Challenges of Returning to Full In-Person Instruction

I hope this communication finds you and your families well.  As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has required all schools to develop plans which change the way they operate. There is nothing more that we at Valley Central want than to bring students back to in-person instruction five days a week.  I meet with the Superintendents of Orange County regularly to discuss how we can best make this a reality. 

Currently we have a number of students who are attending in-person learning five days a week. These include our self-contained students, our ENL students, ALC students, Viking Academy students, and a variety of other at-risk students. We provide synchronous instruction to all students five days a week, as we know how important it is for our students to have direct access to their teachers.

It is important for you to understand that it is the six foot distancing rule preventing Valley Central from opening five days a week to all students whose families are ready to send them. Although smaller schools with more space may be able to accommodate their students, this makes it impossible for most districts, including Valley Central, to fully open.  Principals have been working tirelessly to fill every available space in the rooms and to bring back as many students as possible. New York State has not updated reopening guidance since July. The CDC’s latest guidance is less restrictive than New York State, however, unless New York adopts this guidance, nothing will change.

Recently there has been much conversation about plastic dividers.  Valley Central has been investigating this possibility.  This is a controversial idea, as there are many concerns about air flow, proper cleaning, the extreme cost involved and the actual effectiveness of such devices.  There is a six week wait time on this product and as we have learned with our attempts to purchase new Chromebooks, suppliers are not delivering when they promise to.  This could bring us into late April to May. It is our hope that New York State will soon be making changes to the reopening guidance that will allow us to bring students back five days a week if they so choose.  We will be sending out a survey this week to determine who is interested in that alternative and who would like to stay with 100% online learning until the end of the year. 

Valley Central has been doing an excellent job implementing the guidelines. The six foot social distancing rule needs to be eliminated as soon as possible in order for us to bring our students back.  We have scheduled a Zoom meeting on March 10th to answer any questions you have about our reopening plan. We have invited Dr. Gelman and Steve Neuhaus to that meeting.  More information about that meeting will be coming soon.

Valley Central has done an excellent job of bringing back sports, clubs and other opportunities for students to stay connected. We are working with BOCES to provide the names of all our teachers and staff that would like to be vaccinated to the OCDOH. It is our hope that this will expedite the process.  The Valley Central Re-opening Task Force is meeting this week and I will provide you with all updates after that meeting.  Please fill out the survey as soon as you get it so that we have the data needed to move forward as quickly as possible.