Local schools close amidst virus concerns

Local schools close amidst virus concerns

By Matthew Saari

Granville Central School joined 30 regional school districts Saturday in announcing their closure till mid-April.

All 31 superintendents along with attorneys and Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES personnel met Saturday to discuss the prospect, brought on by rising concerns over the novel coronavirus 2019 – also known as COVID-19 – pandemic.

Granville superintendent Tom McGurl

“To determine the best course of action given the health crisis,” said Granville superintendent Tom McGurl.

After that meeting, the superintendents took the proposal back to their respective school boards to be approved and announcements were made Saturday afternoon.

“I wanted them to hear it in person,” McGurl said.

The announcement came as a shock to the Granville community. When the Sentinel broke the news on its Facebook page, the post went viral, reaching 23,846 people, was shared 455 times and garnered 45 comments and 41 reactions.

One common concern voiced in the wake of the announcement is how are those less-fortunate children in the district going to be fed, especially as more and more businesses shutter their doors as part of the ever-growing quarantine.

An environmental stress report recently completed and published by the state Comptroller’s Office indicates that a significant portion of the local student body falls in this category – 58% in Granville and 50% in Hartford.

Both districts have been developing plans and mapping out the logistics of food programs to keep their students fed.

“Our plan is to prep the meals in the school,” said Hartford superintendent Andrew Cook. “We’re going to go door-to-door.”

On Tuesday, the Hartford school district posted on its website the lunch survey, encapsulating the qualifying families. However, if a family did not receive a call and wants to enroll in the program, it should call 518-632-5222 ext. 273 to do so.

A similar plan is in place for Granville, McGurl said, with the district packaging up a breakfast and lunch combo, which meets the standard school meal nutritional guidelines.

Hartford superintendent Andrew Cook

“It’s not just a sandwich,” he said.

These will be delivered daily by district staff, also going door-to-door. To enroll, Granville residents can complete an online form found on the district website or call the transportation department at 518-642-0660 to get on a route.

Both districts will continue to maintain their in-place backpack programs, which will offer further sustenance for the most needy district families.

The Granville backpack program, maintained by the Granville Parent Teacher Organization, has a tote located at 30 Morrison Ave. for donations. In Hartford, Cook said the district is working with the local food pantry to ensure the backpacks are filled.

One situation not currently addressed but which has arisen in recent days, is how the local districts are going to manage Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate that school districts offer childcare services to those parents who are employed in the healthcare field and thus may be called upon should COVID-19 cases increase in the area.

“We are anxiously awaiting guidance on that,” said McGurl.