2021-2022 Reopening Plan

ADDENDUM AS OF September 6, 2021

On September 2, 2021, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) issued, INTERIM NYSDOH GUIDANCE FOR CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION IN P-12 SCHOOLS DURING THE 2021-2022 ACADEMIC YEAR.  In this document the DOH recognized that, “opening pre-kindergarten through Grade 12 schools for in- person instruction is critical to student health, well-being, academic success, and social functioning.”  The DOH went on to say that “the State is committed to prioritizing in-person learning while adhering to multiple mitigation strategies that include vaccination, the appropriate use of face masks, physical distancing and screening testing to monitor transmission and inform local public health actions.”

We therefore have added the following, more specific guidance to our reopening plan. 

Vaccines:

Ulster BOCES will support opportunities for students and staff to access COVID-19 vaccination clinics in collaboration with local health partners as needed (e.g., the LHD, local hospitals, private providers, pharmacies, etc.). The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They offer the benefit of helping to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections, including the Delta variant, which is a critical component to protecting public health.

Masks:

  1. In accordance with the Commissioner’s determination issued pursuant to 10 NYCRR 2.60, all Ulster BOCES students, personnel, teachers, administrators, contractors, and visitors must always wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
  2. People with medical or developmental conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask may be exempted from mask requirements, as documented by a medical provider.
  3. People do not need to wear masks when eating, drinking, singing, or playing a wind instrument; when masks are removed for these purposes, individuals must be spaced six feet apart. This may mean that meals cannot be eaten in classrooms that have been arranged to accommodate shorter distances between students during instruction time. Students should not be excluded from in-person learning to meet a minimum distance requirement.
  4. All mask requirements will be applied consistently with any state and federal law (e.g., Americans with Disabilities Act).

Physical Distancing:

Because of the importance of in-person learning, Ulster BOCES will implement physical distancing to the extent possible within our structures, consistent with the following, but we will not exclude students from in-person learning to meet a minimum distance requirement.

  1.  A distance of at least 3 feet is strongly recommended between all students.
  2. A distance of at least 6 feet is recommended between students and teachers/staff, and between teachers/staff who are not fully vaccinated.
  3. Universal masking is required according to the Commissioner’s masking determination issued pursuant to 10 NYCRR 2.60 for indoor settings. Should there be a time when the determination for universal masking in schools is lifted, masking must occur when physical distance cannot be maintained. 
  4. Maximize physical distance as much as possible when moving through the food service line and while eating (especially indoors).  Ulster BOCES may use additional spaces outside of the cafeteria for mealtime seating such as the gymnasium or outdoor seating can help facilitate distancing.

Quarantine and Close Contacts:

Consistent with CDC guidance, all “close contacts” with someone with COVID must quarantine unless they are fully vaccinated.

People who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 unless they also present possible symptoms of infection; however, they should be tested 3-5 days after exposure and must wear a mask indoors for 14 days or until they receive a negative diagnostic test result.

In general, a “close contact” is anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person (laboratory-confirmed) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes).

However, in the P-12 indoor classroom setting, the CDC specifies that students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed) where both students were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting masks are not considered close contacts. This exception to the close contact definition does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.

Ulster BOCES will provide remote instruction to any student who is quarantined or who has displayed symptoms and have been excluded from school.

Return to School for Individuals Displaying Symptoms of COVID-19 Regardless of Vaccination Status:

All Ulster BOCES school students, teachers, and staff with new or worsening symptoms of COVID-19 must be excluded from school, regardless of vaccination status, and either

a.)  provide a negative COVID test (NAAT or PCR) result, or

b.)  remain excluded from school for a minimum of 10 calendar days from symptom onset, prior to returning to school. If student, teacher, or staff symptoms are improving AND they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicines, they may return to school with either a note from the healthcare provider indicating the test was negative OR a copy of the negative test result. Given the growing prevalence of breakthrough infections among vaccinated populations nationwide, there is no recommended exemption for symptomatic vaccinated individuals. 

