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COVID Update from Dr. Godshall - District Superintendent

January 3, 2022

 

Dear Orleans/Niagara BOCES Community:

 

Happy New Year!  Yes, we have our COVID challenges but, we continue to move academic progress forward.  With the New Year comes the promise of better days.  I am certain that 2022 will bring us newfound successes and we will find time to celebrate together.  Our daily routines have become very smooth as we adhere to COVID mitigation strategies to help keep each other healthy and safe.

 

During the winter break, the COVID-19 infection rate unfortunately continues to worsen in Western New York.  It is more important than ever for students and staff to remain home when experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms.  We continue to strongly urge all who qualify to obtain a vaccination and the boosters.

 

Governor Hochul announced that New York State is shortening its COVID-19 quarantine requirements for unvaccinated employees and students who have been exposed to the virus.  The move aligns with recently updated guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Also, under recent New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) guidance, a fully vaccinated employee may return to work during isolation (after testing positive for COVID-19), provided that symptoms have improved.  

The Orleans/Niagara BOCES is assisting with the Test-to-Stay strategy by disbursing over 32,000 COVID test kits to our districts for distribution to their students.  With this strategy, any asymptomatic unvaccinated school-based close contacts (e.g. students,

teachers, school staff) can avoid school exclusion (but not other restrictions of

quarantine) by testing negative through serial testing using rapid NAAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) or antigen tests during a seven-day period following exposure. The exposed person must be tested a minimum of three times during a 7 day period following exposure. The person must test negative and be asymptomatic to return.  With the exception of attending school, the student/person is quarantined for all other activities, including extra-curricular activities.  Full implementation for this process is scheduled by the middle of January. 

 

We know that many families face challenges in providing care for children during the day, when parents and guardians must work.  We continue to conduct full-time instruction at all of our sites while staying keenly aware of the burden of isolating affected individuals.

 

The BOCES is working in conjunction with local health departments to provide pediatric COVID-19 vaccines for 5-11 year olds.  Vaccine appointments for children are readily available through pediatricians, pharmacies and other locations.  More detailed information can be found on the counties’ websites.  

 

 

 

 

We will continue to hold the health and safety of our students and staff, families and community as our highest priority.  Our students and staff are consistently following the COVID-19 mitigation steps.  Third-party vendors are conducting testing in various locations at the local school districts and BOCES.

 

Out of an abundance of caution, and based upon legal requirements and guidance  received from the New York State Education Department (NYSED), the state and local departments of health, our insurance providers, and other experts, we continue to follow our safety protocols.  In making our decisions, we are monitoring local data supplied to us by the county health departments, as well as statements issued by:

 

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant...CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status;” and
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): “All students older than two years and all school staff should wear face masks at school (unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use).”

 

Currently, our plans require the following protocols:

  • Wearing of masks at all times, while in rooms
    • Masks will be worn by vaccinated and unvaccinated staff, students and visitors at all times while indoors.
  • Masks are not required to be worn outside while on school property by either vaccinated or unvaccinated students and staff.
  • Bus Travel
  • Masks will be worn on buses by both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff.
  • Safety Protocols
  • The social distancing guidance (minimum of three feet between students in classrooms, minimum of six feet between persons in all other circumstances) will be followed whenever practicable.
  • All other safety protocols (cleaning and disinfecting of high touch

                surfaces, etc.) will continue as currently in place.

                         

Throughout the pandemic, we have made it our #1 priority for our students and staff to be in school every day -- and that remains our goal.

 

As the new year begins, I want to offer my sincerest gratitude to our educators, staff members, students and families.  Your ability to elevate the importance of learning while balancing the safety and the needs of all has not gone unnoticed. The challenges of the last year have tested our resolve.  Your resilience has been nothing short of amazing.  I am extremely proud of your hard work, compassion and determination.

 

 

Sincerely

C. Godshall

Clark J. Godshall, Ed.D.

District Superintendent/CEO