We are heartened Wednesday to have begun a new stage in our ongoing efforts to help bring an end to the COVID-19 public health crisis that has troubled our world for two years now.
As you know, masks are now optional in all school buildings statewide, in alignment with the recently updated COVID-19 guidance from Governor Hochul. The mask-optional guidance also applies to transportation on First Student buses; however, masks continued to be required on all public transportation, including all CDTA buses that our students ride.
The City School District of Albany will respect the personal decision of all individuals regarding wearing masks as we move forward. Whether you choose to wear a mask indoors at school or you prefer not to, we ask that you respect the rights of others to make the decision that is best for them and their family.
COVID-19 health and safety updates
It is important for all of us to remember that the state’s change to a mask-optional protocol for schools does not mean that the pandemic has ended. We have simply moved into a new stage in fighting this disease. This will mean a few other updates to our health and safety protocols, but please know that COVID-19 protocols remain in place for all New York schools.
- Masks for individuals who test positive
- While masks are now optional in schools for the general community, masks still are mandatory for individuals returning to school or work after testing positive for COVID-19.
- Anyone in our school community who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to quarantine for five days. You then are required to wear a mask at school and on your bus, if applicable, on days 6-10. The mask becomes optional again following that period of time.
- Desk shields in classrooms
- Beginning next Monday, the district will begin removing the clear dividers that have separated desks in classrooms.
- Social distancing
- Social distancing of any distance is no longer required, but is strongly recommended, for instruction. Seating arrangements in our classrooms will continue to support social distancing to the greatest extent possible. The district also will continue to encourage social distancing whenever possible.
- While social distancing is no longer required in cafeterias, for the rest of this school year our district will continue to minimize the number of students in the cafeteria at one time to maintain distance between students while they are eating. Schools will continue to have the option of allowing students to eat in the classroom depending on what works best for each building.
- Contact tracing
- Beginning Wednesday, schools no longer are required to quarantine individuals who in the past have been identified as contacts of a person who tests positive. We now will identify anyone within a 6-foot radius of a positive individual as having been exposed and provide notification to that individual or, in the case of a student, their parent or guardian.
- Exposed students and employees will NOT be sent home and are not required to quarantine unless they also test positive. The school will provide an at-home test kit for the families of all exposed students and employees. If the exposed individual develops COVID-19 symptoms, we ask that you test as soon as possible and report any positive cases to your school nurse and the Albany County Health Department (or the health department in your county of residence for anyone living outside Albany County). If the rapid test is negative, the exposed individual can continue to report to school or work on a normal schedule.
- Exposed individuals DO NOT need to test to stay unless they develop symptoms.
- COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated employees
- Weekly COVID-19 testing for all unvaccinated employees is still a requirement. You can visit our COVID-19 section for employees for the weekly testing schedule.
We continue to encourage everyone age 5 and older who is able and eligible to get vaccinated and boosted, in alignment with the guidance from our health and medical professionals.
Our maintenance teams also will continue to follow our current cleaning and sanitizing protocols in all buildings.
Thank you for all that you have done to slow the spread of this disease since the pandemic began in March 2020. After the explosion of cases that we all experienced in January due to the Omicron variant, we are pleased to report that our daily average of cases in February was the lowest for our school district since September.
We know this has been a challenging and often-difficult process for everyone. However, please keep in mind that the pandemic is not over. There is more for all of us to do before we can return to the standard health and safety practices we were used to before COVID-19 impacted our world.
Be safe and be well.
All in for Albany!
Yours in education,
Kaweeda G. Adams