If student, teacher, or staff symptoms are improving AND they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicines, they may return to school with either a note from the healthcare provider indicating the test was negative OR a copy of the negative test result.

Given the growing prevalence of breakthrough infections among vaccinated populations nationwide, there is no recommended exemption for symptomatic vaccinated people.

COVID-19 Test Recommendations:

Nucleic acid amplification tests (known as NAATs, such as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR tests) are the most sensitive type of test available and the best option for ensuring that symptomatic people with COVID-19 are excluded from school. The Department expectation is that all schools require a negative NAAT result for people with new or worsening symptoms of COVID-19 to return to school.

However, the Department recognizes that antigen tests are widely available and may produce results faster than NAATs; however, these tests are generally less sensitive than NAATs and can fail to detect cases of COVID-19 in symptomatic individuals. The Department further recognizes that in some circumstances the public health benefits of requiring a negative NAAT might be outweighed by the negative effects of lost educational opportunity while people are excluded from school pending the NAAT result. Therefore, when the following criteria apply, schools may require a negative antigen test result rather than a negative NAAT test result for people with new or worsening symptoms to return to school (in all other cases, a NAAT, such as PCR, may be required to return to school, along with meeting other requirements based on school policies and the specific situation, such as quarantine)

i.       The rates of COVID-19 in the county are low. 

As of September 6th, the rate in Ulster County is HIGH, as such only a PCR test will be accepted. 

ii.    The school is not experiencing an active, ongoing outbreak.

iii.   The individual in question does not have known exposure to COVID-19, has not had a fever during the illness, and does not have symptoms that increase the likelihood that the illness is COVID-19 (i.e., loss of taste or smell).

iv.  Should Ulster BOCES permit symptomatic to return to school with a negative antigen test, we will must:

  • Ensure that they Meet other school or district requirements to attend school after illness,
  • Not have a runny nose or cough severe enough to make mask wear difficult or unhygienic, and
  • The school or district has sought input from and discussed the risks and benefits of this option with parents, teachers, and the school community at large.
  • The school/district has educated families about:
  • The possibility of missing a case of COVID-19 using antigen tests and the possible preference for NAAT testing for reasons other than school attendance.
  • The advantages of keeping children with non-COVID-19 illnesses at home to prevent transmission of these illnesses to other children, who then would need COVID-19 testing, and
  • The practice of accepting a negative antigen test result in a symptomatic person as a conclusive indication of the absence of COVID-19 infection is inconsistent with NYSDOH and CDC guidance.

Exceptions to the testing requirement set forth above include:

i.   Individuals with symptoms that are attributable to pre-existing medical conditions (e.g., migraines, allergies) and are not new or worsening do not require school exclusion; or

ii.  If the Health Care Provider (HCP) provides a diagnosis of a known chronic condition with unchanged symptoms, or a confirmed acute illness (examples: laboratory-confirmed influenza, strep-throat) AND COVID- 19 is not suspected, then a note signed by their HCP explaining the alternate diagnosis is required before a student, teacher or staff member may be allowed to return to school. Such individuals may return to school according to the usual guidelines for that diagnosis.

COVID-19 Testing:

1. According to the Commissioner’s testing determination issued pursuant to 10 NYCRR 2.62, schools must have the capacity (either directly on-site or via referral) to provide diagnostic testing for any students, teachers, and staff who, regardless of vaccination status and community level of transmission per the CDC, are

a) Symptomatic; or

b) Asymptomatic following exposure to someone with COVID-19.

Ulster BOCES is working with the Ulster County Department of Health to ensure that the required testing is available.

