By JODY MONROE
The task of teaching local children has fallen upon both teachers and parents since the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic launched comprehensive mitagation protocols throughout the land. Those protocols have been based on guidence from the Centers for Disease Control in Washington, D.C., followed by instructions from the state Department of Health. This week, Bethlehem Central Superintendent Jody Monroe shares a message with district residents on how the next school year should appear.
DELMAR — Our goal this year has been to have as many students K-12 receive in-person instruction as possible, as safely as possible. With few exceptions, we have been able to deliver in-person instruction almost all year to students who have chosen in-person learning. With Governor Cuomo’s announcement that some COVID mitigation protocols for the general public are being relaxed and with optimism building for a return to “normal,” I wanted to provide you with the most up-to-date information about COVID health and safety protocols in our schools.
Our 2020-21 instructional plan will continue to include:
• Six-foot distancing in all classrooms K-12;
• Daily in-person instruction for all K-6 students;
• Students who are remote-only, at all grades, will still be able to continue in remote learning;
• Hybrid learning for students in grades 7-12 will remain in place (Skills students, Intensive Skills students and BEEP students attend daily).
Throughout the pandemic, our schools have been operating under the guidance of public health officials at the federal, state and local levels. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to advise that schools providing in-person instruction should prioritize two prevention strategies:
• Universal and correct use of masks should be required.
• Physical distancing should be maximized to the greatest extent possible.
The district will continue to prioritize these two prevention strategies until at least the end of the 2020-21 school year.
In March, the CDC issued updated guidance for schools allowing for three feet of distancing in classrooms rather than six feet in certain circumstances. The New York State Department of Health followed with updated guidance for K-12 schools. The New York State guidance is a detailed document that includes all COVID health and safety protocols for schools providing in-person instruction. In following this guidance, there is no opportunity to safely move to three-foot distancing at this time. Doing so in an area where there is a “substantial” risk of community spread” (including here in the Capital Region) calls for cohorting of students, which is not possible in grades 7 through 12. In addition, the updated K-12 guidance still requires six-foot distancing between all adults (and adults and students), six-foot distancing in all common areas, and six-foot distancing when eating or drinking or at any other time a mask cannot be worn.
While we are anxious to have all of our students return to school every day, we monitor updated guidance along with all COVID data on a daily basis. We also monitor daily COVID cases in the district. We continue to see positive cases and have learned of six cases in just the last week, all at the high school level. While far from our high of 24 recorded cases last winter, it is still a significant number when looking at the district’s weekly caseload.
Please be assured that our commitment to the health and safety of both students and staff remains our top priority. We will continue to keep families apprised of any formal changes that may be made to our instructional program. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected].