CHATHAM—The school district held a virtual town hall meeting July 27 on Zoom about the plans for reopening school in September. School Superintendent Salvatore DeAngelo apologized for the technological difficulties during the meeting which limited the number of participants who could join online.
He said during the meeting that there were over 100 people participating on Zoom and that he thought the district had paid for a license that would allow 500 people, since he knew there would be a large turnout for the session.
The video of the meeting was posted on the district website sit on July 29.Like all district’s in the county, Chatham is required to have a plan to reopen and to submit the plan to the state by July 31. They needed to have three different approaches to reopening—a plan for in-personlearning, a plan for all remote or online learning, and a third plan that would be a hybrid of the in-person and online learning.
At the meeting Dr. DeAngelo stressed that the plan was a “living document” that is subject to change.The governor has said he will make a decision on reopening schools in early August based on the plansand a measurement of infection rates in the region the school is in (all county schools are in the Capital Region).
There is also a number of infection rates that would lead to close schools again if and when they reopen.The district is posting information about its plan on the district website, along with results from a survey that Dr. DeAngelo said drew a response from about 600 people. He said many survey respondents commented on having live online classes if there is remote learning.
He also discussed transportation, which was a concern for parents. He said that students who need to ride a bus to and from school will have that option, but the more parents who can drive their students tothe school buildings the better. He cautioned parents not to carpool.
As for in-school learning in September, he showed slides with photos of the desks 6 feet apart in the buildings and talked about students wearing masks. He said the district will look at concerns from students who have medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks.
Later in the meeting when asked a question from the audience via email, about the district’s mask policy, he said, “We’re trying to find the right answer.”
Dr. DeAngelo said late in the almost two-hour-long meeting that, “I don’t believe we can bring 100% of our students back.” The state still mandates a 180-day school year and that attendance will be counted. “You, as a parent, have to ultimately make that choice,” he said when asked over email if a parent had to send their child to school during the pandemic.“We going to work with our families,” he said, to the best extent possible, for school plans.
And he also pointed out that people would see variations of reopening plans among the different school districts in the region, but this plan focused on Chatham’s capacity.The superintendent said, “vacations would be vacations” this year, unlike during the last school year, when classes were held remotely during spring break. But snow days might look different now.
He responded to a question about air filters in the buildings, saying that schools do not have the same requirements as malls for filtration systems. The district is working on having fresh air in the buildings and even having students take classes outside when possible.
Dr. DeAngelo said he is working with Questar III/BOCES and other county superintendents. The district will have more forums on the reopening plan and will host another online forum August 12 at 6 p.m.
He said that parents could email questions, concerns and comments about reopening to full reopening plan is on the district website at www.chathamcentralschools.com