Letter from Dr. Godshall In Regards COVID-19
October 1, 2021
Dear Orleans/Niagara BOCES Community:
As we complete our first month back with students, I want to thank you all for the incredible work you've done to start this 2021-22 school year. I know the new school year has not started out quite like we hoped it would, but you have continued to demonstrate the hard work, tenacity and creative energy that so defines our staff and students. I hope that these first few weeks have gone well for you, and I look forward to seeing your efforts in action in the coming weeks and months advancing your ongoing successes.
The pandemic has highlighted the work of all who have adapted and adjusted in contributing to the success of the clients we serve, through instruction, cleaning, payroll and operations to name a few.
We see every day that our children benefit most from in-person instruction and face-to-face daily interactions with their teachers and peers. We are aware that our youngest learners and some with special needs struggle without in-person learning. 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 nimble in case of issues.
Compliance with the New York State Public Health guidance has required testing for those unvaccinated or undisclosed staff members. The Niagara County Department of Health has established free Saturday testing for school employees. Those results, along with the COVID tests from staff that have obtained testing elsewhere, keep all safe and meet the NYS requirements. Indoor mask requirements while uncomfortable, also help to keep all safe. Despite adherence to requirements, we do have incidents of positive COVID cases that are necessitating contact tracing and/or room closures. Thanks for being flexible as conditions change.
Out of an abundance of caution and based upon the recommendations from the New York State Education Department, Departments of Health, our insurance providers, and other knowledgeable agencies, we continue to follow our safety protocols. In making our decisions, we are monitoring local data supplied to us by the County Departments of Health, 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 a mask at all times, with frequent room mask breaks
- Bus Travel
o Masks will be worn on buses by both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff.
- Safety Protocols
o The 3-foot social distancing guidance will be followed whenever practicable
o All other safety protocols (frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high touch surfaces, etc.) will continue as currently in place.
- Outside on School Property
o Masks are not required to be worn outside while on school property by either vaccinated or unvaccinated students and staff.
- Inside School Buildings
o Masks will be worn by vaccinated and unvaccinated staff, students and visitors.
While the COVID-19 transmission rates have not fallen, I am optimistic that we will see improvement before December.
Throughout the pandemic, we have made it our #1 priority to get our students and staff back in BOCES safely, in person, every day; and that remains our goal.
I praise all as we continue to diligently follow our health and safety protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the variants.
Clark J. Godshall
Clark J. Godshall, Ed.D.