2. No Exposure/No Symptoms: Screening testing refers to the testing of asymptomatic individuals even if there is no reason to suspect infection. Schools must establish the capability to conduct or offer screening testing according to the Commissioner’s testing determination issued pursuant to 10 NYCRR 2.62. Schools have flexibility in how they operationalize screening testing.

a)   On-Site Testing at Schools: Schools needs to be registered as a limited-service laboratory (LSL) to perform waived rapid point-of-care testing using molecular or antigen tests.

b)   Ulster BOCES school nurses are trained to administer the antigen test (BINEX Now, rapid tests).  Parents will be offered the opportunity to have their students tested at an Ulster BOCES instructional site for either screening or return to school after contact purposes.  This will be made available to students in attendance at CITL-PE, CITL-AD, Camp Ramapo.  Permission slip must be in hand before any testing of a student can take place.   

COMMON SITUATIONS:

An individual arrives at school and is determined to be symptomatic.

Ulster BOCES Response: 

  1. The symptomatic individual will be sent home and directed to contact their health care provider.  They will not be able to return to school until they present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test, or until they have waited 10 days from the onset of the symptoms. 
  2. We will notify all parents of students who were in contact with that symptomatic individual of that fact and advise them to monitor their student for symptoms.  Students without symptoms will be able to continue to attend school.  If a student develops symptoms, they should stay home. 
  3. Should the symptomatic individual test positive for COVID-19 then all close contacts will be advised of this and will be directed to stay home, contact their health care provider, and monitor for symptoms.  It is likely that the Department of Health contact tracers will be in contact with you.   
  4. Remote instruction will be provided for students who are required to stay home.   

The Guidance from NYS DOH states:

All school students, teachers, and staff with new or worsening symptoms of COVID-19 must be excluded from school, regardless of vaccination status, and either:

a. (a) provide a negative COVID test result, or

b. (b) remain excluded from school for a minimum of 10 calendar days from symptom onset, prior to returning to school. If student, teacher, or staff symptoms are improving AND they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicines, they may return to school with either a note from the healthcare provider indicating the test was negative OR a copy of the negative test result. Given the growing prevalence of breakthrough infections among vaccinated populations nationwide, there is no recommended exemption for symptomatic vaccinated individuals. 

c. If student, teacher, or staff symptoms are improving AND they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicines, they may return to school with either a note from the healthcare provider indicating the test was negative OR a copy of the negative test result.

d. Given the growing prevalence of breakthrough infections among vaccinated populations nationwide, there is no recommended exemption for symptomatic vaccinated people.

A staff member has COVID-like symptoms, either leaves during the day or calls it in?

Ulster BOCES Response: We will follow the same procedures for students and staff.  The guidance states:

Return to School for Individuals Displaying Symptoms of COVID-19 Regardless of Vaccination Status

 All school students, teachers, and staff with new or worsening symptoms of COVID-19 must be excluded from school, regardless of vaccination status, and either

a. provide a negative COVID test result, or

b. remain excluded from school for a minimum of 10 calendar days from symptom onset, prior to returning to school. If student, teacher, or staff symptoms are improving AND they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicines, they may return to school with either a note from the healthcare provider indicating the test was negative OR a copy of the negative test result. Given the growing prevalence of breakthrough infections among vaccinated populations nationwide, there is no recommended exemption for symptomatic vaccinated individuals. 

c. If student, teacher, or staff symptoms are improving AND they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicines, they may return to school with either a note from the healthcare provider indicating the test was negative OR a copy of the negative test result.

d. Given the growing prevalence of breakthrough infections among vaccinated populations nationwide, there is no recommended exemption for symptomatic vaccinated people.

 

 

Ulster BOCES Opening Plan 2021-2022

The guidance document issued by the CDC for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools recommends that schools implement layered prevention strategies against COVID-19.  Ulster BOCES will implement these strategies as well as guidance received from state or county officials as described below for the opening of school in September 2021. Guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics is also incorporated. 

Vaccinations

Ulster BOCES shall coordinate with all component districts to promote vaccinations of all eligible individuals.  We shall place the links to the county vaccination site prominently on our website, and we shall message the importance of being vaccinated to keeping consistent and on-going in-person instruction a reality.

