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Questions & Answers from August 10, 2021 Forum


 August 10, 2021

 3’ rule study


1.    There is absolutely NO study confirming the "3 foot distancing" rule, none.

Answer: The district is following the guidance that school districts received from the CDC, AAP, NYSED, and UCDOH.

Child sick


2.    If a student is home sick will there be a remote option?

Answer: No, there will be no remote option at this time. Classroom teachers will utilize Google Classroom and Google Meet to reach out to and communicate with all students who may be quarantined. 

Child sick-tested?


3.    If a child misses school due to illness, are they required to have a negative COVID test in order to return to school?

Answer: No they do not need a negative PCR or rapid test. Students will need the release from quarantine provided by the UCDOH. That will need to be forwarded to Once received the COVID coordinator will let the parent, transportation, and administrator of student's school know that the student is cleared to return to school. If the UCDOH has not provided the clearance, the parent should notify the health services who will contact the parent to clear the child to return



4.    What is being implemented to prevent complacency with multiple layers of other prevention strategies?

Answer: These strategies will be monitored at the building level by the building principal, in conjunction with the school nurse, the District medical director, and the COVID Coordinators.

Constricted Environment


5.    To me it seems that CDC guidelines could not be in the best interest of harvesting a mentally healthy environment for kids. How can we as a community openly express and guide our children and authorities? It’s a concern. A very constricted school environment could lead into more anxiety?

Answer: The AAP recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated. They recommend coupling this with all-encompassing approach for mental health support. The district is providing staff with specific tools to assist students in transitioning back to in-person learning. These tools will address student trauma and coping needs through the lens of mindfulness.

Ventilation Enhancement/HEPA Filters in Classrooms


6.    NYC has a similar plan of mandatory full time attendance in person with no hybrid option. To allow this level of density, they have two portable HEPA filters per classroom as well as weekly testing of 20% of the student body.  Is Onteora going to respond in a similar way? If not, why not?  Thank you.

Answer: As a district we have made the following upgrades:

1.    We have increased the ventilation capacity of our HVAC systems to the maximum level possible while being cognizant of weather conditions

2.    We have increased the amount of time the ventilation system circulates fresh air through the classrooms

3.    We are using the highest rated filters available to fit the functional parameters of our HVAC systems

4.    We have increased the frequency of our filter replacement schedule

5.    We have increased the frequency of inspection of our systems to insure optimal functionality

6.    HEPA filters are currently present in isolation rooms and in various other rooms throughout the buildings

7.    Portable air cleaners with HEPA filters have been purchased for every classroom with installation priority being given to the elementary classrooms.

8.    Windows and doors will be open as permitted by weather conditions



7.    What will homework look like this year? Throwing these kids into the “normal” amount seems unfair after a year and a half of craziness

Answer: We will work with teachers to limit afterschool expectations for all students as they adjust to fully in person instruction. In grades K-8, we will start the year with a moratorium on homework.

Late Buses


8.    I'm confused no late buses?

Answer: There will be two late buses at the high school. The first late bus will depart at 4:20 pm. The second late bus will depart at 5:15 pm.

Lunch Outdoors?


9.    Will high school and middle school students have access to outdoor seating opportunities during lunch periods?

Answer: Yes, tents have been purchased and are erected to allow middle/ high school students the option of outdoor seating for lunch.

Lunchtime at Bennett


10.    How is lunchtime set up? Are there still meals provided? Do students eat lunch in the cafeteria or in classrooms? How far apart do they have to sit? My son will be in Bennett

Answer:  When eating lunch, students will be 6 feet apart to the extent possible. Principals are currently working to refine their schedules and usage of space to make sure student needs are met. Principals at each building have set-up their cafeteria layout. Since the configuration of each cafeteria is different depending upon the building, parents are encouraged to reach out to their building principal for information about the specific setup.

Mandate vaccine?


11.   When the vaccine becomes approved by the FDA, will vaccines become required for attendance similar to Chicken Pox etc..?

 Answer: The district does not have the authority to determine what vaccines will be required for students. This is guided by the NYSDOH and NYSED.

Masks change?


12.   Will mask mandate change when the county has a lower transmission level, or when vaccines are available for kids under 12? Is the plan right now just to mask students indefinitely?

 Answer: According to guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Everything possible must be done to keep students in school in-person.” They also have stated that “All students older than 2 years and all school staff should wear face masks at school (unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use.)”

This is the guidance we have as of today. This guidance may change, depending on the actual situation that exists in both New York State, and also in Ulster County. Therefore, if the situation changes, we will re-examine all of our protocols in collaboration with our local health department and communicate any changes to everyone. Our first priority is to keep all students (and staff) in our District safe.

Masks for Children


13.   Per Robert Redfield formerly of the CDC: There is ONE verified inconclusive study about the effectiveness of wearing masks and that belies the very firm masked-children rules. Why are we voluntarily (even enthusiastically) doing this to our children?

 Answer:  As a district we are following the guidance from the CDC, the NYSED, and the UCDOH all which state that all individuals (students, and staff) should be required to wear masks at all times inside school buildings.

