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Back to School Update (3.21)

This plan applies to Midlakes Middle/High School and Midlakes Elementary School and was updated in March 2022, to reflect improving conditions and COVID-19 health and safety protocols and guidance.

»MARCH 1, 2022: Updated Masking Guidance
»MARCH 1, 2022: NYS Masks & Testing FAQ

The Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District has developed this plan in conjunction with the latest guidance from the CDC, New York State Education Department (NYSED), Ontario County Administration and Public Health, and our school physician to support full in-person instruction by following certain health and safety protocols. 

This plan reflects our efforts to respond to the current rate of COVID-19 transmission in our community and region, while providing the flexibility necessary to adapt to changing circumstances, including those related to variant strains of the virus. We are prepared to apply additional safety protocols if the transmission rate worsens and prepared to adjust our plan if local transmission rates demonstrate sustained improvement.  

We hope that through cooperation and collective adherence to our health and safety protocols, we will be able to sustain this model and potentially loosen restrictions during the school year.  

Most aspects of this plan took effect on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, with a significant update in March 2022, following a statewide update to mask requirements for schools based on information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The plan is subject to change with limited notice based on state, regional, and local circumstances.  

The following summary points represent the key components of the 2021-2022 Back to School Plan. Please refer to the full plan below for complete details. (Last updated and approved by the Phelps-Clifton Springs Board of Education on March 1, 2022).


  • On March 1, 2022, the Phelps-Clifton Springs Board of Education amended Policy 5693 (Compliance With COVID-19 Health and Safety Requirements), which had previously required students, staff, and visitors to wear face coverings indoors. The Board of Education also authorized the Superintendent to modify the District’s reopening plan to reflect that face coverings are not mandated in school settings, effective March 2, 2022.
  • The lifting of the statewide masking mandate and Midlakes’ strong recommendation that students, staff, and visitors wear a face covering applies to all school settings, including classrooms, cafeterias, buses, athletics, extracurricular activities, and musical/theatrical performances.
    Individuals who develop symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, should stay home until tested. Anyone testing positive should isolate for five days.
    • Individuals who have tested positive and return to the school environment after 5 days of isolation are required to wear a mask during days 6-10 following the positive test.
    • It is strongly recommended (not required) that individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 wear a mask for 10 days following the exposure.
    • If anyone in your child’s class(es) tests positive for COVID-19, you will receive a notification from the school. 
  • This email notification will recommend (not require) that you test your child at home (using a rapid test) at least twice within the first 5 days after the exposure. It is recommended that you first test your child upon receiving the notification and a second time on day five. 
  • The message will also recommend (not require) that individuals who are exposed to a positive case wear a mask for 10 days.
  • Additional details will be provided, and you can call your child’s school nurse if you have any questions.
  • Midlakes will be prepared to switch to remote learning in response to staff shortages and other COVID-19 circumstances, as necessary. 

Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 vaccination is not required for school attendance/employment. However, medical experts continue to note that vaccinations for COVID-19 have a significant impact on slowing the rate of transmission.* 

At this time, Midlakes will not require students or staff to be vaccinated. Midlakes will not collect information regarding the vaccination status of students, staff, or visitors. Should a state or federal law require employees to be vaccinated, Midlakes will comply and engage our collective bargaining units as appropriate.  

*NOTE: Those who are vaccinated can still contract and potentially transmit COVID-19 but symptoms tend to be less severe and significantly diminish serious illness, hospitalization, and death. 

As stated by the CDC, screening testing can help identify those infected with COVID-19, including those with or without symptoms and those who may be contagious. In K-12 schools, COVID-19 testing can promptly identify and isolate cases, help quarantine those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 who are not fully vaccinated, and identify clusters where the virus exists. Further information on quarantine can be found on the CDC website. 

For COVID-19  testing in schools, the CDC recommends the following: 

  • People who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have had known close contact with someone with COVID-19 should be tested for COVID-19. Prior to any student testing at school, parental consent will be obtained.
  • Point-of care serial screening testing can provide rapid results and is critical to identifying people with COVID-19 who do not have symptoms and help slow the spread, especially important when the COVID-19 Community Level is high.
  • Required weekly testing of unvaccinated staff members will transition from Quadrant “pool” testing to rapid Binax tests, administered on campus, beginning the week of March 14, 2022.
  • Optional Quadrant "pool" testing of students will end during the week of March 7, 2022. Beginning the week of March 14, 2022, families who are interested in continued testing can do so through rapid home tests. If you are interested, please contact your child’s school nurse to obtain rapid tests.

