ALBANY – The state’s Department of Education has released a “health and safety guide” to reopening New York schools, a move applauded by New York State United Teachers in the absence of direction from the department of State Health.
The guide uses information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which the DOH has advised school districts to go to for guidance.
“With the end of the state of disaster emergency on June 25, 2021, school districts are reestablished as the controlling entity of schools. Schools and school districts should make plans to open in person in the fall in the safest way possible, and I recommend following the advice of the CDC and local health departments, ”the commissioner said last week. from DOH, Dr. Howard A. Zucker.
The state Department of Education guide also uses information from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
SED officials said the guide is designed to be used in conjunction with many other local, state and national resources available to schools to help them manage risks to students and staff from COVID-19 while also supporting a engaged learning for all students. It is based on the best health and safety information currently available and will be updated as public health conditions change.
The guide addresses issues related to COVID-19 vaccinations, monitoring community transmission, wearing masks, physical distancing, sports and extracurricular activities, COVID-19 screening, health questionnaire screenings, contact tracing, COVID-related facility projects, distance education and funding. sources available for schools and districts that can help prepare for the upcoming school year and beyond.
Administrators are also encouraged to partner with their local health departments, the director of school health services, and other health professionals as they develop their policies to reopen schools and respond to health and welfare issues. security that may arise during the school year.
Concerns for school districts include the use of face masks and social distancing.
The CDC recently updated its mask guidelines due to emergency evidence that shows the Delta variant of COVID-19 to be more infectious and has led to increased transmissibility compared to other variants, even in vaccinated individuals. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of immunization status and levels of community transmission.
The CDC also recommends that schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students in classrooms, combined with wearing an indoor mask to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. A distance of at least 6 feet is recommended between students and teachers / staff, and between teachers / staff who are not fully immunized.
Physical distancing is not required on school buses under the direction of the CDC. He also notes that allowing large groups of students to eat in the cafeteria should be based on community transmission rates.
“As schools prepare to reopen and the rate of COVID positivity increases, we need to ensure that our schools and districts have the most recent resources and mitigation strategies available to keep our children safe. children and school staff, ”said Education. Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said in a prepared statement. “Reopening in the midst of a pandemic for the second year in a row is truly a daunting task. Our hope is that this guide, along with input from local health officials, will help the state’s education community prepare for September. “
The state Department of Education guide is available at www.nysed.gov/back-to-school.
New York United Teachers State President Andrew “Andy” Pallotta praised the state’s Department of Education for preparing the guidelines in the absence of official guidance from the state’s DOH.
“As educators, we know the best place to teach students is in the classroom,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to make sure every student has access to full-time in-person instruction this year. This includes ensuring that our schools are safe and healthy for students and the people who serve them.
“We support the recommendations of public health experts and the SED to implement universal masking, robust surveillance tests and other measures as part of a holistic, layered approach that ensures the health and safety of all. in our schools “We also believe that district plans should be developed in partnership with educators and parents. We believe this because safe and healthy schools are essential for every student in New York City to thrive and succeed this year, ”added Mr. Pallotta.