December 30, 2021


Dear Hastings Families and Staff:


I am writing with the second Holiday Recess update on COVID-19 and our return to school on Monday, January 3, 2022. The first update was sent on Tuesday (12.28.21). One or more updates will follow as we get closer to the return to school.


We continue to consult with State and County officials, BOCES administrators, area superintendents and our medical directors. Here is what “We Know Now.”


1. Guiding Framework for Decisions on COVID-19 – As many have seen in the news, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued updated guidance regarding COVID-19 protocols. We have been following these developments closely and will seek to implement them as appropriate. However, as is stated in the COVID-19 Management Document, 2021–22, the CDC’s guidance is advisory in nature; public school districts must follow the standards established by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Westchester County Department of Health (WCDOH). As we will flag below, several of the new protocols suggested by the CDC have not been adopted yet by the NYSDOH or WCDOH. 


2. Full In-Person Schooling on Monday, January 3 – The directive from the State and County, and the goal of nearly all area school districts, is to open with in-person schooling on Monday. The exception would be if we do not have sufficient staff to safely open one or more facilities. We are monitoring this situation closely, and will know more over the weekend. Right now, we are optimistic that we will be able to open schools on Monday.


3. Remote Learning Option – The Remote Learning Option continues to be limited to students who have a confirmed case of COVID-19 or are on a WCDOH quarantine due to being unvaccinated and exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19. We have extended the Remote Learning Option to unvaccinated students in a household with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Remote learning is handled as a livestream into the relevant classroom(s).


4. Reporting Requirements for COVID-19 During Holiday Recess – During the Holiday Recess, Hastings staff and students are required to report any confirmed positive cases. Use this Holiday Reporting Form to report any COVID-related concerns. Please complete one form for each individual affected. We need this information to help plan for the return to school on January 3.

 

Phone messages and emails sent to school nurses will not be reviewed prior to January 3rd. Please email copies of positive test results to the school health office (Tricia Chibbaro, chibbarot@hohschools.org; Joanne Cipollina, cipollinaj@hohschools.org)

 

We will be in touch with staff and students about specifics on how to return to school when they have reported a positive COVID-19 case.  


5. State-issued COVID-19 Tests – As has been reported in the media, the state will be issuing COVID-19 test packets to each school district to be used to maximize in-person schooling. In our case, the tests are being distributed through Westchester BOCES. We have been advised by BOCES that tests may arrive over the weekend. The tests then need to be redistributed to school districts across Westchester County. Plans are not final, since the schedule for test arrival is not final. 


Nearly all districts in Westchester County, and certainly the Quad Village districts, will not be distributing the state-issued test to families. Instead, the tests will be used by district nursing and medical professionals to bolster our Test-to-Stay and surveillance programs. For Test-to-Stay, testing must be administered by the district or a medical professional; it cannot be administered at home.


If the tests are distributed to families, we would not be assured they are being used solely for students, nor would we be able to know that the results are reliable. In addition, we do not anticipate another shipment of tests being shared by the state. The consensus is that the state-issued tests are a valuable resource for us to maintain in-person schooling for as many students as possible, and we must be cautious in their use and application.


6. Test-to-Stay Program (TTS) – We will continue TTS similar to how it was launched prior to the Holiday Recess. The state-issued tests will expand our potential to keep students and staff in school, and out of quarantine. We have made several modifications to expand the reach of TTS. Please see Addendum I below for the details on TTS in Hastings.


7. Optional COVID-19 Surveillance Testing ─ We recommend participation in the optional COVID-19 surveillance testing program we are offering in partnership with the WCDOH. Information is HERE. Let’s rally to participate in this optional program, as a statement on our dedication to a healthy 2022.  


8. Quarantine & Isolation Requirements – It is important for Hastings staff and families to note what has and has not changed regarding quarantine and isolation requirements when confirmed to be COVID-19 positive.


Isolation for Students Diagnosed with COVID-19: Isolation requirements have not changed for students. Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, must continue to isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status. As of now, the period of time that students must isolate has not been reduced by the NYSDOH to follow the CDC’s recommendations.


Isolation for Staff Members Diagnosed with COVID-19: Isolation requirements have been revised for staff members only. Fully vaccinated, asymptomatic staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 are permitted to return to work after five days of isolation. These individuals, like everyone in a school, are required to wear properly-fitted facemasks and self-monitor their health. Staff currently in isolation should be in touch with Joanne Cipollina, cipollinaj@hohschools.org.