NOTE: Midlakes will provide, based on availability, COVID-19 rapid tests from New York State to District families. These tests are available in each school’s Main Office. All existing testing protocols, including the ability to test individuals with symptoms at school, will continue to be available to students and staff.

Updated as of March 1, 2022, to supersede face covering protocols included in Midlakes’ 2021-2022 reopening plan:

  • On Feb. 27, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul lifted the statewide mask requirement for schools, effective March 2, 2022. This decision was based on current information from the CDC and recent data showing a significant decrease in positivity rates and COVID-19 hospitalizations. The Governor reserved the authority of local health departments to mandate masks in schools based on local data.
  • On March 1, 2022, the Phelps-Clifton Springs Board of Education amended Policy 5693 (Compliance With COVID-19 Health and Safety Requirements), which had previously required students, staff, and visitors to wear face coverings indoors. The Board of Education also authorized the Superintendent to modify the District’s reopening plan to reflect that face coverings are not mandated in school settings, effective March 2, 2022.
  • The CDC has updated its guidance on masks based on multiple metrics, including county positivity rates, hospitalization rates, and available hospital capacity. In counties designated as “Low” or “Medium,” wearing a face covering in the school setting is not identified as a recommended mitigation strategy, though individuals have the choice to wear a face covering. In counties designated as "High," wearing a face covering in the school setting is identified as a recommended protocol.
  • Based on Ontario County’s current CDC designation of "High," and in consultation with the Ontario County Department of Health and our school physician, Midlakes strongly recommends that students, staff, and visitors wear a face covering in the school setting, pending a change in Ontario County’s CDC designation. The District will consider a change to this strong recommendation if or when Ontario County’s CDC designation improves.
  • The lifting of the statewide masking mandate and Midlakes’ strong recommendation that students, staff, and visitors wear a face covering applies to all school settings, including classrooms, cafeterias, buses, athletics, extracurricular activities, and musical/theatrical performances.
  • Based on Ontario County’s current CDC designation, Midlakes strongly recommends that well-fitting face coverings be worn in the school setting, as an important strategy in preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, Midlakes recognizes and supports the right of individual families (on behalf of their children), staff, and visitors to assess their levels of risk and make decisions regarding face coverings in the school setting. Individuals (students, staff, and visitors) will not be pressured or singled out for wearing or not wearing a face covering.
  • Per NYSDOH, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are still required to wear a well-fitted mask in the school setting for days 6-10 following the positive test. Midlakes will monitor Ontario County’s CDC designation and may reevaluate its current strong recommendation that face coverings be worn in indoor settings.

The CDC recommends that schools maintain at least three (3) feet of physical distance between students in classrooms, combined with indoor mask-wearing, to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least three (3) feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is important to implement multiple other prevention strategies, such as "cohorting."

According to the CDC’s order, physical distancing is not required on school buses. Midlakes will implement physical distances of three (3) feet, to the extent practical, in all indoor settings and at all levels of community transmission.  

The CDC states that “cohorting” can be used to limit the number of students, teachers, and staff in contact with each other, especially when it is challenging to maintain physical distancing, such as among young children, in areas of moderate to high transmission levels. The use of “cohorting” can limit the spread of COVID-19 between cohorts but should not replace other prevention measures within each group. 

"Cohorting" is an approach that will take place in schools/classes whenever practical, especially at the elementary level.  

Students participating in music and physical education indoors will be physically distanced three (3) feet, or more, whenever practicable. Students will wear masks while singing and students playing wind instruments will use performance masks and bell covers.

Large group assemblies where physical distancing can be maintained are permissible. Physical distancing will be implemented whenever practicable. Students moving through cafeteria lines will be physically distanced to the extent practicable. Students will be assigned tables in the cafeteria.

Per the New York State Education Department, Midlakes will prioritize the return of all students to in-person instruction. 

All aspects of the District’s academic program will be provided in-person. 

All grade levels will return to the regular daily schedules in their school buildings. 

Grades 7-12 will return to the traditional eight-period daily schedule. 

