Dear Staff and Families,
Late Tuesday night, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) released new COVID guidance for school districts across the state. This included a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document. The new guidance is based on the most recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which ended its recommendation for masks in most school settings.
Other than the change in mask policy, many of our COVID-19 operating procedures will remain the same. The most relevant information is summarized below, and the full guidance update is linked above.
As noted earlier this week, masks are now optional in school buildings and on school buses. However, the updated state guidance includes some exceptions to the “mask optional” policy, such as:
- Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 must wear a mask upon returning to school from isolation during Days 6-10 after COVID-19 infection.
- Local health departments have discretion to reinstate universal masking in schools if new cases and hospital admissions related to COVID-19 rise above certain benchmarks (see p. 2 of the attached guidance document).
We understand that all transitions can be stressful, and some students may experience anxiety because of this latest change. Please know that our school counselors are available for support at any time. Also please be reminded that we expect everyone to continue practicing civility and tolerance surrounding the personal choices of others.
Although not required, NYSDOH recommends students, staff, and teachers wear masks when:
- They feel more comfortable wearing a mask for personal reasons.
- They were in the same room within the school as someone diagnosed with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or longer and were thus exposed or potentially exposed.
- They are known to have been exposed to COVID in any setting within the previous 10 days.
- They are moderately-to-severely immunocompromised and have discussed the need to mask with their healthcare provider(s).
EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES / ATHLETICS
The guidance applies to school-administered after school and extracurricular activities, including athletics, in the same way it applies to instructional periods. Therefore, masks will no longer be required for these activities.
CONTACT TRACING & QUARANTINE
Under the new guidance, six feet of physical distancing will determine close contacts based on the assumption most people will not be wearing masks. Therefore, anyone within a 6-foot radius of an infected person will be considered exposed.
Mandatory quarantine is no longer required for exposed individuals as long as they remain asymptomatic. However, it is strongly recommended that close contacts wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days after exposure when they are in public settings, including schools.
Weekly testing of unvaccinated school staff will continue. These staff members may opt out of mandatory testing if they provide documentation of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
HOME TEST KIT DISTRIBUTION
We plan to distribute more home test kits for students on Friday, March 11, 2022. Kits will be given to students to take home along with a one-page sheet with information about what to do if the result is positive.
To summarize, the only requirements outlined in the new guidance are: 1) masks are temporarily required when individuals return to school after testing positive, 2) unvaccinated staff must be tested weekly, and 3) the District must continue to report cases daily to the NYS COVID Report Card. All other items within the state guidance document are recommendations. We will continue existing COVID mitigation strategies, including cleaning and disinfection, physical distancing when possible and increased ventilation in classrooms. Students and staff are also encouraged to continue practicing healthy hygiene and to stay home when sick.
Thank you for your continued patience, cooperation, and understanding.
Dr. Lisamarie Spindler
Superintendent of Schools