Out of an abundance of caution, we would recommend that individuals who are symptomatic, even if testing negative, stay home until they have recovered from symptoms.


9. Mask Wearing Reminders – Due to the enforcement of health and safety protocols, schools continue to be among the safest places for children. Hastings has done an excellent job at committing to masks as a mitigating strategy–students and staff alike are wearing masks as required.  


It is critical to remind everyone of proper mask-wearing practices, which include choosing a mask that fits snuggly to one’s face and covers their nose and mouth at all times. Recent recommendations are advising against the use of cloth masks, and instead advocate the use of well-fitting, disposable, non-woven masks. We continue to require all students and staff to provide their own masks, and to come to school with one or more extra sets. We are able to provide disposable surgical masks for individuals on a limited basis.  


We must remember we know what to do regarding COVID-19. Yes, the variant is concerning, but we still know how to manage it. Remember:


  • Mask Up–especially indoors
  • Maintain physical distancing whenever possible
  • Stay home if not feeling well
  • Get vaccinated


I look forward to welcoming students and staff back to school on January 3. In the meantime, please look for one or more updates from us. Most importantly, please take time in these remaining days of Holiday Recess to rest and safely celebrate the New Year.  


Be well.

William S. McKersie, Ph.D. 

Superintendent of Schools

Addendum I – Test to Stay Program


Districts must follow a set of requirements with TTS, which are spelled out in a WCDOH Memo (12.9.21). We list below the details for Hastings. 


Hastings Test-to-Stay Program


  1. Start Date -- TTS was started on Monday, December 20 for students or staff who are currently quarantined. We will continue the program for the foreseeable future for eligible students or staff who are required to quarantine. TTS will begin for each individual one day after they are required to quarantine (to allow us time to be prepared).
  2. Who is Eligible -- TTS is an option for students and staff who must quarantine due to close contact with a confirmed positive COVID-19 case. To be eligible, students and staff must be asymptomatic. We will not provide testing for symptomatic individuals.
  3. How to Sign-Up -- Families and staff should contact their respective school nurse to complete the required sign-up forms. 

a.Farragut Complex Health Office at cipollinaj@hohschools.org

b. Hillside’s Health Office at kowalskig@hohschools.org or feeneyp@hohschools.org 

  1. Students Exposed Over Vacation – If a student was exposed to a confirmed positive COVID-19 case in their family over Holiday Recess, they may use the TTS program, if they remain asymptomatic. Students would be eligible to start the TTS program on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, following notification of their respective school nurse (see #3 above) on Monday, January 3, 2022.
  2. Staff Exposed Over Vacation – If a staff member was exposed to a confirmed positive COVID-19 case in their family over Holiday Recess, they may use the TTS program, if they remain asymptomatic. Staff would be eligible to start the TTS program on Monday, January 3, 2022, following notification of their respective school nurse (see #3 above) on Sunday, January 2, 2022.
  3. In-Person Schooling and Instruction Only -- TTS is designed to allow students or staff to participate with in-person instruction. It does not apply to extra-curricular activities such as athletics, band, chorus, orchestra and clubs. 
  4. Quarantines Must Continue Away from School -- Students must remain under quarantine for the 10-day period while outside of school. Staff would remain under quarantine for the five-day period.
  5. Program Specifics --

a. Length of Program: Students or staff must test every school morning for up to seven days. Individuals who test negative on day seven no longer have to participate in the testing, and they are allowed to ride the school bus. If exposed to a positive case during the seven days, the individual must restart the seven day count. Individuals still remain under official quarantine through day 10 and cannot participate in any non-academic activities (see #6 above). 

b. Testing Location & Times: All testing is conducted before school for each student or staff member. Individuals must be transported to school on their own--they are not allowed to ride the school bus. Sign-up forms will provide the specifics on testing location and times.

c. Test of Record: TTS uses the Binax NOW Antigen Test and the QuickVue SARS Antigen Test, which are Rapid Tests (not a PCR). The state-issued tests may be a different version, which will be known when the tests arrive in-district. This test will be considered the final test; subsequent testing will not be allowed to override the original test. Individuals testing positive will be required to leave school promptly, and will be kept isolated until pick-up or departure. 

d. Upper Limit for Program: We estimate that we can host the program for up to 100 students district-wide. We will evaluate this upper-limit as we proceed.