February Break Return to School Letter to Families with COVID-19 Updates. More info…

Written by on February 25, 2022

Dear Shen Community,

I hope you all had an opportunity to rest and rejuvenate, knowing that the last year or so has been extremely challenging. The purpose of this correspondence is three-fold: 1) Clarify the different news about masking; 2) Provide updates on some immediate next steps by the district; and 3) Articulate our off-ramp plan in anticipation of the state making a decision related to masking in schools.


You may have heard that New York State’s indoor mask mandate expired on February 10, however that change did not apply to schools, which caused some confusion. The state also recently announced that the authority to create and enforce mask mandates has been extended through April 22. Essentially, the Governor has the authority to determine whether the requirement for masking in schools will end prior to the April 22 date. Many sources are anticipating that a determination will be made early next week, the first week in March, about masking requirements for schools. Once more information is provided, we will be sure to communicate accordingly.

Updates – Change to Outdoor Masking

At the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the district developed and implemented a comprehensive reopening plan, which included detailed tiered-mitigation protocols. Those protocols were affixed to several metrics or data points related to transmission rates based on the CDC standards for Saratoga County, specifically: 

  1. Total New Cases per 100,000 in 7 days and 
  2.  % of Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs) that are positive during the past 7 days 

At this point in time, the above data points are no longer in effect by the County. However, the district continues to use objective information for decision making. Information on COVID-NET, a population-based surveillance system used by the CDC to collect data on laboratory-confirmed COVID-19-associated hospitalizations among children and adults, shows the numbers of COVID cases and rate of hospitalizations has sharply declined. While there’s still a notable gap between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, the hospitalization rate in Saratoga County shows a percentage (%) change in the last 7 days at negative 60% (-60.00%). Related, the percentage of the Saratoga County population equal to or greater than (≥) 5 years of age that has at least one shot is 91.6% and 82.6%, for those who are fully vaccinated. The district continues to encourage vaccination. Overall, infection rates are decreasing and vaccination rates are increasing, lending to a more prudent opportunity to make changes, in this case to outdoor masking

Keeping all of the above facts and factors in mind, and the determination by CDC that masks are not necessary in outdoor settings, we will be adhering to the original mitigation plan that states wearing of masks outdoors is encouraged for students. Mask wearing during outdoor recess and/or outdoor physical education will be optional and a student’s choice to wear or not wear their mask outdoors is to be respected by students and staff.  Building principals will share specific instructions with families. 

Off-Ramp Strategy

Inevitably, mandates surrounding masking will change. The Board of Education and district leadership exercised its policy-making authority, care, and due diligence to formulate a comprehensive school reopening plan, including a tiered-mitigation plan. Pursuant to applicable laws, rules and regulations at the time, the protocols were modified to reflect and execute mandates issued via Executive Order and/or promulgated by the NYS Department of Health and the NYS Education Department.

Omicron has demonstrated an evolution in the pandemic, with a faster, more easily spreading variant making its way through the community. This has dramatically altered how transmission levels and severity are measured, and even reported. Further, changes in contact tracing and test reporting have demonstrably warped the data points on which the original plan relied. The district remains committed to taking a measured, thoughtful approach – not reactionary; demonstrating to the school community a high level of seriousness and confidence to keep schools open, and students and staff safe. 

Consequently, the district leadership and Board of Education are in the process of revising the Shenendehowa Tiered Mitigation Plan to reflect the emerging realities of COVID. The district revised plan shall retain flexibility for future options and is subject to modification based on emerging circumstances and/or applicable laws, rules and regulations. If or when it becomes prudent to relax masking requirements based on the actions of the Governor and/or the NYSDOH, the district will share and review the plan. Remember, some people will choose to continue masking in environments where it is not required. It is crucial that we respect each other’s decisions and continue to be cautious about close contact.

I know these frequent changes in protocols can be confusing, but we are responding to a shifting situation while maintaining a balance between prioritizing health and safety of students and staff, and supporting the social, emotional, mental health of students and staff. Relaxing restrictions when prudent, allows us to remain nimble and make adjustments to protocols as appropriate. The District is committed to continued excellence, operating under these difficult and changing conditions. 

Thanks for your understanding, patience and continued support.

Committed to Excellence,

Dr. L. Oliver Robinson
Superintendent of Schools
Shenendehowa Central School District