COVID-19 Health & Safety at Poly: Behind the Scenes of Outdoor Learning

If it takes a village to raise a child, this fall it took a Poly Prep Health and Safety team to coordinate the logistics of tents, schedules, food service, testing, arrival and dismissal, sanitation, transportation, and communications so Poly could open for in-person learning outdoors on the Dyker Heights campus and inside the Lower School.

Poly Reopening Collaboration
Carrie Quigley

The massive reopening undertaking was led by a team, who managed the many details. My role was to bring our school’s reopening plan to life in partnership with our operations, health, security, technology, communications, and lunch teams,” said Carrie Quigley who, as Director of Summer Programs, is usually concerned with the logistics of hundreds of summer campers. “Most specifically, through procedures and proper signage, I helped ensure that our daily traffic flow aligned with our safety protocols.”

Over the past several months, Quigley continued “to support our dismissal, health, and lunch programs.” She said, The biggest challenge was balancing so many moving parts in preparation to reopen—but this also was the greatest joy. It has been a pleasure to work with such a strategic and dedicated team of individuals; and it is truly rewarding to see school in session outdoors.”As we prepared to reopen school on September 8, our Head of School Audrius Barzdukas P’20; Assistant Head of School, Academics Michal Hershkovitz P’16, ’18; Head of Lower School Francis Yasharian; Head of Middle School Andre Del Valle P’29, ’33; and Head of Upper School Sarah Bates were supported in their planning by teams of staff members, who were asked to pivot from their normal roles. This spirit of working together for a common cause made Poly successful and safe.

The Many Facets of Poly COVID-19 Operations
Outdoor Learning COVID-19 stop the spread sign
Matt Stelluto, Head of Operations

Overarching the efforts to open Outdoor Poly was Matt Stelluto, Head of Operations. His wide-ranging role overlapped and interconnected with many others. He secured the tent company and worked with them on the types, layouts, and pricing. “I secured and worked with the utilities markout and irrigation companies for all electrical, gas, and water line tracing and chasing and also secured the electrical company for all Dyker Heights and Lower School power expansion, outdoor power, & Wi-Fi infrastructure.” Stelluto purchased outdoor water bottle filling stations and hand washing stations and secured the plumbing company for their installations. He also purchased the outdoor chairs, desks, and whiteboards. He said, “The Housekeeping and Maintenance Crew distributed and hung all chairs and assembled the desks and whiteboards.” Stelluto also purchased all Dyker Heights and Lower School PPE including automatic hand sanitizer dispensers for tents, classrooms, and offices.

“We serviced and expanded both golf carts for the back fields Upper School food distribution,” Stelluto said. “We purchased seven pull carts for the Middle School food distribution. Lou Rossini and Lisa Korchma have done an amazing job with the menu selection and distribution.”

Wash Your Hands sign

Gaudencio Andrade P’12, ’16 ran electric and water to the outdoor sinks and the portable restrooms, as well as installing hand sanitizer dispensers in each tent. “I also assisted the electricians and other contractors when needed,” he said. “I ensure that all electric is working and make sure that all tents and facilities are good to go.” Andrade also supervised the plumbing company for the day-to-day layouts and installations.

Bus Routes & Safety

It was  Director of Safety and Security Vincent Rutuelo’s role to establish bus routes while adhering to COVID safety guidelines. “I was also part of the team that researched and recommended the thermal temperature scanning units that we currently use on both campuses as part of our daily screening process,” he said. Rutuelo ensures that the thermal scanners are operating correctly and that all buses across both campuses are dispatched each day and that ridership guidelines are being followed. One of the biggest challenges he faces, along with Matt Stelluto, is “being tasked with deciding if school is closed based on weather conditions.”

Refitting the Campus with New Technology
Charles Polizano

“My role took a few different forms,” said Head of Technology Charles Polizano P’18. “I worked with the division heads and the registrar’s office to help properly configure Veracross for our new schedule. I worked with the health team to evaluate and set up thermal scanners for temperature taking, as well as the Ruvna daily screenings. From the tech perspective, I had to design an outdoor wireless setup and worked with my team to run over 6,000 feet of cable and install 19 outdoor wireless access points. The biggest challenge has been providing technical support. Being remote provides its own set of challenges when it comes to supporting individual devices, but being in person is a challenge, too, when attempting to provide such support in a safe manner. There are also a lot of troubleshooting factors that are out of our control, such as individuals’ personal devices and home wireless setups.”

