(October 25, 2021)

To whom it may concern,

Since March of 2020, the CCSD BoE has provided oversight of extraordinary circumstances and measures inside Chatham schools.

During the period of the COVID-19 state disaster emergency declaration, COVID-19 response protocols were coordinated via executive orders from the governor's office.

Since July of 2021, CCSD’s COVID-19 response protocols are now derived from other governing bodies and public health authorities.

Board of Education Position on COVID-19 Protocols

CCSD BoE maintains no position on specific public health policies. As a required board function, CCSD BoE oversees compliance with legal regulations, standards, guidelines and recommendations of public health authorities at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the New York State Education Department (NYSED), and the Columbia County Department of Health (CCDOH).

Public health authorities have continuously revised their COVID-19 response protocol with updated guidelines as more has been learned about COVID-19, how the virus has evolved over time, and how community spread has been affected by mitigation measures such as masking, testing, quarantines and vaccines.

The Board of Education is not involved in making medical or healthcare decisions, but is in full support of CCSD continuing to follow the guidance of outside education or health authorities and medical doctors rather than developing its own position. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic board policy is superseded by Executive Orders from the Governor, directives from the State Departments of Health and Education, and District-generated response plans. [1]

Quarantine & Masking Protocols

Quarantine policies and procedures related to COVID-19 are not subject to district control. COVID-19 quarantines are based on standards from the CDC, and regulated by the federal Public Health Service Act. [2] Further, New York State Public Health Law § 2100 additionally creates isolation and quarantine procedures and delegates enforcement authority to the local board of health and/or health officers.[3]

Mask usage in schools is mandated by state health authorities (and school districts have no control over this requirement). See Commissioner’s Determination on Indoor Masking Pursuant to 10 NYCRR 2.60 August 27, 2021. [4]

Vaccine Requirement for High-Risk Activities in K-12 Schools

The Centers for Disease Control states that during periods of high-transmission of COVID-19 schools should "Cancel or hold high-risk sports and extracurricular activities virtually to protect in-person learning, unless all participants are fully vaccinated."[5]

The New York State Education Department Health issued guidance in August that states "High-risk sports and extracurricular activities should be virtual or canceled in areas of high community transmission unless all participants are fully vaccinated." [6]

The school district has no plans to require COVID-19 vaccination for general education, and absent a legal requirement, the CCSD BoE does not anticipate requiring COVID-19 vaccination to attend school or participate in low-risk activities.

The CDC and New York health authorities have not at this time recognized naturally acquired COVID-19 immunity as a replacement for vaccine based immunity, the CCSD BoE will continue to observe updates from health authorities on this topic.

NY state no longer allows religious or philosophical exemptions to vaccination, however if your child has a specific health condition where a vaccine may be harmful, a New York State-licensed medical doctor (MD) or osteopathic doctor (DO) may submit a written medical exemption to be validated and approved by the CCSD MD at Columbia Memorial Hospital (CMH). An exemption submitted by a nurse practitioner (NP) or physician assistant (PA) will not be accepted.

COVID-19 State & Federal Grants

Some members of the CCSD community have voiced concern that the school has implemented COVID-19 protocols because of financial motivations or incentives.

As a point of clarification, federal and state grant monies distributed to schools in response to COVID-19 have been predominantly directed at closing educational gaps created by observance of COVID-19 related school closures and remote education. As an example, several temporary full-time grant-funded instructional positions have been created to augment instructional staff.

Grant monies related to COVID-19 distributed to CCSD have also been directed at other uses such as but not limited to educational technology, temporary augmentation of nursing staff, and relieving the school system of cost burdens related to unfunded COVID-19 mandates.

The school district has also been the indirect recipient of testing equipment and materials allocated to county health for use in schools. Receipt of federal or state grant funding has not required, or caused any policy changes regarding masking, testing, quarantining, or vaccine requirements.

In some cases grant funding did allow modification of COVID-19 response procedure. With parent or guardian consent, the school district may soon have the ability to help exclude COVID-19 as a cause of flu-like symptoms. New testing equipment will help some students avoid quarantine completely (such as impacted siblings), while others will be able to avoid the need to seek a negative test before returning to school when they are sent home.

CCSD BoE is not aware of any funding obligations related to vaccine policy.

COVID-19 Future Updates

The CCSD BoE will continue to provide oversight of district compliance with legal regulations as well as standards and guidelines issued by public health authorities related to COVID-19 while we continue on a path toward normalization of school service and function.

The latest CCSD information on COVID-19 response is always available at the district website. [7]

Matthew Fisch, Board of Education President
Chatham Central School District

[1] CCSD Board of Education (November 24, 2020). “Resolution 2020-R33: Response to Times of Threat to Public Health and Safety Including But Not Limited to COVID-19

[2] Centers for Disease Control (September 17, 2021). “Legal Authorities for Isolation and Quarantine & Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264)

[3] New York Codes, Rules & Regulations (August 26, 2021). “Section 2.13 Isolation and Quarantine Procedures

[4] New York State Department of Health (August 27, 2021). “Commissioner’s Determination on Indoor Masking Pursuant to 10 NYCRR 2.60

[5] The Centers for Disease Control (August 5th, 2021). “Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools

[6] New York State Department of Education (August 2021). “Health and Safety Guide for the 2021-2022 School Year

[7] Chatham Central School District (October 18, 2021). “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response & Resources