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Questions & Answers from October 5 Forum


october 5, 2021- Continued from september 21, 2021

State COVID counts different

132. The state site has “lab reported COVID data for ages 5-17” which is significantly higher than our reporting.  Onteora has 8 cases listed over the last seven days, and 4 cases on October 4th alone.  

Do you know what these cases are and why they aren’t on the district’s count?  Is it an error?  Are they kids at other schools? Home schooling children? Is it possible there are positive cases in the building that Onteora hasn’t been informed of?  What are your thoughts and are you concerned?

The State reports includes the students who are homeschooled and attend out-of-district schools. The District reports only in-district students.

Mandate Teacher Vaccines

133. I love the idea of the permanent outdoor pavilions.
For the future, will we be mandating teachers & staff to vaccinate? NYC teachers deadline was yesterday & teachers are now at 96% vaccinated.

At this time as a District we are not mandating teachers to be vaccination. If the State mandates all school staff be vaccinated, we will work with our unions and will enforce this requirement. At this time, weekly testing is mandated for unvaccinated staff and vaccinated staff that is choosing to participate. These are rapid tests – a screening test, not diagnostic test. Results take 10 – 15 min. Bus drivers and First Student bus drivers are included.

Outdoor eating in the cold

134. Would you consider allowing the high schoolers to continue to eat outside as it gets colder?   Before the snow builds up?

We will continue to allow outdoor eating as much as much and as long as possible. Currently in inclement weather we do have to limit the number of students that eat outdoors. Once snow comes, we won’t be able to keep snow off the tent roofs, but we will use the tents as long as conditions allow.


We have met with the BOCES environmental compliance technician, our insurance agents, the staff of Buildings and Grounds, it appears that it is going to be a challenge to have heat in tents. The heating units would need to run 24 hours/ day and would have to be located a certain distance away from the building structure. Given the topography of the area, providing the needed distance is not possible. We have ordered additional tables to provide more flexible seating in alternative indoor spaces. We are also discussing how to use outdoor spaces for things instructional delivery/ learning experiences – uses other than eating.

Remote Option if mandate teacher vaccines

135. I would like to know the plan for possibly of the state mandates, if the state does mandate only vaccinated personnel, how does the district plan to handle such a situation?  Will there then be a remote option for students?

There currently is a remote option for extenuating medical (physical or mental) circumstances. It will be different if the mandate is all teachers or all staff. The District will continue to work with OTA and our other unions if this occurs. A mandate means a requirement to work conditions, and it will be enforced by the District.

Air purifiers in Cafeterias?

136. Thank you so much for the air purifiers in the classrooms at Phoenicia, will they also be placed in the cafeteria?

In the process if rolling them out in the common spaces. Looking at the size of rooms and getting the appropriate size filter. When MS/HS classrooms/ instructional spaces are covered, we will look into the viability of placing them in common spaces.

Roll Back Restrictions

137. Is there a possibility of rolling back some of the COVID restrictions in place? Can you mention  1 or 2 of them?

Most school district have dropped temperature taking and completing the attestation. We have maintained those mitigation strategies. As a District we have been restrictive on using school property. Also we have not started the elementary after-school programs. We will wait until the end of the first marking period to be sure we are still moving in a positive direction and then reassess some of the restrictions. 

Social Emotional Learning

138. What Social Emotional help is in the schools this year

The District continues to partner with Morningside. This partnership includes -  professional learning for teachers. One method to deliver SEL content are in Circles.  Sitting in circles and talking about SEL content allows talking about feelings, and for students to be more present in class. Circles are used to build relationships and have students support each other. They slow down class, and everyone processes together. Full implementation is aspirational. Teachers are still learning. In grades K-6 all teachers are engaged in content SEL in some way. In grades 7-12, teachers are starting to implement some of the protocols, and they are continuing to be trained over the next few months. Circles in Morningside are one piece of our SEL supports. we also have professionals in each of our buildings. Teachers are talking with students about honoring student voice and input – as well as building trust. We hired an additional school psychologist in District to help support our students. Our clinical team did a survey about SEL and we are planning a component to the PPS website for more SEL information. We have introduced DBT for clinicians and self-contained classrooms. We are partnering with UC and UC Mental Health. They are using their CARES money to help the districts.