Update from the Superintendent 3-26-21

Update from the Superintendent 3-26-21
Posted on 03/29/2021
Community Update

March 26, 2021


East Rochester Families, 


As we begin the annual spring break later this afternoon, I wanted to take a moment to update you on our work in relation to the ever changing landscape of COVID regulations. I realize that you may be inundated with various updates from news outlets, social media platforms, any one of the dozens of medical, education, government policy experts and even drafted “return to learning” plans from other districts. I have purposefully been cautious sharing drafts of any potential change in our re-entry plan, as we have learned many times this year that targets and directives are ever changing. 


As I mentioned to you in my Return to Learning letter dated March 12, 2021, many New York State school systems were preparing to bring elementary students back for up to four or five days per week, given changes in either CDC guidelines or declining infection rates. Given the plan we have executed since September, our K-8 students are already in our school building four days per week. In fact, on Monday April 5, 2021 we will have 92% of our elementary students and 84% of our Middle Level Academy students at school four days per week. We will continue this K-8 academic structure for the remainder of the school year at the Elementary School and Middle Level Academy. As such, any potential shift in strategy here on campus would be to bring back our 9-12 students on a more frequent basis at some point in the last marking period. This would be based partly upon conditions, such as the New York State Department of Health adopting the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and the positivity rate for Monroe County aligning with the CDC recommendation. Additionally, we need to ensure that any new return to school model that alters what is currently working for the 81% of high school students currently learning in the hybrid in-person model, would in fact provide positive outcomes for the student body as a whole and not just limited to segments of our student body.


The CDC recently recommended that students, with proper safeguards, could return to school with social distancing of less than 6’. This is welcome news and we are hopeful that agencies with regulatory oversight of school districts in New York State, including the Health Department, the Education Department and the governor, amend their directives to districts. Our 9-12 administrators, counselors and teacher leaders have been working to modify our 20-21 master schedule to accommodate more in-person learning for students. We have a handful of items remaining that we continue to work through including but not limited to schedule conflicts. 


One of the last challenges we have to address is the potential for a larger number of students needing to be quarantined, in the event contract tracing has to occur. We have been informed by the county health department that even if NYS accepts the CDC guidance and we make the decision to welcome high school students back more frequently, the County will still quarantine unvaccinated individuals who were within 6’ of a COVID-positive person for longer than 15 minutes. This would be counterproductive to our goal of increasing the amount of time students are in the classroom. 


In the event the State accepts the CDC guidance, the county infection rate drops and then remains within the CDC guidelines, we are able to create a modified schedule that benefits students, we continue to ensure safety protocols and we have the aforementioned mandate relief, we will provide a summary of the changes to parents. We anticipate then sending a survey that would give families the opportunity to opt your child(ren) into a four-day-a-week model at the high school or revert to fully virtual learning for the remainder of the year.


I realize this is a great deal of information for one correspondence and recognize I have created more questions than answers, yet it was important for me to share this information with you. Thank you for your continued cooperation and collaboration throughout this school year.


Regards, 

Jim Haugh

Superintendent of Schools