By Natalia Perez-Gonzalez
Syracuse schools returned to five-day, in-person learning this week, starting a third school year impacted by COVID-19. Recently, the Syracuse City School District released a Family COVID Safety Guide detailing protocol, requirements and resources available to parents navigating the upcoming school year.
The guide specified that all individuals wear masks indoors — with the exception of children under the age of 2, as well as anyone who has trouble breathing or unable to remove their facemask without assistance — maintain three feet of physical distance and to continue testing staff and students. All teachers and staff members in Onondaga County schools must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly, as announced by Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon in mid-August.
Students with “exceptional medical considerations or living conditions” are able to continue participating in virtual instruction by filling out a COVID-19 virtual school form.
“The health, wellness and safety of our students, staff and families is a top priority and one that we take very seriously,” said Superintendent Jaime Alicea in the guide. “We encourage anyone who is able to, to get vaccinated. Vaccination is the best way to stay safe and beat this virus.”
Students will have their temperature taken when entering a district building, and students with temperatures above 100 degrees will be sent home. School nurses will make the final determinations on whether a student is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and if they need to stay in the school’s isolation room, where they’ll be assisted by a School Health Aide or School Nurse.
If a child tests positive for COVID-19, they must isolate for 10 days until symptoms have significantly improved and have been fever-free for at least three days. A second test is not needed to return to the classroom.
In class, students will be allowed mask breaks in turns, so that not all students have their masks off at the same time. They’ll distance as much as possible for lunch and utilize desk dividers for further protection. During active activities or choir and instruments, students must maintain six feet of social distancing. Social distancing is not required on school buses, but students must keep their masks on.
Since schools will be working with the county’s health department to conduct randomized testing in schools, all students under 18 must fill out consent forms to the school’s health office. Screening tests will be done in pools of 10 to 12 staff and students, both vaccinated and unvaccinated. If the pool tests positive, all will be quarantined until individual samples are tested to determine who in the group is positive and then contact tracing will ensue. Individuals who are not positive may return to work or school.