School 2020 Reopening FAQs
The page will be updated as we receive the latest information from the New York State Department of Health and New York State Education of Department.
Social Distancing and Face Coverings
Wearing a mask and maintaining social distance not only protects you but everyone around you.
Q: Do students and staff have to maintain a 6-feet distance from others at all times?
A: Pursuant to New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) Guidance, schools must ensure that appropriate social distancing (i.e. 6 feet/barriers) is maintained between individuals while in school facilities and on school grounds (inclusive of students, faculty, and staff) unless safety or the core activity requires a shorter distance. Schools must maintain protocols and procedures for students, faculty, and staff to ensure appropriate social distancing to protect against the transmission of the COVID-19 virus when on school grounds and in school facilities, including the responsibility to configure spaces so individuals can maintain social distancing. As a baseline, face coverings are required to be worn any time or place that individuals cannot maintain appropriate social distancing. Further, face coverings are “strongly recommended” by the NYSDOH at all times, except for meals and instruction with appropriate social distancing. However, schools can require face coverings at all times, even during instruction; and it is strongly recommended in areas with higher rates of COVID-19 community infection.
Q: Can a district require that students and employees wear face coverings at all times?
A: Yes. The NYDOH “strongly recommends” that an acceptable face covering be worn by all individuals at all times. However, if face coverings are to be worn by all individuals at all times, districts should allow students to remove their face covering during meals, instruction, and for short breaks so long as they maintain appropriate social distance. Please note that, in its School Reopening FAQ revised on July 22, 2020, NYSED stated, “schools can require face coverings at all times, even during instruction; and it is strongly recommended in areas with higher rates of COVID-19 community infection.”
Q: Are students required to wear masks and social distance on a school bus?
A: All students are required to wear a mask and should maintain appropriate social distancing. The only exception to the mask requirement is that students whose physical or mental health would be impaired by wearing a mask are not required to do so, but must maintain social distancing of 6 feet from other individuals on the bus.
Q: Are cloth face masks acceptable face coverings?
A: Per the NYSDOH Guidance, acceptable face coverings include but are not limited to cloth-based face coverings (e.g. homemade sewn, quick cut, bandana) and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose.
Q: How can a school district enforce its requirements that face coverings be worn?
A: Students: Should a student willfully and knowingly violate the district’s face covering requirements, the student will first be directed to wear a face covering, and if the student does not have one from home, be provided with one. Should the student refuse the directive to wear a face covering, the student may receive age-appropriate consequences using the progressive levels of discipline found in the district’s Code of Conduct.
Employees: Should an employee willfully violate a district’s face covering requirements, such employee will be directed to wear a face covering and provided with one. Should the employee disobey the directive to wear a face covering, the employee may be disciplined as provided for under New York State Law and/or relevant collective bargaining agreement.
Visitors/Vendors: Should anyone entering or on school facilities and/or school grounds violate the district’s face covering requirements, they should be directed to wear a face covering to remain on school facilities/grounds. If they refuse, they can be asked to leave the school facilities/grounds.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Q: What are the cleaning protocols for the schools?
A: The Facilities Task Group has developed a plan that provides for the daily disinfection of all District spaces. The District has invested in equipment to make disinfection more efficient and effective. The disinfection protocols follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for cleaning.
Q: Are students required to be socially distant while consuming meals in the cafeteria or classroom?
A: Students must be 6 feet apart or be separated by a barrier while consuming meals.
Students with Disabilities
Q: What kind of accommodations should be provided to students who are at high risk themselves or live with a person at high risk for developing severe complications if they contract COVID-19?
A: Schools must develop protocols for providing accommodations to students who are themselves at high risk or who live with someone who is at high risk. The determination of accommodations will be made on an individual basis. The risk may be sufficiently mitigated for some students by taking extra precautions, such as additional or more specialized PPE (masks, gowns, gloves, N95s), use of physical barriers, etc. A student who is immunocompromised may require remote instruction. For a student with a disability, the District may consider appropriate options for maintaining the student in his/her least restrictive environment to the extent possible.
Q: If schools are open using a hybrid model, can a district have certain students with disabilities attend every day?
A: The NYSED Reopening Guidance provides that, when using a phased-in in-person or hybrid instructional model, schools may consider if certain students should be given priority for more frequent in-person instruction. The determination should be based on educational or other needs. Those prioritized may include students in early grades, students with disabilities, and English language learners.
Q: Must districts provide remote instruction for a student whose parents are afraid to send them to school, if neither the student nor anyone in the household, is at risk?
A: NYSED has not given any definitive answer to this question. The NYSED Reopening Guidance, under the heading “Medically Vulnerable/High-Risk Groups” states, “if the parents/guardians choose not to send their child back to school, schools will need to provide instruction remotely.” Generally, if a parent refuses to send a student to school, the parent would either have to home school the student or, ultimately, the school, as a mandated reporter, would have to report potential educational neglect. In this regard, however, the NYSED Reopening Guidance indicates that schools should not make a report of neglect regarding a child who is not attending school because the parent believes it to be unsafe due to the pandemic, and the child is participating in remote learning opportunities. We are awaiting definitive guidance.
Return to School After Illness
Q: What is required in order for students and staff who had symptoms of COVID- 19 to return to school?
A: Schools must establish policies in consultation with the local health department(s) about the requirements for determining when individuals, particularly students, who screen positive for COVID-19 symptoms can return to the in-person learning environment. This returning to learning protocol must include at a minimum, documentation of evaluation by a healthcare provider (healthcare provider note clearing a person to return to school), negative COVID-19 testing, and symptom resolution, or if COVID -19 positive, release from isolation as required by NYDOH and New York State Education Department (NYSED) Guidance.