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BCMS and BCHS to go remote through holiday break; new COVID cases identified

Filed in Archive, District, District News by on December 11, 2020

An important message from Superintendent Jody Monroe:

Dear BC family:

Since Friday, Dec. 4, there have been 17 new positive cases of COVID-19 reported in the Bethlehem Central School District. This includes four more that were confirmed today. These numbers reflect the post-holiday surge that we have seen across the area and throughout the country. As a result, we currently have more than 250 students and two dozen staff members — mostly teachers — in quarantine. Five of seven schools have had classes or the entire school transition to and from all-remote learning, causing uncertainty and disruption for students and staff alike.

To allow us to prioritize our staff resources, and provide more continuity for all students, we have made the decision to have students at the middle school and high school transition to all-remote learning beginning Monday, Dec. 14. In-person instruction for grades 6-12 will be suspended through the end of the holiday break. All elementary schools in the district will continue in-person instruction.

The cascading effect of the increasing COVID cases has created a significant strain on staffing, not only in classrooms but in student support areas and in transportation. Substitutes are not readily available to fill these positions, compounding the staffing shortage across the district. By allowing students in grades 6-12 to be learning from home, we are able to redirect staff support to other buildings to assist with daily in-person learning for K-5 students. 

When we announced our reopening plan last summer, we set our sights on making K-5 in-person learning a priority. We believe doing so has proven to be the right choice, with both students and staff who are making the most of this unusual year. And, teachers at the secondary level have proven to be skilled at delivering online instruction to students at the middle school and high school. Students have indicated in recent weeks a desire for more continuity and many have elected to transition to all-remote learning themselves, prior to today’s decision.

While this situation is far from ideal, we believe consolidating our resources at this time will help us minimize the strain of staffing shortages and allow us to continue to provide in-person instruction to our youngest learners and to those who need it most at this time. In addition to K-5 students, the following middle school and high school students will continue daily in-person instruction:

  • BCMS: Skills and Intensive Skills
  • BCHS: RISE students, BEEP students and students who attend Capital Region BOCES CTE classes will be transported to those classes

Breakfast and lunch are available for all students in remote learning daily Monday through Friday while school is in session. MEALS ARE FREE for all enrolled students and are available for pick-up at the high school, Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. until 12 noon. The pick-up location is on the Van Dyke Road side of the building, near the cafeteria. No pre-registration is necessary. If you want to access meals but are unable to pick them up, contact Allissa Eiser, Food Service Director at aeiser@bethlehemschools.org.

Despite the increase in cases, and the decision to move grades 6-12 to remote learning, we believe our schools continue to be safe for students and for staff. We have not seen incidents where school exposure to COVID has translated into new cases and we have been incredibly proud of the efforts of our students and staff to follow health and safety protocols, including mask-wearing and distancing, during the school day. We urge our families to continue these health and safety protocols at home and when outside of their homes. We know our students love to socialize but we need them to do so safely until these challenging times are behind us.

The Albany County Department of Health today confirmed four additional cases of COVID-19 in the Bethlehem Central School District community. These cases are summarized below:

Eagle Elementary School: 

  • A staff member associated with Eagle has tested positive. There was possible exposure at school on Monday, Dec. 7. The district has been working with the Albany County Health Department on contact tracing. Six classrooms at the school have been quarantined by the health department. All identified contacts have been notified by the school about the quarantine and there will be follow-up by the health department. The individual who tested positive is in isolation and will not return to school until cleared by the health department. This individual is also associated with Glenmont Elementary School. This case was first reported on Thursday, Dec. 10.

Glenmont Elementary School:

  • A staff member associated with Glenmont has tested positive. There was possible exposure at school on Friday, Dec. 4. The district has been working with the Albany County Health Department on contact tracing. Three classrooms at the school have been quarantined by the health department. All identified contacts have been notified by the school about the quarantine and there will be follow-up by the health department. The individual who tested positive is in isolation and will not return to school until cleared by the health department. This individual is also associated with Eagle Elementary School. This case was first reported on Thursday, Dec. 10.

Slingerlands Elementary School:

  • A staff member associated with Slingerlands bus route has tested positive. There was possible exposure on Monday, Dec. 7. The district has been working with the Albany County Health Department on contact tracing. Fifteen individuals have been identified as contacts and will be subject to quarantine. All identified contacts are being notified by the school about the quarantine and there will be follow-up by the health department. The individual who tested positive is in isolation and will not return to school until cleared by the health department. 

Hamagrael Elementary School: 

  • A student at Hamagrael has tested positive. In its case investigation, the Department of Health has determined there was no exposure at the school. The last date this person was at the school was Friday, Dec. 4. The individual who tested positive is in isolation and will not return to school until cleared by the health department.

Bethlehem Central High School:

  • A student at BCHS has tested positive. In its case investigation, the Department of Health has determined there was no exposure at the school. The individual who tested positive has not been at the school since prior to Thanksgiving break. This person is currently in isolation and will not return to school until cleared by the health department.

Please continue to stay in contact with your school nurse if your child is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. All students should continue to complete the screening tool daily, even while in remote learning. This helps us to track concerning trends and allows our school nurses to follow up with families.

As always, I thank you for your continued support for the school district as we navigate this school year. We could not do it without you. If you have any questions regarding this transition for middle school and high school students, please feel free to email me at jmonroe@bethlehemschools.org.

Sincerely,

Jody Monroe

Superintendent