Ulster County says schools can reopen

Classrooms can once again be full of students, five days a week, according to the Ulster County Health Department. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Just two day shy of the one-year anniversary of Ulster County’s schools being ordered closed due to the spread of Covid-19, the Ulster County Health Department said yesterday that K-12 students could open for full-time in-person instruction thanks mainly to high rates of teacher vaccination, and lack of spread in local districts during hybrid in-person instruction throughout the fall and winter.

The announcement notes that the decision of whether, how, and when to bring back full-time in-person instruction will be made by each district, and that remote-learning will remain available for any student who chooses it.


Local school districts have spent most of the school year in a “hybrid” model, with a portion of students attending in-person instruction for a few days a week. The Health Department noted that thanks to safety protocols, “little evidence of local transmission within the schools was noted.”

The Health Department recommends those same protocols be maintained as in-person instruction ramps up. They include:

Additional guidance on reopening is also provided. Some of these points include:

  • All relevant stakeholders should be involved in this decision process
  • Installation of physical barriers where six feet of social distance isn’t possible, including bathroom sinks
  • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure distancing (including making some areas one-way)
  • Close communal use shared spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds with shared playground equipment if possible; otherwise, stagger use and clean between use.
  • Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.
  • Create distance between children on school buses (e.g., seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible.
  • As the weather gets warmer, classes should only take mask breaks outdoors and with students more than six feet socially distanced.

The Health Department said yesterday that 95 percent of teachers who requested vaccination had received at least one dose, and by tomorrow, March 13, that number would be 100 percent.

The report also notes why in-person instruction is a desirable goal to pursue:

Research has shown that  disruption in children’s schooling is globally detrimental to their learning, social development,  emotional growth and well-being because “Schools and school-supported programs are  fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and  adolescents with academic instruction, either in-person or virtually; social and emotional skills;  safety; reliable nutrition; physical/occupational/speech therapy; mental health services; health  services; and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits. Beyond supporting the  educational development of children and adolescents, schools play a critical role in addressing  racial and social inequity.” (American Academy of Pediatrics, January 2021)


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental health-related  emergency room visits among pediatric population have increased between March and October  of 2020. As compared to 2019, the emergency department visits increased by 24 % for children  aged 5-11 and 31% for children 12-17 years of age.

Locally, some districts have already taken steps to increase in-person instruction. Kingston is aiming to offer full-time instruction for elementary students by April 12. The topic has received increased focus at other districts as cases continue to fall as vaccinations rise. Saugerties will present its plans at a community town hall meeting on Thursday, March 18, according to a letter from the superintendent posted to the district website. New Paltz parents questioned school officials at a recent board of education meeting, and that district is inviting  feedback on spring reopening possibilities in a survey posted to its website. Rondout Valley is also seeking feedback through a survey. Highland also has been conducting surveys, and stated in an update yesterday that its reopening plan calls for four-day in-person instruction.

There are 9 comments

  1. Bill H

    I support getting kids back into classrooms and a return to normalcy for them. Parents, please make sure your kids know how serious the school safety protocols are and be ready to kick them in the pants if the school calls you with problems. Kids will be kids, and teachers are going to need the full support of parents in order to maintain safety and sanity when classrooms are finally full again. A few questions for school leaders:

    1. What is the school’s protocol for when a student refuses to comply with covid safety rules? How will a teacher handle the teenage anti-masker, for example, in order to honor the other students’ right to being safe?
    2. Students will definitely be returning to school with unprecedented social-emotional needs. They have been through a lot in terms of fear, social isolation, sickness and death in their families, etc.. What extra reinforcements has the school put in place to meet those needs?
    3. How will the schools be increasing resources and support for teachers who will be dealing with all this most directly with students?
    4. In what ways can the school establish a celebratory tone to the full return to school?

    Here’s to a positive, healthy return to school!

    1. Jaymes Nohns

      I am truly amazed how NY has damaged our children with this fear campaign. If this truly was a pandemic, you would not need a government ad campaign in your ear on a daily basis to keep it going. Wintering over in Florida, I have seen how ridiculous NY is handling this. Until you have seen it from both the Florida end and the NY end, no one has a clue as to how well Florida has handled this…..and you don’t have to wear a mask…….or social distance…..you can go out to dinner, beach……zero restrictions…..we are not even talking about Covid-19 here….its a has-been……since September……then you have Biden telling everyone, ” If everyone behaves, you might be able to celebrate the 4th of July, in a small gathering” Listen, anybody with any common sense knows, not to take advice from a guy who spent his whole campaign in the basement……..he hasn’t a clue whats going on..

  2. Bob

    Someone doesn’t have a clue. And it sure ain’t the almost 60% approval rated, (across both parties lines polled), President, there Jimmy. Tell us Jim, why are you such a negative Nancy, and Hater? Why do you wish, too even take the chance, of having another human being’s life ravaged, or extinguished, because of your ignorant taunts? If you have no belief in the CDC, WHO, and every nation on earth, and you are so much more educated, and smarter than the best infectious diseasandoctors and scientists in the world, how about just keeping it to yourself. Because, we do not want to hear your BS, Jimmy, because we, especially I know for fact, that you are not that bright. By the way Jimmy, everywhere else, every country, everybody in those counties, wear’s masks and follows safety protocols, and are all doing better, than here. Their economies and schools are opening, and staying open. Why? Only here are people blind enough, of such low inteligence, and;or totally decieved, that like yourself, refuse to follow the easy steps too personally keep and remain, as well as, keep others safe.

