Dear Parents and Guardians,
As you know, masks will be optional in schools starting on Wednesday, March 2nd, following Governor Hochul’s announcement over the weekend. This will be a momentous change for our school community. I’m sure many of you and your children are ready to embrace this change and some are understandably concerned.
The District will keep following the science and listening to the expertise of state and local health officials as the pandemic continues to evolve. The local metrics indicate that COVID-19 spread is declining and health experts say that universal indoor masking is no longer needed in school settings.
With masks becoming optional, please be assured that the other COVID-19 mitigation strategies remain in place. Our focus will be on the following strategies:
- Cleaning and disinfection – These efforts will be increased throughout all school buildings and offices. High-touch areas will be sanitized more regularly throughout the school day. Areas where a positive case has been will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
- Hand hygiene – Continue teaching your children, especially younger students, how to properly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. This video from the CDC is a great resource to show children what good handwashing looks like. Hand sanitizer will continue to be available throughout the buildings and every effort will be made to ensure hand sanitizer and soap dispensers are filled.
- Respiratory etiquette – Tell children (and show them) that covering coughs and sneezes with their elbows helps keep their hands clean and keeps potentially harmful respiratory droplets out of the air.
- Ventilation – The filters in our HVAC system will continue to be changed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and our health and safety experts. Buildings & Grounds will also purge the HVAC system every morning and night (i.e., settings will be changed to allow 100% outside air to be brought inside so the air is well circulated for the next day). As the weather starts to warm up, classroom windows can be opened to increase natural ventilation, as needed.
- Physical distancing – Remind your children to keep at least 3-6 feet of distance between themselves and others. This is understandably a challenge but we must do our best to be mindful of our proximity to others, particularly if individuals are not wearing masks.
- Testing (optional) – Home test kits are available upon request (contact your child’s principal). Students who display symptoms at school will be sent to the Health Office and can be tested for COVID-19 at school as long as we have parental consent. If you have not previously given consent for testing at school and would like to do so, please complete this online consent form.
- Masks (optional) – Masks are available for staff and students, including KN95 masks. If you would like your child(ren) to continue wearing a mask at school, please email your child’s principal and inform them of this request. We also ask parents/guardians to please speak with your child(ren) about personal choice and respecting each other’s personal decisions. We will not tolerate any bullying of students or staff who choose to continue to wear a mask. The focus of school remains the educational well-being of all students, so mutual respect of each person’s choice to wear or not wear a mask will be honored in our school community.
We must reinvigorate our diligence in following these protocols at school. Our cooperation and combined efforts will help ensure our schools remain open for in-person learning.
Lastly, we are expecting additional guidance from the state regarding how the “masks optional” policy will impact other practices such as contact tracing and quarantines. Once we have this information and review it with our county health department, I will send you another update. The uncertainty of this situation can be frustrating and once again I ask for your patience and understanding as we work through this next phase of the pandemic together.
Dr. Lisamarie Spindler
Superintendent of Schools