Dear Ichabod Crane Community,
Throughout the pandemic our top priorities have been to protect the health and safety of our students and staff, and to maximize in-person learning. To that end, we have consistently relied on and followed guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), State and Local Departments of Health and the State Education Department.
On Friday, February 25, 2022, the CDC made substantial changes to key pieces of its guidance. This includes updated masking recommendations on school grounds and school buses based on a new community rate metric. The CDC now recommends masking in indoor settings, including schools, only in areas with a high community rate. The CDC looks at the combination of three metrics to determine this rate — new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days — to determine the COVID-19 community level. As of today, the COVID-19 community level for Columbia County is considered low.
In follow up to this announcement, at a press conference this afternoon, Governor Hochul lifted the mask mandate in schools effective Wednesday, March 2. Therefore masks will no longer be mandated in schools or on school buses in all counties within New York State. She cited the revised CDC guidance as well as multiple metrics for making this decision including:
- a 1.7% state average positivity rate down from a high in January of 23%
- a 98% drop in cases since January
- currently 229 cases in children ages 5-18 statewide down from a high of 14,167 in January
- a sustained downward trend in hospitalization rates over the last 48 days
- New York State is among highest vaccination rates in the country
Please note that masks are still required in school and on school buses on Monday and Tuesday.
Throughout the pandemic we have worked collaboratively with the local DOH, surrounding school districts, our school nurses, teachers and support staff to provide the safest environment for all of our students. Together, we have continued to watch the metrics locally and all of our decisions regarding COVID-19 mitigation have been made in order to protect the health and safety of our school community. We are fortunate as a district that there has been limited spread associated within our schools and our vaccination rates among faculty and students are strong and continue to increase. For these reasons combined with the metrics shared by the Governor, we are in agreement with her decision that starting on Wednesday, March 2nd, wearing a mask will be optional in our schools. As this becomes a personal choice, we encourage you to make a decision about masks that is best for you and your family
We respect everyone’s right to choose for themselves based on personal circumstances and an individual’s comfort level. We ask parents and guardians to please speak with their child about personal choice and respect for each other’s decisions. We will not tolerate any bullying of students or staff who choose to either continue or not continue to wear a mask.
As always we also ask that you continue to remain vigilant in your efforts to help us mitigate any potential spread of COVID in schools. Prior to the break, we distributed at-home test kits to staff and to families and we encourage everyone to test this evening or first thing tomorrow morning prior to returning back to school tomorrow, February 28. Anyone testing positive, or experiencing symptoms of COVID should isolate at home and contact their school’s health office. Your continued partnership in remaining vigilant around COVID will allow us to keep our schools open for in-person instruction.
We anticipate updated guidance from New York State addressing how this change in masking might impact other health and safety protocols. We will review this closely and plan to reconvene our health and safety committee to examine remaining restrictions based on updated local metrics and NYS requirements.
Thank you for your continued patience, cooperation and understanding. This has been an extremely difficult two years, but working together has allowed us to successfully take on each new challenge presented by the pandemic. We will share any additional information as it evolves, and we look forward to welcoming back our students and faculty tomorrow morning.
Superintendent of Schools