Area school districts set to implement required safeguards

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Amid a backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases in the region, school districts and officials say they are taking the necessary steps to keep both children and staff safe with schools set to reopen in less than two weeks.

On her first day, Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a universal mask mandate in all public and private schools — a moved that was hailed by the statewide association of administrators and area health officials.

Vernon-Verona-Sherrill School District Administrator Martha Group said that while she appreciates the various views held by parents, VVS is a public school district and will follow the guidelines and requirements set forth.

“Health department quarantine requirements during the 2020-2021 school year reduced the amount of in-person learning opportunities for many students and even resulted in a period of full remote instruction,” Group said. “Adhering to [these] guidelines and requirements will reduce incidents of quarantine and allow students and staff to remain in school... The VVS community has come together in support of our students throughout the pandemic. We are excited to be starting the year with a greater level of normalcy even as COVID health and safety guidelines and requirements continue. Our students have enjoyed numerous in-person summer learning and enrichment experiences. In addition, our fall athletic season is underway with an increased number of students coming out for our teams.”

In-person classes at VVS are scheduled to begin on Sept. 7 with five days a week for all students, along with the full complement of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities.

Matthew Carpenter, superintendent of the Oneida City School District, echoed Group’s sentiments on following guidelines set forth by New York State in a letter home to parents.

“The goals of the Oneida City School District are to listen to parents and community members, study the guidance from NYSED, CDC, and other local, state and federal health organizations, and to ultimately provide for as normal a return to school as possible while keeping staff, students and community safe,” Carpenter said. “With that said, please know that each week leading up to our district reopening, district administrators and I will be reaching out to our learning community to share more information. We intend to make sure that our community has timely information that will ensure a smooth transition back to school in the fall.”

Carpenter added in his letter home that any parent who feels that their child has a medical condition that precludes them from attending in person should contact the Oneida City School District office at 315-363-2550 for a remote learning request form.

“The district will review the form with our medical director and make a determination on a case-by-case basis,” Carpenter said. “If the request is approved, the district will communicate plans for remote instruction to the family.

Shawn Bissetta, superintendent of the Canastota Central School District, said like most schools in a letter home, the district will be reviewing any and all guidance in the coming days leading up to Sept. 7 and will be going forward with the reopening and mask mandate.

“It is incumbent upon school officials as stewards of the financial resources of the district, and even more importantly, as the authority charged with providing a safe environment for our students and staff, that we follow the recommendations of the entities widely regarded as the acknowledged experts on navigating through COVID,” Bissetta said. “While there are many challenges that need to be overcome, just as we did last year, we’ll find a way to succeed by working together and doing what is best for students.”

Besides face masks, Hochul is using $335 million in federal funds to launch a new COVID-19 testing in schools program in partnership with local health departments BOCES.

In addition to these new testing programs, New York State has available more than 4.3 million child-sized clothed face masks, about 10 million adult-sized clothed face masks, and almost 55 million non-surgical face masks to provide to students and teachers in schools across the state.

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