The South Colonie Central School District 2.0 reopening task force has been working diligently since March to prepare and plan for the 2021-22 school year. Despite districts continuing to wait for state health guidelines that will likely shape key decisions about what the school experience will be for the fall, the reopening task force continues to meet and discuss possible scenarios for the South Colonie Central School District.
“While required COVID-19 protocols may change for all New York schools prior to the start of the school year depending on what department of health shares, we are developing a layered mitigation approach so that we are prepared for every scenario,” said Dr. David Perry, superintendent of schools. “We want to continue to hope for the best possible case where all students are back in the classroom like it was pre-pandemic, however, we need to be realistic that mitigation efforts need to be put in place to ensure the safety of our students and faculty.”
The district continues to advocate, along with schools region-wide, for updated guidance that will allow schools to maximize in-person instruction and provide enough planning time to communicate expectations to families for next year. Superintendent Perry also continues to join the conversation with his peers from area school districts and regional county health officials to discuss busing, school buildings, athletics/extracurriculars, as well as best practices in the school setting.
A closer look at mitigation efforts planned for the 2021-22 school year
The guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools provided by the CDC was used as a framework for the following mitigation efforts below. It is important to note that these strategies may be adjusted as state health guidance is released.
Health and Hygiene
- Vaccinations should be emphasized for those eligible
- Frequent hand washing
- Stay home when not feeling well
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of buildings
- Masks will be required on buses and in transitions to start (if COVID positive rates increase then mask use may become more restrictive). This is a Federal mandate to wear masks on public transportation including school buses.
- Bus capacity will be reduced to the greatest extent possible
- Parents will have the option to drive their children to school if possible to mitigate the risks associated with a school bus. Parents and guardians who plan to transport their children daily are encouraged to fill out the transportation form indicating that they will be opting out of having their child(ren) ride the school busby Friday, Aug. 13, at 5 p.m.
- Seating charts will be kept on buses to confirm ridership and will be used and updated to identify proximate contacts.
Considerations for Elementary, Middle School, High School
- On site learning will be the emphasis to begin the school year at all levels at full capacity
- Cohorting at K-6 to be done to the greatest extent possible
- COVID-19 screening/testing as needed based upon local/regional infection rates
- Hybrid Model will be a mitigation strategy should local and regional COVID-19 rates increase
- Remote instruction may be an option but only where deemed medically necessary
- Social-distancing in classrooms, on buses, etc. will play a role in determining the extent to which districts can actually return all students to in-person learning. Six foot rule will likely be eliminated. As outlined in Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools, CDC currently recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people to reduce transmission risk.
- Students will be allowed to eat in the cafeteria with social distancing practices in place. In large group settings, students will be encouraged to wear masks when not eating.
Athletics, Music & Art, Drama
- On June 15, state officials lifted COVID-19 restrictions impacting youth & recreation sports, which includes interscholastic athletics. At this time a regular fall sport schedule is set to begin on Monday, Aug. 23.
- There continue to be concerns about community spreading between students during some of these activities. Monitoring community transmission and mitigation strategies will play a role in determining the extent to which South Colonie can offer extracurriculars.
A full reopening plan is expected to be available by Wednesday, Aug. 25. More updates will be provided as the planning process continues.