(August 20, 2021)
Dear Chatham Families,
As we look forward to our first day of classes on September 9, I wanted to provide you with some preliminary information about the start of the 2021-22 school year. It is our plan to have all K-12 students back in our buildings full-time for in-person learning. Our opening plan, which is now in development, includes many of the health and safety practices put in place last year, such as mask wearing, physical distancing, and enhanced cleaning and ventilation, with some changes. Unfortunately, the arrival of the Delta variant has increased the community spread of COVID-19 in our area and layered protection measures remain important to help prevent outbreaks and school closures.
To keep you up on circumstances affecting our planning, the NYS Department of Health declined to issue guidance for the 2021-22 school year, which was an unexpected development. Instead, the NYS Education Department released a Back to School Health & Safety Guide on August 12 to help schools plan for the 2021-22 school year. This guidance is aligned with current guidance from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Chatham is now developing our school opening plan based on this latest guidance and in coordination with Questar III BOCES, the Columbia County Department of Health, and other schools in our region. Incoming governor Kathy Hochul has indicated that additional guidance/mandates may be issued by the state once she takes office next week, and any future state guidance will be incorporated into our District’s plans. The highlights below are provided as preliminary information for the opening of school and may be subject to change. More detailed information about our 2021-22 opening plan will be available when it becomes finalized.
In accordance with CDC, AAP and NYSED guidelines, face masks are required to be worn by all students, staff and visitors inside our schools and on school buses, regardless of vaccination status. Masks are optional when outdoors on school property. Students will be provided with opportunities for mask breaks when seated in class and physically distanced.
At least three feet of physical distance will be maintained between students within classrooms. A minimum of six feet will be maintained for indoor activities such as physical education, band, and chorus. We are able to comply with this updated guidance and fully accommodate all students for in-person instruction.
We will be returning to full rider capacity on our busses, with two students per seat. All students and staff must wear face masks while riding the bus regardless of vaccination status. Windows will be open whenever possible to increase ventilation on the bus.
All Chatham Central schools are returning to in-person instruction for all students and we will not be offering a remote-learning program. However, our schools are prepared to make temporary shifts to remote learning should the COVID-19 situation require us to. We understand that there may be certain students with medical conditions for whom fully-remote learning may be necessary and we will accommodate those students on a case-by-case basis. If you believe such accommodations are necessary for your child, please complete our remote learning survey before August 27, 2021.
We will no longer require students/staff to complete daily health screening forms or temperature checks. It remains important that anyone experiencing symptoms of an illness stays home and that you contact your healthcare provider.
All athletes and coaches are required to undergo regular COVID-19 surveillance testing in order to participate in interscholastic athletics. This applies to all sports. Testing will be conducted by school medical staff. Parent/guardian consent for testing of students is required. Fall sports will start on Monday, August 23 as scheduled. More information about ongoing testing of athletes will be shared with coaches and parents early next week.
Informational Meeting for Families Aug. 30
We have scheduled a virtual town hall meeting for Monday, August 30, 6:30 p.m. in order to share information about the 2021-22 opening of school with families. Along with school officials, Columbia County Public Health Director Jack Mabb will be part of the meeting to provide information and answer questions. The meeting will take place on Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86310508437. So that we can best answer your questions, please submit them in advance to our dedicated school opening email firstname.lastname@example.org. This email address is monitored on an ongoing basis and can be used at any time to submit questions regarding our opening of school.
I hope you find this update on our plans for the 2021-22 school year helpful. Please remember that our opening plan is still being developed and that we will keep you updated as more information becomes available.
Sal DeAngelo Superintendent