Adirondack, New Hartford, HP schools eye shifts to remote instruction

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Possible shifts to all-remote instruction due to COVID-19 are being mentioned by superintendents in the Adirondack, Holland Patent and New Hartford school districts, with no decisions yet.

Meanwhile, the Oneida school district is extending the all-remote schedule for Oneida High School and Otto Shortell Middle School through Tuesday next week because of COVID-19 factors, after previously moving to all-remote at the sites Monday and Tuesday this week.

• Adirondack — The increase in positive COVID-19 cases and community spread of the virus in Oneida and Lewis counties plus throughout the state was noted in a letter Monday to school district parent/guardians by Superintendent Edward Niznik.

“In our most recent conversation...with the Lewis County Healthcare System and Lewis County Public Health, it is clear the district...will need to make a decision about moving from hybrid to full remote learning during the holiday season,” the letter said. “We have learned that across our state and country, COVID-19 spikes occurred during holidays and various celebrations. As we enter the holiday season, we must also take this into consideration.”

Niznik emphasized “at this time, no decision has been made.” But “we wanted you to know that it is being discussed and to have plans in place and be prepared in the event we move to remote learning.”

The Adirondack school district has operations in both Oneida and Lewis counties. Its central offices are in Boonville along with its high school/middle school complex and an elementary school, while another elementary school is in West Leyden.

• Holland Patent — If the area is designated a “yellow zone” by the state based on COVID-19 cases, “the district will shift to remote instruction until a testing plan is in place within our region,” Superintendent Jason Evangelist said Tuesday in a letter to community members. “We are diligently working with local healthcare partners to make arrangements for testing if and when necessary.”

Noting the positive COVID-19 cases in Oneida County are approaching a rolling average near “yellow zone” criteria, Evangelist said “if a region fits any of the state-identified metrics, schools may remain open as long as a certain percentage of in-person students and staff are randomly tested at least once a week.”

Evangelist also said “we will continue to strive for in-person learning.” But “we must also acknowledge that there are circumstances beyond our control that could impact our ability to do so, including the positivity rate in our region.”

• New Hartford — District Superintendent Robert Nole issued a letter Monday to the school community regarding “information if events require that our district shifts its focus to fully remote instruction during the next wave of this pandemic.”

Such a shift “would most likely be prompted by two main scenarios,” Nole said. One could involve a mandate by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for school districts to suspend in-person instruction in response to rising COVID-19 infections at local, state or national levels. Another scenario could be prompted by “significant factors solely affecting our district,” Nole observed; positive COVID-19 cases within the district require coordination with the department of health for contact tracing, plus the district considers how a case may affect shared faculty throughout the district as well as educational placements outside the district, he added.

Nole had previously announced the high school would be fully remote this week due to COVID-19 cases.

• Oneida — The continued all-remote schedule at the high school and middle school is “due to the number of students and staff members that may be quarantined and in an abundance of caution,” district Superintendent Mary-Margaret Zehr said in an update message Tuesday.

The district was notified Sunday that a student at the high school tested positive for COVID-19, plus the student has a sibling in the home who attends the middle school. The initial closings at the schools Monday and Tuesday were to provide time to contact-trace and deep-clean.

All of the district’s schools will be closed Nov. 25-27 for Thanksgiving vacation

Among other local schools, the Camden district announced last week it will be 100% remote until Nov. 30. Also, the Westmoreland district has announced it will convert to 100% remote instruction for the week following Thanksgiving recess from Nov. 30-Dec. 4, and for the week following Christmas/New Years holiday recess from Jan. 4-8.

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