State health officials on Monday offered a 30-day grace period to students with incomplete vaccine records who are learning remotely, enabling nearly 130 Schenectady students to return to online classes Tuesday.
Those Schenectady students, along with others, had been barred from learning, even if they were only doing so virtually, under the state’s vaccine mandate. However, on Monday, the state Department of Health issued new guidance suspending the vaccination requirement for those students learning entirely online for 30 days. The new grace period applies “only for students attending school exclusively remotely” and if the student’s guardian indicates an intent to complete the state’s vaccine requirements.
The state guidance document noted the difficulty some families have faced in fulfilling the vaccination requirement during the national pandemic. Schenectady school officials have said many families canceled appointments and other arrangements in the spring and summer, leading some to return to school without complete records.
“The Department is aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has limited many students’ ability to obtain required vaccinations, and that students who otherwise intend to obtain the required vaccination are currently restricted in their ability to be admitted to schools because of this ongoing limitation,” according to the new state guidance.
Students are required to complete all required vaccines within 14 days of the start of the school year; if they fail to do so, they are prohibited from attending school. Students without a complete vaccine record are prevented from attending school after the 14-day grace period, which districts initially interpreted as applying to students learning both in school and remotely.
Schenectady school district spokesperson Karen Corona on Tuesday said the district had reinstated the students on Tuesday and that the new deadline to finalize their vaccine records was Nov. 11.
The district in recent weeks has seen scores of students fulfill the requirement, even as more than 100 were still barred from class as of last week. At the end of September, more than 500 students were prohibited from attending school; that number fell to just over 300 by the beginning of October.
“I wish we had more flexibility than to just shut off a kid,” Schenectady interim Superintendent Aaron Bochniak said earlier this month when the district was starting to prevent students from logging in for online classes due to the state requirement.
Other districts in the region — including Scotia-Glenville, Mohonasen and Burnt Hills — indicated a very small number of students, if any, had failed to meet the vaccine requirements.
In Amsterdam, school district officials bought extra time for students with incomplete vaccine records by counting the 14-day window beginning on the district’s Sept. 28 first day of in-person school. While the roughly 185 students who had not completed vaccine requirements as of the start of the month would not have been barred form school until this week, the new guidance now gives them until next month to finalize their records.