Niskayuna high, middle schools go remote; Student BOE reps raise concerns


Niskayuna high schoolers and middle schoolers switched to remote learning Friday after the district expected teacher staffing shortages and not enough substitutes to keep classes in person. 

The district announced the switch on its website on Thursday. Elementary schools and special education programs remained in-person. 

“We have approximately 200 middle and high school teachers and expected approximately 15 to 20% to be out on Friday,” said district spokesperson Matt Leon. “Especially given a substitute teacher shortage, it was not feasible to hold in-person instruction at these buildings.”

He said COVID and other related issues are what affected staffing levels. 

Between Dec. 1 and Thursday there were 22 positive cases among teachers, with six new cases as of Thursday, according to the school district reported data on the state’s school COVID report card. During the same period, there were 200 positive cases among students, with 73 new cases on Thursday. 

The school data is acquired through student families, employees or the local health department. 

Right now the district is planning to return to in-person learning Monday. 

“We are continuing to monitor circumstances like school districts everywhere,” Leon said. “We remain focused on providing in-person learning to the greatest extent practical.” 

Not knowing whether the district will go remote has caused stress to rise in students, said Baylee Fingerhut, a senior student representative for the school board during the board’s Tuesday night meeting. 

“Obviously the concerns of: are we going to go remote? what’s going to happen if we go remote? what’s going to happen to midterms and finals?” she said. “I think kind of the same feelings of concerns that parents are probably having like we’re also feeling.”

Junior student representative Vera Amirbekian echoed her peers’ concerns. Amirbekian attended the meeting virtually Tuesday, noting she was in quarantine.  

“I think everyone is hoping we don’t go virtual but a lot of us are quarantined,” she said, noting the district had several dozen positive cases Tuesday. 

Because of higher COVID numbers in the region and state, Interim Superintendent Juliette Pennyman said she and other officials are making sure that if the district must switch to remote learning it is ready to do so. 

“After next week if we see that things aren’t going to get better then we are going to have to start making some decisions,” Pennyman said. 

Fingerhut also raised concerns about students not taking enough initiative to wear their masks properly. 

“I hear hall monitors constantly asking kids to wear their masks and they’re most of the time met with very rude disrespectful comments right back, which is really sad because they’re just doing their job,” she said. 

While other districts didn’t go remote Friday they did see attendance lag this week.  

“The average daily attendance for the week is 70%,” said Karen Corona, the director of communications and public information for the Schenectady City School District.

“Both positive COVID cases and quarantines have impacted attendance.”

Between Dec. 31 and Thursday there were 176 positive cases among students, with 60 new cases as of Thursday, according to the district reporting for the state COVID report card. 

In the Shenendehowa Central School District kindergarten through 5th grade attendance was down to 90.5% for the first three days this week. It’s typically 96% for the first trimester, said Lindsay Valenti, the public information officer for the district.

Sixth through 8th-grade attendance was 88.6% and 9th through 12th grade was 86.5% for the first three days. Valenti said usually 90% or more of students attend school. She said the data does not show the reasoning for lower attendance. 

Between Dec. 31 and Thursday there were 289 positive cases among students, with 79 new cases as of Thursday, according to the district reporting for the state COVID report card.

Categories: News, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna


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