(November 20, 2020)
We take this opportunity to thank you for your efforts to keep your children and families safe. Your hard work in keeping everyone healthy has allowed us to keep our schools open for in-person instruction.
We are now entering a concerning and uncertain time as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across our country and state. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are accelerating, resulting in more governors and local officials announcing new measures to try to combat the spread of COVID-19. Locally, the eight counties that make up the Capital Region reported 271 new infections on November 16, which is the highest single-day total of the pandemic so far.
We continue to meet with superintendents in Rensselaer, Columbia, and Greene counties twice a week and with our county health department weekly to discuss COVID-19 related developments and ways we can continue to keep our buildings safely open for students and staff. In working with our local health department, it is concerning to hear of the ways COVID-19 is spreading. This includes parties (i.e., Halloween, birthday, gender reveal, baby showers), family gatherings with members from outside the household, social gatherings with friends, and interstate competitions.
Unfortunately, we have also learned that some individuals are not being fully cooperative or truthful when contacted by the county, which severely hampers the ability to trace potential COVID-19 exposures. This is a good time to remind everyone that it is extremely important that you offer your full cooperation if you are contacted by a representative of the local health department or school. Your cooperation and transparency will help expedite the process to identify those who must quarantine or be tested as well as our efforts to communicate with impacted families and the larger community.
If you or someone in your family is directed to quarantine, please respect what you are required to do in the interest of public health. Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others to stop the spread. People in quarantine need to stay home, separate themselves from others in the home, monitor their health, and follow directions from the local health department.
Please continue to follow all safety guidelines outside of school hours including proper use of face coverings, social distancing, handwashing, avoiding gatherings and travel to states with high positivity rates, and keeping your child home if they are sick. We also remind you to complete the daily health screening form for your child prior to sending them to school.
As we look ahead to the Thanksgiving break, we also ask for your help in making sure everyone celebrates and observes this year’s activities in a way that puts health and safety first. According to the CDC, the safest way to celebrate this year is to not travel and instead celebrate with people in your household only. Please consider virtual gatherings or other activities that reduce your and your child’s risk of getting the virus. Traveling, sharing food, and attending indoor gatherings with people from outside your household increases your risk – and the risk of spreading COVID-19 within our schools.
If the virus continues to spread in our region and we are identified by the state as a yellow, orange or red micro-cluster, the state will require our school to test students and staff in order to keep schools open. While we are also prepared for the possibility of a shift to remote learning in the future, we ask for your continued partnership so that we can remain open for in-person instruction. Ultimately, how well we continue to follow the COVID-19 protocols individually and collectively will determine whether we can continue to keep our school buildings open.
While the initial reports on two vaccines look promising, they may not be available to us until later this spring. As a result, we need to prepare ourselves mentally for a long winter ahead. This includes staying informed, being prepared if more restrictions are implemented, living like we are already contagious, shrinking our social bubbles, connecting with others virtually, and keeping our guards up.
We know that you have made many sacrifices the past eight months and for that we thank you. We ask that you please do your part to continue to contain this virus so that we can keep our schools open. These vaccines offer great hope – we just need to remain vigilant in controlling the spread of COVID-19 until they are available.
Thank you for your cooperation, support, and patience.