The Saugerties Central School District last week announced plans to increase capacity of in-person learning as part of its hybrid educational model in April, with four days each week of on-campus classes in all of its schools.
In a letter to the community on Friday, March 19, Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt said that a recent report from the Ulster County Department of Health (UCDOH) allowing for an increase in the capacity of students in schools precipitated the move, but there were other factors within the district making it possible as well.
According to Reinhardt, as of Thursday, March 11, 95 percent of district staff who requested a Covid-19 vaccine have received their first dose. And a recent survey of district parents and guardians saw an increase in those hoping to send their students back to in-person school, up from 67.5 percent to between 75-80 percent.
Other developments are also making it possible to increase class sizes, especially as the district had reached recommended capacity for their particular facilities. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) are still recommending social distancing of six-feet, but have amended the suggestion to allow for no less than three-feet if barriers like sneeze guards and partitions are used. The Saugerties district has ordered 2,000 such barriers to install across the district, said Reinhardt.
While the calendar has shifted to spring, temperatures in the Hudson Valley are traditionally behind the curve; but as warmer weather comes to Saugerties, windows on classrooms and buses can be open at all times to minimize the likelihood of viral spread.
To accommodate an increase in capacity across the district, school officials are reworking transportation routes on their bus lines, as well as ensuring they have the space to allow for one child per row while skipping rows where possible. Weather permitting, windows will also be open on buses.
The plan is to return K-6 students to four days a week beginning on Monday, April 5, with students in the Jr. and Sr. high school returning to four days a week starting on Monday, April 12. If the safety protocols and equipment aren’t in place by then, the plan would shift to Monday, April 12 for K-6 and Monday, April 19 for 7-12. School officials will make the final call by Wednesday, March 24 to allow families to make preparations in either case.
As vaccinations continue across the country and an end to the Covid-19 pandemic is on the horizon, Superintendent Reinhardt said the district is looking forward to continuing to move toward a sense of normalcy for students.
“Our staff has been planning and hoping for the opportunity to return more students to in-person learning,” Reinhardt said. “I want to send a special thanks to our entire faculty and staff that have been going above and beyond since this document was released last week to revise our plan to increase our learning plan to four days of in-person learning.”
Reinhardt also extended his gratitude off campus as well.
“As always, thank you to our wonderful and supportive community,” Reinhardt said. “We know how challenging this has been for our students and their families. Know the entire Saugerties faculty and staff are here to serve and support you through this transition. Please be safe and kind to one another.”