WFL BOCES CTE programs (morning and afternoon) will meet at their normal times and transportation to these programs will be provided from the Midlakes campus. 

The District will continue to transport students to out-of-district placements, as assigned. 

Midlakes schools are staffed with school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, and community agency social workers/counselors. Students will be supported by a professional in the Pupil Support Office or other trained staff members.  

Staff training will be provided according to our Professional Development Plan and will include social-emotional learning and supports, multi-tiered systems of support, and Trauma, Illness and Grief support.  

Appropriate assistance to students with disabilities and other health care needs will be provided by the Office of Special Programs, the Committee on Special Education, and/or School Health Offices. An informed, empowered community of parents, guardians and other persons in parental relations/positions is critical to ensuring that English Language Learners (ELLs) are well served. In order to best support ELLs and their families, we provide translations and interpreter services in a variety of situations. Staff will receive professional development regarding the best practices in supporting ELLs and a set of guidelines for accessing translation/interpreter services. 

The Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District will provide all students with access to school meals each school day. 

Meals will be free for students throughout the 2021-2022 school year. The District transitioned to traditional "hot meals" and "serving lines" on Monday, October 4, 2021. 

Students will be assigned to tables in the cafeteria and will sit three (3) feet apart facing the same direction. 

Effective March 2, 2022, passengers (students and adults) and drivers are encouraged to wear a mask on school buses. Disposable masks will be available on buses for those needing them. 

Midlakes will no longer implement physical distancing requirements on buses, per CDC and NYSED recommendations. Students will be seated up to two or three per seat, with the second and third students added to a seat later in the bus run. Siblings and students from the same household/daycare will be prioritized for sitting together in the same seat.  

Bus windows and roof hatches will be opened to increase ventilation as weather permits (temperatures greater than 40 degrees and no precipitation). Buses will be supplied with approved wipes for cleaning of high-touch surfaces between bus runs. 

Families are encouraged to provide transportation, whenever possible, to reduce student capacity on school buses.  

The CDC encourages cleaning school buildings and school buses at least once a day to sufficiently remove any germs that may be on surfaces. Midlakes will follow all Facilities recommendations from NYSED. Other steps will include: 

  • Learning and eating spaces will be configured to support physical distances of three (3) feet, whenever practicable. 
  • Signs will be posted to promote hand sanitization and respiratory hygiene. 
  • Health offices will be configured to support physical distancing and provide designated "sick" and "well" areas to the extent practicable. 
  • Custodial staff will be trained in COVID-19 cleaning protocols and schedules. 
  • Custodial staff will clean high-touch surfaces throughout the day and perform a deeper cleaning each night. Custodial staff will perform a thorough deep clean of any high traffic areas, such as the cafeteria, throughout the day and as needed. 
  • Custodial staff will maintain cleaning checklists and logs, and cleaning product information will be made available. 
  • Classrooms will be supplied with approved wipes for additional cleaning of high-touch surfaces as needed. 
  • Areas of suspected COVID-19 exposure will be cleaned and sanitized based on guidance and recommendations from the local health department. 
  • Outside air will be cycled in at the higher levels and HVAC filters will be changed regularly, above manufacturer recommendations. 

The CDC no longer recommends temperature screenings or daily health screening questionnaires at school. However, schools should be proactive in communicating to everyone that children experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should stay home and be tested for COVID-19. 

Families are encouraged to be mindful of any indication that their children are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and to seek testing when such symptoms are present. The CDC maintains a list of COVID-19 symptoms on its website.  

Furthermore, school leaders play a significant role in educating teachers, staff, families, and students about when they should stay home and when they can return to school. Amid the recovery from the pandemic, the CDC recommends that: 

  • Students and school personnel should stay home if they are showing signs and symptoms of infectious illness, including COVID-19, and get tested.
  • Parents/guardians are encouraged to check/screen for COVID-19 symptoms prior to their child attending school each day. 
    Schools should encourage everyone in their school community to get tested when symptoms are indicative of COVID-19, as this will help with rapid contact tracing and prevent the spread of COVID-19 at school.  
  • Schools are reminded to follow Education Law § 906, which provides that whenever a student in a public school “shows symptoms of any communicable or infectious disease reportable under the public health law that imposes a significant risk of infection of others in the school, he or she shall be excluded from the school and sent home immediately, in a safe and proper conveyance. The director of school health services shall immediately notify a local public health agency of any disease reportable under the public health law … The director of school health services, or other health professionals acting upon direction or referral of such director, may make such evaluations of teachers and any other school employees, school buildings and premises as, in their discretion, they may deem necessary to protect the health of the students and staff."

