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Greater Amsterdam School District Details Reopening Strategy

A screen grab of a virutal discussion held by the Greater Amsterdam School District
A screen grab of a virutal discussion held by the Greater Amsterdam School District

We’re just weeks away from the new school year. The Greater Amsterdam School District continued its series of state-ordered information sessions on reopening Wednesday night. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports on how one district is preparing for launch.

Greater Amsterdam Schools superintendent Richard Ruberti, who has been in his position for just six weeks, answered questions from parents in an online meeting Wednesday night.

Ruberti explained how the district of about 3,500 students is readying for its hybrid-style opening.

“We’re ordering PPE, we’re constantly updating what we’re looking at for lunch and that distribution. So when we feel that it’s the most safe environment that we can have and we can open in the most safe manner possible, that is when we will open,” said Ruberti.

While the families of over 800 students have opted for online-only schooling like the spring, in-person learning will be operate on a modified schedule. The district will be split up by neighborhoods – either as a gold or purple group – in order to keep households of different grades together.

In-person classes will be staggered to reduce hallway traffic. All classes will be online Wednesdays, to allow for mid-week cleaning. Special education classes will be held in person unless parents choose an all-online option.

Households have until August 19th to opt into the all-online model. Ruberti was asked whether students could change to in-school or online after the start of the year.

“It would be great but it’s going to change all of our balancing. So we could have half of our students decide that and all of a sudden the option doesn’t work. So I’m not saying that we won’t be flexible. It is easier to allow a student who is in-person to go to remote-only. Just because it would make the class sizes online bigger, the class sizes in-school smaller. And I was just asked that question today, and it’s a very good question, right now we are not looking to accommodate that,” said Ruberti.

Students would be able to change their schooling options after the first trimester.

Temperature checks will be conducted at school entrances. Students must carry their belongings in clear bags. All desks will be spaced at least six feet apart.

All students and staff will be required to wear masks. Ruberti asked parents to start having students get used to wearing masks for extended periods – for just an hour a day at first.

“We feel that it’s necessary, so we’ve asked parents to start having their kids wear them. We’re all wearing as we go to the grocery store and to restaurants and everywhere, so hopefully that’s not all that difficult. It’s going to be necessary to get on the bus and come to school,” said Ruberti.

The district is partnering with the Montgomery County department of public health for COVID-19 testing. Diagnostic testing will not be performed by the school district.  

To assist with connectivity, the district is providing Chromebook laptops to students. In addition, mobile wifi hot spots will be provided to households that do not have an adequate internet connection. Twenty Chromebooks will be provided to non-profit community organization Centro Civico’s computer lab.

One thing the district is seeking from the state, as has been requested by administrators across the state, is flexibility with the 180-day minimum school year requirement.

Again, Superintendent Ruberti.

“As of now, the state has not waived the 180-day requirement. We’re waiting on that. We’re told that it probably will be, but we can’t go with ‘it probably will be.’ We have to make sure because each day, if we’re not having students educated, we get 1/180th of our aid reduced,” said Ruberti.

For this year, parents should not expect a typical first day of school.

The Greater Amsterdam School District will gradually ramp up the start of the school year.

For now, remote learning for all students will begin the week of September 14th, and the first week of in-person instruction will begin on September 21st. School sports are also scheduled to begin the week of September 21st.

To view the entire discussion visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJI3uWCbqoc

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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