June 6, 2021 | An important update to the Shen Community regarding Mask Protocols. More info…

Written by on June 6, 2021

Dear Shen Community:

On Friday afternoon (6/4/2021) the Cuomo Administration signaled an intent to change state requirements related to mask wearing for students and employees while in school or on school grounds.

The Cuomo administration released a letter by state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to the federal Centers for Disease Control expressing the state’s intent to change its mask requirements. Please note that this was a letter, not a mandate, not a pronouncement. Needless to say, that very unorthodox move, to say the least, has created a lot of questions and speculation.

The letter indicates that the intent of the Cuomo Administration was to await a response from the CDC before actually changing formal guidance. Regardless, school districts, staff, students, and parents alike were whipped into a tailspin of added uncertainty.

Specifically, the letter explains:

 As many camps take place on school grounds, both serve school-age children, and the end of the school year/start of the camp season both occur in June, New York state plans to align our school and camp mask guidance as follows. In both settings, as a minimum state-wide guidance:

  • Indoors, mask use will be strongly encouraged but not required for students, campers, and staff/teachers/counselors who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Outdoors, masks are not required; students, campers, and staff/teachers/counselors who are not fully vaccinated are “encouraged” to wear a mask in certain higher-risk circumstances.
  • Both indoors and outdoors, students, campers, and staff who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks.
  • Schools and camps may choose to implement stricter standards.

The letter closes by stating, “If there is any data or science that you are aware of that contradicts moving forward with this approach, please let me know as soon as possible. We plan to make this guidance effective on Monday June 7.”

There has been no formal guidance issued that changes the state requirements

At this point, Shenendehowa is not planning to change mask requirements on Monday. We will await all applicable details from the NYS DOH, and consider all the relevant facts and factors before we make a decision. I was on a call on Sunday, assessing the common direction for schools in the region. The common sentiment is that it is a challenge and one that we must carefully unpack and make an intelligent and expedient decision during this coming week.

Warm Weather- Frequency and Duration of Mask Breaks

Related, but not the same, during these warmer days, I am encouraging administrators to encourage teachers and staff to allow students to take ample masks breaks (increased frequency and duration) within appropriate social distancing when inside the school building, and when outside, continue the relaxed mask flexibilities that we have allowed. A logical, rational, and reasonable course of action must be taken. 

Similarly, fans and AC units can be used in classrooms as long as they are not pointed directly at an individual. Vents should be pointed upwards for better air circulation.

The District has taken a very measured approach, making decisions based on an objective analysis of facts and a keen assessment of the various factors. We will continue to do so as we look to close out the school year.

 

Committed to Excellence,

Dr. L. Oliver Robinson

Superintendent of Schools