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Update regarding New York State’s Cluster Action Initiative

December 1, 2020 | Filed in Archive, HFM Top Stories

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced New York State’s Cluster Action Initiative, which includes a color-coded system to track COVID-19 infection rates by region. Through this system, the state will monitor and identify where a COVID-19 cluster has formed and put increased safety measures in place, such as requiring schools to shift to all remote learning. The color coding includes yellow (precautionary zone), orange (warning zone) and red (micro-cluster zone).

Currently, Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties have not received a color-coded designation, and HFM BOCES has no plans to fully shift to a remote learning model at this time.

Currently, the only reasons HFM BOCES programs would shift to fully-remote learning are:

  • IF BOCES is directed to do so based upon the state’s color-coded zone system, OR
  • IF quarantine orders require a temporary shift for a BOCES program or building.

With cases of COVID-19 increasing in many areas, we realize one or more of our counties may be at risk of being designated a “Yellow Zone” in the near future. Should our region receive a “Yellow Zone” designation, schools and HFM programs will be required to shift to all remote learning unless they are able to meet the state’s COVID testing requirements for students and staff. As a result of the lack of COVID-19 testing supplies in the HFM area, our local health departments have advised us that the testing required would not be feasible at this time and all remote learning would likely be the only option available to most, if not all, schools in our region.

Please be advised that HFM BOCES will continue to consult with local health officials regarding the availability of testing supplies and will use any resources possible to maintain our educational programs. We will update our community concerning any developments as they become available.

HFM BOCES would like to assure staff, parents and students that everyone’s health and safety remains our top priority. As long as it is safe to do so, HFM BOCES remains committed to providing in-person learning to the greatest extent possible in order to provide the best academic, social and emotional benefits for our students.

Please keep in mind that state requirements continue to evolve as circumstances surrounding the pandemic change. We will provide additional updates as they are available.

Below are answers to some questions you may have concerning schools and the Cluster Action Initiative:

Q: How will we know if an HFM BOCES program is in a designated Yellow, Orange or Red Zone?

A: If our region, or part of our region, receives a color-coded designation by the New York State Department of Health, the BOCES program will notify staff, students and families directly with as much advance notice as possible to provide further information. To view a map of COVID hot spots across the state and search by address visit:

Q: What happens if we are placed in a Yellow Zone?

A: While schools can remain open if they are placed into a “Yellow Zone”, it is important to note that there are mandatory testing requirements to keep schools open. As a result of the lack of testing supplies in our area, HFM BOCES programs will likely shift to an all-remote learning model if our region is placed in a Yellow Zone.

Q: Can teachers/administrators/staff report to work if we are in a Yellow Zone? 

A: Yes, there is no prohibition on staff reporting, other than abiding by our current COVID-19 safety and health guidance (wearing masks, health screenings, maintaining and encouraging a social distance, etc.).

Q: What happens if a region is placed in an Orange or Red Zone?

A: If a region is placed into an orange or red zone, schools in that region would be required to pivot to fully-remote instruction for two weeks. Schools can reopen if certain testing requirements are met.