Schools may be inching closer to 5-day, in-person learning

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The Rome school district is “much closer to a return to five-day, in-person learning than we were two weeks ago,” due to revised federal guidelines regarding COVID-19, says district Superintendent Peter C. Blake.

The district, currently on a hybrid schedule combining remote learning and some in-person learning, has begun talks with the county and state regarding full in-person instruction pending certain distancing requirements, Blake said Sunday in his online blog.

Among other school district updates relating to the pandemic, Adirondack is encouraging the use of customized “Fan Head” photos at athletic events with no spectators; Oriskany and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill (VVS) announced county approval of winter sports plans; Westmoreland is seeking public feedback on its “Pandemic Operations Plan” that is required by the
state.

Rome — The CDC (federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) “has made revisions to their guidance documents for the reopening of schools, and New York state has taken a stance that they are supportive of students returning to in-person learning as much as possible,” said Blake.

The CDC guidance includes metrics for community COVID-19 positivity rates on a seven-day average that “will allow schools to reopen for full in-person learning if desired,” Blake observed. He added Gov. Andrew Cuomo is “placing the responsibility for a full reopening of schools on local governments.”

However, Blake also cited two remaining hurdles involving transportation of students to school and feeding them in school.

“The CDC guidance does not address these issues further and without a clear understanding of distancing requirements on school buses, it’s tough to plan transportation models or even know if there are enough buses to transport.,” Blake commented.

When asked about the feeding issue, Blake said Monday “feeding requires people to be unmasked,” and “while they may change guidelines for distancing while masked, they not change for unmasked.” He further said of the feeding topics that having “more people in a building at a time and having to remain distanced at six feet could be a problem,” and “we need to see what the new rules will end up being.”

In his blog, Blake also emphasized “a return to full in-person learning does not mean that students are required to learn in-person,” noting the state has allowed students to learn completely virtually for the 2020-2021 school year if they choose. In schools, students will be required to wear masks, “but social distancing may be less than six feet,” he added.

The district is launching an online “Thought Exchange” to “learn more about the concerns that parents have for their children as they return to full in-person learning,” said Blake.

The link is at https://my.thoughtexchange.com/114622755 online, and it will be open until Friday at 5 p.m.

The district has been working to ensure “as soon as we have the permission to allow for more students in our buildings, that we are prepared to open five days a week as soon as possible,” Blake remarked. “It is evident that this will happen in New York state and Oneida County before the end of the year, and clearly most likely much earlier than that.”

• Adirondack — Orders for “Fan Heads” are being taken all week, according to an announcement on the district’s website.

The announcement includes a link to a document with details about providing an image to be used for a customized “Fan Head.”

People seeking more information can contact Karen Philbrick at kphilbrick@adirondackcsd.org by email.

The district’s return-to-play sports plan includes basketball, volleyball and wrestling. It said spectators will not be permitted at any athletic contest at this time.

Oriskany — The county Health Department’s approval of the district’s winter athletic plan to begin interscholastic sports was effective Wednesday last week, Athletic Director Kevin Jones said in a letter Thursday to parents, guardians, families and community members

“Currently, we are still awaiting confirmation from Section III Athletics regarding the scheduling of contests as well as the number of surrounding schools who will officially be participating in winter athletics at all levels – modified, junior varsity and varsity level boys and girls athletics,” Jones said.

Although no spectators are allowed, Jones said the district is now able to livestream its sporting events, and “contests being played at Oriskany can now be watched live from the district’s website.”

Among sports included in the district’s plan are basketball for boys and girls at modified, JV, and varsity levels, and competitive cheerleading.

• VVS — “Varsity and junior varsity basketball and volleyball began yesterday,” Superintendent Martha Group said in a letter Friday night to the “VVS family” about district topics which included noting county approval of the winter athletics plan.

“Their games will be livestreamed, so keep an eye out for the game times,” Group said.

Westmoreland — The district said it welcomes input on its “Pandemic Operations Plan,” and feedback must be emailed to spolera@westmorelandschool.org by March 23.

The district announcement said Cuomo signed legislation last September requiring all New York public employers, including schools, to adopt a plan no later than April 1 for operations in the event of a declared public health emergency involving a communicable disease.

It said the Board of Education earlier this month approved the district’s plan for public comment.

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