Whitehall Junior-Senior High School will be getting acclimated to the updated state Department of Health’s COVID-19 guidelines but school superintendent Patrick Dee isn’t happy about it.
Dee said the updates tighten restrictions at a time he thought they would be loosened.
Dee released a statement to the school’s website last week regarding the changes and how they will affect staff, faculty, students and families.
Dee wrote to the community that anyone on school grounds, even if socially distanced, needs to be wearing a facial covering. New York State had previously approved the school’s mode of practice allowing students, as well as adults, to remove their masks if there was six feet of separation, but it has now been changed to masks being worn at all times as well as being two layers.
“The only change was for those students that were wearing gators or bandanas, which are a single layer thick,” Dee said. “They must fold it over so that it is 2 layers or wear a standard mask.”
The previous practices of the school also allowed students to have a mask break during the day, but Dee said that has also been eliminated.
Dee had in mind that the newest update in guidelines would be less restrictive but has seen that is not the case. He said he thought these guideline updates would have given the Whitehall School District the possibility of putting more students on their buses and in their hallways but that is not the case.
“Unfortunately, the Governor’s office has delivered this new guidance which has provided us with no additional flexibility either on our buses or in our classrooms,” he said. “To say that this has been frustrating is most definitely an understatement.”
Dee said schools have been the safest place for students at this time, especially since Whitehall’s high school hasn’t had a single case come from inside their walls. Any case that has emerged has been a staff or student who obtained the virus from an outside source, not in the school.
Thus the news of increasing how strict the guidelines are makes it harder for the school district because they have managed to keep students safe.
“The cleaning, and disinfection processes as well as student handwashing and ‘smart’ social distancing has proven effective,” Dee said. “The Governor’s decision to further tighten up restrictions in the schools while loosening the restrictions in the community flies in the face of good sense.”
Dee wants parents to understand that the district is abiding by the new guidelines but he also understands any frustrations parents may have regarding the changes.
As much as the district wishes it could put more students on the buses, there can be only 22 students on a 65-passenger bus.
Dee said he wants community members to know that they should reach out to the Governor’s office to express any displeasures with the updated guidelines. “The number for the Governor’s office is 518-474-8390,” he said. “The community can also reach out to Senator Stec’s office at 518-743-0968 or Assemblyman Simpsons office at 518-792-4546 to ask that they lobby the Governor’s office for thoughtful guidance for schools that would enable us to bring back our student body.”