Aug. 23: View the planning committee update from Dr. Kotes

Dear Goshen Schools family,

In response to the many challenges facing the new school year, the district formed a School Planning Committee in order to bring the voices of all district stakeholders to the table as we look to establish important health and safety guidelines for the 2021-22 school year.

Today, I’d like to provide an update for our Goshen Schools family, along with some background information pertaining to directives from the state.

State Guidance

On August 9, I met with several regional school superintendents, County Executive Stephen Neuhaus and Orange County Commissioner of Health Dr. Irina Gelman to review the latest recommendations from state and local agencies. At that time, all State health agencies stated that there will be no set guidance for schools and that decisions will be made at the local level.

In response, the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) then released its Health and Safety Guide for the 2021-22 School Year on August 12 based mainly on recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

To date, the recommendations include:

  • Universal indoor masking for all individuals regardless of vaccination status.
  • Masks are recommended outdoors for unvaccinated individuals.
  • Masks are recommended outdoors for all individuals regardless of vaccination status when in a high congregate setting.
  • In-person learning with several layers of safety protocols in place.
  • Physical distancing of at least three feet in between individuals in the classroom; at least six feet during meals.
  • Quarantine for unmasked persons in close contact with an infected individual, no matter vaccination status. No quarantine in instances of universal masking.

On August 18, Lieutenant Governor of New York Kathy Hochul stated that she plans to work with state health officials to mandate masks at schools. Hochul is set to take office on Tuesday, August 24.

School Opening Committee meetings summary

On August 10, 13 and 18, committee members reviewed and discussed the data, recommendations and guidelines from NYSDOH, NYSED, CDC, AAP, National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Orange County Department of Health (OCDOH). According to the Orange County NY COVID-19 Cases by Town digital map, Goshen currently has 44 active cases of COVID-19, while Orange County has 50,8837 positive cases of COVID-19 (as of Aug. 23).

The committee members shared meaningful dialogue about topics such as masking, social distancing, contact tracing and quarantine. The ultimate goal of each member is to have our students in school, in person five days a week.

With that in mind, the following guidelines will be set for 2021-22 unless mandates are provided by the state:

In-Person Instruction:

The district will open for five-day-a-week in-person learning on September 1, 2021. There is no hybrid or remote option for students. Remote learning will be available for students who may be required to quarantine.

Chromebook distribution for all students will occur in the beginning of the school year in order to accommodate any possible quarantines; details will be shared with families as soon as possible.

Physical distancing:

Students will maintain at least three feet of physical distance while in the classroom and six feet of physical distance while in the cafeteria as recommended by NYSED. All schools will be provided with large outdoor tents and furniture in order to create an outdoor space that will accommodate students during meals as well as for academic instruction during satisfactory weather conditions.

Quarantine procedures:

The district will adopt recommended guidance from the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) related to quarantine:

  • Vaccinated, asymptomatic individuals in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 positive (within three feet) do not need to quarantine. They can continue to attend school in-person and participate in other activities.
  • Unvaccinated individuals in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 positive (within three feet) should be isolated/quarantined.
  • All masked individuals, no matter their vaccination status, who are not considered a close contact of an infected individual will not be required to quarantine.
  • The district will consult with local health officials for guidance with contact tracing and determining who is considered a close contact to the infected individual.
  • Students who test positive for COVID-19 and are quarantined can return to school and end isolation once the following are met:
    • 10 days out from the start of the symptoms, AND
    • Fever free for 24 hours without fever reducing medication, AND
    • Symptoms have improved, AND
    • A negative COVID-19 test.

The district will refer to the Department of Health regarding protocols and policies for faculty and staff seeking to return to work after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

Masks:

It is expected that Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will introduce a mask mandate sometime this week; therefore, our students, employees and families should prepare that universal masking mandates will likely be in place for the beginning of the new school year. The district will continue to review information as it is shared from the State.

Sports and clubs:

Extra-curricular activities, clubs and interscholastic athletics will be held as planned. It is important to note that we will need to follow any guidance from Section IX regarding masks, spectators, etc., during the fall athletics season:

  • Indoor sports of volleyball and girls swimming and diving (except while in the water) will require masks for players, coaches, spectators, site personnel and officials.
  • Cheerleading will require masks only when competition is held indoors.
  • Outdoor sports of football, cheerleading (when outdoors), soccer, cross country and tennis will not require masks for players, coaches, spectators, site personnel or officials.

As you can see, there are many moving parts affecting the decision-making process for the start of school. This isn’t easy, but I am certain that together we can find solutions that best benefit our school community with the ultimate goal: to have our students in school.

The situation remains fluid and we will continue to update our school community with the latest information as it unfolds. I thank you all for your patience and flexibility as we work together to ensure the best educational experience possible for the 2021-22 school year.

All the best,

Dr. Kurtis Kotes
Superintendent of Schools

About the School Planning Committee

The committee is made up of various district stakeholders including the superintendent, Board of Education members, district and building administrators, department heads, faculty and staff members, parent representatives, the local police department and the district clerk. The purpose of the committee is to serve as an advisory group with representatives from all district stakeholders. Any and all decisions pertaining to health and safety protocols in relation to COVID-19 will be made by the Board of Education and superintendent of schools.