School to mask up — following County’s lead

Shelter Island School opens its doors to students on Thursday, Sept. 2. Guidelines regarding COVID protections from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services remain what they were at the end of the school term in June.

The guidelines issued Sunday night are now advisory only, according to the Health Department memo to educators provided by Shelter Island Superintendent Brian Doelger.

All students, whether vaccinated or not, must wear masks within the building and on buses. Masks are not required for outdoor activities. In addition to wearing well-fitting masks on buses regardless of vaccination status, riders must maintain at least 3 feet between non-household members. Boarding buses should be done from the rear forward, alternating window/aisle seating in the rows.

Vaccinations are not required by the Health Department, but school district officials are free to implement such requirements if they determine it’s appropriate for their specific circumstances. The guidance follows recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, with advice to educators to continue to monitor those organizations for any changes.

The advice is to also maintain at least three feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, and during physical education and music classes. In physical education classes, any contact due to activities needs to be quick and not prolonged.

Students who come in contact with an infected person who is masked won’t be required to quarantine. But those who come in contact with someone either suspected or confirmed with COVID should get tested three to five days after such exposure.

There are exceptions for students with contact exposure 3 to 6 feet apart if both are properly masked.

The exception doesn’t apply to teachers, staff or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.

School districts must report positive cases of COVID-19 to the Health Department and those who test positive must be isolated for 10 days from the date of symptom onset or test date if the person is asymptomatic.

It’s recommended that schools continue to contact trace and notify families of potential exposure so they may monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the date of exposure. Any students who begin to exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 should remain home and seek testing.

Activities not in the classroom such as recess, lunch and various support services require schools to keep records of seating charts to reduce exposure and assist with contact tracing.

Periodic COVID testing isn’t required by the Health Department but the county will continue to monitor transmissions and revisit that issue if warranted.

At the same time, testing is a prevention strategy the CDC recommends, and Shelter Island during the past school year tested a cross section of staff with their permission and students who had parental permission.

The county has accepted state and federal funding to assist schools in establishing COVID testing programs as a means of maintaining in-person learning.