Update on Lift of Masking Mandate

Good Afternoon,

Welcome back, Honeoye! I hope everyone enjoyed February Break and carved out time with loved ones and friends. The break was a great time to recharge and to re-energize for the remaining few months of winter. I am reaching out this afternoon to provide an update specific to the lifting of the NYS masking mandate and the resulting shift in our masking protocols, effective Wednesday, March 2.

As I shared with you on Sunday, the mask mandate will end in New York State schools, effective March 2. The masking mandate lift is applicable to school transportation and to participation in extracurricular activities.

The Governor’s lift of the masking mandate follows the CDC release of new metrics and guidance specific to COVID-19 management. Within these guidance documents, counties designated as green (low) or yellow (moderate) risk of COVID-19 transmission and/or hospitalization are no longer being recommended/ required to wear masks in schools. In counties where the risk is classified as red (high), the CDC is still recommending that individuals wear masks in schools.

Please note that the CDC updated their metrics/ monitoring of COVID-19 transmission rates and resulting impact on our communities.  A county’s community level is now designated as low, medium, or high (find Ontario County’s level). Per updated information on the CDC website, the new metric for determining a community’s level is determined by evaluation of the following data:
  • How many people with COVID-19 have been admitted into local hospitals in the last week
  • How many local hospital beds are filled with COVID-19 patients
  • How many new COVID-19 cases the county has had in the last week
The CDC continues to recommend certain prevention measures based on a community’s transmission level:
On Monday, February 28, school leaders from across Ontario County met with our County Administrator and Director of Public Health. Given that Ontario County currently has a HIGH designation for community transmission level, county officials strongly recommend the wearing of a facemask until we shift to a GREEN or YELLOW zone designation.

Consistent with our approach throughout the pandemic, and given the totality of information at our purview (revised CDC guidance, Ontario County position statement, current designation of our county as a “Red” transmission zone, legal, medical and insurance consult), the Honeoye Central School District will shift to a “masking recommended,” but not required, approach for our families, faculty and staff, regardless of vaccination status, effective Wednesday, March 2.  We do, however, strongly encourage our families and staff members to assess risk and to make a determination around masking which best meets need and circumstance for individual(s).  As alluded to above, when the county reaches green or yellow zone designation of transmission, our position will be strictly “masking optional.”

Regardless of zone designation and status of "masking recommended" or "masking optional," the Honeoye Central School District will not tolerate any pressure, harassment, or judgment placed upon another person because of their decision to wear or not to wear a mask. We must continue to treat one another with respect, grace, and dignity. This has been a very hard time for all of us regardless of what side of the mask debate you fall on. The strength, unity and pride of our community will only be as healthy as our collective support of one another.  Code of Conduct provisions specific to harassment and/ or other misconduct around masking choice are applicable. Building level administrators should be alerted surrounding problematic exchanges specific to masking choice.

This shift in masking protocol will likely be met with mixed favor, as some community members will embrace the change and some may not. Please rest assured, HCS will continue to apply measures which mitigate the risk of COVID in our setting. Additionally:
  • HCS has a significant inventory of rapid COVID-19 test kits available. Should any of our HCS families or staff members need to obtain one, they may simply make the request at the Health Office.
  • HCS is amassing a supply of KN95 masks for availability to our staff and students. These masks have been indicated to best protect the wearer from transmission.   KN95 masks are available for pick up in each of our school main offices, the Health Office and at the District Office entry of our campus. 
  • We will continue to focus on healthy air flow in our buildings including slightly opened windows and utilization of the best possible air filtration systems.
We expect that we will receive an updated guidance document from the NYS Department of Health outlining additional updates either this evening or tomorrow. At such time, the district will provide the HCS community any new information available surrounding quarantine, isolation, test to stay, etc.  We also hope to provide responses soon to questions and concerns noted in our 2/18 Input Request survey.

Thank you again for your patience and support throughout the pandemic.  It is the sincerest hope we move forward this week in renewed hope for a return to greater normalcy.

Warmest regards,
E. Bridget Ashton

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