Like you, I have been monitoring the spread of the Omicron variant while we have been out of school. The numbers continue to increase and I can understand how some of you are feeling, particularly if you have a child or someone in your household who is immunocompromised.
As I have said all along, our plan remains to open school for in-person instruction tomorrow, Monday, January 3 and keep schools open as long as we have sufficient staff to do so. However, given the present conditions, we will provide a virtual option for those families who are concerned about their children being exposed at school upon our return from the Holiday Recess. Specifics are as follows:
Starting on Monday, January 3, students in grades 6-12 will have the option of live streaming their classes. Teachers will also continue to post learning materials and assignments in Google Classroom.
On Monday, January 3, students in grades K-5 will be able to access their learning materials and assignments via Google Classroom. On Tuesday, January 4, students in grades 3-5 will have the option of virtual learning via a Google Meet link.
While virtual learning will not be available for students in grades K-2 because we do not believe it is effective for younger students, those in grades K-2 will still have the option of remaining home and accessing learning materials and assignments in Google Classroom.
This period of time will pose a particular challenge to all of us as we navigate the next two weeks. We hope that allowing these virtual accommodations will help those who are not comfortable sending their children to school at this time, while balancing the need to continue providing effective in-person instruction for those students in the classroom. We ask that you please notify the main office of your respective school if your child will utilize the virtual option.
As we return this week, it is important that we work together to protect the health and safety of our students and our staff. As you likely know, it has become increasingly difficult to access PCR tests. Therefore, moving forward we will accept positive results from at-home rapid tests as proof of a positive COVID-19 infection. If your child tests positive or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please keep them home and report this to your school nurse.
Additionally, over the Holiday Recess, the CDC made changes to its recommendations for isolation for those who test positive, shortening the isolation period to 5 days under certain conditions. The New York State Department of Health has adopted these changes for essential workers, including education staff, which will likely help avoid staffing shortages, however, they have not yet done so with regard to the general population. Accordingly, students who test positive or unvaccinated students who are exposed will still need to isolate/quarantine for 10 days before returning to school. We will be meeting to discuss these changes shortly and will provide updated information as soon as we are able.
Since I arrived here in late November I continually find myself making daily decisions which are not necessarily popular. While not always universally popular, there is a need for a decision. I have made every attempt to listen to all sides of the situation before making a decision. My motto as an educator has always been to make decisions based upon putting students first. It has always guided me and it will continue to do so. Once again, I am making these decisions to do what is best for the vast majority of students while also keeping in mind what will keep our students and staff safe during this difficult time.
The Omicron variant, which currently dominates those positive with COVID in our region, is highly transmissible. Please remind your children to wear their masks properly at all times except when eating, to social distance as best they can, and to report to an adult if they are not feeling well. If we work together to follow these simple rules, we will have a better chance of remaining healthy and safe.
Also, I would make the pitch for you to take advantage of the vaccines and boosters for yourself and for your children. As medical evidence indicates, that is the best way to begin to contain the spread of the virus and to begin to return to a normal way of life.
My hope, like most of you, is that this variant will soon be behind us and we will move forward and return to a normal in-school attendance for all children in our care.
Wishing you a safe and healthy New Year,
Dennis R. Lauro, Jr., Ed. D.
Acting Superintendent of Schools