Greetings from the Otselic Valley Central School District Office. This afternoon I submitted our reopening plan to New York State
. I wanted to take a few moments and explain how this plan came about and what reopening means to our students. By no means am I going to be able to answer every one of your questions in this brief video. Much more information will be provided on our website and through social media in the coming days.
Governor Cuomo and the State Education Department recently announced the requirements for schools to reopen to students this fall. We were given 17 days to meet 38 assurances and respond to the 165 page guidance. A district task force was assembled made up of teachers, administrators, and support staff who were also parents, grandparents, and community members. Combined, they have over 350 years of service to the Otselic Valley School District. I have been so impressed with how much they care about our kids and the role our school has in this community.
A significant requirement to reopen is that anyone on our buses, in our buildings, or on school grounds must wear a mask unless they are socially distanced. That means unless individuals are 6 feet apart they must wear a mask. If they are engaged in activities that require projecting their voice or result in increased breathing like PE, band, or vocal music, 12 feet is required. We know that this requirement causes many of you concern, but if we cannot guarantee this requirement will be enforced, we cannot open our doors to students. The good news is that our plan makes it possible. We have arranged our rooms, altered our schedule, and changed how students move around in the building so that once students are at their desks, or socially distanced, they may remove their masks.
In order to meet the social distancing requirement many of our elementary classrooms can only fit between 6 and 10 desks. Junior and Senior High classroom capacity is between 9 and 12 desks. I have asked our principal, Mrs. Richards, to provide a brief demonstration (on the video).
Because of limited classroom capacity we need to split our students into two "cohorts" or groups. To help our families, groups will be formed so all family members are in the same group. One group will attend classes on Mondays and Tuesdays. The other group of students will attend on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be used to thoroughly clean and disinfect our building. On days when students are not attending they will be learning remotely. We will do our best to notify families by next Friday, August 7th, as to which group their family will be a part of. We are referring to this hybrid model as blended learning. This is similar to what many other rural schools are doing in our region.
Full time remote learning will be made available to parents who do not feel comfortable sending their child to school under this blended learning model. The following graphic is a visual representation of our plan. You may pause the video to look at it, or go to our website and Facebook page where it will also be available.
Keeping students and staff safe during this pandemic is at the heart of our plan. Parents will be required to monitor their child’s health and assure that no child is sent to school who is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or a fever of 100 degrees or more. Our plan will allow you to do this by answering a few COVID 19 questions and submitting that by phone or computer on the days that your child attends school. Those who cannot do that electronically will be provided with a paper form to send to school with their child. This form will look very similar to this.
Every teacher, every adult in the building, yes, even me, will need to make these assurances in order to be present. Trained personnel will occasionally follow up with temperature checks during the day in order to assure the health and safety of all students and staff.
Staff who are ill will be required to stay home. Visitors will only be allowed in the building with an appointment, and will be required to complete the same requirements at the main entrance before being allowed to enter the building. I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping your children home if they have a fever or exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. If the school has to send students home with these symptoms they will then be required to see a doctor and will not be allowed to return to school until that doctor releases them. Many times this may require a COVID-19 test and waiting for results before they can return.
We know this is all overwhelming, and certainly not what any of us would consider ideal. We understand the great burden this blended schedule places on families who have to work and struggle with day care. If we were a district with plentiful resources we might be able to hire the staff and create the space necessary to bring all of our children back every day while still complying with the state requirements. However, the reality is that we do not have those resources. We also understand how many of you do not support the wearing of masks. As I said earlier, that mandate is not something we control. If we do not enforce social distancing or the wearing of masks, we are not allowed to open our school to students.
We fervently want to see your children in school. I was thrilled to see our FFA students earlier this week here helping with the community food drive. Watching them serving our community while wearing masks and practicing social distancing was the highlight of my first month as your interim superintendent.
Our reopening task force will continue to meet in an effort to make sure Otselic Valley’s reopening is successful. Thank you for your time and support in our effort.