Oneida County Provides Strategies for Local Schools to Return to Full Time In-Person Learning

Oneida County has provided local school districts with a strategy guide for returning students to the classroom for full time in-person learning that addresses the challenges of transportation and classroom set up.

“All of the national and local data at our disposal shows that children are at low risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 and that schools have been among the safest places throughout this pandemic,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “With New York State recently approving high-risk sports, it make no sense that our children can’t sit next to each other masked on a bus, but can compete in a wrestling match. With case numbers down and vaccination rates rising, now is the time to get our students back in the classroom.”

Oneida County has no authority to approve school reopening plans. Its strategy guide complies with New York State guidance and is meant to be used as a tool to assist with getting children back in the classroom.

According to the county document, while all buildings are different, the ideal classroom for full time in-person learning could include:

  • Teachers who are vaccinated; tested every 14 days, teach behind an impermeable, clear barrier while wearing a mask and who wear a mask and face shield when interacting with students.
  • Students who sit no closer than 3 feet apart desk-to-desk and person-to-person (six feet is best); have an impermeable, clear barrier to work behind while wearing a mask; wear a mask and face shield when interacting with teachers and other students and not behind a barrier.
  • Open windows when air temperature is above 45 degrees.

Ideal buses could include:

  • At least 3 feet of separation between students unless they live in the same household, which would be achieved through sitting one child per seat.
  • When that is not possible students may sit two per seat while wearing a mask and a face shield.
  • Students wearing masks, if able, and if not, increased social distancing around that child.
  • Optional sneeze guards in between each seat and the driver’s area.
  • Open windows when air temperature is above 45 degrees.
  • Vaccinated drivers who are tested every 14 days.
  • Earlier arrival and later departure times for students who do not use a bus for transportation.

The county strategy guide cites Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that show less than 10% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have been among children and adolescents aged 5-17 years old. Further, the CDC reports that in-person learning has not been associated with substantial community transmission.

In Oneida County as of Feb. 12, only 7.9% of positive COVID-19 cases were children between the ages of 0-17.

The school reopening strategy document can be viewed here.