New guidance for in-person instruction, social distancing, and reopening schools was released late on Friday evening. The new state guidance aligns with the CDC guidance that was released on March 19, 2021. Key components of the new state guidance include:
• The physical distance requirements between students in classrooms has been reduced to three feet.
• Physical barriers are no longer recommended when social distancing can not be maintained. A preferred strategy is “enhanced” ventilation and air filtration.
• Face masks are required at all times-except when eating. Six feet distance must be maintained during meals or snacks. The implication for this may be that lunches and snacks can not be eaten in classes that have reduced distance to three feet.
• Six feet distance is required between adults.
• Masks must be worn at all times on buses and “individuals should maintain appropriate physical distancing, unless they are members of the same household.”
• Six feet distance must be maintained for participation in activities that require projecting the voice or playing wind instruments. This distance must be maintained the audience and performers.
• Six feet must be maintained in common areas.
• The CDC also recommended levels of indicators for thresholds of community transmission. (See Table 1 in CDC Guidance). Schools in areas with low and moderate risk of transmission may maintain the reduced distancing of three feet. Elementary schools in areas with high transmission may maintain three feet. Middle and high schools in areas of high transmission should use cohorting or return to six feet distance.
• All schools/districts must have a mandatory face mask policy.
• Other mitigation strategies such as cleaning protocols, daily screening and testing must be maintained.
**Prior to making changes to reduce physical distancing the community must have the opportunity to provide feedback. Schools must provide that opportunity to parents, community members, teachers, staff, and local department of health.
SAANYS will continue to work with the NYSDOH to clarify information or questions that you may have. We will also be sure to inform you of any further communications regarding vaccinations or testing protocols.