COVID-19 Health & Safety Team and Testing Strategy
Outdoor Learning Temperature Screening sign
Rebekah Sollitto

“It was so energizing to join our reopening committee, meeting weekly or daily to consider the challenges before us,” recalled Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Rebekah Sollitto P’29, ’32. “We knew that we would be able to build an outdoor school, but didn’t know if students and families would be able to pitch in to get students to campus.”

“In addition to sharing the creativity and innovation that went into Outdoor Poly with our applicant families in admissions, I’ve been working closely with our health and safety teams to develop and implement safety measures such as ongoing COVID-19 testing. We began with a plan for Labor Day gateway testing and have now increased that to include weekly testing of around 900 community members. The goal is identifying the seeds of outbreak before they can grow.”

Athletic Director Kristin Cannon, the Pandemic Testing Strategic Director, said, “I worked with our leadership teams and our Athletics Department staff on changes needed for athletics and physical education classes. I also became responsible for leading the COVID-19 testing strategy and implementation on our campuses with the help of our health and safety teams and health advisory board.”

Cannon has also been the “point person for our health and safety advisors and teams to implement gateway and ongoing testing on our campuses.” It is also her responsibility to communicate about our testing strategies to the Poly community. “We also connect with our different labs for accurate testing procedures and stay current on best practice guidelines per the NYC Department of Health and the CDC,” she said.

While still coordinating virtual events, Events Manager Amy Schlansky ’88, P’22 has also pivoted and taken on the role of COVID-19 Safety Coordinator joining the Health & Safety Team. “To comply with state and city guidelines,” Schlansky said, “Poly must report to the local and state authorities. I communicate with the NYC & NYS Departments of Health to report COVID-19 cases within our community, as well as to the NYS School Report Card, a public daily dashboard that records school data regarding COVID-19 positive cases, as well as weekly testing data My responsibilities also include monitoring responses submitted in Ruvna, our daily health screening, and communicating with our families about how their children can safely return to school if they become symptomatic.” She is also involved in the testing and contact tracing efforts.

“Monitoring the symptoms of almost 1,500 people on a daily basis can be challenging,” Schlansky said. “My days start early and end late, but it is all part of Poly’s ongoing commitment to safety and the work goes a long way toward protecting our community.”

Lower School Adapts
Sara Siller

In the classrooms on the Park Slope campus, young children go about their play wearing their flowered or super hero-themed masks and have plenty of room to enjoy a story in Nursery. The Dance Studio, the library, and even the Big Room have been repurposed into classroom space to ensure social distance. Sara Siller RN, our new Lower School nurse, said, “Here at Poly Lower School we uphold our commitment to ‘keeping Poly healthy’ by engaging in socially distant learning and play, daily health screenings, weekly pool testing, and education on the importance of the three W’s: Wash your hands; Wear a mask; and 6 feet aWay!”

Getting Lunch to Students and Faculty Each Day
Chef Lou Rossini

“My role,” said Chef Lou Rossini, “with the help of Lisa Korchma and Matt Stelluto was to figure out how to get the food from my kitchen safely into the hands of each student in the most efficient way with the least amount of error on a day to day basis. When you have the right team behind you, there are no challenges that cannot be handled. My kitchen team is operating at a superior efficient pace, and without them I would not be successful.”

“As the opening of Outdoor Poly drew near,” said Lisa Korchma, Operations, “I was initially asked to assist families with setting up accounts in the online custom food ordering platform. It became clear that we needed to develop a strategy to not only organize and fulfill these orders but, even more importantly, to create a plan to deliver lunches to students across over 60 tent locations on the Dyker Heights campus—ASAP. Within a few weeks, we had the fulfillment and delivery pieces sorted out and working seamlessly; however, the next significant step we took was to streamline the ordering process for families by creating an entirely new ordering system.”


“At any point in the day,” Korchma said, “I am either checking in with or actively collaborating and proactively planning with our Dyker Heights and Park Slope chef extraordinaires, Chef Lou and Chef Nilda; our catering company, Cater to You; or Director of Operations, Matt Stelluto.” As someone who enjoys structure and routine, Korchma said, “The biggest challenge I have faced these past few months has been learning to embrace and become comfortable with pivoting and adapting at a moment’s notice.”

Poly Prep families can get up-to-date information on COVID-19, including a weekly dashboard of testing stats, health protocols, and more by visiting our Parent Portal.