KINDERHOOK—Ichabod Crane School Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow presented the schools reopening plans for 2021-22 at the August 17 school board meeting. Students will be required to wear masks, stay in cohorts and use social distancing, much like they did last year.
One major change for this school year will be that students will be back in the buildings full time.
During the 2020-21 school year, the middle and high schools were on hybrid schedules, with students attending two days a week and having three days of online learning. Toward the end of the school year, 6th and 7th graders were able to go back four days a week. The primary school and students in 4th and 5th grades met in-person five days a week.
“We really saw that kids do best when they are in school,” Ms. Guntlow said at the meeting.
Board members also pointed out that this plan could change.
Board President Matthew Nelson said that this plan was not “concrete” and called it “a starting point.” He also pointed out that the state was, at that time, about to have a new governor soon, so guidelines from the state could change. Governor Kathy Hochul was sworn in August 24.
‘We really saw that kids do best when they are in school.’
Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow
Ichabod Crane School District
On her first day in office, Governor Hochul directed the state Department of Health (DOH) to institute a universal mask requirement in all schools “as determined necessary at the discretion of the commissioner,” according to a press release. The DOH will issue the requirement through regulatory action established by the Public Health and Health Planning Council.
At the August 17 board meeting, the administration was working with the state Education Department (SED) issued health and safety guide to reopen schools based on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidance.
The statement from the SED reads in part, “This guide is designed to be used in conjunction with the numerous other local, state, and national resources available to schools. Administrators are strongly encouraged to partner with their local department(s) of health, director of school health services, and other health professionals when developing their policies and responding to health and safety concerns that may arise during the school year.”
About 5 residents spoke at the beginning of the board meeting, some stating they were against mask wearing. One parent spoke in support of the state guidance.
Ms. Guntlow talked about mask breaks (when students can take their masks off) during the meeting. The CDC recommends masks for all students and staff, though outdoors, in general, masks are not required. Ichabod Crane students will have to wear masks on the buses but there will no longer be temperature checks. Parents/guardians are required to take the temperature of each of their children and perform a health self-assessment before the kids leave home every day. Staff will also be required to do the same thing before coming to school.
There was a discussion about testing at the school. School nurses will be trained “on proper testing procedures,” according to the plan. The plan also says that parent consent will be required for both screening and Point of Care (POC) testing.
An email to parents sent after the meeting said, “Currently, we are only implementing the testing of athletes. POC and general surveillance testing is funded through the federal ELC grant, but New York State has not yet released this funding to the local health departments. We anticipate both POC testing and general surveillance testing to begin in October.” The message also says that all testing will require prior consent.
According to the release from the governor on August 24, the state “is using $335 million in federal funds to launch a new Covid-19 Testing in Schools Program in partnership with local health departments and BOCES in New York State outside of New York City.”
In school, according to the Ichabod Crane reopening plan, social distancing will be 3 feet apart, not 6 feet like last year. That will mean there will be space for all students to return to the school buildings.
Ms. Guntlow did announce to the board at the meeting that the use of lockers in the middle and high school buildings will be prohibited again this year. Later in the meeting, when a parent said that not having lockers was a big issue, Ms. Guntlow said she talked to the county Department of Health (DOH) and she was told they would not approve the plan if the school allowed locker use. She stressed that it was a concern for her as well.
“We can’t really predict where this year will take us,” she said when reviewing the reopening plan, but she did say the district is ready if they have to go fully online again.
The board voted unanimously for the new Reopening Plan. Information is on the district website at www.ichabodcrane.org
School starts September 7. The next board meeting will be September 14, starting with a tour of the buildings to look at the progress of the major capital improvement construction project taking place. The regular meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Middle School.