by Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
August 11, 2020

The start of 2020-21 school year is just a few weeks away, and there have been many questions about what this will look like for our students, staff, and parents. One of those questions was answered recently when Governor Cuomo announced that school districts across the region and state can reopen in September given our metrics across the state.

Since schools closed in mid-March, education leaders have been preparing for the eventual reopening of our schools. Over the past several weeks we have reviewed hundreds of pages of guidance from the State Education Department and Department of Health in preparation for developing a school reopening plan.

While school districts and BOCES have complied with a July 31, 2020 deadline to complete a reopening plan, please be assured that planning processes will not end there. Schools will continue planning (and updating plans, as needed) as we get closer to the start of school.

Locally, school leaders have sought to prioritize in-person instruction to the extent possible within our facilities while complying with guidance on social distancing, mask wearing, cleaning and other factors. We have implemented new protocols and safety procedures, purchased PPE and cleaning supplies, and started to plan how to train staff and students on new protocols.

We recognize the magnitude, complexity, and significance of this work to safely reopen our schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a balancing act with very high stakes – and while individual school districts and BOCES continue to work closely together and with their health departments, there is no one-size-fits all strategy to reopen our schools. Each one of our districts has different configurations – in terms of finances, buildings, staffing, contracts, and other considerations.

We also recognize that circumstances may change, and that we need to be flexible and adaptive in responding to these developments in real-time – whether by building, district, or region – or whether it is next week, in the days leading up to the start of school, or during the year.

Looking ahead, we will continue to plan, implement, evaluate, and adapt to the best of our ability to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff – and the best opportunity for our students to learn. The real value of any plan is the planning process itself. This is where our efforts will be stronger – allowing us to tackle a very real and difficult endeavor along with other critical work and initiatives unrelated to COVID-19.

Thank you to the parents, students, staff, and others that have shared their feedback on the various reopening plans prepared by local school districts and our BOCES. We know that opinions on reopening vary, with some excited and others concerned. Your feedback was instrumental in shaping our plans for reopening this fall. We will continue to solicit parent feedback throughout the year and adjust as needed as we move forward.

While there is much outside of our control at this moment – and for the foreseeable future – we will continue to adapt to best support our students and school communities in partnership with our local health departments. They have been a wonderful resource throughout the pandemic.

I encourage everyone to review their school district’s reopening plans and continue to monitor regular communications.  Also, take advantage of opportunities to provide feedback to your district leadership. Ultimately, educators and school leaders want to see our students succeed, no matter the delivery model, and your relationship with your school district’s leadership is a critical factor in that success.

Thank you for your continued interest and support of our region’s public schools. Please remember that it is everyone’s responsibility to safely reopen our schools by wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, washing your hands, and avoiding travel to high-risk areas.

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