Releases COVID-19 policies for school start on Sept. 2
In a note to parents on Wednesday (Aug. 18), Haldane Superintendent Philip Benante said the district will require students, teachers and staff members to wear masks indoors when the school year begins on Sept. 2, regardless of vaccination status, to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
Benante also said a minimum of 3 feet of social distance would be required in classrooms and could be expanded farther “based on the number of students and available space.”
The superintendent said the procedures were informed by guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which both recommend masks be worn indoors at schools because of a surge of COVID-19 infections that have been largely attributed to the delta variant and occurred mostly among the unvaccinated.
Under federal guidelines, only students ages 12 and older can receive the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer, leaving elementary school students vulnerable. Those made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have emergency authorization only for adults.
On Aug. 12, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who will succeed Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is resigning, said she expects New York will issue a mask mandate for schools.
Benante said the Haldane district planned to continue testing both vaccinated and unvaccinated students, and asked parents to provide their consent. He said that, as of March 1, 86 percent of Haldane employees had been vaccinated and that the figure would be updated after school begins.
In addition, he said the district had “conducted a thorough review of the buildings’ ventilation systems and instituted practices to ensure adequate airflow throughout each of the spaces”; upgrades include the installation of MERV-13 rated filters.
The district will revert to the daily schedule it used before the pandemic began, with classes beginning at the middle and high schools at 7:33 a.m. and at the elementary school at 8:35 a.m. Teachers will be encouraged to use outdoor spaces and students will be sent outside, weather permitting, to eat lunch.
Remote learning will only be available to students who are required to quarantine, Benante said, or if the district closes because of an outbreak. Students will be required to wear masks on school buses.
Benante said each building principal would hold a forum with parents before school begins to discuss the procedures. “I anticipate that we will update these guidelines on a continual basis as local conditions change,” he wrote.
The superintendents of the Beacon and Garrison districts each said last week they would require masks indoors. They also cited the CDC.