Yates County schools issue CDC-guided reopening plans

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express

YATES COUNTY – The three major school districts of Yates County have issued their most up-to-date reopening plans after consultation with Yates County Public Health in observation of the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control.

In the letters following, sent to all their district parents, the Penn Yan, Dundee, and Marcus Whitman school superintendents have outlined the requirements for the return of in-person classes, transportation, and precautionary protocols that the students will be expected to observe. The overall guidelines from the county are also listed below. 

PYA Mustangs

PENN YAN CENTRAL SCHOOL

The 2021-22 Penn Yan CSD Reopening Plan has been created through consultation with the CDC guidance and the Yates County Department of Health. Our goal with this reopening is to safely have all students back at school in the most traditional setting possible.

In order to do this work we were able to allow many traditional aspects of our school

environment with one exception. We will begin the year by requiring masking. This is

consistent with the CDC guidance and the concern about the transmission of the Delta variant among younger children. We will watch the status of our County closely and if it is possible we will reduce this mandate when it is safe to do so. This concession will allow us to do almost everything else in a traditional fashion.

● Students will change classes as they traditionally have at the secondary levels.

● Buses will be able to have more students on them so we will be able to have before

and after school activities.

● Lunch will go back to normal.

● You will no longer be required to fill out a morning survey (You will still receive a

daily reminder to keep your child home if they exhibit symptoms but you will not need

to respond)

● Students will not need to have a morning temperature check upon entering the

buildings.

We are also working very hard to provide on site testing for students that become symptomatic. This will remove the burden on families to have to go find a testing site. This will be optional and up to family preference. These details are not finalized at this time but we hope to bring them to you soon.

We realize that this will not meet everyone’s expectations for the new year, but we do feel like the Health Department and CDC guidelines allow us to return to a normal setting for school for almost everything while keeping everyone safe.

Howard Dennis
DCS Scots

DUNDEE CENTRAL SCHOOL

Please find the protocols, procedures and requirements for the 21-22 school year below. This plan is much less comprehensive than last year's plan, thank goodness!

All school districts were required to work with their local health departments to create a reopening plan that allowed for the safest return to school for all students in all grade levels regardless of need. We are beyond excited to share with you that this plan allows us to truly go back to a "normal" school year, meaning; students will be able to participate in all classes, move from classroom to classroom and even use the cafeteria again for meals and the gymnasiums for physical education class.

I urge you to read over the reopening guidelines below, (It is short we promise!) the one requirement in order for us to fully open as a normal school year is that all faculty, staff and students will need to wear a face covering/mask (regardless of vaccination status) while indoors and on buses whenever 3 feet of distance (all the way around) cannot be maintained. Obviously masks can be taken off for routine breaks throughout the day as well as during meal times. This is a very small concession or requirement when you look at it compared to what and how schools reopened last year and it also allows our students to experience every single day all the wonderful activities, opportunities and offerings DCS provides. Masks and face coverings do not need to be worn when outdoors.

As you can imagine, all requirements and guidelines are subject to change, if and when that happens we will communicate that with you immediately. Also, please note there is no remote option offered or required at this time, we will only use remote learning if a school closure is ordered or required.

We are so proud and even more grateful to our entire Dundee Community. We have accomplished things that other communities could not!! Take care of yourselves and enjoy the next few weeks of summer!!

Kelly Houck

Kelly Houck

Dundee Central School Superintendent

MW Wildcats

MARCUS WHITMAN CENTRAL SCHOOL

In the spirit of transparency, and wanting you to have the same information that I do, I would like to share the most up to date information we have regarding the reopening of schools in September (related to COVID.)  Please remember that COVID is a constantly changing situation, and this information is current as of August 10th. From today through the remainder of August, I will provide updates about reopening as we receive them, and will also hold a virtual town hall and give you a chance for input through a survey as we get closer to the start of school.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) can impose rules and protocols on school districts.  In a recent document, the CDC indicated that regardless of vaccination status or area COVID transmission zones (low, moderate, significant, high,) all people must wear face coverings while riding mass transit, including school buses.  They also stated that universal mask wearing should happen in UPK-12 schools during the Delta variant .

Area superintendents have been meeting with school physicians, attorneys, each other, and county administrators to best interpret these statements.  For Ontario county school districts, it was decided that masks will be worn on school buses.

Regarding mask wearing indoors, we will continue to use the zone system (low, moderate, significant, high) to determine indoor masking (regardless of vaccination status).  If the transmission rate is low/moderate, masking indoors will be strongly encouraged.  If the transmission rate is significant/high, masking will be required.  We will receive zone information every Friday so we can plan on our masking status one week at a time. 

