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Erie County releases updated COVID safety guidelines for schools

While vaccination is not required for teachers, staff or students, the ECDOH is strongly encouraging people to get vaccinated before returning to school.

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — The 2021-2022 school year is underway and as families gear up to send students back to school, safety guidelines and recommendations are continuing to rollout. 

On Saturday, the Erie County Department of Health released updated guidance for PK-12 schools. Safety measures included in the county's updates address the following policies: Masking, Physical Distancing, Health Monitoring, Returning to school following illness, Notice of a positive COVID-19 case, Quarantine, Youth Sports, COVID-19 Vaccination, COVID-19 Screening, Cleaning and Disinfection, and Ventilation.

When it comes to arguably the three most important policies, this is where the county stands.

Masking Policies:

When it comes to masking, the ECDOH requires indoor masking for all individuals, ages 2 and up. That means, students, teachers, staff, bus drivers and aides, as well as vendors and visitors must wear masks at all times in classrooms and non-classroom settings. Masks must also be worn at all times on school buses as well, regardless of vaccination status.

As for mask breaks, ECDOH guidelines state students can remove masks during meal times as long as students are sitting three to six feet apart. In addition, students can remove masks once every hour for five minutes while students are seated at their desks and physically distanced. 

If you're unable to wear a mask due to a disability or medial condition a note completed and signed by a medical or licensed professional must be completed. 

Physical Distancing:

ECDOH is strongly recommending at least three feet of physical distance between students while inside classrooms, in addition to wearing masks. At least six feet distance is recommended between teachers/staff and students. When it comes to meetings, the health department is still encouraging virtual meetings to help prevent potential transmission. 

For those students in band, chorus and orchestra six feet distance is required during practice and lessons and masks must be worn when not singing or playing an instrument. During performances, all performers must remain six feet apart.

As for busing and transportation, the ECDOH strongly encourages the use of seating charters, seating students close who live together, not sharing seats and loading the bus from the back to the front. Cohorting is also strongly encouraged in and out of the classroom.

Health Monitoring/Screening:

When entering school buildings in Erie County, all students, staff and faculty will be required to participate in daily health screenings. 

Health screenings can be daily in-person temperature checks or submitted via a home health screening questionnaire which must then be forwarded to the school. Regardless of whether you are employed, attend or are visiting the school, you will be required to have a daily in-person screening before entering.

For more details on some of the other policies Erie County is requiring schools implement to boost safety measures and lower transmission, visit the county's the guidance 12-page report