New York State Education Department issues back-to-school guidance

NEW YORK (WKBW) — The New York State Education Department has issued its back-to-school guidance for the 2021-22 school year.

In the guidance, New York State education officials say they are following CDC guidance which recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status and community transmission levels, however districts may require masks.

In addition to the guidance laid out by the New York State Education Department, state officials say school administrators are encouraged to partner with local health officials when developing policies and responding to health and safety concerns that may arise during the school year.

Here is the guidance on vaccinations and masks from the New York State Education Department

  • Schools may work with local departments of health to offer vaccination for eligible students.
  • Administrators can use documentation of student/staff vaccination status to inform testing, contact tracing, quarantine/isolation policies.
  • Schools that plan to request voluntary submission of documentation of COVID-19 vaccination status should use the same standard protocols that are used to collect and secure other immunization or health status information from students.
  • Masks are required on school buses regardless of vaccination status.
  • Masks are recommended for all school events and athletics while indoors.

The guidance also recommends that schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing, to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Guidance from state education officials say that as long as it is allowed by public health officials, schools should be open for in-person teaching and learning, and students should be in school, and if school closures occur due to a declared public health emergency, schools must be prepared to provide remote instruction.

“As we prepare for schools to reopen in September, our priority must be to provide leaders with access to information about practices that have proven effective throughout the pandemic,” said Chancellor Lester W. Young. “The Department’s health and safety guide is a concise resource that will assist districts as they mitigate risks to the health and safety of students, teachers and school staff while providing flexibility for schools to address their own unique circumstances in a manner that best meets the needs of all students.”

“At a time when schools are preparing to reopen and the COVID positivity rate is increasing, we must ensure our schools and districts have the most up-to-date resources and mitigation strategies available to keep our children and school staff safe,” said Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. “Reopening amidst a pandemic for the second consecutive year is truly a daunting task. Our hope is that this guide, coupled with the input of local health officials will help the state’s education community as they prepare for September.”

When it comes to athletics and other after school activities, both the New York State Education Department and CDC are encouraging districts to use COVID-19 screening testing for the following

  • student athletes
  • students participating in extracurricular activities or other activities with elevated risk (such as activities that involve singing, shouting, band, and exercise that could lead to increase exhalation)
  • adults (e.g., coaches, teachers, advisors) who are not fully vaccinated and participate in or support these activities to facilitate safe participation and reduce risk of transmission – and avoid jeopardizing in-person education due to outbreaks

The guidance also states that high-risk sports and extracurricular activities should be virtual or canceled in areas of high community transmission unless all participants are fully vaccinated.

You can read the complete guidance by clicking here.

Janelle B. Smith

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