Marcus Whitman students live in two counties, Yates and Ontario.  As of today, 36% live in Yates, and 64% live in Ontario.  We will be taking the transmission rates of both Yates and Ontario counties into consideration to determine the transmission zone for our district.  We are currently in the low/moderate zone.  Knowing this, and if it was the school year, my children would be wearing masks on the bus, but not while they are in school, unless they chose to do so.

I know this is difficult information for some, but from my perspective, we have not been given any physical distance requirements that would prevent us from having a normal school year. This means full buses, full classrooms, regular special area classes, regular extracurricular activities, regular lunch time, and regular athletics.  Considering where we were a short year ago, I'll take it.

The New York State Education Department is the next governing body that can enact rules for schools to follow. We learned today that they are crafting guidance.  We as a superintendent group have reached out to them and asked them to "leave us alone." Whether they will or not remains to be seen, and if there are any adjustments to be made to our reopening plan, I will let you know.

The full reopening plan will be released later this week, but I know that in our community, people have been the most concerned about masking, so I wanted to make that information available now.

Thank you for your patience and support.  I am excited for the school year and am looking forward to getting all of our students back!

Chris Brown

Christopher R. Brown, Ph.D.

Marcus Whitman School Superintendent 

Yates County School Districts Reopening Requirements to Diminish Risk to Public Health 2021-2022

Centers for Disease Control and APP Prevention Strategies (NOTE: SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Vaccination

Encouraged but not required. As such, the health and safety measures in this plan will apply to everyone regardless of their vaccination status.

• Substantial and/or high transmission rate, schools would initiate voluntary testing.

• Vaccinations are highly encouraged.

Consistent and Correct Mask Use

Minimum Expectation: Using the CDC transmission level designation, at this time, masking is required indoors/on buses. Future considerations for masking may involve the following criteria:

Low and Moderate - Masking is strongly encouraged but not required indoors/on buses

Substantial and High - Masking is required indoors/on buses (breaks afforded, meals)

Outdoors: Masks are not required

Physical Distancing

Minimum Expectation for all subject areas: Use the CDC transmission level designation:

Low and Moderate - No distancing requirements

Substantial and High - Three foot minimum distancing requirement.

No distancing requirement for cafeteria - Each table becomes a pod which would be subject to quarantine if there is an exposure.

In cases where transmission is substantial or high, indoor occupancy by outside agencies will not be permitted or be limited to three feet distancing.

Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette

• All students and staff will be trained to follow COVID-19 protocols safely and correctly, including but not limited to hand hygiene, proper face covering wearing, social distancing, and respiratory hygiene.

• All students and staff will be trained on proper hand and respiratory hygiene (C.3).

• Hand hygiene stations will be maintained, including handwashing with soap, running water, and disposable paper towels, as well as an alcohol-based sanitizer containing 60% or more alcohol for areas where handwashing is not feasible.

• Isolation rooms are no longer used. Should a person become ill and exhibit symptoms, they will wear a mask and be in the nurse's office, separated from others by at least 6' until they are picked up to leave

Ventilation

• Bus windows and roof hatches open if greater than 40 degrees when there is no precipitation

• Ventilation with fresh outside air shall be provided in all occupied spaces. The Director of Facilities shall ensure that all occupied spaces will have an operable system to bring outside air into the space and that those systems are maintained to operate in accordance with the original design.

Staying Home When Sick and Getting Tested

• A daily screener will continue, reminding students and staff that they must stay home if they are exhibiting symptoms and call the school and their pediatrician for next steps.

• Contact Tracing, In Combination with Isolation and Quarantine*

• Students will be assigned a seat on a bus. Students will not be able to choose their own seat. Seating charts to be available for buses, cohorts, lunches, etc.

• People who are fully vaccinated do not need to participate in screening testing and do not need to quarantine if they do not have any symptoms.

Cleaning and Disinfection

• Districts will adhere to hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection requirements from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

• Students will be trained on the developmentally-appropriate disinfecting of personal equipment (e.g., desk, workstations, supplies) at intervals throughout the day as designated by school staff members.

Remote Instruction

Per the guidelines established by the New York State Department of Health (DOH), the district is expected to prioritize a return for all students to in-person instruction.

*The likelihood of having to quarantine is substantially diminished for those who are vaccinated, wearing a mask, and physically distancing.