Highland School Board of Education discussed COVID-19 updates and protocols for students and faculty heading into the new school year at last Wednesday’s meeting.
Highland schools officially opened their doors and started the new academic year on Tuesday. With the current pandemic on-going and the Delta variant causing concern, the precautionary measures taken for a healthy and safe school year were a top priority. Assistant Superintendent Sarah Dudley-Lemek provided new protocols and updates that were sent out and received Thursday, Sept. 2 by the New York State Department of Health.
According to Dudley-Lemek, the district is also working closely with the Ulster County Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I can’t stress enough, vaccination is one of the best ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Dudley-Lemek said during the meeting.
According to Dudley-Lemek, for the students and faculty returning with the current pandemic ongoing, masks must be worn at all times in the building by all, covering the nose and mouth. Once outside, the masks do not have to be worn.
In the buildings themselves, three feet is the recommended measurement for social distancing, if possible. However, in certain circumstances, three feet is not possible, but the board will look into how to best go about that.
Adults must continue to remain six feet apart from other adults and students. Students will have the opportunity to take off their masks while they eat in the lunchroom, with plastic dividers already in place.
With contact tracing, the amount of time to determine exposure is 10 - 15 minutes. With students and faculty covered for most of the day, these protocols should reduce the need to quarantine. If a vaccinated individual is exposed and not displaying any symptoms, then the individual does not need to be quarantined, according to Dudley-Lemek. This would apply for students above the age of 12 and adults. Those unvaccianted and who may be exposed, which includes the majority of the elementary population, will need to quarantine.
Quarantine is still 10 days. Unvaccinated and unmasked individuals cannot come back to campus before the 10 days are done, even if you have negative test results, according to Dudley-Lemek.
For student transportation, in most cases, there are two children to a seat, but masks will be worn at all times as well. Additionally, assigned seating is being used on the buses.
In addition to these updates, the New York State Department of Health has also mandated that for unvaccinated faculty and staff, screening will occur on a weekly basis.
All employees have the option to be tested weekly if they so choose. If faculty and staff, who are currently vaccinated and do not want to be tested weekly, they must provide proof of vaccination to their respective building health offices.
If the person is unvaccinated, there is no exception to the weekly testing. The Ulster County Department of Health will be administering the test, supplying people to administer and testing will be done on site.
For students, testing will be offered to unvaccinated students. This is a voluntary program, according to Dudley-Lemek, where parents will be able to opt into this program. Parents will sign a form for their students to be weekly tested.
These updates and notices will be sent to the students and families the following day and posted on the school website.