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RCSD Fall Opening Update: 8/25/21

August 25, 2021

Dear Rye Community,

I hope you’ve had a good summer. Thank you so much for all of your support and flexibility as we navigated the pandemic over the past two years. We are excited that our schools will be fully open for in-person learning. Our first day of school is Thursday, September 9. In August, the District received guidance regarding school opening from the New York State Education Department (NYSED) based on CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. On August 24, incoming Governor Kathy Hochul directed the Department of Health (DOH) to institute universal masking for anyone entering New York schools. In addition, the Governor announced that all school employees will be required to show proof of vaccination or participate in regular COVID testing. We expect more details on this order in the coming days. This is a fairly lengthy communication as there is much to share. 

Based on all this information, the opening days of school will look very much like this past spring: 

Key Points

  • School will be in-person, full-time, five days a week for all students. No cohorting is necessary
  • All students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. Masks are not required outdoors
  • Quarantine rules have changed which should result in many fewer quarantines. Fully-vaccinated individuals who are not showing symptoms and masked individuals who are at least three feet from others will not need to quarantine if exposed to a positive individual. Students who are required to quarantine will access school through live streaming.  Individuals who will need to quarantine will be contacted by the District on a case-by-case basis 
  • Social distancing will be three feet wherever possible
  • We will continue using outdoor spaces for instruction and lunch as much as possible, weather permitting
  • All fall athletics and extracurricular clubs  and programs at all levels will run in person, following safety measures instituted last spring
  • No daily health screening forms will be required; Students/faculty/staff should not come to school if they are experiencing any symptoms of infectious illness
  • We will not offer a remote option this year unless guidance or health and safety concerns warrant it. Parents/guardians of students with extenuating medical conditions should contact their school principal

Opening Q&A Sessions

We recognize parents/guardians may have questions about what the opening days of school will look like in the school district.  I will address opening protocols and answer questions in five community forums planned over the next two weeks and individual school principals will host additional school-specific sessions. Date and time information for the sessions are below, and the login information for each session is linked. These meetings are capped at 250 participants, so if you can’t get into the session of your choice, I apologize and invite you to join another. 

All-District sessions hosted by Dr. Byrne:

Special Education sessions hosted by Dr. Erin Vredenburgh:

School-specific sessions hosted by school principals:

Elementary Schools: 

Middle School:  

High School:  

New CDC School-Related Quarantine Rules

The Westchester County Department of Health (DOH) informed school districts in early August that fully-vaccinated people do not need to quarantine after being exposed to a COVID-positive individual unless they have symptoms. Additionally, students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student do not need to quarantine if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time. These new rules should make a world of difference in the number and frequency of quarantines this year. Nonetheless, the District will again offer live-streamed classes for students who are mandated to quarantine. Families with students with extenuating health circumstances should contact their school principal.

Face Mask Requirements

Face masks have been and will continue to be an essential component of the infection control measures being taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools. Students, employees, and visitors to our schools will be required to wear well-fitting face masks covering both the nose and mouth indoors, including on school buses, regardless of their vaccination status. Students, faculty, and staff will not be required to wear face masks when outdoors. Students will be allowed to remove face masks during meals and for short breaks so long as they maintain appropriate social distance (3 feet). 

Acceptable face masks include well-fitting cloth-based face masks and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose.

Social Distancing

Social distancing continues to be an important means of preventing COVID transmission. CDC guidelines now recommend 3 or more feet of distance be maintained between masked individuals when indoors. The District will set up classrooms to follow this guideline. When possible, classes will be held outside. The District will use desk partitions in indoor cafeterias, will set up outdoor dining spaces, and will allow students in grades 10-12 to leave the High School campus for lunch.

Ventilation Systems/Cleaning

Effective ventilation systems are another important mitigation strategy. As part of the summer capital construction, Midland School has a brand new ventilation system, and Osborn School has received significant upgrades to the existing system. Last year, the District installed MERV-13 filters in every school building in the District. Those spaces that did not have MERV-13 filters have stand-alone air filtration devices.  Whenever possible, classroom windows will be open to allow for fresh air interchange. The District will continue to follow a rigorous cleaning protocol. 

Daily Health Screening

Students, faculty, and staff will no longer be required to submit a daily health self assessment checklist form upon entry into District school and office buildings. We do ask that parents, students, faculty, and staff carefully monitor the health of any community member entering a District building and refrain from sending students to school or school activities or attending school or work themselves if they have symptoms. We will send a reminder each day with information about the signs and symptoms of COVID.

