A Message from Superintendent Dobmeier: Updated Guidance from NYS DOH

A Message from Superintendent Dobmeier: Updated Guidance from NYS DOH
Posted on 04/12/2021
A Message from Superintendent Dobmeier: Updated Guidance from NYS DOHApril 12, 2021

Dear Members of the Indian River Community,

First, we hope this finds you and your family well after Spring Break. The weather in the North Country was beautiful, and we all needed a bit of sunshine, warmth, and the opportunity to be outside enjoying whatever helps us recharge from the long COVID winter. 

Late on Friday, April 9th, NY schools received updated guidance from the New York State Department of Health regarding the latest recommendations from the CDC. Among other items, this guidance addresses the important issues of physical distance in schools, masking, and other COVID-related considerations for schools. 

As with so many items during this time, the guidance details are often not visible via the media headlines or social media. Our building and district teams are reviewing these guidance documents for potential opportunities in how we may incorporate shifts into our existing plans for a slow, steady, and thoughtful return to in-person instruction. Here are a few highlights from the updated guidelines:

Masking - 100% masking (with scheduled breaks) is required prior to any changes. IRCSD is already doing this aspect of the guidance, so there will be no challenge with this particular item. Yay! 

Classroom spacing - In certain classroom situations, students may be able to be positioned with 3 feet of spatial distance as long as certain criteria are met (low community positivity rates, 100% masking, 6 feet distance for teachers/adults, continued cohorting, etc.). There are also different spacing restrictions for grades K-5 vs. 6-12 related to county-based transmission of COVID-19. As of this writing, Jefferson County is indicated as ‘Substantial Risk’ (borderline ‘High Risk’) meaning that cohorting of students is still recommended to reduce possible transmission. 

Music/PE - Music and other breathing-intensive activities may now utilize a six foot distance rather than 12. This shift had been anticipated and can be implemented with minimal difficulty.  Yay!

Transportation - Transportation/busing must still include a minimum of 6 feet of spatial distance. This area continues to be a great challenge for large geographic school districts like Indian River, and will likely prevent large-scale returns to in-person learning, at least for the short term.

Mealtime - Students may remove masks while eating, but must be spaced at least 6 feet apart during meals. This, too, creates the logistical challenge of feeding students with enough space (and supervision within spaces). 

With the above in mind, any changes to our academic program will be slow and methodical. We are hopeful that the future will allow welcome changes that will allow for a full return of our students to daily in-person attendance. (As of this writing, IRCSD has brought more than 500 students back to some form of three or four day instruction with more added each week.) As mentioned above, even with a reduced community transmission rate, IRCSD faces real challenges in the areas of transportation and meal service for large-scale shifts. Despite these challenges, it is our intention to continue to explore ways we can safely increase in-person student instruction opportunities for students, and we will do so with careful consideration of health and safety concerns as well as academic opportunities. 

Again, please be aware with this new guidance, we will need time to review, understand, and implement any changes. It will also be important to obtain feedback from all of our stakeholders. Therefore, any new guidance will not be met with an immediate/overnight change. Rather, we will need a period of time to plan for the remainder of the school year (busing routes, classroom spaces, student schedules, etc.) based upon NYSDOH recommendations, feedback from our stakeholders, and our current efforts to return more students to school on more days. It is likely that you will receive requests for input via survey(s) and/or other means in the near future. Please help us by sharing your thoughts. 

Thank you for all you do to support our students and community! Please stay safe, stay healthy, and remain #WarriorStrong!

Mary Anne Dobmeier
Indian River Central School Superintendent

Please see the attached letter from IRCSD Superintendent Dobmeier for more information.

Link: A Message from Superintendent Dobmeier: Updated Guidance from NYS DOH 

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