As district superintendent, I believe the best place for students to learn is in our classrooms. It is important for their academic success as well as their social and emotional growth. I wholeheartedly share the goal of wanting to bring our students back to school as much as possible, but we must do it safely.
I’m writing with some hopeful news as we work toward increasing in-person learning to the greatest extent possible while keeping our schools safe for students and staff by employing best practices to mitigate the coronavirus.
I will present the Board of Education with a series of considerations for increasing in-person learning for all of our students. These considerations, developed with our district physician, call for giving students the choice to attend school in-person four days a week, with Wednesdays continuing as our flex day. Students would still have the choice to learn fully remote at home as well
For the four-day-a-week, in-person option to be possible, the district seeks to meet two metrics. Using the seven-day rolling average for Westchester County, the coronavirus positivity rate must remain below 5 percent, and the district is targeting 70 percent or more of its faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated. Our goal to begin the four-day-a-week, in-person option is Apr. 6.
When our district physician, Dr. Louis Corsaro, certifies that the metrics have been met, all students could attend school four days a week. The district will reconfigure classrooms to provide three feet of space between desks and each desk will have a three-sided plastic barrier, a protocol permitted by the New York State Department of Health. In addition, every pre-K-12 classroom will have an air purifier.
Next week, the district will begin its on-site COVID-19 testing program, which is voluntary for students and staff and will help keep our schools safe as more students attend.
The logistics of bringing students in more frequently are complex and present challenges that will require flexibility from our families, students, faculty and staff. If COVID-19 conditions change and the district is no longer meeting the metrics, there may be a need to return to the hybrid model.
I am looking forward to presenting this positive development in our planning with the Board of Education and the community.
There is nothing I would like more than for a complete return to normalcy and for our schools to fully reopen to in-person learning. As we continue to contend with the pandemic, this path forward represents our best option under the current conditions. I am hopeful that we will see students four days a week at our schools after spring recess. In the meantime, I ask for the community’s patience and support in continuing to stay safe as we fight the virus together.
Be well and stay safe.
Brendan Lyons, Ed. D
Superintendent, Lakeland Central School District