness harassment or discrimination.