Social distance change at schools does not address spacing for transportation, lunch, Massena super says
BY MATT LINDSEY
North Country This Week
Even though St. Lawrence County school officials are making plans to bring back more students following revised social distancing guidance, at least one local superintendent says issues remain with busing and lunch time.
On Friday, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) released updated guidance that would allow schools to reduce social distancing between students in the classroom from six to three feet with certain protocols in place.“Our hope, that is shared by our parents and staff, is to bring back as many students we can as soon as safely possible,” said Massena Central School Superintendent Pat Brady. “Among the many lessons we have learned from this pandemic is that students learn best while in school.”
Ogdensburg City School District Superintendent Kevin Kendall says plans are being made to bring back more students this year.
Kendall said that many details are just being released and any changes will involve the school board, parents and community members input.
“Our goal is to return as many students back to the classroom on a full time basis as soon as it is safe to do so under the guidelines provided by the CDC and NYS Department of Health,” said Massena Central School Superintendent Pat Brady. “This has the potential to increase the number of students who can attend school on a daily basis.”
However, Brady said there are still issues to resolve.
He said no revisions were made that would allow more students to ride the bus together and added that the six-foot social distance requirement when students are eating.
“These are significant limitations which would need to be overcome,” Brady said.
“Furthermore, any changes to our current plans will require engagement with "school stakeholders and community members, including but not limited to administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents/legal guardians of students, local health departments, local health care providers, and, where appropriate, affiliated organizations (e.g., union, alumni, and/or community-based groups)."
This week, Brady plans to meet with school administrators to consider district options based on this new guidance.
“We also anticipate collaboration with the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department as is required under the NYSDOH guidance,” the super said.
Any recommendations to change Massena Central’s current practice will be made to the Board of Education after the school community has a chance to weigh in.
Ogdensburg City School District
“We plan to move forward with getting all of our students back this year,” Superintendent Kendall said.
“As it was in the beginning, this is a process that will involve all stakeholders,” he said.
Kendall said that with all guidance from the DOH, there are other details in the guidance that must be adhered to and it is not just a change in the social distancing protocols.
“The New York State School Boards Association's legal team is unpacking the guidance and will be distributing a guidance document for schools to use in developing their plans,” he said.
“As educators, we know that the best place for our students to learn is in person in the classroom,” said New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta. “What we’ve wanted from the very beginning of the school reopening process is for that to happen in the safest possible environment.
“In adopting new physical distancing guidelines in line with CDC recommendations, the state is making it crystal clear that distancing is only one part of a layered mitigation strategy. These revised guidelines not only draw distinctions between when it’s appropriate to have three feet of distancing and when six feet of distancing is still necessary, they also mandate masks at all times and lay out specific ventilation recommendations while maintaining important provisions for cleaning, hygiene and contact tracing. What’s more, the guidelines are clear that community transmission — with a majority of New York counties currently at high levels of transmission, per CDC metrics — is a critical factor in how physical distancing changes are implemented. And before districts make changes, school communities, including parents and educators, must be given an opportunity to provide input on updates to reopening plans. That has always been and must continue to be essential to the reopening process.
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