With school is starting soon for students across New York state, it's important to get familiar with all the rules and guidelines that have been put in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department issued guidelines for schools in the state, with students including for pre-school through 12th grade.

Dr. Lester W. Young, Jr. Chancellor for the New York Board of Regents said,

“As we prepare for schools to reopen in September, our priority must be to provide leaders with access to information about practices that have proven effective throughout the pandemic. The Department’s health and safety guide is a concise resource that will assist districts as they mitigate risks to the health and safety of students, teachers and school staff while providing flexibility for schools to address their own unique circumstances in a manner that best meets the needs of all students.”

Here are all the guidelines and rules, which will hopefully keep New York students safe from catching COVID-19:

Key strategies summary

• Promoting vaccination in students who are eligible (any child aged 12 and under is not currently able to receive the vaccine)
• All school employees must get vaccinated
• Wearing of masks consistently and correctly
• Physically distancing in classrooms and other spaces
• Conducting screenings and tests to quickly identify any positive cases of COVID-19
• Encourage students and staff to properly wash their hands and cover their noses and mouths when they sneeze or cough
• Students and staff should stay home if they are not feeling well and get tested for COVID-19
• Utilize contact tracing to notify students and staff when they may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19
• Conduct cleaning and disinfecting, especially surfaces that are touched regularly

Wearing of masks consistently and correctly:

Consistent and correct mask use is particularly important indoors and when physical distancing cannot be maintained and in areas of high transmission of COVID-19. When teachers, staff, and students (ages 2 years and older) consistently and correctly wear a mask, they protect others as well as themselves. ~ NY School Safety Guide

All school employees must get vaccinated:
New York's first female governor, Kathy Hochul, announced on August 24, 2021, that all school personnel in the state will be required to take the vaccine. She made the announcement on her first day in office, outlining her plan for protecting students in NY,

My number one priority is getting children back to school and protecting the environment so they can learn safely. I am immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools, and we are launching a Back to School COVID-19 testing program to make testing for students and staff widely available and convenient. We are also working to require vaccinations for all school personnel with an option to test out weekly, and we are going to accomplish all of this by working in partnership with all levels of government.

Physically distancing in classrooms and other spaces:
Three feet is the recommended distance between students who are in classrooms. Six feet is the distance recommended between school staff and students and staff and other staff who have not been vaccinated. Offering flexibility for lunchtime may help stop the spread. This includes moving students outdoors, when the weather permits, to eat their lunches.

Conducting screenings and tests to quickly identify any positive cases of COVID-19:
Schools will need to get written permission from a parent before a student can be tested for COVID-19, according to the guidance. Any school that conducts testing at the school must have a Limited Service Laboratory Certificate.

Encourage students and staff to properly wash their hands and cover their noses and mouths when they sneeze or cough:
The recommended time a person would wash their hands is for 20 seconds. If students or staff members are unable to wash their hands using soap and water, they should use a hand sanitizer that is made up of at least 60 percent alcohol.

Students and staff should stay home if they are not feeling well and get tested for COVID-19:

Students and school personnel should stay home if they are showing signs and symptoms of infectious illness, including COVID-19, and get tested. Parents/guardians are encouraged to screen for COVID-19 symptoms prior to their child attending school each day.~ NY School Safety Guide

Utilize contact tracing to notify students and staff when they may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19:
The guidelines recommend that schools work with their local health departments to trace and notify parents and staff of potential exposure. The Centers for Disease Control currently says that fully vaccinated people who have been exposed to COVID-19, do not need to quarantine unless they have symptoms.

Conduct cleaning and disinfecting, especially surfaces that are touched regularly:
Regular cleaning and disinfecting are important, but the guide also states that if a school has had a positive case in the prior 24-hours, it is important that the space is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected as soon as possible.

You can check out the full guide for yourself here.

The COVID-19 tracker allows parents to keep track of positive COVID-19 cases in their counties or metro areas.

Dr. Betty A. Rosa, the Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York said,

“At a time when schools are preparing to reopen and the COVID positivity rate is increasing, we must ensure our schools and districts have the most up-to-date resources and mitigation strategies available to keep our children and school staff safe. Reopening amidst a pandemic for the second consecutive year is truly a daunting task. Our hope is that this guide, coupled with the input of local health officials will help the state’s education community as they prepare for September.”

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