Capital Region Education Officials Discuss Safe Return Of Students
After the New York State Department of Health updated its COVID-19 guidance for schools, many local districts are making changes to comply.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy was joined by Albany City School Superintendent Kaweeda Adams and Brian Bailey from the Ravens-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District on Monday.
Bailey says making it through the last year was a triumph for educators.
“You saw so many people switch to remote last March to do their work. And I don't know … Actually, I do know that our parents have appreciated the complexity of it, because many of them, in some circumstances became the primary educator for their children. I think it helped to spur a whole new appreciation for the work that happens in our schools.”
Bailey says the flexibility of staff enabled schools to completely reinvent how they deliver quality education to students.
“Similar to the City School District, Albany, our numbers are pretty much in line, we have about 40% of our population who have chosen to remain in remote instruction for the majority of this year. And each quarter, we've asked families if they'd want to return their children to school. And I think families who have discovered some skill around being able to work remotely have chosen to keep their children at home. And those that have discovered that it isn't as fluid or as effective as they'd want have chosen to send their students back.”
Some districts are reporting cases of students with COVID 19 : there are two in South Colonie, one at Colonie High, the other at Shaker Road Elementary School. Last week the Guilderland Central School District reported six confirmed cases.
Adams says Albany is complying with all COVID protocols, with more students getting vaccinated.
“When our students came back, our seventh through 12th grade students came back to a hybrid model of learning. That is when we started the vaccinations. Now that our high school students are back on a regular basis and we've started that fourth quarter, we are seeing an uptick in students who are voluntarily looking to get vaccinated. So we look to see those numbers increase. When we look at our faculty and staff, we are a little bit above that 50-60% mark with regard to all of our faculty and staff being vaccinated, and so we still continue to look at those numbers increase.”
With supply now outpacing demand, McCoy is keeping up calls for residents to be vaccinated via walk-in appointments at the Washington Avenue Armory or Crossgates Mall.
"I hear the Washington Armory people were out in the street, just walking down the street, trying to grab people to get the vaccine offering it to them. So which is great, you know, again, showing that we want to get people the vaccine, they want to get the shots out.
The Armory is offering the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine starting Wednesday.
The superintendents agree the more students get vaccinated, the quicker classrooms will return to pre-pandemic normalcy. Adams says Albany is looking at continuing pre-K through sixth grade in person five days a week. Looking to the 2021-22 school year, Adams notes schools do not yet have guidance that takes away all social distancing.
In Columbia County, Ichabod Crane notes on its website the district is unable to make the social distancing transition from 6 feet to 3 feet for all students at this time, but remains committed to bringing back as many students as possible.
Schenectady School District is looking to expand in-person learning opportunities for the remainder of the school year, asking all parents to complete a brief form on its website.