The East Greenbush Central School District has postponed plans to bring back all kindergarten students for full time in-person learning due to increasing cases of COVID-19 in the region and within the school community. Superintendent Jeff Simons made the recommendation to the Board of Education at Wednesday evening’s public meeting.
The proposed change would have brought back the district’s youngest students for five days of in-person learning each week.
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.
Mr. Simons provided information and the rationale for his decision during a presentation at the board meeting. He said that when the district was first planning to bring back kindergarten full-time, Rensselaer County’s infection rate was 1.3% on a 7-day rolling average. As of December 9, the infection rate is 4.0% on a 7-day rolling average.
Postponing a change to full-time kindergarten provides time to monitor the current increase in COVID-19 cases, and a potential surge in cases related to the holidays.
“I just don’t think the timing is right to increase the number of children in our buildings,” Mr. Simons said at the Board of Education meeting. “I know that that will come with some frustration and disappointment among our parents. I can tell you that I am frustrated and disappointed by it as well, however, I don’t believe that it is the right thing to do at this time and I would hope the board would support my recommendation.”
Mr. Simons added that the district has made all of the necessary preparations to bring back kindergarten five days a week, and this situation will be reassessed in January.
“It’s just not the right time to implement the plan and we hope that we can do it later in the year if the situation gets better,” Mr. Simons said.
Administrators have continued to evaluate the school reopening since school started in September. The topic of increasing in-person learning for elementary students was discussed at the October 21 Board of Education meeting. Due to space and staffing constraints, it was determined that it was only possible to bring back kindergarten for five days a week of in-person learning. An analysis of class sizes in each of the elementary schools showed grades 1-5 could not fit the additional students and maintain state regulations on social distancing.
As part of the kindergarten analysis, the district surveyed parents of kindergarten students in the hybrid model last month to learn if they would be comfortable having their children attend five days of in-person learning. Approximately 88% of those parents preferred five days of in-person learning, according to the survey.
However, community spread is occurring which is impacting East Greenbush schools, students, staff and overall operations within the district.
As of December 9, the district has been notified of 20 positive cases of COVID-19, including five in the last week. The district reports its cases to New York State daily and notifies the school community of each positive case.
“We are constantly monitoring the challenges associated with COVID-19,” said Assistant Superintendent James McHugh, “and meeting the needs of our students, families and employees is at all times a top priority. We want to continue to look for opportunities for the students we serve but the health and safety of all must be at the forefront of our decision making.”
The kindergarten update from Wednesday’s Board of Education Meeting can be viewed below. Presentation starts at 19:58 and the discussion concludes at 39:01.