NYSDOH Interim Guidance for 100% In Person Instruction

Good Afternoon,

I hope that you are all enjoying the spectacular day that we are having here in the Finger Lakes! The POUND simply could not have a more beautiful backdrop today with the sunshine and blue skies.

As you are likely aware, late Friday afternoon the New York State Department of Health released anInterim Guidance for In Person Instruction During the COVID-19 Public Health Pandemic.   Key changes of the guidance include:
  • Schools/districts may choose to reduce physical distancing to no less than three feet between students during academic instruction, however:    
  • Schools/districts must follow CDC recommendations for physical distancing depending upon community transmission rates and grade levels. Important information on this below...
  • Schools must adhere to the exceptions where a minimum of six feet of distance must be maintained including:  
    • Six feet is always the required distancing between adults (teachers, staff, visitors) and between students and adults.
    • Six feet of distance is required when eating meals or snacks, or drinking, or other times masks must be removed. This may mean that meals cannot be eaten in classrooms that have been converted to three feet of physical distance during instruction time.  
    • Individuals participating in activities that require projecting the voice (e.g., singing) or playing a wind instrument must be six feet apart and there must be six feet of distance between the performers and the audience during performances and concerts.  Note: This is still a win for our music department because it allows for reducing social distancing from twelve feet to six feet!  
    • Six feet of physical distance must be maintained in common areas and outside of classrooms (e.g. lobbies, auditoriums, gymnasiums, cafeterias, and hallways), where possible.
    • Individuals should maintain appropriate physical distancing, unless they are members of the same household on the bus. Responsible Parties should encourage parents/legal guardians to drop off or walk students to school to reduce density on buses.
  • All schools/districts must have a mandatory face mask policy.
  • Physical barriers are no longer recommended by CDC.
  • Schools/districts should, at a minimum, follow CDC recommendations on testing in schools. Schools/districts moving to physical distancing of less than six feet should strongly consider implementing screening testing protocols to ensure monitoring.
As noted above, NYSDOH has included a provision in the reopening guidance which stipulates that schools must follow CDC recommendations for physical distancing depending upon community transmission rates and grade levels. Currently, the CDC has identified four levels of indicators and thresholds for community transmission of COVID-19.

Courtesy:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/operation-strategy.html
Given that data has demonstrated transmission risk ranges by the age of student, the CDC has additionally developed differing physical distancing requirements by grade level and community transmission risk:

Courtesy:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/operation-strategy.html
To determine a community's transmission rate, the CDC has created a site which provides data for monitoring the level of transmission in an area (and the nation). As of 8:00pm on 4/9/2021, Ontario County was identified as a HIGH LEVEL of Community Transmission: 
Courtesy: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view
Ultimately, the designation of HIGH Level of Community Transmission means that we are not positioned to reopen for 100% in person learning at this moment in time. Our 6-12 students change classes by period and are mixed for each class, which prohibits us from “cohorting” them like K-5 students. As such, our middle and high school students must continue to socially distance at six feet and we must remain open within our current mixed hybrid model of reopening at this time

The CDC site is updated daily to reflect current transmission data. We will continue to prepare for 100% in person learning as follows:
  • Monitor level of community transmission. If Ontario County shifts to a Substantial, Moderate, or Low transmission rate, per the NYSDOH guidelines and CDC requirements, we would then have a "green light" for relaxed social distancing in our upper grade levels.   
  • Thoroughly review the updated NYSDOH guidance.  The NYSDOH requires that school districts meet the minimum standards set forth in the Interim Guidance.  
  • Draft an HCS articulation document for a return to 100% in person instruction. The NYSDOH requires that districts submit comprehensive plans to our local OCDOH and SED to reopen for 100% in person instruction. 
  • Collaborate with our community. Invitations will be shared next week for members of the HCS learning community to engage with the district surrounding the development of a finalized reopening plan for 100% in person learning. 
Thank you for your patience and support as we continue to do our very best to safely bring students back for in-person instruction. The commitment of this community to students, teaching, learning and overall safety is a tremendous source of Bulldog PRIDE!  As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns about the information included in this communication, or otherwise.

Warmest regards,
E. Bridget Ashton

Elizabeth Bridget Ashton
Superintendent, Honeoye Central School District
8528 Main Street
Honeoye, New York 14471
On Twitter: @EBridgetAshton