Hudson schools plan to open… or not to

HUDSON—Funding uncertainties, school reopening plans and school safety for the 2020-21 school year dominated the Hudson City School District Board of Education organizational meeting July 1.

The amount of money school districts will get from the state is still uncertain, and, “it’s hard to make decisions” when one does not know how much money one will get to support them, said district Business Administrator Jesse Boehme. “It’s very frustrating.”

There remains “concern that the state budget that was passed might not be the budget implemented,” said district Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier.

Mr. Boehme called the state budget only the first hurdle the district faces. For now Governor Cuomo’s budgeted aid to education “isn’t being cut; it’s being withheld,” he said.

“What’s the difference?” asked Dr. Suttmeier.

Without federal aid, said Mr Boehme, the state will have to cut education as much as 20% statewide, though for individual districts the percent may vary based on factors such as student poverty.

“We were supposed to get updated on April 30 and June 30, but as of now we have no guidance,” he added.

Meanwhile, planning for school reopening in September is gearing up. Dr. Suttmeier reported her call for participants in district reopening committees received 82 responses, including two from students.

For now, the committees will consider various models. “We don’t know if the district will have a choice” between being 100% online, blended, with some students on-site, some online, or 100% present in school, Dr. Suttmeier said in an email four days after the meeting. She said that the district has to be ready for each one of those models and would need to prepare to switch from one model to another if changes occur through an executive order. She expects guidance will be coming from the state “to help us focus our attention.”

At the July 1 meeting, Dr. Suttmeier said that conducting 100% in-person school days is unlikely. However, blended learning “will be expensive.” And with only 50% of the students on-site, “what do we do with the other 50% at home?” With the 100% online instruction this past spring, “We did a good job on engaging the students,” who tuned in to their classes, but not all students were engaged.

“It’s not going to be easy to navigate these waters, but we have to,” said Dr. Suttmeier. She suggested looking at what other states and other countries are doing. “Hopefully, this is the only year we have to do it.”

‘We don’t know if the district will have a choice.’

Supt. Maria Suttmeier

Hudson City School District

Starting July 13, Dr. Suttmeier announced, district staff will begin returning to the building, each person alternating: one week working two days on site and three days at home; the next week working three days on site and two days at home. Before starting on-site work, each individual will have to fill out a questionnaire. After that, they will have to update their supervisor about changes in their health status or if they have traveled on a commercial aircraft.

On another topic, Dr. Suttmeier noted that the public has until July 31 to comment on an updated School Safety Plan. The plan, according to the introduction to its 2019-20 version, is “designed to prevent or minimize the effects of… violence, natural and technological disasters” at school sites and “to facilitate the coordination of the district with local and county resources in the event of such incidents or emergencies.” It has sections on prevention and risk minimization, response, and recovery. It is part of state’s Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) law.

Also at the meeting the board selected its own officers and committee members, administered the oath of office, and designated parties to serve specific functions for the district, in the 2020-21 school year. The Board will continue with the same seven members as last school year, and it selected its incumbent president, Carrie Otty, and its incumbent vice-president, Willette Jones, to continue in those positions. The other Board members are Sage Carter, Justin Elliott, Linda Hopkins, Charles Parmentier, and Lucinda Segar.

The Board designated the Policy Committee with Ms. Hopkins, Mr. Parmentier, and Ms. Segar; the Facilities Committee with Ms. Carter, and Mr. Elliott; the Budget Committee with Mr. Elliott, Ms. Jones, and Ms. Otty; and the Audit Committee with Ms. Otty, Mr. Parmentier, and Ms. Segar. Board members will also serve on school Reopening committees. The Reopening Committee for Teaching and Learning will include, in addition to outside community members, Ms. Carter and Ms. Segar; for Health and Wellness, Ms. Jones; for Communications, Ms. Segar; and for the Steering the other committees, Ms. Otty and Mr. Parmentier. Dr. Suttmeier will also serve on the Communications Committee.

In other business at the meeting:

• Dr. Suttmeier announced that the High School’s first outdoor graduation “was a huge success from beginning to end. It’s not what you expected, but it had some things we want to replicate”

• The superintendent praised reading teacher Bridget Smith, who encouraged her extended learning time students to complete self-portraits at home and had eight of the pictures wheat-pasted to the wall in back of the handball court across State Street from Bliss Tower in Hudson

• Mr. Boehme praised the district’s Food Service Department for their “rock star” preparation of meals for home-bound students.

The next meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education will be Tuesday, July 14, at 6:30 p.m. Like the last meeting, the board members and district administrators will meet together in person, and the public will be able to watch it live-streamed online.

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