    Just because you did not get sick (Yet?), or just because someone’s head is embedded far and deep, all the way up, in their own butt, does not mean there is and;or are not many suffering, world shattering, sickness and death due too your erroneous belief, that this, as you believe “fictitious” pandemic does not exsist. It is funny (Bad tuna and mayo salad funny, not ha, ha funny) that I feel so much empathy, for those like you, Jim, that are somehow born without any, or are that ill-raised. Then I realize just how many, that may contract this dead!y virus, become sick and have a great possibility of, or if not, dying, and all those such as, youself, who, can and do cause this too continue to happen. Then, this does anger my being. But, not for the reasons, that you would like to believe. All from listening too the words of nefarious profligator’s, just like your lowly self.

    Please do us a favor Jimmy, and slither back under that rock, that you salamander-ed your way up, from down under. “Overwintering”, wonder where you picked that one up from, really Jimmy? Remember, there Jimmy, “Oh what a tangled web one weave’s, when at first, they doth decieve.” And further, what some believe is just; posting my first amendment right or; “My own flippant opinion”, might very well, have a grave affect and ill consequences on someone else, all because they, were stupid enough, too actually agree with a moron, not unlike a certain commenter we all now, know, here, at their loved one’s, or their own personal bane.

    You speak of fear, yet the one poster who writes like an immature and frightened child is you. You seem to be afraid; Afraid of science, afraid of knowledge, afraid of fact, afraid of those who might see through your charade, afraid of the populous as a whole, afraid of your own ego, and so very afraid, that no one will agree with your tainted and erroneous ideas. In fact, so scared, that you are afraid to admit, that you are so very wrong, so you feel the need too escalate falsities. Maybe, there should be a litte “fear” taught too children, you know, like “Do not touch that hot flame”, or; ” Don’t play with that rattler.”, or; “Wait till your father get’s home.”, and so on, you get the idea. Maybe, someone should have dealt you a large dose of learning through fear. Having a little fear of deadly things, is rather a good thing, not the latter. As, Clint said, as Dirty Harry; “When I get too the point, that I have no fear, that’s when I get really scared”. What you offer is virus sickness and death, and you complain of children learning a little fear, too be afeard of deadly things.

    Tread warily, I keep trying to be kind too you, and warn you of the dangerous path, that you indeed walk, and yearn for you too grow spiritually and to learn, hopefully in not too hard a way, nor too late, that Kharma is a vengeful bitch, and has a very sharp bite. May the divine grant us all wisdom over ignorance, Namaste’…

    1. Jaymes Nohns

      I can simplify your War and Peace novel, wearing a mask is not for me, the vaccine is not for me, the Biden/Fauci goal post moving is getting old now. The best part of all, its my free will. Me not wearing a mask has nothing to do with your health. Masks to not filter out or in viruses, it says so right on the box. Does this mean you dont believe the manufacturer of the mask? If it does, you are living in the world of Peter Pan, aka “The Land of Make Believe”….when was a mask designed to protect someone else? When you sand drywall, do you make sure your neighbor is wearing a mask, or do you put one on to protect yourself? you and your novel and the houseplant we currently have as president, does not dictate my beliefs, or facilitate my actions. Love from Florida – the last free state. P.S. – no one is telling you to live in NY, thats YOUR free will, and to be honest, you are missing out on life…..

  3. Bob

    I love NY, and absolutely dislike Florida, could not pay me enough too, ever live there. Too hot, too many bugs, God awful humidity, too many dumb people, and hurricanes. That is why this pandemic did not suffer me no how, I try and stay away from other people, kinda my way O’ life. It has sufficed me, all my long days, quite well. As far as, my daily life, during this horrid pandemic has not changed my life at all, except, that I really feel for those who lost so much, and I have empathy for my fellow man. Just the right amount of self respect too; wear a mask, keep proper safe covid protocol distance, and clean surfaces, washing my hands often. In fact I am so busy right now, up here in beautiful, full four season NYS, that I have no time too worry about not living my life. Remember, life is what happens, while you procrastinate, always grab ‘er by scruff and ride the hell out of it.

    Why, I am starting my seedlings for the veggie garden and flower beds. It is mapleing season so, right now it is very time consuming, but well worth it. We are injecting host logs with shiitake mushroom spawn. And, all my siblings and I are as of now vaccinated. Celebrating a milestone birthday just this past week, all together, and tomorrow is St. Paddy’s Day, so forget about it. I believe, that I, a corpmorbid senior, successfully kept virus free, by following covid safety protocols. Further, I also believe that surgeons, and nurses, PA’s, staff, and a whole horde of medical professionals, have worn them for about two centuries. What, they, thousands of well educated health and medical professionals are wrong? I should belive your faulted diatribe?

    1. Jaymes Nohns

      I will leave you this, “15 days to slow the spread” and a year later the fact that our borders are more open than our country…..should tell you something isnt quite right here…..so people attempting to cross the border in droves is cool?..it isnt hard to figure out….yet you liberal fellas are trying to figure out if a toy potato has a gender……and are upset with me not wearing a mask….ummmm….ok

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