Message from the Superintendent: Pivoting to a Mask Optional Environment with Continued Mitigation Efforts. More info…

Written by on March 2, 2022

Shen Community,

Today marks a pivotal point in the history of our continued challenge of contending with the pervasive realities of COVID-19. Students and staff now have the option of wearing a mask. Last night the Board of Education approved two revised plans, linked here (Revised School Reopening Plan and Mitigation Plan). Please take the time to review them. These documents are also posted on the district’s website- COVID CORNER located at the top of the homepage, at this link.

These plans speak to the continued efforts the district will make to provide for a robust focus on safety, as well as emphasizing the respect and decorum expected by all in a mask optional environment. Today, some children will see the entire faces of their peers and teachers for the first time this school year. That example speaks to the patience we must all employ as we all make the psychological shifts.

Health and safety guidance from the state and local health departments related to COVID-19 continues to evolve. While the latest state guidance makes mask wearing optional, the following health and safety protocols remain in place (see COVID flowchart):

  • Regardless of vaccination status, if a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19 they must isolate for a full five days. Students or employees may return to school after day five if they are asymptomatic or if symptoms are resolving. For days 6-10 following a positive test, students and employees are required to wear a mask in school, including on the school bus.
  • If a student has been exposed to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status it is highly recommended they wear a mask for a full 10 days following that exposure.
  • State and local health officials continue to recommend testing for COVID-19 following a

possible exposure. COVID-19 tests are available at school to anyone who wants one.

  • Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home from school, regardless of vaccination status or recent infection, until tested and/or isolated for five days. If your student has symptoms and you aren’t sure what to do, or if you need a COVID-19 test kit, contact the school nurse and/or principals office.
  • Weekly testing for unvaccinated staff (unless the individual has had a COVID infection within 90 days) is still mandated. 

    We will continue to follow a mitigation strategy to prevent the spread of illness in our schools and on our buses. This includes enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures and improved ventilation, in addition to providing free at-home COVID-19 testing kits to our families and staff. We will also continue our due diligence with regard to notifying impacted staff and families if we learn about a positive case. In some situations, this will involve a general notification alerting staff and families that there was a positive case in a particular class or school.  In other cases, the identification of close contacts may be warranted. In these cases, we will provide the most up-to-date information related to COVID-19 testing, quarantine and isolation. 

    As always, we remain in close contact with state and local health officials and are committed to providing staff and families with clear, updated information on the latest health and safety guidance. The district remains true to its North Star, the provision of options and opportunities for our students. To that end, for the foreseeable future, the district will take a measured approach with the relaxation of related administrative protocols, such as maintaining classroom configurations to allow for physical distancing, while yet embracing students engaging in more dynamic learning experiences. Or, maintaining cafeteria seating configuration while eating, while yet taking advantage of opportunities for students to eat in environments more conducive. Those examples illustrate that the need to find a balance between preserving safety and providing increased opportunities continues to be a priority. 

    I applaud all the Shenendehowa employees for leaning into the countless challenges, and for the continued dedication to be there for our students. I thank the parents, guardians, and families for their unwavering trust in us as a school system. And, most importantly, I am grateful to our students for their perseverance, their sense of determination, and their commitment to be learners. 

    Thank you for your continued partnership as we work to keep our students and staff healthy, and our students in school. Together, we will continue to make great strides and live up to our Commitment to Excellence!


    Dr L. Oliver Robinson

    Superintendent of Schools