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Educational Leaders Chart Uncertain Path During The Pandemic

This year, by executive order, schools across the state are doing a "mail-in" budget.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
This year, by executive order, schools across the state are doing a "mail-in" budget.

Recovering from the societal impact of the pandemic, educators are considering various scenarios for the September opening of the school year.
Planning for back-to-school in the fall is complicated because of COVID-19. There is speculation and ongoing research as to whether the coronavirus will be a seasonal phenomenon like the flu or if perhaps there will be a "second wave." Albany School Board President Anne Savage says educators are trying to anticipate any scenario that will play out.

"Whatever happens it's going to have a huge impact on our families as it will for every district in the state, so we want to hear their voice and have their opinion. It is of course tricky, because a lot of this is going to be highly regulated, and it won't matter what we think or what parents think. It will matter what the law says, and we will be in compliance with whatever the laws are. We will seek to do that in a way that is as equitable as possible and as family-friendly as possible."

Albany schools Superintendent Kaweeda Adams serves on Governor Andrew Cuomo's Reimagine Education Advisory Council. She agrees the system will have to align with state guidelines.

"There will be social distancing guidelines. There will be cleaning and sanitization guidelines that we will need to follow. We need to make sure that our buildings are prepared, but also our learning environment."

Adams says educators will be working with communities to create plans accomodating new developments as they occur.

"We are also looking at a variety of schedules. What will it look like in a social-distancing environment? If we are providing information that says we can only have x number of students in a building at one time, what does that schedule look like? What is the impact of that decision on our families, going back to work, parents who have to work and now students who are in a distance learning environment, what does that look like?"

Summer school is happening online this year. Adams says great pains were taken to help boost student success. Families were surveyed to see how many students needed computers and how many families needed internet access.

"Right now we're not quite at a one-to-one ratio for students, but we have ensured that each household has been captured in that number, so we are able to faciliate at least every household having at least one chromebook. And then, we had about 3,300 chromebooks that were distributed to our families so that we can help close that digital divide."

Adams adds 600 hotspots were procured and distributed to families lacking internet access.

This year, by executive order, schools across the state are doing a "mail-in" budget. Albany voters will decide on a $261.6 million dollar budget proposal the district says would minimize the local tax impact with no loss of programs or services.

The ballots are in the mail right now. Voters are also being asked to consider Proposition #2, which would allow the district to purchase what is described as "a small piece of property with no additional impact on taxes." One seat on the Board of Education is also up for election. Under an executive order the governor issued Sunday, votes for school boards and school budgets can be hand delivered by 5 p.m. Tuesday or received in the mail by June 16, one week later than the original requirement.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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