As the East Greenbush Central School District continues to evaluate its reopening plan, Superintendent Jeff Simons indicated at a public Board of Education meeting on Wednesday evening that kindergarten students may be able to return to full time in-person learning at all five elementary schools in November.
Options have been considered to increase in-person learning for all grades at the K-5 level, however, a preliminary analysis of the data indicates that, at this point, only kindergarten could be brought back into school five days a week while complying with state regulations on social distancing.
“We want an opportunity to explore possibilities with our teachers and to ensure fluid instruction before we can finalize and announce any plans,” said Mr. Simons.
Those staff meetings will be scheduled for this purpose within the next two weeks.
Mr. Simons also shared concerns that any changes need to be made thoughtfully so as to ensure that adjustments to student and teacher routines are not disruptive to learning. Mr. Simons, who is a former first, second and third grade teacher and elementary school principal indicated that even under normal circumstances young children can take between 4-6 weeks to adjust to new classroom routines at the beginning of a given school year. Teachers are reporting that students are just beginning to build confidence, only five weeks into the school year under a hybrid model.
The district will also be taking steps to review the remote learning component of the program.
During his presentation, Mr. Simons discussed the options that are being considered, which also includes the potential to eliminate Live Virtual Wednesday for the elementary schools so that students could have an additional day of in-person learning every other week.
“The bottom line with all of this is, we want to do what we can within the existing resources, which is primarily space, to help the kids where we can,” said Mr. Simons.
The district is currently operating a K-12 Hybrid Model, split into an A Group and a B Group with two days of in-person learning, one day of live virtual instruction and two days of remote learning. There is also a Full Remote option, in which approximately 21 percent of students are enrolled.
District administrators are gathering data on the number of students in each classroom at every elementary school, the number of Full Remote students who intend on returning to in-person learning for the second marking period and the number of available desks for each classroom based on social distancing requirements.
Additionally, a critical part of any potential adjustment to the reopening plan has to do with limiting the risk of COVID-19. To date, the district has had five students test positive for COVID-19 and no staff members have tested positive for the virus. While those numbers are low, and school safety procedures appear to be working, there is an increase in infection rates in New York State and across the country.
Mr. Simons also noted that all five positive cases have been isolated and not impacted entire classes or schools, in part because of the current hybrid model because those students were out of school as they became infectious.
District administrators will continue to review data and consider if any additional increases of in-person learning are feasible and can be implemented safely as the school year progresses.
Any changes to the reopening instructional plan would need to be recommended by Mr. Simons and then approved by the Board of Education.
The K-5 instructional plan presentation from Wednesday’s Board of Education Meeting can be viewed below. Presentation starts at 9:25 and concludes at 45:30.