Ulster BOCES will require staff who are fully vaccinated to provide proof of their vaccination status to the school nurse who shall maintain such a record in the employee’s secure confidential file.  In locations where there is no school nurse present, staff members shall provide proof of their vaccination status to the Office of the District Superintendent who shall maintain such record in a secure confidential file.  (See Screening Testing section for further information). Unvaccinated staff will participate (subject to negotiation) in a screening testing program on a weekly basis as outlined in the section below titled: Screening Testing to Identify Cases, Cluster and Outbreaks.

On August 18, 2021, the NYS Commissioner of Health directed that, all persons employed or affiliated with a covered entity (general hospital or nursing home), whether paid or unpaid, including but not limited to members of the medical and nursing staff, contract staff, students and volunteers who engage in activities such that if they were infected with COVID-19, they could potentially expose patients, residents or personnel working for such entity to the disease,” must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the first dose for current personnel received by September 27, 2021.  As such, all students, including CTE, Adult Education, and the requisite teaching and supervisory staff, whose program requires their presence in a general hospital setting or nursing home, must comply with this order and be fully vaccinated with the first dose administered by September 27, 2021.  Such individuals must provide proof of vaccination to the school nurse in CTE or to the Director of Adult Education who will transmit proof the CTE nurse.  

On August 25, 2021, Jami Capuano, Vice President, SUNY Ulster, indicated that the following SUNY Ulster Policy applies to our HVPA students: SUNY Ulster students have until September 28, 2021, to receive both doses of Pfizer or Moderna or the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccination.  If you choose not to obtain your second dose or one-shot (J & J) by September 28, 2021, you will not be able to come to campus for any reason, including attending classes and/or accessing any on-campus service or resource.

Learn How to Get Vaccinated! It's Free!

Consistent and Correct Mask Use

Indoors:

All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, shall be required to wear a mask while indoors.  Students shall be provided with outdoor mask breaks during which they will be socially distanced.  Such mask breaks shall be scheduled by the administration. 

Vaccinated office staff MAY remove their masks when there are no individuals present in their office space, or if in an open office stetting, when there are no individuals within six (6) feet.

Unvaccinated office staff shall wear masks indoors, always.

Outdoors:  

Regardless of vaccination status, individuals should maintain social distancing while outdoors.  Vaccinated individuals should wear a mask when they are in crowded settings outdoors, particularly if they come from a household where someone is immunocompromised, or if unvaccinated individuals are in their household.  Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask outdoors, unless they are on a scheduled mask break during which they must maintain a distance of no less than six (6) feet from other individuals.  

Physical Distancing

Masks are an essential factor in mitigating the spread of the virus, and in allowing for a reduction in the social distance requirements.  Since we are requiring all students and staff to wear a mask, as noted above, Ulster BOCES will maintain a social distance of three (3) feet between students.  Ulster BOCES will maintain a social distance of six (6) feet between any student, who because of a documented medical condition is unable to tolerate wearing a mask.  Ulster BOCES will require a distance of six (6) feet be maintained between students and teachers and other school staff regardless of their vaccination status.  

Screening Testing to Identify Cases, Cluster and Outbreaks

Screening testing identifies infected individuals, including those with or without symptoms (or before the development of symptoms) who may be contagious, so that measures can be taken to prevent further transmission.

At Ulster BOCES all unvaccinated staff shall, subject to negotiations, participate in a screening process on a weekly basis, depending on the availability of testing supplies.  Such staff members shall report to their school nurse who will administer a rapid test at no cost to the staff member.  Screening tests shall be administered by an approved school nurse who shall take all necessary steps to ensure the confidentiality of the results.  In locations where there is no school nurse, such staff shall go to the nearest Ulster BOCES building to have their test administered.  

