Superintendent Jeff Simons is one of 92 school superintendents from the region to sign a letter on Tuesday advocating for further changes in school opening guidance that would result in a full reopening by the start of the next school year in September. The joint letter was sent to New York State Commissioner of Education Dr. Betty Rosa, county health departments and members of the New York State Assembly and Senate.
Every superintendent from the region’s four BOCES signed the letter, including the following counties: Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Schoharie, Rensselaer, Columbia, Greene, Hamilton, Fulton, Montgomery, Washington, Warren, Hamilton and Essex. It asked for “reasonable and responsible guidance” that would allow for all students to return to in-person learning in September.
The key points include:
- Removing cohort requirement at the secondary level
- Changing social distancing on school buses while maintaining mandatory masks, window ventilation and continued cleaning and disinfecting
- Adjusting social distancing in classrooms and cafeterias to 3 feet when students are eating
- Need for updated state guidance on in-person, virtual and hybrid learning by May 15
Mr. Simons joined his counterparts from Questar III BOCES for similar advocacy efforts in March. At that time, superintendents had asked the New York State Departments of Health and Education to adopt the CDC’s updated recommendations of 3 feet social distancing rather than 6 feet to allow more students to return for in-person learning.
The state eventually updated its regulations to follow CDC recommendations, however, certain restrictions still remained that prevented middle school and high school students to return full time.
Mr. Simons hopes this latest push will fully reopen schools by September and return all students to the classroom.
“We are preparing now for a full restoration of in-person learning in September,” said Mr. Simons. “We need more flexibility and local control within the state guidance to ensure that all of our students can return to our classrooms for instruction in the Fall.”
View Full Letter
Dear Elected Official,
On behalf of the 92 school superintendents in the WSWHE BOCES, HFM BOCES, Questar III BOCES and Capital Region BOCES regions, please accept our collective and continued thanks for your support of our schools over the course of this past year and for your recent support of the landmark state budget that will make a critical difference for so many of our schools and students.
We are writing to you today to ask for your help in creating reasonable and responsible guidance for in-person instruction that will allow all of our students to return to school onsite every day when the new school year opens in the fall of 2021. We can confidently say from the experience of this year that there is no substitute for students being in school with their teachers.
While the most recent guidance from April 9, 2021 is helpful in many regards, there continue to be many restrictions that will ultimately make a complete return to school impossible. In particular:
Cohorts at the secondary level
Maintaining cohorts at the secondary level in communities categorized by the CDC as high risk for community transmission presents several challenges. Most counties in the state are considered high risk (despite a decline in the transmission rate) and for many of our districts, it is simply impossible to establish cohorts as defined by the New York State Department of Health. In order for our districts to offer the range of courses they do at the secondary level – courses that students need to successfully prepare for their post-secondary choices – having different groups of students in different classes is necessary. The fact is that this is the only practical way to operate a comprehensive high school.
In order to meet the Department of Health’s requirement and bring all students back in-person, many of our districts would need to eliminate a significant number of courses to the detriment of our students’ education. Further, this guidance seems to be in contrast to the New York State Department of Health’s “Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,” which currently allows high-risk sports in consultation with the local health department. We ask for the same flexibility for in-person instruction.
Social distancing on school buses
While the guidance suggests that parents/guardians should be encouraged to drop off students at school, this presents challenges for parents who do not have transportation or who can no longer adjust their work schedules to transport children to and from school. Further, many of our school campuses are not designed to accommodate a significant amount of thru traffic.
We anticipate continued mask wearing on the bus at all times, in addition to window ventilation and continued cleaning and disinfection. With these measures in place, we believe a change to the social distancing requirement on the bus is both reasonable and necessary in order to have all students learn in person every day next year.
Social distancing in classrooms and cafeterias where students are eating
While many districts are able to flex spaces and, to some extent, schedules to accommodate students eating while six-feet apart, implementing this model for all students presents many challenges. In order to have all students onsite, many districts would need to have some students eating lunch as early as 9:30 a.m., which is clearly not practical or in the best interest of students. Allowing students to eat while three-feet apart would allow all schools to feed all students, in-person and on a reasonable schedule.
Guidance on in-person, virtual and hybrid learning
The 92 school superintendents in the WSWHE, HFM, Questar III and Capital Region BOCES regions are committed to having all students return for in-person learning in September. However, in order to do this, it will be critical that we receive guidance from the New York State Department of Health by May 15, 2021 and from the New York State Education Department thereafter. Waiting until the last minute will not provide adequate planning time, which is not in the best interest of our students or staff.
This guidance should outline protocols for in-person instruction of students, as well as virtual instruction and a hybrid (a mix of in-person and virtual learning). As much as we want students in classrooms with their teachers, we recognize that the prolonged nature of the pandemic and individual family needs will require districts to be prepared for all models of instruction.
Since September, our schools have implemented reopening plans with fidelity. These plans include social distancing, the correct use of masks, cleaning and disinfection protocols, careful monitoring of community spread of COVID-19, and a mix of high-quality learning models. We ask that you take into account the good work being done by all of our schools as you consider the changes we are requesting to the existing state guidance.
If we can be of any assistance in helping to build your or your staff members understanding of these concerns, we are happy to meet at your convenience. As always, thank you for your partnership and support of the children of the WSWHE, HFM, Questar III and Capital Region BOCES regions.
