Superintendent letter on keeping schools open

Dear FFCS Community,

I would like to take this opportunity to address some misinformation that has been circulating throughout the community in recent days and to update you on the district’s COVID-19 response plans. I want to clearly and definitively state that FFCS currently has no plans to move its in-person/hybrid learning models to a fully remote environment for the holiday season or for any extended length of time.

At this time, the only reasons FFCS would make a shift to fully remote learning are:

  • IF our region is directed to do so by Governor Andrew Cuomo or the Department of Public Health based upon the state’s color-coded zone system (see below); OR
  • IF a significant number of FFCS faculty are placed in mandatory quarantine, and a staffing shortage requires that we temporarily shift a class or school building to a fully remote setting.

Our goal is to keep our school buildings open. We believe there is no substitute for in-person learning and its academic, social and emotional benefits for students. FFCS has been very fortunate because we have followed our protocols and have taken the necessary precautions. Both students and staff have been resolute in their approach on a daily basis when it comes to health and safety. As a result of our collective efforts, we are happy to report that we have not yet seen any evidence of spread of COVID-19 within our schools. This could change of course, but it is worth noting now that we are 11 weeks into school.

New Guidelines for School Response

Schools in New York have received new guidance about how the state is tracking COVID-19 infection rates and the metrics it is using. The state has implemented a color-coding system as a means to identify “hotspot” or “microcluster” areas. We want to share information about how this color-coding system may impact our schools. Please note that at this time, we continue to operate as normal with our schools open. We are also not currently in a designated color-coded zone. We are sharing this information to keep you informed.

New York State is using a color-coded system to track COVID-19 infection rates by region. The system identifies regions that exhibit certain metrics related to COVID-19. The color coding includes yellow, orange and red. Yellow indicates a “precautionary zone,” orange indicates a “warning zone” and red signifies a “hot spot” or “microcluster.”

The state’s metrics used to place an area in a Red Zone include daily hospital admissions for COVID-19, positivity rate of testing, and other factors. In order to prevent these micro-clusters from getting bigger, warning zones around them are also identified. The rings around the Red Zones are labeled Orange Zones, and the rings around the Orange Zones are labeled Yellow Zones. Zone designations are reviewed every 14 days.

It’s important to note that the color-coded system applies to entire communities, not just schools. Even if a school district does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, it may be included in a color-coded zone based on the region’s metrics.

At this time, our region has no specific designation. Given recent testing trends, it is possible that we may move into a yellow zone in the coming weeks. As of this letter, IF our geographical region is designated as a yellow, orange or red zone, FFCS will pivot to remote instruction for all students. Though there are protocols for schools located in these zones to operate, the schools in Montgomery County and our local public health department are in agreement that doing so would not be feasible. There is a lack of COVID-19 testing supplies in this region that would be necessary to comply with the state protocols. Because responding to a pandemic requires great flexibility, guidance about this issue may change. We continue to work together toward the goal of keeping our schools open.

This is an ever-changing situation. It is possible that an individual case or set of circumstances could force us into a temporary pivot to remote learning in a building or even in a specific classroom. It is important to stay connected to your email and our website. We will keep you informed each step of the way.  All parents and staff will be informed of any positive case in their child’s school building through an immediate email from the district.

At this time, we will stay the course and continue to be vigilant with our precautions. I appreciate everyone’s commitment to our health and safety precautions and the work that is being done to support our students.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Ciaccio