Important update about masks on school grounds
June 6, 2021
On Friday, we shared an update about wearing masks outdoors (see below). Moments after sharing that message, we received word that the NYS Department of Health wrote a letter to the CDC, asking for new guidance in order to waive the mask mandate indoors. Like you, I wondered how this letter would affect our school community. We have worked through the weekend to get clarification on what this means for our staff and students.
This afternoon, I received an update from the New York State Department of Education. The message reads, in part:
“SED has been in communication with Executive staff regarding the...letter from Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State Commissioner of Health. According to conversations with Executive staff, the intent of this letter was to obtain a response from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding differing standards for summer camps and schools; it has not changed any existing arrangements. Therefore, schools should continue to operate under their existing procedures until further notice. No changes have been, or will be, made by the Executive until after Monday June 7 to afford the CDC an opportunity to respond to the letter.”
It is possible the state will announce a change to the guidance soon, but until then, masks indoors are still required for all students and staff in Gates Chili schools and on Gates Chili buses.
That said, considering the expected high temperatures this week, I want to reiterate what I shared with staff last week: we will have frequent, safe mask and water breaks, and masks may be removed while outdoors if students are at least six feet apart.
We share your frustration with the confusion this has caused, and we want to thank you for your patience and understanding. We will continue to work with state officials to get you answers and will share those as soon as possible.
June 4, 2021
As we continue to advocate for informed and timely COVID-19 guidelines, we have an important update to share regarding masks:
- For the remainder of this school year, masking outdoors will no longer be required when adhering to social distancing of six feet or more. This includes physical education, recess and athletic events where social distancing is possible.
- Masking will continue to be required indoors and on every Gates Chili school bus.
- Students and staff who would like to continue to wear masks outdoors are welcome to do so and their choice will be supported.
Following consultation with local medical professionals and the ongoing review of CDC and state guidance, we feel this is an appropriate and safe next step to take. In addition, the upcoming predicted high temperatures, lack of any evidence of outdoor transmission at school, very low prevalence of school cases, absence of required outdoor masking in any other local context, and the continued drop in cases locally, are all factors that were considered in this decision.
Finally, in the coming weeks, we hope to share more details about plans for the fall. Thank you for your continued support and understanding as we navigate the ongoing complexities of this unique school year.