James P. Dexter
Anita M. Murphy
Capital Region BOCES
Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
Questar III BOCES
Dr. David Ziskin
On behalf of the 92 Superintendent of Schools in the WSWHE BOCES, HFM BOCES, Questar II BOCES and Capital Region BOCES regions.
Superintendent of Schools in the WSWHE BOCES region
- Michael Healey, Argyle CSD
- Michael Markwica, Johnsburg CSD
- Kenneth Slentz, Ballston Spa CSD
- Lynne Rutnik, Lake George CSD
- Michael Graney, Bolton CSD
- Bruce Potter, Mechanicville City SD
- Dr. Douglas Silvernell, Cambridge CSD
- Kyle McFarland, Minerva CSD
- Dr. Mark Stratton, Corinth CSD
- Christian Fisher, Newcomb CSD
- Kevin Froats, Fort Ann CSD
- Michele French, North Warren CSD
- Daniel Ward, Fort Edward UFSD
- Kyle Gannon, Queensbury UFSD
- Dr. Brita Donovan, Galway CSD
- Dr. David Glover, Salem CSD
- Paul Jenkins, Glens Falls City SD
- Dr. Michael Patton, Saratoga Springs City SD
- Brian George, Glens Falls Common
- Dr. Ryan Sherman, Schuylerville CSD
- Thomas McGurl, Granville CSD
- Kristine Orr, South Glens Falls CSD
- Mark Fish, Greenwich CSD
- Patricia Morris, Stillwater CSD
- Beecher Baker, Hadley Luzerne CSD
- John Goralski, Warrensburg CSD
- Andrew Cook, Hartford CSD
- Patrick Pomerville, Waterford-Halfmoon UFSD
- Dr. Jon Hunter, Interim, Hudson Falls CSD
- Patrick Dee, Whitehall CSD
- David Snide, Indian Lake CSD
Superintendent of Schools in the Capital Region BOCES Region
- Kaweeda Adams, Albany CSD
- Joseph Corr, North Colonie CSD
- Dr. Timothy Mundell, Berne-Knox-Westerlo CSD
- Dr. Brian Bailey, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk CSD
- Jody Monroe, Bethlehem CSD
- Dr. Thomas Reardon, Schalmont CSD
- Dr. Patrick McGrath, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake CSD
- Dr. Aaron Bochniak, Schenectady CSD
- Carl Mummenthey, Cobleskill-Richmondville CSD
- David Blanchard, Schoharie CSD
- Peggy O’Shea, Cohoes CSD
- Susan Swartz, Scotia-Glenville CSD
- Dr. James Niedermeier, Duanesburg CSD
- Patterson Green, Sharon Springs CSD
- Kimberly Ross, Green Island Union Free CSD
- Dr. L. Oliver Robinson, Shenendehowa CSD
- Dr. Marie Wiles, Guilderland CSD
- Dr. David Perry, South Colonie CSD
- Dr. Maureen Long, Menands CSD
- Francis Macri, Voorheesville CSD
- Brian Dunn, Middleburgh CSD
- Dr. Lori Caplan, Watervliet City
- Shannon Shine, Mohonasen CSD
- Dr. Cosimo Tangorra, Niskayuna CSD
Superintendent of Schools in the HFM BOCES Region
- Richard Ruberti, Greater Amsterdam SD
- Stephen Tomlinson, Broadalbin-Perth CSD
- Dr. Nick Fitzgerald, Canajoharie CSD
- Michelle Ellis, Edinburg Common SD
- Thomas Ciaccio, Fonda-Fultonville CSD
- John Bishop, Fort Plain CSD
- David Halloran, Gloversville Enlarged SD
- Dr. William Crankshaw, Greater Johnstown SD
- Heather Philo, Lake Pleasant CSD
- Christopher Harper, Mayfield CSD
- Dr. Leslie Ford, Northville CSD
- Richard Rose, Piseco Common CD
- Adam Heroth, Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville CSD
- Thomas Sincavage, Wells CSD
- Nicole Dettenrieder, Wheelerville UFSD
Superintendent of Schools in the Questar III BOCES Region
- Dr. James Franchini, Averill Park CSD
- Aditya Joseph Dhar, Berlin CSD
- Dr. Angelina Maloney, Brunswick (Brittonkill) CSD
- Michael Wetherbee, Cairo-Durham CSD
- Dr. Ronel Cook, Catskill CSD
- Dr. Salvatore DeAngelo, Chatham CSD
- Randall Squier, Coxsackie-Athens CSD
- Jeffrey Simons, East Greenbush CSD
- Benjamin Bragg, Germantown CSD
- Tammy Sutherland, Greenville CSD
- Michael Apostol, Hoosic Valley CSD
- Patrick Dailey, Hoosick Falls CSD
- Dr. Maria Suttmeier, Hudson CSD
- Suzanne Guntlow, Ichabod Crane CSD
- Dr. Antonio (Tiney) Abitabile, Lansingburgh CSD
- Andrew Kourt, New Lebanon CSD
- Christine Hamill, North Greenbush Common
- Joseph Kardash, Rensselaer City SD
- Jason Chevrier, Schodack CSD
- Dr. Neil Howard Jr., Taconic Hills CSD
- John Carmello, Troy City SD
- Dr. Mary Yodis, Wynantskill Union Free SD