KINDERHOOK—The Ichabod Crane School District administration presented the district’s plan for reopening school in September at a Zoom meeting July 29. At points, over 480 people were logged on to the meeting, which could hold up to 500 participants.
District Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow said at the meeting that the state asked all school districts to have three plans for September: all students in the school buildings; all students working remotely; and a hybrid plan. But Ichabod Crane officials really have only two options since there is no way they can bring 100% of the student body back into the buildings and meet Covid-19 safety regulations.
Ms. Guntlow showed the results of an online survey filled out last month by over 900 parents, saying that 50% of the respondents supported in-person classes every day with safety precautions. A quarter of the respondents supported a mix of in-person and remote learning; 13% supported full-time at-home learning and 12% were undecided.
The main plan presented at the meeting would bring students in kindergarten through 5th grade into the school buildings for in-person lessons and split middle school and high school students into both in-person and remote learning.
While presenting the 6th through 12th grade plan, Middle School Co-Principal Anthony Marturano said, “On top of the pandemic we have a capital project going on.” Both the middle school and high school buildings are undergoing major upgrades, and administrators were already looking for temporary classrooms for students when the pandemic struck.
Students in the upper grades will be divided into two groups, with each group attending school two days a week and working remotely for the other three days.
The plan, posted on the district website, says that instruction for grades 6 to 8, which are in the middle school building, “will run on an alternating basis where students attend school for 2 consecutive days in a week (either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday). For this, students will be split up into either ‘Group A’ or ‘Group B.’” According to the plan, these same groups will be utilized for fully online instruction if district schools needs to close.
The plan goes on to say that for the two days in school, “instruction will be given in longer chunks of time (block schedule) to minimize the rotation of staff and students. When not in school for in-person instruction (Monday-Tuesday for Group B and Thursday-Friday for Group A), students will be expected to participate through virtual instruction.” The plan also says that “every effort will be made to keep children in the same families together in designated groups (A or B).”
For the high school, which already runs on a block schedule, the plan says, students will “attend classes for Day 1 on the first day of in-person instruction and attend classes for Day 2 on the second day.” The plan also says that the students will still have remote learning on Wednesday but since there will be no students in the building, “Wednesdays will be used for cleaning and disinfecting the buildings.”
As for the primary school and students in 4th and 5th grades in the middle school, they “will be present for in-person instruction each day. By following recommended safety guidelines, including social distancing, all students can return to school for a full day of learning.” Art, library and other special classes will push into the classrooms, according to Primary School Principal Andrea Williams. And the school has added a kindergarten class to minimize class sizes.
The plan for the lower grades also says “recess will be built in for all students each day with only their classmates. Teachers will maximize opportunities for outdoor learning (i.e.) nature walks, instruction outdoors, StoryTime, structured games, etc.”
Also included in the plan is that all students 3rd through 12th grade will be provided with a Chromebook laptop and internet access as needed. In kindergarten through 2nd grade, “the district will provide a device and internet access as needed during any period of remote only learning.”
Technology “is going to play a major part in this,” said Mr. Marturano. High School Principal Craig Shull said there would be training on using the technology, including Google Classroom.
Ms. Guntlow said that the governor plans to review all the school districts’ reopening plans, which were submitted to the state on July 31, and that sometime in early August he will make a decision about opening schools. The governor will look at infection rates in the region before approving a school district for reopening.
The plan presented on the district website also covers transportation and food services, among many other areas of school activities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Parents are being asked to do health checks and there will be building checks. All school buildings have an isolation room in case a student or staff member has symptoms, but they will have to go to their primary care provider for Covid-19 testing. “The district will not conduct Covid-19 testing onsite. Individuals with symptoms or suspected cases will be referred to their healthcare provider.” The plan says that the county health department can recommend ways to find testing sites.
The plan says, “students will have their temperature checked as they board the bus or prior to exiting their vehicle at school when being dropped off. Staff will have their temperature checked at the main entrance prior to being granted entry into the building.”
“We are limiting visitors greatly,” said High School Assistant Principal and Health and Safety Committee member Marcella Sanchez, though she did point out there would be deliveries and workers on campus for the capital project.
Students and staff will have to wear masks in the buildings. Ms. Sanchez said there would be extra supplies to avoid sharing and there are no gatherings, events, assemblies or field trips allowed at this time. Also, students will not be able to use the lockers due to social distancing issues.
As for buses, Ms. Guntlow said they will have to run at lower capacity and that there has been discussion about staggered arrival and drop off times for students being driven, since she anticipated that traffic going up.
‘On top of the pandemic we have a capital project going on.’
Co-Principal Anthony Marturano
Ichabod Crane Middle School
Ms. Guntlow also said that parents with particular issues or concerns should contact their child’s school building principal. The schools are going to host online meetings for parents about changes in each building August 12 with the primary school at 5 to 7 p.m.; middle school 7 to 9 p.m.; and high school 5 to 7 p.m. Information will be posted on the district website.
When asked about finances, Ms. Guntlow said, “We are financially healthy,” but the administration is being prudent with the spending. Currently there has been no cut in state aid but the governor can still make changes in the budget. Board President Matthew Nelson also pointed out that the Congress is still debating an aid package that could have funding for schools.
The meeting closed after about two hours. District Clerk Mindy Potts sorted through over 100 questions from residents that were written in the Zoom chat. Ms. Guntlow said parents should email Ms. Potts with questions at . After the meeting, the district emailed parents, saying, “We’re currently working on an FAQ that will address many of your questions and this will be available on our website soon.”A video of the meeting and updated reopening information are posted on the district’s website at www.ichabodcrane.org
The next Ichabod Crane Board meeting will be Tuesday, August 18 at 7 p.m.