ROTTERDAM — Mohonasen Central School District school officials on Friday received a one-week extension to finalize and release the district’s plan to reopen schools next month, while scores of other districts posted plans online.
Mohonasen appears to be one of the only districts in the Capital Region to have requested an extension on the July 31 deadline to submit reopening plans to state officials, if not the only, according to a review of three dozen reopening plans.
Mohonasen Superintendent Shannon Shine on Monday said working groups tasked with developing reopening plans reported recommendations Wednesday, so officials sought the extra week to have more time to process and organize what was presented. He said the district would finalize its plan by Friday. He said the district was granted one-week extensions by both the state Education Department and the state Department of Health.
“Since an extension was available, we thought why not take extra time and try to get it right the first time,” Shine said in an interview Monday. “You have a lot of input and opinions to sort through, and we would like to do it right.”
Shine did detail the framework of the district’s plan Monday and noted weekly communications he has had with the school community. He said all families would be able to determine whether they were “vulnerable” and wanted to opt for an all-virtual option; district officials plan to survey parents later this week about whether they wanted the all-virtual option, as well as questions about transportation and student meals.
“We are going to give them the option, and they will self determine if they are vulnerable [to COVID],” Shine said. “I’m not going to be the arbiter of that.”
The district’s broader plan aims to brings K-5 students to school each day for in-person instruction, as well as older students with certain disabilities, English language needs or a lack of technology access at home. The rest of secondary students in grades 6-12 would alternate between in-person instruction at school and remote learning. Shine said those students would spend about half of their time in school under the district’s initial plans.
A state Education Department official said the department had received some requests for extensions from around the state and would provide those districts with up to a week to submit a plan.
At least 35 other Capital Region districts had posted preliminary reopening plans as of Monday morning, outlining a mix of ideas for balancing in-person and virtual instruction under a barrage of new health precautions.
The plans reflect the common health and safety protocols all schools will be under if they open to students: social distancing and mask wearing; health screens prior to entry; restrictions on visitors; staggered scheduling to limit contacts, and many others. In the event of a positive case of COVID within the school community, districts will work with local county health departments to contact trace and conduct isolation protocols.
But major differences emerge in the specifics of how students are scheduled for in-person and virtual instruction. While all districts are prioritizing elementary school students for the most in-person instruction, with most planned to give elementary students daily in-person instruction, older students will see varying amount of time in schools. In many districts, high school students will attend school every other day or every other week, but in some districts they will only attend school in person a couple of days a month.
The plans also have been treated as “drafts” or preliminary documents that will be filled in with logistical specifics in the weeks running up to the first day of school, They are open to constant revision throughout the year. All plans are subject to change at a moments notice, and districts have worked to account for the likelihood of shifting formats. Districts also have to prepare to shift entirely online in the event school closures are necessary.
District officials are expecting some kind of announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week indicating whether districts will be allowed to move ahead with bringing students back to school in September.