Superintendent’s Response to OCDOH Statement and CDC Guidance

We are aware that there is a great deal of misinformation circulating and that a statement was recently released by the Orange County Department of Health implying that it was the fault of the schools if they could not open five days a week.  The county’s statement does not accurately reflect the reality of the situation. They are correct to say that some schools have been able to open five days a week, however this is for certain populations. There are many variables that determine whether a district can do this or not. The variables are space, student population requesting in person instruction, and the number of staff members available.  As a recap, it is important to remember the following:

  • The Valley Central School District was the largest district in Orange County to open on time in September for Grades K-12.
  • Our self-contained students, as well as our ALC and Viking Academy students, have been coming back to school five days a week since September.
  • Our ENL students were recently provided the opportunity to come back five days a week.
  • At the secondary schools there is a Team 4 Days a Week for at-risk students which is now moving to five days a week. 
  • We are offering our at-risk twelfth grade students the opportunity to come back five days a week to assist in ensuring they are able to graduate.
  • We recently added Wednesday as an in-person instructional day on an alternating basis for Team 1 and Team 2.
  • We recently surveyed all elementary families to determine if they would like to switch their instructional method.  Elementary principals are working to ensure that for the third trimester every spot is filled each day.
  • Beginning in March, all teachers will stream their classes in order to ensure that students at home are in contact with their teachers and peers daily. Although this has already been happening in most classrooms, it will be a District-wide practice beginning March 1st. 

On February 12th, the CDC released an Operational Strategy Document for K-12 Schools. Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation  Please feel free to take a look at it.  You will see that Valley Central has been following the recommendations outlined in this document since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.  This document stresses the use of masks and physical distancing. This document does not imply that schools will be able to open 5 days a week, under the current circumstances.  On page 2 of this document the CDC states (and the OCDOH) agrees: “Physical distancing (at least 6 feet) should be maximized to the greatest extent possible”.   This means that there is a set number of students that we can allow in any given classroom or cafeteria, etc…  We are working to ensure that every one of these spaces are filled. 

We have also made you aware that the quarantine rules force us to quarantine many staff members when a student tests positive. One positive student can result in an average of ten teachers being quarantined. Lack of staffing in the buildings results in the District moving to online learning for short periods for different teams or grade levels.  You can find information about quarantine rules here: 

https://www.orangecountygov.com/DocumentCenter/View/19923/Contacts-of-Contacts-Guidance-DOH?bidId=

You will see in this document that if a person is diagnosed with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, a close or proximate contact of that person is subjected to mandatory quarantine.  While a close contact is defined as “being within 6 feet of a person displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or someone who has tested positive of COVID-19” a proximate contact is defined as “being in the same enclosed environment such as a classroom, office, or gatherings but greater than 6 feet from a person displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or someone who has tested positive for COVID-19”.

Until these mandatory quarantine rules are relaxed, schools will continue to be opening and closing their doors on a regular basis.  While this will not affect the elementary schools as much, it greatly impacts our secondary schools. We know how frustrating this is and we want you to know that there is nothing more important to us than getting our students back to in-person classes five days a week. We will continue working to make this happen. The District will be holding a Zoom meeting to answer many of your questions.  More information about when this will take place will be sent out shortly.