With Governor Andrew Cuomo giving the go-ahead for school districts to reopen in September, officials in the Carmel and Mahopac school districts have unveiled their tentative plans on how to operate and keep students, teachers and staff safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Despite the uncertain landscape the COVID-19 pandemic brings, one thing we can all be sure of is that the 2020-2021 school year will be like no other,” Carmel Acting Superintendent of Schools Erik Stark stated in a message to the community. “Since early June, we have been working to develop a plan to return students and staff to our schools in the fall with our primary concern in mind–the health and safety of all. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school buildings.”
Like most districts in the region, Carmel is preparing for three possible instructional models: in-person teaching and learning, remote teaching and learning, and a hybrid model that blends both in-person and remote teaching and learning.
“It is important to note that our plan focuses on academic instruction to enhance student performance and address learning loss. At the same time, we will also try our best to maintain a level of extracurricular programs, clubs, and athletics that are so important to the physical, mental, and social well-being of our students,” Stark stated. “As we have seen, much of the information regarding the pandemic has evolved and changed over time. Similarly, this plan is a living document–subject to updates and changes as new information becomes available to us.”
“We are also considering the possibility of a fully remote option for families that are uncomfortable sending their children back to school in the event that we begin the year in a hybrid model,” Stark noted. “While this is currently not a part of our hybrid model, we continue to explore ways that we may be able to provide this option within the confines of our budget and at our current staffing levels.”
In the neighboring Mahopac School District, which is looking at the same three options as Carmel, officials stated their plans are “grounded in several guiding principles: the welfare and safety of our students and staff are paramount; academically, socially, and emotionally having all students the opportunity to return to school full-time in the fall is ideal as school closure poses threats to the physical safety, social-emotional well-being, and the mental health needs of our students when they are not in school; community conditions regarding COVID-19 are fluid, therefore monitoring conditions in our schools, with our student and staff population as well as within our school community is critical in making any necessary changes in the future to appropriately contain COVID-19 spread; closing schools can have a disproportionate impact on various students within our schools. Therefore, the plan will focus on ensuring equity, access, and support to the students and communities that have been impacted by school closure; and maintaining ongoing communication with parents, staff, state and local agencies.
The district has designated Dr. Greg Stowell as COVID-19 safety coordinator (administrator) whose responsibilities include continuous compliance with all aspects of the school’s reopening plan as well as any phased-in reopening activities necessary to allow for operational issues to be resolved before activities return to normal or “new normal” levels.
The district has also selected Michael Tromblee to be the Covid-19 Resource Coordinator to assist each school building and the community. He will be responsible for answering questions from students, faculty, staff, and parents or legal guardians of students regarding the COVID-19 public health emergency and plans implemented by the school. In addition, the COVID-19 Resource Coordinator will serve as the main contact upon the identification of positive COVID-19 cases and to be responsible for subsequent communication.
Meanwhile, the Haldane School District submitted its reopening plan with three potential learning models to New York State on July 30 and expects to finalize specific plans in the next few weeks.