District leaders are in the process of developing plans to safely open our schools in September. These plans will follow the current K-12 school guidance from the Greene County Department of Health (GCDOH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
While there are many things that still need to be worked out, there are some areas where we know what the 2021-22 school year will look like. Please note that the following information is subject to change based on updated guidance, and as new information is released we may modify our plans accordingly prior to September or during the school year. We plan to follow the science and heed guidance from various health officials to best protect the health and safety of all students and staff. Any changes will be shared with the school community as soon as possible.
Prioritizing in-person learning is a key point in both the CDC and AAP guidance. Cairo-Durham is planning a 100% return to in-person learning with no option for fully remote learning. The one exception is for students who are deemed medically vulnerable with medical documentation from a primary healthcare provider or medical professional, which must be reviewed and approved by the school’s medical director. In the case of approved medical exemptions, the student will be assigned to a distance learning program taught by a certified teacher through Questar III BOCES. More information about medical exemptions will be shared as it is received.
Similar to last year, we will have plans in place to shift to fully remote learning if a complete or partial closure of our school buildings is needed due to COVID-related issues. As you know, a COVID-related shift to remote learning can happen quickly with little warning, so it is important to have a plan in place for your child in the event of a sudden shift to remote learning.
In-person instruction will require layered protections including indoor mask wearing regardless of vaccination status, physical distancing, hand hygiene, enhanced cleaning and other safety protocols similar to last school year. We know these safety measures are effective based on our experiences during the 2020-21 school year and our ability to prevent widespread infection within the school community.
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. 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 (e.g., a classroom). 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 2021-2022 school year. Mask breaks will be given periodically throughout the day. Masks will be optional (but not required) when outdoors.
Even with our planned universal masking in place, we still plan to implement some physical distancing this year. The current CDC and AAP guidance permits the loosening of physical distancing restrictions, particularly the recommended amount of physical distance between students in classrooms. Cairo-Durham plans to reduce the required amount of physical distance between students from six (6) feet to three (3) feet when in the classroom. Increased spacing (at least six feet) will be needed for activities with a greater risk of transmission such as Physical Education, Choir and Band.
Since students may be permitted to move between classrooms this year, we understand that it may not be possible to maintain three feet of distance in hallways during class transitions. However, the time frame for moving between classes is only 3-4 minutes and therefore not a concern according to the current health guidance (assuming everyone properly wears a mask).
We are anticipating that school transportation will follow the same safety guidelines as public mass transportation. Universal masking and a reduction in required physical distancing on buses would permit Cairo-Durham to transport more students to school this year.
Daily Health Screenings
Cairo-Durham does not plan on utilizing daily health screenings for students (i.e., temperature checks, health questionnaires). We still strongly encourage families to be very mindful of when students or someone in their household is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, in which case students should not come to school. Temperature checks for staff will no longer occur on arrival, however staff may be required to continue completing the electronic self-attestation form before school each day.
Cairo-Durham is considering screening tests as an added mitigation strategy in the 2021-22 school year. Screening tests would help identify infected people, with or without apparent symptoms, who may be contagious. This would enable our Health Offices to rule out COVID-19 on the spot if someone is experiencing symptoms at school. Parental consent to test is required.
Positive/Suspected COVID Cases in School & Contact Tracing
We anticipate following similar protocols for this as we did in 2020-2021. When made aware of a positive COVID-19 case in the schools, we will notify impacted students and staff members as soon as possible about their exposure and if they need to quarantine. We will inform the GCDOH of the case and work with them to ensure proper contact tracing is performed in our school community.
Learning During a Quarantine Period
Should students need to quarantine due to possible COVID-19 exposure, we are required to provide some form of appropriate education while they are not physically attending school. The District is still exploring various instructional models to accommodate students’ needs in the event they are required to quarantine for an extended period.
While the District will not require students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the upcoming school year, it is recommended that individuals 12 years old and above get vaccinated as soon as possible. We urge families to contact their pediatrician or primary healthcare provider to ask questions about COVID-19 vaccine options. Although not 100% effective in preventing COVID-19, the available vaccines are the best layer of protection to mitigate the harmful effects of this virus (i.e., hospitalization and death) and remain our best option to minimize disruptions in our educational programs.
Thank you for your ongoing patience and we hope you continue enjoying your summer. We will issue another update as more reopening information becomes available.