CATSKILL — Officials in the Catskill Central School District outlined a health and safety plan for reopening buildings that will be presented to the community before classes begins Sept. 13.
The plan, which was announced Aug. 26, consists of physical distancing in classrooms, face coverings for all students and staff regardless of vaccination status, and ongoing cleaning and disinfecting, according to a statement from District Superintendent Ronel Cook.
The finalized plan was approved by the Board of Education at its special meeting Aug. 25.
Masks will be required inside school buildings as well on school buses for students, staff and visitors. Masks will be optional outside and students will be provided with mask breaks when seated in classrooms and socially distanced.
“Given this guidance from the CDC, the district anticipates that fewer students will likely be quarantined by adhering to the recommendation to require mask wearing in our schools regardless of vaccination status,” Cook said.
Cook said Thursday the district will follow the state mask requirement.
“The goal from the onset and moving forward is to return students to school five days a week for continuous in-person instruction in a safe and responsible manner,” Cook said. “To achieve this goal, Catskill Central School District will adhere to the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics and state Education Department and now the recent mandate from Gov. Hochul.”
There has been a backlash from some families in the community over the mask mandate, he said.
“At our Aug. 18 public hearing, several parents who oppose the mask mandate voiced their concerns,” Cook said. “Their concerns are valued and appreciated. Nevertheless, the guidance from the federal, state and local agencies will be followed.”
Social distance of at least 3 feet will be maintained, and buses will return to full capacity with window hatches open to increase ventilation.
Fall sports will be offered this fall, but the CDC recommends schools located in regions classified as a “high” community transmission zone must either cancel higher-risk sports or ensure that all students participating in higher-risk athletic teams are fully vaccinated. Cook said this affects girls’ volleyball, football and cheerleading.
“The district is conferring with other schools within our league and the New York state Public High School Athletic Association to examine this requirement. Parents of all students including those registered for interscholastic athletics are encouraged to consider vaccination in consultation with your child’s primary care provider,” Cook said.
For music and physical education classes, a physical distance of 6 feet will be maintained while indoors and outdoor activities will be considered as the weather permits.
Desks will be cleaned once per day in meeting CDC guidelines.
“Daily disinfecting removes any remaining germs on surfaces, which further reduces any risk of spreading infection. Classroom desks will not need to be disinfected after each period at Catskill High School and Catskill Middle School. Surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected daily by custodial staff. High touch surfaces will be given additional cleaning and disinfecting,” Cook said.
More details on contact tracing and quarantine are expected next week, but the district is working with Greene County Public Health and Questar III BOCES to develop and implement a voluntary testing program, Cook said.
A fully remote program will be offered through Questar III only for medical exemptions.
Other districts have also released reopening plans that resemble Catskill’s plan.
The state’s mask mandate will be enforced in Hunter-Tannersville schools, District Superintendent Nate Jones said Thursday. Students will return to in-person instruction full-time, he added.
“We are excited to be in full swing this September, with full-day in-person learning and after-school activities taking place,” Jones said. “Our school comnmunity has stayed very positive throughout the pandemic - we are -HTCSTRONG.”
Under the reopening plan in the Cairo-Durham Central School District, students will return to 100% in-person instruction and face masks will be universally required indoors at all times, regardless of vaccination status, according to District Superintendent Michael Wetherbee.
“The CDC and AAP recommendations call for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to continue wearing masks when inside K-12 school buildings, regardless of vaccination status,” according to the plan. “This guidance is based on the fact that masks are highly effective in reducing the risk of transmission, especially when worn in group settings where individuals from different households are in close proximity for 15 minutes or more.
“Therefore, Cairo-Durham plans to follow these recommendations and expects all students and staff to wear appropriate face coverings in school buildings and on buses for the 2021-22 school year.”
Masks will be optional outdoors, and mask breaks will be permitted periodically throughout the day.