Midlakes will follow the following student and staff health procedures: 

  • Staying home when sick with COVID-19 is essential to keep COVID-19 infections out of schools and to prevent spread to others.
  • A daily health screener will no longer be used.
  • The District will send frequent reminders to students and staff that they must stay home if they are exhibiting symptoms.
  • Students and staff who exhibit symptoms associated with COVID-19 are encouraged to consult one of Midlakes school nurses before coming to school/work. Families/staff may be asked to contact their physician for additional steps.  

The New York State Department of Health no longer contact traces for the purpose of identifying exposures. Such contact tracing is not required of schools and places an unmanageable strain on our nursing staff. When NYSDOH was contact tracing, schools assisted with some levels of communication but were not primarily responsible for the process.

Based on updated NYSDOH practices, our consultation with the Ontario County DOH, and the recent designation of Ontario County as a “Medium burden” region, Midlakes will not engage in contract tracing and will no longer communicate known or suspected exposures. 

School leaders should, per CDC guidelines and to the extent allowable by applicable privacy laws, report new diagnoses of COVID-19 to their local health department as soon as they are informed. 

Families are encouraged to consider masking and/or regular home testing if they are concerned about the risk of infection. The District has rapid COVID tests for families who prefer to regularly test their children. Tests are also available to staff.

Midlakes will continue to collaborate with Ontario County Public Health to the extent allowable by privacy laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to confidentially provide information about students/staff diagnosed with COVID-19.  

Midlakes will work collaboratively to identify which students, teachers, and staff with positive COVID-19 test results should isolate for a period of five days.  

The District must be prepared for the current situation to change rapidly and with little notice. As required by the New York State Education Department, Midlakes must be prepared to return to 100% remote instruction at any time, based on a small- or large-scale quarantine/isolation, school closure, or a declaration of a public health emergency.   

Students may be returned to 100% remote instruction if: 

  • Classrooms or portions of classrooms are quarantined by the local health department;
  • One or both schools are closed at any time due to increased rates of COVID-19 infection or other factors;
  • Or a public health emergency is declared, and schools are directed to switch to remote instruction. 

The District’s plan provides for partial or complete shifts to remote instruction. These shifts may last for short or longer periods, depending on the circumstances and recommendations or directives from the local department of health. 

Remote instruction may involve some students being instructed remotely while others attend school in-person. Therefore, remote instruction for students in Grades 4-12 will follow the regular daily schedule for that classroom, grade level, or school. Instruction will be delivered synchronously, to the extent possible, using Zoom and the 1:1 device (iPads) provided by school. 

When remote instruction is necessary, the District will take daily attendance for in-person and remote instruction, as required by the NYSED guidance. Remote attendance procedures will be shared with families by the principal of each school. Families may review Midlakes Elementary School Remote Instruction Plan for grades K-3 and the Finger Lakes Technical & Career Center Plan by clicking on the appropriate links.

Midlakes will communicate small- and large-scale shifts to remote learning with as much notice as possible. In some cases, short delays may be necessary to support a successful transition. 

When it is necessary for designated students, classrooms, or schools to shift to remote learning for a designated period: 

  • Students will follow their regular daily schedule and connect synchronously with their teachers/classrooms, to the extent practicable, using school-issued devices (iPads).
  • Grades UPK-6 students, parents, and teachers will connect and communicate using Seesaw.
  • Grades 7-12 students and teachers will connect and communicate using Schoology.  
  • Parents and teachers at all grade levels will also communicate via email and phone.  
  • Zoom will be used to support synchronous instruction.
  • Some asynchronous instruction will be included as appropriate to the grade level and subject area. 
    Regular grading standards and practices will be maintained, and students will complete work assigned by their teachers, but teachers will exercise the level of flexibility and patience appropriate to the situation.
  • Families can email to receive technical support.
  • In some cases, remote tutoring may be considered as an option for instructing students who are directed to isolate or quarantine by the local health department.
  • In the event of quarantine, isolation, or school closure, remote learning help can be found on the Quarantine/Isolation page.

