What to expect from North Country school districts when the school year starts

hudson falls central school

Students sit in a socially distanced classroom on the first day of school for the 2020-21 school year at Hudson Falls High School. (Facebook/Hudson Falls Central School District)

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – This summer, planning for the fall school year has come with plenty of questions, many of which center around COVID-19.

In 2020, reopening for the fall was a matter of meticulous planning around social distancing everywhere from classrooms to school buses, as well as figuring out how to keep remote learning options intact in places with varying internet speeds.

Last year, districts said it was down to the wire when they received state guidance in mid-July on how to go about that process. This year, they had to wait nearly a whole month longer.

Locally, districts that are part of Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES went as far as writing a letter to the state in late July, laying out exactly how much harder planning was with less time.

The word those 31 districts eventually got from the state wasn’t good news: The New York State Department of Health announced in early August that they would not be giving any reopening guidance for school districts to use in planning the 2021 school year.

Districts were relieved to instead get some from the state Department of Education. The guide that was released is similar in content to what teachers got in 2020, including the consistent use of masks and social distance, screening tests on entry, and promoting vaccination for all students who are eligible.

In the absence of any state-specific guidance, many district’s cite the Center for Disease Control’s reccomendation that all staff and eligible students be vaccinated.

In some ways, similarity helps. In a conversation with BOCES and Greenwich Central School District last month, transportation came up repeatedly as one of the most difficult things to plan when pandemic guidelines weren’t known.

Those routes, on socially-distanced buses, were planned at Greenwich under the assumption that 2020’s rules would carry over; that was all the district had at the time.

Schools are now releasing plans across the North Country, with a common theme of wanting to get as many students back for fully in-person learning as possible. Here’s shat some districts say in information made public to students and communities.

Glens Falls City Schools

Glens Falls’ city school buildings are planned to operate completely in-person again, across all grade levels. Classes will follow A-B-C-D block structures as usual.

No remote or hybrid options will be accessible unless a student is under home quarantine due to a virus exposure.

The district writes that the required 3 feet of social distancing will still be required, and that their classrooms have been reconfigured this year to better allow for that. Gym and cafeteria spaces are back to full use.

The district will not require symptom questionnaires or fever checks.

Athletes in high-risk school sports will be tested weekly, using rapid test kits. Masks will be required at all times for indoor fall sports, and while not competing in outdoor sports.

School meals will remain free through June 2022.

Queensbury Union Free School District

Queensbury echoes the sentiment of all in-person instruction, at full capacity. However, it’s made clear that their plan is a living document, subject to whatever changes the continued life of the pandemic may bring.

That flexibility is important for any district on a state level, as well as locally. Queensbury is a district that has appeared with frequency on Warren County’s COVID-19 case reports over the previous school year.

The district lays out some specifics for musical performance. They include the CDC reccomended minimum of 3-foot distance for orchestra and chorus, and up to 6 feet or more for band members.

Queensbury is Warren County’s largest district by student body, and draws a large footprint as a result. The district laid out some details on bus protocol, to let families from the town’s four wards know what to expect on those long rides.

Per federal mandate, students and anyone else riding in a school bus must wear a face mask. Beyond that, buses will seat two students to a seat, and keep windows and vents open as much as possible. Families who can are encouraged to drive students to school.

All school staff will be asked to self-screen for coronavirus before entering the building where they work. That’s not required for students, but parents are encouraged to periodically ask their students if they’re experiencing any symptoms.

The district also has criteria to send home any student who comes to school with a fever of over 100 degrees; is vomiting or has diarrhea; or is experiencing a loss of smell or taste.

Lake George Central School District

Lake George expands the list of criteria for students to be sent home to take a COVID test.

There, the list runs the gamut: Fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body ache, headaches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea and diarrhea are all valid reasons.

On the sports front, Lake George doesn’t require masks for anyone during outdoor games of any sport.

Lake George’s in-person learning plan includes a bit more detail around what happens when a student does test positive for coronavirus, given that they, too, will not be offering a remote learning option.

The district writes that any student quarantined should expect to learn through “asynchronous learning,” and should not expect to be part of a Google Classroom or other similar service.

Hudson Falls Central School District

Over in Washington County, returning to fully in-person learning has been even more important, with not all students living in areas with stable internet. Even in Hudson Falls, a central community hub for much of the county, that rings true.

Hudson Falls Central School District lays out different scenarios that determine whether an unvaccinated student or faculty member needs to be quarantined, based on work with the Washington County Department of Health.

Quarantine is required if an unvaccinated and unmasked person was recorded as within six feet of a coronavirus-positive person. It’s not requried if an unvaccinated person is outside or within the same distance but masked.

Vaccinated individuals are not required to be quarantined upon exposure unless they start to show symptoms. Notably, Hudson Falls has a different fever symptom criteria from Queensbury, at 100.4 or greater.

Temperature checks will be required for students at the door every day. Staff are expected to monitor their own symptoms and act accordingly.

In addition to sports, the school is also planning to restart all extracurricular activities. Feild trips are listed as considered on a case-by-case basis.

All students will be required to wear a mask on the school bus. The district does not mention student-per-seat limits, but says windows on buses will be open as much as possible.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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