March 3, 2022

Dear Hastings Families and Staff,

We took a big step this week by shifting to mask-optional schooling. Wednesday was a good day for students and staff, with respect shared among and between those who did or did not wear masks. I met over lunch Wednesday with Student Union representatives, who shared good reports on student and staff interactions. Today, based on what I observed in Hillside classrooms and hallways, being mask-optional is proving positive for students and staff district-wide.


Late Tuesday evening, we received the anticipated joint New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and New York State Education Department (NYSED) statement on modified COVID-19 requirements and guidelines now that masks are optional. Due to dramatic reductions in the prevalence of COVID-19, many of the requirements have been relaxed. Nevertheless, NYSDOH/NYSED requires several steps to promote student and staff health. Additionally, there are recommended measures that we should follow, such as consistently washing hands, staying home when ill, and continuing to maintain a responsible distance from others when possible.

Please find a listing below of revised mitigation measures that will be implemented immediately in Hastings. These items supersede all previous, related requirements. (We will be updating the COVID-19 Management Plan, 2021-22 as soon as possible.)

Bus Transportation

The wearing of masks is now optional on school buses. Physical distancing, when possible, is encouraged. 

Return to School/Work Following Contracting COVID-19

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are required to self-isolate for a period of five (5) days, with day “0” being the first day of symptoms or the positive test. Individuals may return to school/work following the five-day isolation if their symptoms have lessened and they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.  

Upon returning to school, individuals must wear masks during Days 6 – 10 of their isolation period. This will be an honor system; we will not track the individual mask-use.

Contact Tracing

For the immediate future, the District will continue to perform contact tracing for each positive case of COVID-19. To the greatest degree possible, we will be informing close contacts who are unvaccinated. 


Per the NYSDOH, due to masks now being optional, the parameters for identifying close contacts will be broader. For example, due to masks not being worn by some school community members, those who have 15 minutes or longer of contact within a six (6) foot radius of an individual will be considered close contacts. This is an increase from the three (3) foot radius which was applied when masks were required.  


Quarantines and Test-to-Stay Program

We are no longer quarantining exposed students or staff. Exposed, asymptomatic individuals, regardless of vaccination status, may remain in school. It is recommended that such individuals appropriately wear a well-fitted mask and undergo recommended testing. These individuals may participate in school-based extracurricular activities and may also continue to ride the school bus.  


With quarantines no longer required, the District will no longer operate a Test-to- Stay (TTS) program. Rather, the District will provide home COVID-19 test kits to unvaccinated individuals determined to be close contacts for recommended daily testing for a period of five (5) days after the last exposure. Please note: the daily testing will be only for unvaccinated individuals. Test kits will be available in each school’s health office.


To confirm, “unvaccinated” is defined as either (1) not receiving the full COVID-19 vaccine regime (either one or two doses, based on the type of vaccine); or, (2) having received the full vaccine regimen, but not yet boosted if age-eligible. 


Surveillance Testing 

The District will continue to facilitate weekly Surveillance Testing as long as it continues to be sponsored by the Westchester County Department of Health.  


Livestream Option

Livestream will continue as an option only for students who are confirmed COVID-19 positive and are out of school due to the required isolation period. The one exception will be that the livestream will be available to students in a household with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19. Families should coordinate with their relevant principal on accessing the livestream for their student(s).  

Lunch and Snack Time

Beginning Monday, March 7th, schools will resume traditional lunch experiences with fewer restrictions on physical distancing. At Farragut Middle School and Hillside, table barriers will no longer be used. At Hillside, classes will eat snacks together in classrooms or outdoors, as has been traditionally done.

What Should I Do if My Child Has COVID-like Symptoms?

When one is ill, they should always stay home. Home testing is encouraged at the onset of symptoms and the individual should remain home when symptomatic. They may return to school the following day if their symptoms have improved and the parent/guardian has communicated with the school nurse about negative home COVID-19 test results. To be clear, home antigen COVID-19 tests are now acceptable to document a negative result. Free test kits are available in each school’s health offices.

School Visitors/School Events

Within the Regular School Day – The District will continue to not allow visitors or outside events during the regular school day. We will re-evaluate these limitations in late March. The school community will be notified if any changes are made to the current limitations. 


After-School – We will immediately open full access for audiences and spectators to after-school extracurricular events and programs. As always, we will attempt physical distancing at events as much as possible and masks may be worn by any individual.


Field Trips

We will reinstitute opportunities for indoor and outdoor field trips. Details on these opportunities will be conveyed when necessary by building principals.


Final Word – Pride

We should feel pride, especially for our students and staff members, who have shown tremendous resilience throughout the Pandemic. They have rallied together in countless ways to help Hastings continue to be a place of growth for learners and individuals.  

I look forward to providing more updates on Hastings COVID-19 mitigation plans as they become available. Our aim is to build back as much flexibility as possible–as soon as possible.

Be well.

William S. McKersie, Ph.D. 

Superintendent of Schools