KINDERHOOK— Starting this week the Ichabod Crane School District is allowing students the option to wear a mask or not. Since school opened in September, the state has mandated mask wearing by all students and staff and anyone visiting school grounds, among other Covid-19 protocols. At the School Board meeting Tuesday, March 1, Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow pointed out the low numbers of positive Covid-19 cases in the state and in the county and said that “the metrics support this change.”
On Sunday, February 27, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced plans to end the state mask requirement in schools starting Wednesday, March 2.
“With more New Yorkers getting vaccinated, and the steady decline over the past several weeks in cases and hospitalizations from Omicron, we are now entering a new phase of the pandemic. Because New Yorkers have stepped up, we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools,” Governor Hochul said in a press release. “This is a huge step forward for our kids and communities and I am grateful to the students, educators and parents for their dedication to keeping us all safe—we’ve reached this milestone because of your hard work.”
Statewide, schools were closed last week for winter break and students and staff wore masks to school Monday and Tuesday. At the board meeting Tuesday, everyone in the building was still required to masks.
Ichabod Crane sent an email to parents Sunday after the governor’s announcement, which not only talked about the change in the state mandate but updated information from the federal CDC (Centers for Disease Control). The email said, “On Friday, February 25, the CDC made substantial changes to key pieces of its guidance. This includes updated masking recommendations on school grounds and school buses based on a new community rate metric. The CDC now recommends masking in indoor settings, including schools, only in areas with a high community rate…. As of [February 27] the Covid-19 community level for Columbia County is considered low.”
According to the most recent press release from the county Department of Health, the Covid-19 positive rate is down to 2.7%. The release also says that, “Although New York State has lifted the mandate for mask wearing while in a business, local health care officials continue to encourage the wearing of masks while indoors, particularly for those with health problems.” For the full release see Page 5 of the print issue.
The email from the school district about the mask mandate being lifted says that the district respects everyone’s right to choose for themselves if they wish to continue wearing masks or not. “We ask parents and guardians to please speak with their child about personal choice and respect for each other’s decisions. We will not tolerate any bullying of students or staff who choose to either continue or not continue to wear a mask,” according to the email.
‘The metrics support this change.’
Supt. Suzanne Guntlow
Ichabod Crane Central School District
At the board meeting Ms. Guntlow also announced that students have a choice to use lockers again. Since the beginning of the school year, the district, with guidance from the county Department of Health had not allowed locker use. Ms. Guntlow said students in grades 6 to 12 can choose whether or not they want to use lockers again.
There will also be no mask mandate on the school buses.
The email to parents said that the district asks that “you continue to remain vigilant in your efforts to help us mitigate any potential spread of Covid in schools. Prior to the break, we distributed at-home test kits to staff and to families and we encourage everyone to test” the evening before or first thing in the morning prior to returning to school after vacation. Anyone testing positive, or experiencing symptoms of Covid should isolate at home and contact their school’s health office.
At the meeting, Ms. Guntlow said she was waiting for more guidance from the state and that she had asked the district’s Health and Safety Committee to meet again soon to update the reopening plan announced at the beginning of the school year.
Updated guidance on masking from the state was released March 1 saying that, “students, staff and teachers must wear masks on return to school during Days 6 – 10 of their isolation period” if they test positive for Covid-19. The state Department of Health recommends students, staff and teachers wear masks when: they feel more comfortable wearing a mask for personal reasons; they were in the same room within the school as someone diagnosed with Covid-19 for 15 minutes or longer and were thus exposed or potentially exposed; they are known to have been exposed to Covid-19 in any setting within the previous 10 days; they are moderately-to-severely immunocompromised and have discussed the need to mask with their healthcare provider.
The state also says that the decisions on masking “that are more protective than state requirements may be made by local health departments, guided by local conditions.”
Also at the meeting:
•The board continued the review of the proposed budget numbers for the 2022-23 school year. The district plans to adopt a proposed budget on April 12 for the residents to vote May 17. Information about the proposed budget is on the district website at ichabodcrane.org
•District Business Manager Michael Brennan discussed the future purchasing of electric buses, which may become a state requirement in 2027. Right now, he said, those buses would be more expensive than the traditional buses. But he said that the district has time to plan and look at funding and grants
•Board Vice-President Elizabeth Phillips reported on the Academic Committee meeting held last month, saying the committee received an update on new reading programs in the Primary School. She said the administration continues to look through the options for programs and will bring them to the committee to review in April.
The next regular board meeting will be April 5 at 7 p.m. Information will be at ichabodcrane.org
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email