SARATOGA SPRINGS – With little time left before the school year begins, school districts and parents need to begin conversations about what to expect for the 2020-21 school year.
This week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that parents would be the “ultimate decision makers” on sending children to school. He added another decision would be made this week on whether or not to reopen schools entirely based on infection rate. At this time there has been no announcement.
“If you have the virus under control, reopen. If you don’t have the virus under control, then you can’t reopen. We’re not going to use our children as a litmus test. And we are not going to put our children in a place where their health is endangered. It’s that simple,” Cuomo said.
While no decision has been made yet, schools have moved ahead with drafted school year plans. The state Board of Regents developed a reopening guideline to help NY school districts developed their plans. They gathered feedback from parents, teachers, school and district leaders, non-instructional staff, school board members and health experts. Some guidelines include mandatory mask wearing by
students, teachers and staff as well as daily health checks for anyone entering the school building and improving ventilation and air filtration systems.
Local districts have started to ask parents to take surveys about sending their children to school, and Cuomo urges starting video discussions as well. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District plans to gauge whether parents feel comfortable sending their children to school for in-person instruction or if a fully virtual school is preferred. The survey also asks parents if they will rely on the district’s school buses for transportation to and from school in the fall. The survey will be emailed to families and must be completed by Tuesday, July 21.
Saratoga Springs Central School District developed a “Pathways Forward” draft that outlines the steps the district is taking for the school year. Based on how the pandemic continues to evolve, districts are prepared to shift through a learning model continuum.
Local school districts have outlined a fully virtual school, in-classroom learning and instruction, or a combination of both. Fully virtual gives parents the option to keep the children out of school buildings,
engaging children through virtual learning and meetings. Learning material will be covered the same, in-person and online.
In-Person Instruction would adhere to Cuomo and NYS Department of Health Guidelines for Reopening. Another option is a hybrid instruction, connecting teachers and students both in-person and online. Cuomo added that while neither option is perfect, opening schools is highly problematic. He cited food insecurity, possible dangerous situations at home and the growing concern of socialization.
The state Board of Regents reopening plan can be accessed at www.nysed.gov/reopening-schools. Each district’s detailed drafts can be accessed at www.bhbl.org/district-shares-reopening-considerations/, https://www.saratogaschools.org/files/filesystem/Outline-Reopening-Schools-Draft.pdf and https://www.bscsd.org/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=21781&dataid=44455&FileName=BSCSD%20Reopening%20Plan%20Draft%201%20073020.pdf.