To comply with New York State Education Department (NYSED) guidelines at the beginning of the school year, the administration separated desks six feet apart. Because of how far apart the desks are, only two grades can learn in the building at once: forcing students to attend online classes two to three times a week. Now that the number of new Covid cases is declining, the CDC issued a recommendation, which reduced the recommended six feet of social distancing to three feet of social distancing. As a result, the New York State Department of Health,NYSDOH, and NYSED reduced the social distancing requirement to only three feet. Decreasing the space between desks would allow three grades to use the building simultaneously.
Although most areas in New York have adopted the new social distancing policy, Ramaz still can not adopt the new protocol. During a public health emergency, the local Department of Health (DOH) has jurisdiction over regulations. The CDC and the NYSED recommend switching to a three foot social distancing standard, but the local department of health (NYC DOH) has yet to adopt it. Ramaz can not move forward with their new social distancing plans until the local DOH adopts the shorter social distancing rules. The City generally lags a few weeks behind the state guidelines, so Ramaz officials are hopeful that the NYC DOH regulations will lessen in the coming weeks.
The NYC Department of Health holds regular meetings that Ramaz nurses and Ms. Shlomovich, Ramaz’s chief operating officer, attend. Ms. Shlomovich says that the presenters indicated that the NYC DOH would approve the three foot social distancing policy with two conditions in the coming weeks. The first condition is community approval. Schools need to show that their constituents are willing to relax the Covid restrictions. To address this, Ramaz sent a google form asking parents and faculty if they are comfortable with three feet social distancing. The other requirement is that students still need to be six feet apart while eating and unmasked. This means that some areas need to have desks separated by six feet so students can eat. The administration needs to account for meal time in their submission plan to the DOH when they accept the new guidelines.
Ms. Shlomovich, who is heavily involved with Covid planning, described how she thinks school will look in the first semester next year based on the DOH meetings she attended. She believes masks are almost certainly here to stay for the foreseeable future. She also imagines a hybrid schooling system similar to today’s, but with more days in person because of three feet social distancing. She thinks that until the Covid vaccine is approved for younger school age children, we will be seeing some of the same Covid protocols in place.
In summary, the NYSED announced new distancing protocols that would allow far more students to use the building than previously possible. Despite the protocol’s approval throughout the rest of New York State, schools in New York City will still follow six foot social distancing until the local DOH also approves the rule. Ramaz has prepared for the DOH’s approval so three grades can learn in the building at once as soon as possible.