Outside open for eating, PW outdoors


14.   As recommended by the CDC when indoors with unvaccinated people, my kids will be wearing tight fitting masks/N95's at all times when indoors.  Therefore, they would need an outdoor option for eating (thank you for the tents!) and also I'm concerned about gym.  I would like to request an option for older students to be able to fulfil gym requirements outdoors so they can remove their masks.  For example, to walk or run on the track.  Thank you!

 Answer: There is an outdoor eating option for MS/HS lunch. Please contact your building principal to discuss the specifics about fulfilling gym requirements outdoors.

Parent transport


15.   We drove our kids to school last year. Do we need to notify someone if we will commence bus transportation this year?

Answer: No, if you choose to use district provided transportation, you need to do nothing. Transportation routes will be available by August 27th. You will receive a shout point notice when they are available. If you choose to drive your children to school this year, we ask that you email both your building principal as well as

Parents help student anxiety


16.   Not a question but wanted to add that We are looking to create some supports to parents to address student's anxiety in returning back to school

Answer: We are partnering with Ulster County Mental Health to support parents in their concerns surrounding students adjusting to in-person instruction. Also, our clinicians are designing sessions to support parents with issues around the opening of school. We are happy to partner with you to support our parents and students in returning to school.

Positive case – close or quarantine


17.   If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID, will that cause a school closure or just a quarantine for that person?

Answer: No please refer to the COVID Forum from August 24, 2021. The District would work collaboratively with UCDOH related to any or all school closured due to COVID.

Quarantine IEP student


18.  What if the child is quarantined with no remote option and has an IEP? How will their IEP be upheld with only 1 hour of tutoring a day?

Answer: The District is legally obligated to provide all services on a student’s IEP. The details will be specified on an individual basis from the Office of Pupil Personnel Services.

Quarantine listen in to class


19. Can students who are in quarantine “listen in” on classes with a device. It would mean a teacher allowing the student to dial in somehow… It might be something good given the long term timelines that quarantine might impose.

Answer: No. For any student who is required to quarantine, both classroom teachers and support staff will be working with the student and family to ensure that students receive continuous instruction and are able to rejoin the classroom without a loss of learning opportunities. This includes the individualized use of:

o    Google classroom 
o    Google meet
o    Additional communications

Quarantined students


20. I am deeply concerned by the lack of Onteora hybrid option in the midst of a pandemic with mandated quarantines.  My kids are looking forward to coming back in person.  However, given students are required to stay home with any symptom, or comply with a quarantine if exposed ... how will you provide schooling for them while they are forced to be at home?  My high school students are taking AP's, advanced math etc.  How will you provide for continuity of education for them without the hybrid option?  Thank you!

 Answer: See answer to question 19

Quarantined students

21.     Hello! Thanks for doing this. Can we clarify again about what happens specifically with students who are quarantined? Not sick, per say, but quarantined. Especially in situations where there has been potential exposure to larger numbers of students. Do quarantined students receive only one hour a day of instruction? Will they be expected to complete the same work on the same schedule of their peers?

Answer: See answer to question 19



22. Screening is part of the CDC recommendation. Is there a plan in place for random screening of students and staff members this year?

 Answer: The district will not be screening/ testing students and staff. We are not licensed as a medical facility and therefore cannot do this. We are collaborating with the UCDOH to offer random voluntary screening/ testing. However, random voluntary screening/ testing of students will not take place without explicit parent consent.

Social Distancing Buses


23.  What are the social distancing/safety requirements for school buses?

Answer: Based on UCDOH guidance, districts should create distance between students on school buses when possible. If this distancing is not possible, windows should be open at all times. All staff and students must always wear masks on buses.

Bus drivers and bus monitors (if present on the bus) will be supervising masks.

Social Distancing in classrooms


24.   How will social distancing work with all students back in the classroom?

Answer: Social distancing of three feet when indoors to the extent possible

Social Interaction


25. Children have been deprived of much needed social interaction.

Answer: A child’s need for social interaction is the cornerstone of our 5 days a week in-person learning model.



26.   What verified statistics are the mask rules and 3 foot distancing rules based on?

 Answer: See answer to question 1.

Vaccines mandatory when approved?


27.   Do we know if bus company will require vaccination once vaccine is approved, which sounds like it should be in a few weeks? And do we anticipate COVID vaccines be added to mandatory vaccines like all other vaccines in order to attend public school?

 Answer: Not at this time. See First Student



28.   Please let us know about updates to ventilation in schools

Answer: See answer to question 6.



29. Going back to ventilation, getting so close to opening, would Trustee Kurnit be able to give a presentation at the next board meeting? Opening windows & doors is not really an option, especially with 1 SRO in the district & weather.

Answer: See answer to question 6.

Ventilation enhancements


30. Ventilation enhancements

Answer: See answer to question 6.

Windows open


31. Opening windows do enhance ventilation. Will the schools keep windows open weather permitting ?

Answer: See answer to question 6.

Last Updated: 8/24/21