Masks still a must as ICC prepares for ‘normal’

KINDERHOOK—Ichabod Crane School Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow told her board that the plan for the next school year is to get the school day back to as normal as possible. But she also stressed at the June 1 board meeting that masks are still required for anyone visiting the school buildings. She told the board that the state had not removed the mask requirements for schools, so she said that people visiting school property must “continue to wear your masks at all times.”

Students will continue to wear masks and use social distancing in school. Students in the high school and middle school are still on a hybrid schedule for the rest of this school year, with some in-person and some on-line school days. Most high school students attend school two days a week with three days online. Students in grades 7 and 6 were able to come back to in-person classes four days a week recently. In grades k through 5, students have been attending school five days a week all year.

As the school year wraps up, the district will be hosting in-person state Regents exams. Some of the testing was canceled, but four Regents tests will still be given. Regents exams can only be taken in-person; there is no remote option.

At the high school level, the exams are English Language Arts, Algebra 1, Earth Science and Living Environment. According to an email from the high school, “students are not required to take the Regents exams…. Students who are enrolled in a course that ends in a Regents exam (listed above) and are passing that course are not required to pass the Regents exam in order to earn course credit.”

The district is also currently meeting about plans for holding graduation, according to student representative to the board, Erin Curry. There will be a “moving up” ceremony for 8th graders, a senior ball and junior prom, and a car parade for seniors as well as other end-of-school-year events.

As for the 2021-22 school year, Ms. Guntlow said at the board meeting that the district is working on getting as many students back in the district full time as possible for next year. She said the district’s reopening task force has been meeting and the four subcommittees are meeting as well to plan for next year. But she also said the district is waiting on information from the state Education Department and the state Health Department (DOH).

In an email to parents in May, Ms. Guntlow said, “While this year’s hybrid learning model was the best option for students given the extraordinary circumstances, there is no substitute for students being in the classroom five days a week, learning alongside their peers. Although the most recent guidance from the DOH provided schools some increased flexibility, the districts continue to advocate for clear regulations and guidance to allow a full, in-person reopening of all schools in September.”

At the board meeting on Tuesday Ms. Guntlow also mentioned the results of the reopening survey emailed to district parents. Of the over 480 responses to the survey, 88% of parents wanted students to return to school in person with safety precautions next year.

The administration also talked to the board about summer enrichment programs. The district has included an arts program with Tom Lee as a summer offering. Two parents sent emails to the board asking how the summer enrichment programs were selected.

Assistant Superintendent Lucas Christensen told the board that the programs, which he said are being paid for by federal stimulus funding, were put together quickly. “The big issue we were up against was time,” he said. He said they contracted with Mr. Lee, who has run arts programs with the district for several years, and they had to choose from his specialties. There will be programs in Chinese poetry; The Ramayana: Exploring the Great Indian Epic; Exploring the Land of Oz; Artists and Scientists: Exploring Botany and Botanical Art; and Getting to Know William Shakespeare. The free summer programs are for students in grades 8 to 11.

Mr. Christensen also mentioned more summer enrichment programs at the North Chatham Library and the Valatie Free Library. And he stressed that next year there will be more time to plan and that the district will be “building on this summer.”

Ms. Guntlow added that the district will have a “much larger” summer school program this summer. Mr. Christensen said that there is an invitation program for students in pre-k through 6th grade, a summer school program for 7th to 12th grade students based on course failures and credits needed, and there will be an intensive language program for English language learners. There is also an extended school year for special education students that qualify.

District Business Manager Michael Brennan talked about the federal funding during the meeting saying that Mr. Christensen had put together the application for one of the grants, but they are still waiting on the application for the American Relief Plan (ARP) grant funding of about $2.1 million.

Also at the meeting:

* Mr. Brennan announced that the school has received a $5,000 donation from the Valatie Ecumenical Food Pantry to support the Backpack food program through the summer

* The board received an update on the major capital improvement project in the district. When asked if there is any increase in material costs, representatives from Turner Construction, which is managing the project, said nothing yet. “Luckily we were able to get ahead on this protect due to the pandemic,” said Larry Tune, from Turner

* Representatives from Questar III/BOCES presented on programs for high school students they will be offering. They also thanked the board for approving the Questar III budget for the next school year

* Two new board members were sworn in—Jennifer Allard and Jared Widjeskog. A third board member, Anne Schaefer, will be take her seat in July

* The board thanked Erin Curry and alternate student representative Eric Tismark Boham for their year on the board. The board swore in the new student representative Daniel Chen and alternate Lillian Gould

* The board recognized retiring staff at this meeting. The staff included Karen Baillargeon, 1st grade teacher; Vikki Skarzynski, AIS teacher; Christopher Soulia, 5th grade teacher; Linda Wheeler, special eductation teacher; Maureen Kuhn, FACS teacher; Susan Hallenbeck, Spanish teacher; Nancy McCowan, teaching assistant; James Antalek, bus attendant; Sherry Page, cleaner; and Robert Broderick, Jr., general mechanic

* Board President Matthew Nelson pointed out that this was the last meeting for current Board Vice President John Antalek and thanked him for his time on the board.

The board plans to have a June 15 board meeting in executive session, which is not open to the public.

The next open board meeting will be the organizational meeting on July 14 at 7 p.m. The board has been hosting hybrid meetings, in-person at the Primary School and on Zoom. For more information go to

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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