February 27, 2022 

Dear Hastings Families and Staff, 

I look forward to welcoming students and staff back to campus on Monday. I hope you had a restful and enjoyable Mid-Winter Recess. 

As we return to school, a COVID-19 update is necessary. At 2:00 p.m. this afternoon (Sunday), Governor Hochul announced that effective Wednesday, March 2, 2022 the NYS Mask Mandate will be removed for schools statewide. 

We will shift effective Wednesday, March 2, 2022 to mask-use being optional for students and staff in the Hastings schools. Please understand that masks still must be worn by students and staff inside Hastings schools and facilities on Monday and Tuesday. The two-day advance warning the Governor has provided serves as the “grace period” we had planned in order to make the change work well for students and staff. 


Governor Hochul based the decision on a comprehensive set of metrics, including seven day averages for new COVID-19 cases levels, percent positive rates, hospitalizations and deaths. In all categories, the rates are at the lowest levels since December 2021. Vaccination rates also were shared, which show NYS ranks first or second among all large states nationwide in extent of vaccination across various age groups. (I will share the link to her presentation in my next update.) The Governor concluded that the metrics, taken together, indicate it is the right time to make mask-use optional in schools. I want to highlight that Hastings’ metrics, both for the extent of illness and vaccinations, are far stronger than the state averages–our daily counts of new positive cases have been nearly zero for the last two weeks and our vaccination rates as shared in the 2.16.22 Mask Update are very high. 

The Governor also referenced the new CDC guidelines for mask-use issued late on Friday, February 25. The CDC Guidelines provide greater flexibility for when masks may no longer be used. 

Let me close with three points about how we must work together going foward: 

First, students and staff will be supported in their individual decisions about masks. When masks have become optional in some school districts, students wearing masks have been told, “it is optional–you can take the mask off.” Similarly, students who are not wearing masks have been pressured to put them on. We will not allow these scenarios to be repeated in Hastings. We must continue to set an example for respecting differences. 

Second, we encourage all students and staff to become fully vaccinated. The medical science is clear: being fully vaccinated reduces the risk of getting COVID-19 and, for those who do contract the virus, reduces the extent of illness. In addition, being fully vaccinated enables individuals who are exposed to a confirmed positive case to not quarantine and remain in school. (“Fully Vaccinated” means having had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and, if age-eligible, having received a booster.) 

Third, we should recommit to monitoring our own health and staying home to rest and recover if not feeling well. We suggest families avail themselves of the COVID-19 rapid test kits we sent home with each student prior to Mid-Winter Recess. Please consider testing your children before they return to school on Monday. 

We will be receiving additional information over the next two days on how the lifting of the mask mandate affects other COVID-19 procedures (such as, quarantine requirements, physical distancing and mask-use on buses). I will relay these updates in a coherent format once received. 

Be well. 

William S. McKersie, Ph.D. 

Superintendent of Schools