January 2, 2022


Dear Hastings Families and Staff:


We will be returning with full in-person schooling on Monday, January 3, 2022.  Please read this entire letter carefully. I have combined the critical information from two earlier updates (12.28.21 and 12.30.21) into this final version ahead of our return to school tomorrow.


Guiding Framework for Decisions on COVID-19

As is stated in the COVID-19 Management Document, 2021–22, 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 widely reported, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued updated guidance regarding COVID-19 protocols. The CDC’s guidance is advisory in nature. We have been following these developments closely and will seek to implement them as appropriate. As noted below, several of the CDC’s new protocols specific to quarantine and isolation have not been adopted yet by the NYSDOH or WCDOH.  


In-Person Schooling

To confirm, we will be returning to school on Monday, January 3, 2022 in-person. We have continued to monitor COVID-19 infection rates, as well as to consult closely with State and County officials, BOCES administrators, area superintendents and our medical directors. 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 will be monitoring the situation closely.


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 vaccinated and unvaccinated students in a household with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Remote Learning is handled as a livestream into the relevant classroom(s). Please understand that Remote Learning is not an option for any other reason, including non-COVID-19 illnesses or family preferences for a remote option. 


Hastings-on-Hudson USD COVID-19 Data

Staff and families have been self-reporting COVID-19 positive cases over the Holiday Recess. Thank you for this essential cooperation.


As of noon today (1.2.22), we have had 92 cases (21 staff and 71 students) since December 23. Roughly half of the reported student cases are at Hillside, with a third at FMS and the smallest share at HHS. Nearly all of these individuals have been contacted by our nursing staff. Given that this is self-reported data, we believe that the total number of cases is larger. However, we are confident that a relatively small percentage of the approximately 2,000 individuals attending and working within the district have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 since December 23. In other words, the vast majority of students and staff are able to attend and work in school in-person.  


Please know that we will monitor infection rates carefully. We will be gauging rates of increase as one indicator of a need to shift to remote learning. 


New Reporting Requirements for COVID-19 During January-February 2022

We are extending the system we established for reporting of COVID-19 over the Holiday Recess into at least January and February 2022. The form we required has been a boost to learning about and tracking positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff. 

 

All staff and students now are required to complete the COVID-19 Reporting Form to report any positive COVID-19 cases. Please complete one form for each individual affected.  

 

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.  


State-Issued Tests Available for Use

The NYS issued rapid COVID-19 tests will be in-district by tomorrow afternoon. We will be using the tests to expand the Test-to-Stay program (TTS). Within the TTS framework, we also will use the tests to help assess potential areas of infection and to keep as many students in-person (and not quarantining) as possible. We will keep staff and families informed of procedures if they reach beyond Test-to-Stay.  


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 TTS and surveillance programs.  For TTS, testing must be administered by the district or a medical professional; it cannot be administered at home.


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.


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.  


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.


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.


Appreciate the Input

I have received several emails from concerned parents and students, asking that we shift to remote learning for one or more of the upcoming weeks. I respect these concerns and I appreciate hearing from each individual. While we are taking a different approach than you have requested, please know that each step is taken cautiously and with close consultation with public health and medical authorities.  


Short of shifting to remote learning, other suggestions have related to fewer mask breaks, more outdoor options, increased testing frequency and wider physical distancing. We are considering these suggestions and other approaches to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  


Final Word

I hope we can keep several truths in mind as we return to school: COVID-19 is a concern we take seriously; Hastings schools and classrooms are amongst the safest and healthiest locations for our students and staff; and, our students and staff have been excellent at adhering to the mitigation strategies designed to keep us all healthy. 


Remember:


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


Happy New Year.

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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.
  8. 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.