Both the CDC and NYSED recognize that school-sponsored sports and extracurricular activities provide students with enrichment opportunities that can help them learn while supporting their social, emotional, and mental health. 

Midlakes will require students, faculty, and staff who are involved in sports and extracurricular activities to follow the same school day policies and protocols during athletic events. 

The Athletic Director will communicate expectations and protocols to student-athletes and families, specific to seasons and sports, based on current data and recommendations. 

Midlakes is committed to providing access to school facilities to outside groups and community members to the extent possible according to our health and safety protocols and changing circumstances. 

  • All groups using Midlakes school facilities will be required to follow all protocols as outlined in our reopening plan.
  • ML Schedules (available on our school website) will be used for reserving space, subject to compliance with District health and safety protocols.
  • Access to school facilities may change in response to evolving data and circumstances.
  • Capacity limits for participants and/or spectators may be applied. 

The New York State Education Department's position on remote instruction, pursuant to the memo to the field from Commissioner Rosa on July 29, 2021, is as follows:   

  • So long as allowed by public health officials, schools should be open for in-person teaching and learning, and students should be in school.  
  • In the case of school closures due to a declared public health emergency, schools must be prepared to provide remote instruction.  
  • While NYSED will not require schools that are open for full-time, in-person instruction to provide online or remote instruction, school districts may work with students and families to offer remote options if it is deemed to be in the best educational interest of the student.
  • Districts should consider the value of online capacity developed in response to the pandemic to expand programmatic offerings and to offer remote learning opportunities that are responsive to student needs. This can be done directly through cooperative agreements with other school districts or Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. This can help where documented medical conditions prohibit the safe return for students to in-person instruction and where students who have otherwise struggled have excelled with remote learning.   

Remote instruction consistent with both the July 29, 2021 memo and existing regulations count for state aid purposes towards the minimum instructional hours and days. Midlakes encourages all students to attend school in-person according to the health and safety protocols outlined in the reopening plan. 

Midlakes recognizes that some families may not be comfortable sending their children to school for in-person instruction at this time. Therefore, Midlakes is offering a K-12 remote learning option through the eAcademy offered by Erie 1 BOCES. This option is available to families who expressed interest by August 20, 2021, and subsequently confirmed enrollment with district administration.

Enrollment in eAcademy requires a full-year commitment for the entire 2021-2022 school year. The District is unable to allow students to switch between in-person instruction and optional remote instruction during the school year. Also, students enrolled in eAcademy for optional remote instruction are not eligible to participate in any in-person learning opportunities offered by the District (i.e., CTE programs at FLTCC, etc.).

Students who enroll in the eAcademy for optional remote learning are eligible to participate in interscholastic sports and extracurricular activities, according to the health and safety protocols outlined in the District’s reopening plan.

Should a parent choose to homeschool their student(s) the following information is important to note: 

  • Homeschooling is governed by the regulations of the New York State Education Department. Parents wishing to homeschool a child must follow the published guidelines, including submission of an intent to homeschool and an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP).
  • The New York State Education Department has published a Q&A document to support parents in the homeschooling process.

Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette
The District will encourage, promote and practice handwashing and respiratory etiquette (covering coughs and sneezes) to help limit the spread of infectious illnesses, including COVID-19. The District will monitor and reinforce these behaviors and provide adequate hand washing supplies. In addition, the District will take steps to: 

  • Teach and reinforce handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Remind everyone in school to wash their hands frequently and to assist young children with handwashing.
  • If handwashing is not possible, students, faculty, staff, and visitors are encouraged to use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol (for teachers, staff, and older students who can safely use hand sanitizer). Hand sanitizers should be stored out of reach and out of sight of young children and should only be used by children six and younger under adult supervision. 

The District will continue to monitor changing circumstances related to COVID-19 and consider adjustments to the reopening plan in consultation with Ontario County Administration and Public Health, the school physician, Section V Athletics, the Finger Lakes Athletic Association, and other relevant groups. 

We will also evaluate and respond to any updated guidance, recommendations, and/or directives from the state, county, or local level. Any changes to health and safety protocols or other aspects of the reopening plan will be communicated to students, families, and staff with as much notice as possible. The District administration will also provide regular updates to the Board of Education at public Board meetings throughout the school year.