Our plans for the 2021-22 school year are continuing to develop toward our goal of in-person instruction for all students, and I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the status of that planning.
We are looking forward to having all of our students back in school five days a week. We also are mindful of the health and safety protocols that remain critically important for all of our students, faculty and staff.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have aligned all of our efforts with the guidance of federal, state and local health officials, as well as the New York State Education Department and Capital Region BOCES.
With New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker’s direction Thursday that school districts may move forward with their planning in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and in partnership with our county health department, we have established the following health and safety protocols that will be in place when the 2021-22 school year begins Sept. 2.
- Masks will be mandatory in all schools and district buildings for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Masks will be optional outside on school grounds.
- We continue to strongly encourage those 12 and older to be vaccinated (see below for more information).
- We will follow 3 feet of social distancing in our buildings wherever possible.
- In cases where we cannot maintain 3 feet while also achieving our goal of daily in-person instruction for all students, we will use polycarbonate dividers as an extra safety measure.
- Because children under age 12 are not currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, polycarbonate dividers will be in place in all elementary classrooms. In our secondary buildings, we will use polycarbonate dividers as an extra precaution where necessary.
- We will conduct temperature screening daily for all individuals.
- If your child or anyone in your household is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, we urge you to stay home and get tested. You can find additional information about symptoms and COVID-19 testing in my message of Aug. 3.
- We will continue to follow the same hand hygiene, and daily cleaning and disinfecting protocols that we have since the start of the pandemic.
- Proper building ventilation will continue to be a priority. Our current air filtration systems meet all required safety levels, and we also have prioritized the use of our one-time American Rescue Plan funds to upgrade our air filtration systems throughout the district.
- Masks will be required for all students on buses and we will return to regular capacity guidelines on all buses. Our partners at First Student and CDTA also will continue to follow the cleaning and sanitization protocols that have been in place since the start of the pandemic.
Guidance for fall sports
At this time, the Albany County Department of Health recommends that high-risk sports and extracurricular activities should be virtual or cancelled in areas of high community transmission unless all participants are fully vaccinated. We continue to encourage vaccination for everyone 12 and older if you are able.
We will continue to monitor updated guidance prior to the scheduled start of fall practices Aug. 23.
COVID-19 surge and immunizations
As you know, COVID-19 cases have started to surge once again this summer due to the spread of the Delta variant. The Capital Region has had the highest COVID-19 positivity rate in New York for several weeks, a discouraging development as we look ahead to the new school year and the urgent need to have all of our students back in school in-person everyday.
In our school district, after reporting two total new cases over a six-week period from mid-June through the end of July, we have had three new cases this week alone.
In alignment with the recommendations of federal, state and local health professionals, I strongly encourage everyone in our school community to get a COVID-19 vaccination if you are able and eligible. Please take a moment to read this letter from Albany County Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen with more information.
Should you have questions, please consult your healthcare provider. COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone age 12 and older.
I am grateful to our partners at Whitney Young for the immunization clinics at Albany High School this month. These clinics offer both the COVID-19 vaccination for eligible students and adults, as well as other immunizations that are required for the start of school.
Visit our Health Services section for a full schedule of these immunization clinics, and a list of required immunizations for students.
Yours in education,
Kaweeda G. Adams