By Jay Mullen
Hartford Central School District posted a video to YouTube on Tuesday, July 28 detailing its plan for reopening this fall.
Schools have been closed to students since mid-March, and surveys sent out to parents indicated an “overwhelming opinion” for students to return to school for in-person instruction, according to school superintendent Andrew Cook.
But there is no path in sight for that outcome.
“A full reopening for all of our students is not possible given the social distancing regulations,” Cook said.
Cook said the district created a plan that matched the feedback from the parents as closely as possible while maintaining the multiple regulations and restrictions that have been handed down by the state Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control, the Governor’s Office and the New York State Board of Regents.
Elementary school students will attend school in person every day. Middle schoolers will attend school every Monday and Tuesday while attending on specified Fridays. High school students will attend in-person learning every Wednesday and Thursday. They will also attend on specified Fridays when middle school students are not in school.
All middle school and high school students will participate in remote learning on days where they are not in school.
“We prioritized our younger students for a couple of reasons,” Cook said in a later interview. “One of the reasons is child-care concerns. If our younger students were remote and a lot of parents and guardians are going back to work, and the middle school and high school students being in the building and [elementary] students being remote we could run into issues with child care.”
The other concern Cook brought up had to deal with the elementary students needing further assistance with remote instruction that middle school and high school students don’t need.
In terms of getting the students to school, Cook said that the plan only works if they can reduce the number of students on their busses. This means that on a bus that holds 66 students only 22 would be allowed on board with proper social distancing.
“Based on the transportation survey that we offered earlier this summer it looks like we will be able to accommodate that,” he said. The school will be reaching out to families soon to determine who will be riding the busses to school.
One question that Cook continues to get asked has to do with students and masks. He said that they are working to set up classrooms where the desks are set up to have six feet of separation between them.
“Based on the guidelines from the Department of Health if the desks are socially distant the students do not need to wear a mask while they are at their desk,” he said. However, masks will be required whenever there is movement in or around the building and social distancing cannot be maintained.
Hartford is doing what it can to make sure that all students have the necessary protective gear before heading back to school.
“The district has purchased specific Hartford Tanagers masks for every student and employee. We hope to have these available for pick-up in the middle of August,” Cook said. More information about how the masks will be distributed will be available at a later time.
According to Cook, as long as the state gives the green light to this plan the first day of instruction will be Sept. 8. He said that if they had to go back to fully remote instruction the start date would be around that same time period.
If the situation of fully remote instruction came about, Cook said he believes that Hartford is better prepared now than they were back in March.
“If we had to go fully remote we are definitely better able to do that,” he said. “There still would be challenges, but I think we are better able to address those challenges now.”
Lunches will be provided no matter what the state decides. Cook said that all students will have the opportunity to receive a meal, whether they are there in person or participating remotely.
They are looking into delivering lunches to the students that are remote on that day, according to Cook. He said that if they had to go fully remote they would have to reevaluate those plans.
As more information becomes available to Cook the school will get that information out to the community. This could be in the form of a post online or another YouTube video, according to Cook.
Anyone with questions regarding any of this information is encouraged to contact the Hartford district offices at 518-632-5222.
Click the link to watch the YouTube video detailing the plan for reopening. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIYAUkdv7_g