First Week of School Updates & Recommitment to Protocols from Superintendent Dr. L. Oliver Robinson. More information…

Written by on September 13, 2021

Shenendehowa Parents/Guardians,

I want to start by expressing my thanks for your support. We had a solid start to the school year and a lot of positive momentum to build upon. There are also some lessons learned, lending to further and future adjustments to plans, protocols and practices.

The District stands true to its commitment to balance the prioritization of health and safety, social emotional health, and the provision of educational options and opportunities. A key word in that statement is “balance”, and not sacrifice. Professional judgment is a must and reasonable analysis of situations is an essential part of navigating through the challenges, making adjustments, and understanding nuances. 

We will continue to communicate often with you as parents, in addition to our principals, nurses, teachers, staff, and others to ensure we remain diligent. The purpose of this correspondence is to reiterate some key points noted from the opening days and to share some things coming down the pike. 

Masking and Mask Breaks

Yes, all parties must wear a mask in a school building where students are present, regardless of vaccination status. Yes, after consulting with health professionals and learning from the experience of last year when we successfully implemented mask breaks, it is again identified in our School Reopening- Tiered Mitigation Plan. Mask breaks are permitted in support of the health and wellness of students, faculty, and staff. The wording in the plan denotes “scheduled” mask breaks, allowing for intentional and reasonable application of discretion based on circumstances. It is impossible for us to predict and prescribe every situation. Ideally, mask breaks should occur outside.

The following key points must be emphasized:

  • Any deviation from not wearing a mask indoors requires parties to be separated by at least 6 feet
  • Cumulatively no more than 15 minutes throughout the day when mask breaks are taken indoors. 
  • Mask break does not imply or provide permission for students or staff to have masks off for any prolonged period of time when inside a school building where students are present.
  • Breaks inside the school or classroom should always be done in a manner to preserve a safe environment.

We do not want anyone to get sick, and if someone is sick in a class, we do not want to unfairly quarantine students. Appropriate masking helps mitigate both situations, prevention of illness and limiting quarantine. Recognizing that this is a fluid situation, an ongoing process of review and adjustments will occur.

Physical Distancing

We want instructional environments to be dynamic and the learning experience to be authentic. Three (3) feet physical distance is the minimum standard, designed to allow for the provision and maximization of various opportunities and options. Yes, whenever feasible, we will look to take advantage of spaces to allow for more physical distancing, which is a mitigation objective. Desks and tables were laid out to accommodate the 3ft parameter. In most cases, the capacity exists to allow for more than 3ft. 

Contact Tracing and Quarantining 

While there are many factors that go into the determination of whether a person(s) are quarantined, three key factors that weigh heavily are: (1) Masking (2) 3ft physical distancing, and (3) vaccination status. In most instances when appropropriate masking and physical distancing occurs, quarantining is limited. Individuals who are vaccinated and asymptomatic, will likely not be quarantined. Said individuals will be asked to test on day 3-5 after a direct exposure. 

Mandated Testing of Unvaccinated Individuals

Pursuant to NYS DOH determination, schools must offer screening testing to unvaccinated students (with parental consent) on a weekly basis in a geographic area identified by CDC as having moderate, substantial or high transmission rates. Similarly, any employee who has not been vaccinated must be tested on a weekly basis onsite and/or submit proof of testing. The District is working with Saratoga County Public Health to coordinate testing efforts. Employees and students will have the option to complete the weekly testing outside of the County process and provide that weekly proof to the district. 

A letter seeking parental consent will be issued this week. We are encouraging parents to provide consent for testing. It allows for increased opportunities for unvaccinated students to safely participate in various extracurricular activities and events. More information about the testing program with the County Public Health and allowable types of tests is forthcoming. 

We look forward to a great year, knowing that perfection is an impossibility, but best effort is a conscious choice. Thank you for supporting our dedication and Commitment to Excellence.

Dr. L. Oliver Robinson

Superintendent of Schools