South Orangetown Central School District

Sent via SchoolMessenger on April 23, 2021

Earlier this month, William O. Schaefer Elementary School and Cottage Lane Elementary School welcomed our K-5 students back for full-time, in-person learning in accordance with updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New York State guidance for schools.

Last Thursday, the superintendents of Rockland County public school districts and Rockland BOCES met with representatives from the Rockland County Department of Health (RCDOH) who advised that school leaders should use the CDC Integrated COVID Data Tracker, rather than the RCDOH Dashboard, to determine community level of transmission and inform their decision-making.

According to the CDC data, which was verified by the RCDOH, we remain in a “High” transmission zone based upon the number of cases per 100,000. CDC guidance released in March indicates that middle and high schools in high transmission zones that are able to use cohorting (groups of students who remain together and isolated from other groups throughout the entire day) can move to at least three feet of physical distancing. Schools that are unable to use cohorting are advised to maintain at least six feet of physical distancing between students in classrooms.

Due to electives and scheduling variations, our secondary schools do not operate in cohorts. Therefore, South Orangetown Middle School and Tappan Zee High School are to maintain at least six feet of physical distancing until the community level of transmission as determined by the CDC is reduced to “Substantial” or lower designation.

Planning has begun to prepare for returning secondary students to school on a full-time basis once the CDC’s criteria for reducing physical distancing to three feet has been met.

  • Once Rockland County’s designation has changed to “Substantial” or lower community transmission designation, SOMS and TZHS will send out an email communication asking families to complete a Google Form to register their children for the remainder of this school year as either full-time in person or full-time remote. Families will be given three (3) days to complete and submit the form.
  • Based on the registration results, plans will be finalized and communicated to families in the respective schools.
  • In order to reconfigure learning spaces, re-route busing and address scheduling issues, we anticipate that schools will be prepared to return students on a full-time, in-person basis roughly two weeks following a designation change.
  • Given that quarantine guidelines have not changed, we anticipate that a larger number of individuals will be required to quarantine in the event of an exposure once secondary schools shift to less than six feet physical distancing.

However, as we move towards the end of the school year, there will be a point at which shifting to full-time, in-person learning will not be feasible.

In the meantime, South Orangetown Middle School and Tappan Zee High School administrators have worked to expand full-time, in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible within the existing guidelines. At both schools, many students registered as “hybrid learners” still do not come to school consistently or at all during their assigned in-person weeks. Families of these hybrid learners are strongly encouraged to re-commit to having their children attend school daily during their in-person weeks or to contact their school counselors to request that they be moved to fully-remote status so that their vacant seats may be offered to students who wish to come to school full-time.

We will continue to keep you informed should the CDC designation or federal/state guidelines change.


Robert R. Pritchard, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools