By EMILIA TEASDALE
KINDERHOOK—Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday, August 10 that 107 school districts in the state had not submitted a plan for in-person learning and set a new Friday deadline for those plans. In Columbia County, Ichabod Crane (Kinderhook) and Germantown school districts were on the list, but both districts say they sent their plans to the state Education Department (SED) and sent the required information to the state Department of Health (DOH) by or before the original July 31 deadline.
The Ichabod Crane School District posted a statement on its website on Monday saying, “We can confirm that the district did indeed submit its full reopening plan on time to New York State on July 31 and received an email confirmation of our submission on the same day…. We are currently investigating the matter further. In the meanwhile, our full reopening plan is currently available on our Reopening Information & Updates page, where it has also been publicly available since July 31.”
Germantown also released a statement on its website saying the district submitted “the REOPEN GCS – A Living Document to the NYS Education Department on time (July 31, 2020). GCSD also submitted the required Dept. of Health Affirmation ahead of the deadline (7/14/2020). Upon learning yesterday that there was a second NY Department of Health requirement (to submit a link to the plan on the district’s website), we did it immediately.”
The press release from the governor’s office says, “The state continues to review plans based on set criteria. Districts that are found to be out of compliance will get a letter from the state Department of Health today (August 10) and a follow-up call naming the sections of their plans that are deficient, in which case they will have until Friday to amend their plan.”
Originally the governor asked all the school districts to send the plans to the state by July 31 for review as he decided whether or not to open schools in September.
On August 7, Governor Cuomo announced “that based on each region’s infection rate, schools across the state are permitted to open this fall. Every region’s infection rate is below the threshold necessary by the state’s standards to open schools. The Department of Health will review submitted reopening plans from school districts and notify districts of their status on Monday (August 10).”
In a phone interview with Ichabod Crane Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow August 11, she said she learned about the list of schools that had not submitted plans from the governor’s press release on Monday. She also said that though she received an email from SED on July 31 saying the school had successfully submitted the plan, she did not receive anything from the health department when she submitted the information there.
According to the Times Union, in the case of neighboring school district East Greenbush, which was also on the list, the issue “stems from duplicate submission forms for the state Department of Health (DOH) and the state Education Department, which have each put out their own recommendations.” A statement from the school district in the Times Union said that school officials have “completed a required companion survey and submitted it to the NYS Department of Health. We anticipate being removed from the list of non-compliance.”
A statement from Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to the governor, said that some districts filed their plans with SED by not DOH and that “others filled out an affirmation certifying that they would be abiding by the state’s reopening guidance, but didn’t actually submit their plan, something many of these districts are now rectifying.”
Ms. Guntlow said she did send assurances to the DOH on July 31 and resubmitted the information after hearing about the list. She reached out to the DOH but has not heard back and she said she reached out to the county Department of Health about the issue.
In reviewing the plans, the governor said, “The main arbiter here of whether a school district has an intelligent plan to reopen and whether people have confidence in that district’s plan: It’s going to be the parents and it’s going to be the teachers, and that requires discussion, and that’s going to be a dialogue. Parents don’t have to send their child. The parents are responsible for the health and safety of the child, and they’re not going to send the child if they don’t believe the plan makes sense. A teacher is not going to come back into the classroom if they think the classroom is not safe, and that’s right. The school district has to have that dialogue by the 21st [of August] to fully comply with our rules.”
The governor also reminded districts in a release that they must complete between three and five public sessions with parents and teachers and post their plans for remote learning, testing and tracing on their website by August 21 to be in compliance with standards established by the state.
The Ichabod Crane District held a meeting via Zoom the week the plan was submitted, with almost 500 participants. The district is hosting meetings for parents with children in the different school buildings this week, also on Zoom.
Ichabod’s current reopening plan has all students kindergarten through 5th grade attending school full time with safety precautions. Students in 6th through 12th grades will be split into two groups attending school two days a week and working remotely the rest of the week.
As for the Germantown reopening plan, the school has three plans for all in-person instruction, a hybrid model and all online. In the two plans that would bring students back to the district building, they have a staggered opening for schools starting with students in prekindergarten, kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade and CTE on September 14 and then will add grades after that.
For the all in-person model, students in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades would not start until October. For the hybrid model, the students would start in September but, like Ichabod, they would be split into two different groups that would go to school two days week and work remotely the rest of the time. For both districts, Wednesdays will be all-remote days.
Germantown’s full reopening plan on the district’s website at www.germantowncsd.org/domain/344
Ms. Guntlow at Ichabod Crane said her district is working on the calendar for September and hopes to have more time for training with the teachers, giving them more days to get back to their classrooms. And she said there would be focus on the training for social emotional learning.
The full Ichabod Crane plan is at www.ichabodcrane.org
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email