The William Floyd School District held the first of several virtual meetings required by the state on Tuesday before they can safely open schools this fall. The first meeting, which was scheduled prior to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that schools across New York State were permitted to open, went over districtwide policy. Each of the district’s individual buildings will hold their own meetings with more specific information.
“Hundreds of hours were spent on the reopening of this school district,” said Kevin Coster, superintendent of schools.
As part of the meeting, Coster answered on behalf of the district seven of the most popular questions asked by parents and community members:
At this point, testing is not part of the reopening plan. When it comes to health and safety matters, the district’s plans are mainly guided by Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Currently, widespread testing is not required for school districts. Coster said it would require new training, materials, and additional financial planning to make that effort a reality, should it at some point be required.
The short answer: There are too many students. According to the district’s attorney, who explained some of the mandates at Tuesday’s meeting, social distancing is a requirement for school plans, and the district would not be able to meet those standards with all students in attendance.
“We cannot socially distance 3,000 students in the high school and another 500 employees with the constraints that we have,” Coster said, adding that the middle and elementary buildings would have the same issues, boasting hundreds of students enrolled.
Short answer: No. Coster said the logistics of replacing children in this way would not be suitable for the upcoming phase. About 10 percent of the student body so far have opted for the all-virtual option, which Coster said would not substantially reduce class size enough to allow for extra space. Board of education president Bob Vecchio added that there could also be conflicts with scheduling, as not all students are on the same path or have the same classes.
Yes and no. The rule is that anyone who cannot socially distance is required to wear a mask. Students are required to wear a mask on the bus, in the hallways, in the bathrooms, and in any other situation where they are outside of the classroom.
Where there is some leeway is inside the classroom. The DOH and CDC recommend that people wear masks even when socially distant, but that is not a requirement under state orders. Students will be encouraged to wear masks at their desks, but those desks will be at least six feet apart. They will be allowed “mask breaks,” where they can remove their face covering temporarily.
If students do not have access to a facemask, or forget theirs, one will be provided. For a student to be exempt from wearing a mask, there must be a con- sultation between the school-sanctioned pediatrician and the student’s personal care doctor to determine if an exemption is appropriate.
The district will not be performing daily temperature checks in person. There will be mandatory screening surveys performed by parents each day to address the health of each student. The form asks several questions about the student’s health condition, temperature, possible exposure, and recent travel. It will be accessible through an online portal.
Should a student not fill out a health form, the school’s nursing staff will connect with that student to take a temperature and make sure they are safe to be in school.
The district will be flexible with parents who are unsure of their choice, to an extent.
“It doesn’t mean throughout the first stage every other week you can flip from hybrid to online... back and forth,” Coster said.
At a certain point, parents will need to make a final decision.
The schools are still too large, Coster said. It mostly comes down to the actual classroom size, which cannot adequately socially distance a typical class size of students.
“We cannot socially distance in our classrooms,” he added.
That effort would also require the hiring of additional teachers that would allow the class sizes to be reduced enough for students to return full-time. The district is currently on a non-mandated hiring freeze.