School Operations During COVID:
Wappingers CSD makes decisions on COVID related school operations using guidance from the NYS Education Department (NYSED), the NYS Department of Health (NYDOH), and the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health (DCDBCH). There are times when notifications of positive cases of COVID in one of our school communities requires us to close a school or dismiss early for the day. Decisions to take such action are done so as consistently as possible, and within the confines of the guidance provided from the organizations specified above.
This webpage has been created as a resource to help explain the rationale for the decisions we must make.
The District has had to manage hundreds of reported cases of COVID within our community since school opened in September. Details about these cases, and the school communities for which they were reported can be found on the NYS COVID-19 Report Card website. The District has maintained a practice of performing contact tracing as per direction from the DCDBCH. When a positive case of COVID is reported to us, we must identify the date for which the individual who tested positve either first felt symptomatic, or if there were no symptoms, the date for when they took a COVID test. Then we must go back 48 hours from that date to determine the times in which that individual was present in school (and / or on a District vehicle). Any individuals who were in close or proximal contact during that 48 hour period are added to our contact tracing list. The DCDBCH has advised since the fall that proximal contact includes an entire classroom or an entire bus, and that all individuals in a classroom or a bus shall quarantine out of an abundance of caution. This has been the practice we have followed since the fall, but this will be changing as of February 4th, 2021 (see link below to review DCDBCH approved revisions).
While the DCDBCH website does not specifically outline these procedures, this is until recently, the practice they have asked districts in our county to follow. In a memo from the DCDBCH dated January 7th, 2021 the DCDBCH notes a shifting perspective to a system of contact tracing that is based purely on close contact within a classroom or on a bus (close contact includes spending 10 minutes or more with confirmed COVID case while standing within 6 feet of the individual). Since receiving this memo the District has drafted per the recommendation of the DCDBCH, a new set of criteria for the DCDBCH to review. The DCDBCH has pledged to work with local school districts on changes they would like to see enacted.
NYSED provided a guidance document in March of 2020 which states on page 6 that schools must close or cancel school for an initial 24 hours upon learning of a positive case of COVID in the community. We acknowledge that this language is from March 2020, and is old, but we have been advised by legal counsel that until new guidance is provided we are required to stick with this language.
The DCDBCH has advised since the fall, and up until recently that this would also mean we must dismiss early whenever it is possible to do so. We again refer back to the memo from the DCDBCH dated January 7th, 2021 and look forward to our collaboration with the DCDBCH in creating a more relevant set of conditions which would require a school closure or early dismissal. The District has submitted a proposal for these updated conditions and awaiting approval from the DCDBCH.