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Saratoga Springs City School District Outlines Reopening Policy

Saratoga Springs City School District leaders participate in a virtual forum Tuesday
Lucas Willard
Saratoga Springs City School District leaders participate in a virtual forum Tuesday

With much still uncertain, the Saratoga Springs City School District is among public school systems outlining their fall reopening plans.

Saratoga Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Patton describes the return of students this fall not as a reopening, but as a “stay open” policy.

“Our primary objective is to plan for the process to provide in-person learning for all of our students, five days a week, with minimal disruption,” said Patton.

Patton and other officials spoke during an online forum on Tuesday.

To remain open and minimize the spread of COVID-19, the district of over 6,000 students will be instituting an indoor mask policy, as was outlined by Assistant Superintendent David L’Hommedieu.

“We are requiring masking indoors for all of our students, teachers, staff and visitors regardless of vaccination status. Masks may be removed during meals when eating. And that next phrase is super important: consistent and correct mask use – especially important when you’re wearing a mask,” said L’Hommedieu.

The district is encouraging but is not requiring COVID vaccinations for students, teachers, and staff.

Numbers provided by the district showed 66 percent of the total eligible county population is currently fully vaccinated, and leaders said the district is open to hosting future vaccination clinics if desired by parents.

Saratoga County is continuing to host local vaccination clinics, including this weekend.

Several other COVID-19 safety protocols were outlined, including distancing of students at least three feet apart when possible, through cleaning, cohorts and assigned seating.

“We are gonna continue to be responsive to the needs and the recommendations that we receive from our local medical experts,” said Patton.

With its commitment to a five-day a week in-person schedule, the district will not institute a hybrid model in the 2021-2022 school year. Here’s Assistant Superintendent Lisa Cutting…

“The research does not support the use and the effectiveness of hybrid instructional settings in a crisis space or emergency situation, which is what we are still functioning in due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cutting.

For students and parents unwilling to participate in an in-person model, the district is extending a deadline to enroll in a home schooling program.

The district says a virtual schooling partnership with Capital Region BOCES is currently being explored for students who may not be able to attend due to a severe medical condition, as an example, but the model that would require a year-long commitment has not yet been fully established.

A plan is in the works to have students forced to quarantined access assignments and instruction online, through communication with their teachers.

Last week, Saratoga County officials unveiled a federally-funded COVID-19 screening program. Non-invasive saliva tests will be provided to schools free of charge. The frequency of testing would fall in line with CDC guidance.

The county’s Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Daniel Kuhles said the plan is to screen students once a week when community transmission is at any level other than low. Saratoga County is currently in the “high” transmission category.

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