Last evening, shortly after our 2021-22 School Operating Plan was released, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) finally issued interim guidance for classroom instruction this school year and a Commissioner’s Determination on COVID testing in schools.

The 12-page NYSDOH document addresses the minimum expectations for instruction and operations. Many of our health and safety protocols will remain the same from last year—and the new NYSDOH regulations are consistent with the most recent CDC guidance. In fact, the NYSDOH guidance recommends that schools review their prior year’s plans, eliminate outdated measures, and adopt current CDC recommendations. The District already did this when developing its 2021-22 School Operating Plan prior to the release of the new NYSDOH guidance.

Of particular note, the NYSDOH guidance and the Commissioner’s Determination outline requirements to implement COVID-19 testing in schools. Schools are being directed to implement weekly screening testing—or the testing of asymptomatic individuals—for all faculty and staff, however they “may be permitted to opt-out of mandatory weekly screening testing if they provide documentation of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.” Schools must also offer screening testing for unvaccinated students on a weekly basis (with consent from a parent/guardian), however students are not required to be tested.

At this time, we are working with other local school districts and the Columbia County Department of Health to facilitate the staffing, supplies and information that will be required to implement the Commissioner’s Determination on the testing of students, staff, and contractors as soon as practicable to ensure a safe environment for our school community. Funding to allow schools to fulfill this new requirement has not yet been released by the state.

We will notify you of the process for providing documentation of full vaccination (to opt-out of testing) or information on testing as soon as possible. We again ask for your patience and understanding as we work through these new directives.