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K-5 in-person instruction to resume Jan. 11

Filed in Archive by on January 7, 2021

A message to families from Superintendent Monroe about a return to in-person learning:

Dear BC family,

As we keep a close eye on post-holiday COVID cases in the district and across the Capital Region, we feel confident today that we can reopen our elementary schools for in-person instruction beginning Monday, Jan. 11. Students in grades K-5 would return for daily classroom instruction, while students in grades 6-12 would continue in remote learning through Friday, Jan. 15.

Other students who will return to daily in-person learning on Jan. 11 include all K-12 Skills and Intensive Skills students, BEEP students and RISE students. There will also be transportation for BOCES CTE students.

There are several reasons for this “split” decision and they are as follows:

  • While the community infection rate remains high, there has been no spike in reported cases during the week in the district and very few positive cases reported among elementary teachers or staff.
  • At the elementary level, there is a more stable environment where students remain in one location for most of the day meaning fewer interactions between fewer people.
  • The staffing impact of quarantine is generally lower at the elementary level than at the secondary level, where teachers interact with many cohorts of students and where one positive case can mean quarantine for 6-7 staff members.
  • A new directive this week from the Albany County Department of Health allows schools to exclude students from in-person learning who have family members who are experiencing symptoms of COVID while the symptomatic family member is awaiting COVID test results. Until now, we were not allowed to exclude siblings or children of symptomatic individuals from school.
  • Remote instruction, while not perfect, is more effective for teaching and learning in grades 6-12 than in the primary grades.

Your cooperation in helping keep our schools safe is essential. We have had a tremendous response to the request for parental consent for onsite COVID testing of students. While our plans for COVID surveillance testing are in place and we are ready to go, we are still awaiting guidance from the Department of Health on when we can begin that testing. This mitigation tool will help us monitor possible spikes in cases within the district more quickly. If we receive the go-ahead to begin onsite testing in the coming days, we will use the week of Jan. 11 to begin testing staff only and will proceed from there, with the appropriate guidance from DOH, by regularly testing a percentage of students districtwide whose parents/guardians have agreed to it. If you haven’t already done so, you can learn more about our testing plans and complete the consent form here.

In addition, we will ask you to help us meet the new health directive noted above by keeping your children home if anyone in your household is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and is awaiting a COVID test result. We have seen the virus infecting entire families and it is important that we minimize risk by keeping vulnerable students at home. Our screening tool is being updated to ensure families are reminded of this very important virus mitigation effort. Also, if your child has attended any gatherings outside of your home without social distancing, please consider keeping your child at home for a period of 10 days as a precaution.

As always, families have the option of choosing to keep their children at home. While K-5 students who do not return to school on Jan. 11 will not have access to synchronous learning, a learning plan will still be made available for families who want to keep their child home in the coming weeks. Also, for those interested in switching their child to the K-5 Virtual Learning Academy (VLA), the registration window is currently open. Registration closes on Friday, Jan. 15 and K-5 students could begin classes as part of the VLA on February 1.

Thank you for your patience, flexibility and support as we continue to navigate this unprecedented public health challenge. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at jmonroe@bethlehemschools.org.

Sincerely,

Jody Monroe

Superintendent