Weekly COVID Surveillance Testing

This school year, the District will participate in a new Westchester County COVID-19 saliva testing program designed to test 10% of the RCSD population weekly. The County is still finalizing details and we will share further information as soon as it is available. 

Communication

I will continue to communicate updates related to COVID to the community via email.  When cases arise at schools, the Communications Department will notify the school community alerting them about the case and contact tracing protocols. All communications with positive and exposed individuals will be kept entirely confidential.

After-School Support for 2021-2022 School Year

In early fall of 2021, teachers will assess students in grades 1-5 in literacy and mathematics. Beginning in November, identified students will participate in after-school small group instruction for two days a week. Each grade level will have one after-school section dedicated to literacy and mathematics. The program will run through the end of March 2022.  More details will be shared this fall. 

Also in early fall of 2021, teachers of students in grades 6-8 will assess students in core academic subjects. Beginning in November, identified students will participate in after-school support two days per week. Sessions will run for one hour for a total of two hours of additional small group instruction each week. Each grade level will have one after-school section, dedicated to targeted, small group instruction. There will be three sections for after-school support at the middle school. The programs will run through the end of March 2022. More details will be shared this fall. 

Mental Health Support:  Effective School Solutions Partnership

The RCSD is committed to providing increased mental health support in all our schools and last spring partnered with Effective School Solutions (ESS) in response to the increased need for mental health support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. ESS has provided the District with three social workers that will be based in our school buildings. The clinical support being provided through ESS will support students across the District presenting with mild to moderate mental health challenges. ESS will also work on raising mental health awareness in the Rye City community through outreach and workshops designed for parents/caregivers.  In addition, ESS will implement ongoing, District-wide professional development for District educators on such topics as self-care/wellness and providing trauma-informed care for students.

Construction Update

You may have noticed a fair amount of construction taking place at the school buildings over the summer months. Much of the work being done will impact things that students and teachers can’t necessarily see - electrical upgrades, HVAC improvements, and the like - but they will vastly improve the efficiency of the school buildings. New secure entrances are also being installed at each of our schools. We are expecting that most of the work will be wrapped up in time for the start of school in September, but there will be some projects that will extend into the school year. Work on these projects will continue after school hours to lessen disruption. 

Fall Sports/Extracurriculars

The District follows the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) guidelines with regards to interscholastic sports. High School fall sports began on August 23 with a week of tryouts. Middle School modified sports will begin on September 13. The District’s Athletics Department expects to receive more guidelines prior to the beginning of school with regards to masks, game attendance, etc. Please check the Athletics Page of the District website for updates. 

We are anticipating a full, in-person return to after-school clubs this year. More information will be forthcoming from individual schools.

Food Service

Food service this year will look a lot more like pre-CVID days. There will be daily hot lunch service at all school cafeterias and breakfast service at the High School. Students will line up and proceed through the hot food line to select their meals. Students will be seated 3 feet apart in the cafeteria and this is the one area of the school buildings where we intend to use desk shields. We have found them to be helpful in reminding students not to get too close to one another when their masks are off while eating. 

We are hard at work preparing to welcome students, faculty, and staff on September 9. We will continue to closely monitor COVID metrics and state and federal guidelines and will communicate any updates as we approach opening day. As was the case last year, any of our plans and policies are subject to change based on new data and updated guidance from federal, state, and local officials.

I want to thank you for your continued support of the school district during these challenging times. It will take all of us, working together, to keep our schools open and maintain a healthy and productive learning environment for our students, faculty, and staff.

Enjoy the remainder of the summer!

Sincerely,

Eric Byrne, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Key Takeaways

School Calendars

  • Opening day for students is Thursday, September 9
  • District Calendar available here
  • All schools full-time, in-person. No remote learning unless student is sick/quarantined

RCSD Health & Safety Protocols

  • Masks must worn inside schools by students, faculty, and staff regardless of vaccination status
  • No masks needed outside
  • Maintain social distance of 3+ feet
  • Daily health assessment form no longer required

Quarantine/Stay Home if Sick

  • Fully vaccinated students/faculty do not need to quarantine after exposure to positive case if no symptoms
  • Students exposed to a positive individual do not need to quarantine if both student and positive individual were fully-masked and 3+ feet apart
  • Students/staff not feeling well should stay home to limit potential spread

Athletics/Clubs

  • Full return to complete fall H.S. athletic season
  • Full return to modified athletics at M.S.
  • Student-athletes who are vaccinated do not need to quarantine (if symptom-free) if exposed to a positive individual
  • In-person clubs and after-school activities to resume with masks/social distancing