Saugerties schools prepare for coronavirus

Update: All Ulster County schools closed for two weeks effective March 16.

Saugerties schools superintendent Kirk Reinhardt said Friday, March 6 that he’s cautiously optimistic and confident about the district’s ability to handle a possible coronavirus outbreak.

In an interview, he said discussion about the virus has “reinforced” the good habits of the district’s teachers, administration and staff, like wiping down keyboards, doorknobs and flat surfaces, keeping soap and tissues well-stocked, making sure that students with fevers or significant flu symptoms recover at home and keeping parents well-informed through letters and social media.

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That said, Reinhardt noted that he attended three different coronavirus-related meetings last week, and that response plans for the potential pandemic have been discussed daily in the wake of ever-updating information. As of now, no events have been cancelled and Reinhardt said that cancellations will be handled on a “case-by-case basis.”

“If we found we were running a field trip somewhere, we would need to contact the Department of Health to get information on the place we’re going,” said Reinhardt on the topic of cancellations. “We could never say, ‘we’re not going to have that conversation.’ That would be ignorant on our part.”

Reinhardt said that in the event of a school closure, the district “could have teachers videotape their lessons and post them [online].” However, he expressed concerns that student ownership of computers and access to the Internet may not be universal, leaving some students behind in the hypothetical scenario.

“We want to make sure that if we ever did get to that part we would need to make sure that what they’re doing is fair and equitable,” he said. “Does everyone have access to a computer and Wi-Fi?”

Ultimately, Reinhardt said, the Saugerties Central School District’s response to the outbreak leans on the implementation and improvement of pre-existing policies. 

“I haven’t heard of anything directly,” he said when asked whether district parents had voiced concerns. “I’m sure that they are concerned because when we post stuff they say thank you.”

Saugerties Police Chief Joe Sinagra said this week that measures were being taken to ensure that all emergency service workers, not just paramedics, were ready for the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak in town. 

“All of our police cars and equipped with kits with Tyvek suits, N-95 masks, goggles, biohazard bags and latex gloves in the event that we encounter any individual that is suspected to have contracted the coronavirus,” he said on Tuesday.

Town and village fire departments have also been provided these materials by the Centers of Disease Control, Sinagra said.