KINDERHOOK—The Ichabod Crane School Board began discussing reopening in the fall at the board meeting held on Zoom Tuesday, July 14. Newly appointed Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow said she knew the issue was on “the top of everybody’s mind.”
Ms. Guntlow, who as appointed superintendent July 1 after serving as an administrator in the district for several years, said the state Education Department (SED) presented a framework for reopening to districts on Monday, and she talked about the formula and metrics Governor Cuomo has set to determine whether school districts may open. She told the board that the district needed to have three plans for re-opening: fully open with students in the buildings; fully online with all students using distance learning; and a hybrid of both in-school time and distance-learning.
The district has updated information on its website at www.ichabodcrane.org/district/school-reopening-updates/
The district’s website also has the SED’s general guidelines, which are called “Recovering, Rebuilding, and Renewing: the Spirit of New York’s Schools.”
Also on Tuesday the district posted on the website that “schools can reopen if they are located in a region where the daily infection rate remains 5% or lower using a 14-day average. This particular decision will be made by New York State during the first week of August. Those decisions are subject to change and school buildings will need to close if a school region’s infection rate goes above 9% using a 7-day average after August 1.”
Ms. Guntlow said the region your school is in must also be in Phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan. Columbia County is included in the Capital Region, which is now in Phase 4 of the reopening. A board member asked Ms. Guntlow about the definition of the region and she said she believed it was the state designated region. She also said they would rely on the state Department of Health for the percentage numbers.
Ms. Guntlow said SED needs the district’s plan by July 31 and there will be a final decision in August.
Currently the district has a 15-person task force looking at the reopening plan. The task force includes all the administrators as well as the president of the Ichabod Crane Teachers Association. She also said there were subcommittees made up of administrators, parents, students and teachers looking at four different categories: academics; mental health; operations and athletics; and health and safety.
Of the sub-committees, Ms. Guntlow said the district tried to “make sure we’re hearing all voices.” A list of who is on the task force and the subcommittees is on the district website.
She also said the district received a good response to an online Parent/Guardian Planning Survey about reopening, having received 879 responses. Ms. Guntlow pointed out that part of the survey asked parents about “what worked well and what did not go well” during the remote learning that took place last spring when the schools closed due to the pandemic. Ichabod Crane school buildings closed on March 16 and students used remote learning until mid-June when the academic year ended. All public schools in the county closed around the same time in March and students moved to remote learning.
Ms. Guntlow also mentioned that the state’s Board of Regents came out with new regulations “to take the handcuffs off a little bit.” She said the new regulations will give the district more control.
She told the board during the evening meeting that her report is “where we are at 7:33 today” but that it may change by tomorrow.
The district is continuing to move forward with a major capital improvement project. Construction has started, ahead of schedule, in the high school art classrooms and guidance office suites. And in the middle school major work has begun on the 100 wing (also known as pod) of classrooms. Ms. Guntlow showed the board pictures of the spaces being worked on during the board meeting and said information would go up on the district website. Construction also includes temporary walls in the middle school gym to be classrooms for students while work is being done.
The board also held the annual organization meeting, with the reappointment of Matthew Nelson as board president and John Antalek as vice-president. John Chandler and Kelly Firmbach joined the board for their first meeting after being elected in June. Elaine Berlin, who received the highest number of votes in the annual election, joined the board right after the election to fill a vacant seat.
The board also appointed Susan Ramos to fill the vacancy left when board member Regina Rose resigned last month. Ms. Ramos’ term will be for one year.
In June the board discussed offering the seat to former board member Tammy Crawford, who had the fourth highest vote tally in the election. Mr. Nelson said that Ms. Crawford declined the appointment so he asked the board to appoint Ms. Ramos. Ms. Ramos, also former board member who ran for reelection in June, was the fifth highest vote-getter.
The next board meeting will be Tuesday, August 18 at 7 p.m. Information about the board meeting will posted on the district website at www.ichabodcrane.org