Staff members who are fully vaccinated and if they have no symptoms do not have to participate in the screening process. (The process is subject to collective bargaining so this may be modified as a result of those conversations)

In consultation with our component districts, we will, as necessary, make provisions to offer screening tests to students who have not been fully vaccinated.  

All students and staff will be required to complete a screening questionnaire (app) prior to entering the building.  They must display the entry screen to the appropriate school personnel upon entry.  In cases where it is not age-appropriate to expect completion of the screening questionnaire, parents or caregivers must submit an attestation on a weekly basis to the designated building leader, attesting to the fact that that they have and will complete the necessary checks on a daily basis before sending their child to school, and that they would keep their child home if they displayed any of the signs or symptoms of the virus.  

Ventilation

Improving ventilation is an important COVID-19 prevention strategy that can reduce the number of virus particles in the air.  Wherever appropriate, doors and windows shall be kept open. In addition, all classrooms have been equipped with air purifies with appropriate filtration systems to filter out viral particles.  We may supplement these efforts by using child-safe fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows.  

Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette

Ulster BOCES will continue to reinforce proper handwashing and respiratory etiquette.  In addition to handwashing, hand sanitizers shall be provided throughout all sites.  

Staying Home When Sick and Getting Tested

Students, teachers, and staff who have symptoms of any infectious illness such as influenza or COVID-19, should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care regardless of their vaccination status.  Staying home when one has symptoms, especially with COVID-19 symptoms, is essential to keeping such infections out of our schools and to allow our programs to run in an uninterrupted fashion.   This messaging shall be regularly communicated to students and staff.  We will work with our union leadership and program and building leadership to develop agency consistent, supportive, non-punitive practices to encourage symptomatic workers and students to stay home when symptomatic or sick.  Once developed, we will make sure that such practices are widely disseminated to all involved parties.   

Getting tested for COVID-19 when symptoms are compatible with COVID-19 will help with rapid contact tracing and prevent spread at schools or within the agency.  

Contact Tracing in Combination with Isolation and Quarantine

Ulster BOCES will continue our existing collaboration with the Ulster County Department of Health regarding our mitigation efforts and any suspected cases of COVID-19.

At the present time we are following the CDC guidance as directed by the NYS Department of Health and the Ulster County Department of Health.  This guidance indicates:

Close contacts who are fully vaccinated be referred for COVID-19 testing.  A PCR test should be taken 3-5 days after exposure.  If asymptomatic, fully vaccinated close contacts do not need to quarantine at home following an exposure (they can continue to attend in -person and participate in other activities).  In addition to correctly wearing a mask in school, they should wear a mask in other indoor public settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative COVID-19 test results.  

Close contacts who are not fully vaccinated should be referred for COVID-19 testing.  Regardless of test results, they should quarantine at home for 14 days after exposure.  Local public health authorities determine and establish the quarantine options for their jurisdictions. CDC currently recommends a quarantine period of 14 days. However, based on local circumstances and resources, the following options to shorten quarantine are acceptable alternatives.

  •  Quarantine can end after Day 10 without testing and if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring.  Such an early release from quarantine will be directed by the Department of Health.  
  • When diagnostic testing resources are sufficient and available), then quarantine can end after Day 7 if a diagnostic specimen tests negative and if no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring. The specimen may be collected and tested within 48 hours before the time of planned quarantine discontinuation (e.g., in anticipation of testing delays), but quarantine cannot be discontinued earlier than after Day 7.  

Here again, the decision to release an individual from quarantine will be at the discretion of the Department of Health.  

Cleaning and Disinfection

The CDC has indicated that cleaning once a day is usually sufficient to remove potential virus that may be on a surface. We will continue our regular daily and evening cleaning, with more frequent disinfecting particularly of high touch surfaces in student-occupied sites.   

This plan once adopted will be distributed (electronically) to all staff and all parents of students in any of our K-12 programs, and adult students, and will be posted on our website as well. 


Respectfully submitted,


Charles V. Khoury, Ed.D.
District Superintendent