STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — As New York City public school students return to classes on Thursday, Sept. 8, many of the coronavirus (COVID-19) policies they had grown accustomed to in recent years will have been adjusted or completely eliminated.
Face masks will not be required, though they are recommended in most situations. Daily health screeners will no longer need to be completed to enter a school building. And the city’s random in-school PCR testing is now a thing of the past.
The Department of Education (DOE) updated coronavirus policies, outlined below, will bring students to the closest thing to a normal school year since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.
Masks are still no longer required indoors or outdoors on school property, but are strongly recommended to be worn when indoors, according to the guidance. Face coverings will still be available at the school for those who need or want them.
There are some instances when a mask will still be required for students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, including:
- Returning to school on the sixth day after testing positive for COVID-19, through Day 10 after symptom onset or date of positive test, whichever is earlier, including when traveling on a school bus.
- Entering the school medical room, nurse’s office, or school-based health center.
- Exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 at school.
Students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, are strongly recommended to wear a mask in the following situations:
- When exposed to someone with COVID-19, whether the exposure occurred in school or outside of school. The person should wear a mask for 10 days after the last day of exposure and get tested at least 24 hours apart on Day 4 and Day 5.
- When a person is moderately to severely immunocompromised, and masking is recommended by a health-care provider.
- In crowded indoor settings
NO DAILY HEALTH SCREENER
Students, staff and visitors will no longer be required to fill out a daily health screener before they enter school buildings.
The screener typically asked if a person was experiencing coronavirus symptoms, was in contact with a coronavirus-positive person, or recently tested positive.
SOME VACCINE REQUIREMENTS
Vaccination is not required for students to attend public school in New York City, but there are some vaccine requirements in place by the DOE.
The coronavirus vaccine is still required for the following people:
- All visitors entering school buildings.
- All DOE employees.
- Other individuals who work in DOE buildings.
- Those participating in high-risk extracurricular activities, including high-risk PSAL sports.
Sports considered high-risk include football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, lacrosse, stunt and rugby.
Additionally, a COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies to students participating in high-risk after-school extracurricular activities like chorus, musical theater, dance/dance team, band/orchestra (with concern for woodwinds), marching band and cheerleading/step teams/flag team.
In-school random PCR surveillance testing will no longer be part of the academic year.
Starting the first day of school, home test kits will be offered to those with a potential in-school exposure and those with coronavirus symptoms. Additionally, each staffer and student will receive four at-home rapid coronavirus tests per month.
The tests can be used by school families for testing due to symptoms, exposure, high-risk activity (such as travel and large gatherings) — and can provide staff and students immediate results.
“Anyone who tests positive on a take-home test should immediately report it to the school and begin isolating,” said the DOE guidance. “No proof of a negative result is required in order for these students to enter the school building.”
IF YOU GET COVID-19
Students and staff should stay home if they show any symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses and get tested, according to the DOE guidance.
If a student or employee tests positive for the coronavirus, he or she must isolate for five days and can return to school on Day 6 if there are no symptoms or symptoms are improving. The infected person must wear a mask until Day 10 after symptom onset or date of positive test, whichever is earlier.
These cases should be reported to the school so they can be reported into the Situation Room for exposure notifications. The Situation Room will provide schools with standardized communications for the community and will inform families of cases in their school through daily email and the DOE’s Daily COVID Case map.
IF EXPOSED TO COVID-19
According to the DOE guidance, students and staff who are exposed to COVID-19 should get tested.
They should receive at-home rapid tests from their school and take two tests, at least 24 hours apart on Day 4 and Day 5 of their exposure.
“All exposed individuals should monitor for fever and other COVID-19 symptoms for 10 days after their exposure,” the DOE stated. “If symptoms begin, they should not attend school and should isolate and get tested for COVID-19 again right away.”
VENTILATION AND CLEANING
Routine cleaning of surfaces will be maintained, according to the DOE guidance.
All classrooms and common areas, like auditoriums and gyms, will have hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. High-touch areas, like doorknobs and water fountains, will be cleaned multiple times a day.
Every room in use by students and staff for extended periods of time will have fully operational ventilation through either natural, mechanical, or a combination.
Every classroom will have at least two air purifiers. Cafeterias in bigger schools, the DOE said, will be provided with large air units for added protection and window-based exhaust fans to provide additional air circulation.
The city will monitor ventilation in buildings on a daily basis and perform any required work “in a timely matter.” There have also been HVAC upgrades in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, including 110,000 MERV-13 filters.
You can check the ventilation status of your child’s school online: go to the DOE website to locate your school’s page, which includes a section on Building Ventilation Information. If a room in your child’s school does not have adequate ventilation, it will not be used.