Following a meeting Sunday morning (Dec. 13) with the Montgomery County Department of Health and the Greater Amsterdam School District Administrative Cabinet, a joint decision has been made to suspend in person instruction district-wide at all grade levels until after the holiday break on Jan. 4.
This action is being taken due to the rising number of cases of COVID-19 in the Amsterdam community and the escalating number of GASD teachers and staff being placed by health officials on mandatory quarantine as a precaution to possible exposure. GASD teachers will also have the option of teaching remotely during this time and office staff will be reduced.
“Safety has been and will continue to be everyone’s top priority,” said Superintendent Richard Ruberti, “until we can get safely through this pandemic. I still believe there is no substitute for in person instruction and that our schools are the safest place for our students with the protocols we have in place. However, out of an abundance of caution, we will take this temporary pause and move to an all remote model.”
At his press briefing on Friday, Governor Cuomo said that elementary, middle and high schools statewide almost invariably have a lower infection rate than the communities in which they are based. K-12 students represent less than 0.50 percent of COVID-19 cases statewide, underscoring the relative safety of attending school during the pandemic.
Additionally, data shows the second wave of the pandemic in New York state is being traced not to schools, restaurants, gyms or hair salons but to “living rooms.” Nearly 75 percent of the new infections with known origin are coming from social gatherings” involving adults, not children, the governor noted.
Montgomery County has recorded more than 70 new COVID cases since Friday, according to Public Health Director Sara Boerenko, with its most recent seven-day COVID infection rate average at over 8 percent and growing. And while GASD has recorded only 14 total positive COVID-19 cases among students, teachers and staff to date, more than 50 faculty and staff have been placed on mandatory quarantine for 14 days creating classroom shortages.
The county’s decrease in local hospital bed and medical staff capacity is also a concern, Boerenko told school officials, as COVID infections continue to grow at an alarming rate since the Thanksgiving holiday. Health officials both locally and nationally predict the Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s season will only exacerbate the spread moving into January.
Please remember that moves like these may become necessary at any time if a significant number of GASD faculty are placed in mandatory quarantine, and a staffing shortage requires that we temporarily shift a class, school building or the entire district to a fully remote model.
What should parents, teachers and staff know?
In Person on Pause: All in person hybrid instruction for the Purple and Gold student groupings is suspended until Jan. 4. All students should switch to the Remote Only Learning model beginning Monday, Dec. 14. Teachers will contact students of their schedules through Google Classroom.
School Vacation: Remote classes will continue districtwide through Wednesday, Dec. 23. The holiday break will be Thursday, Dec. 24 through Sunday, Jan. 3. School is scheduled to resume the hybrid, ROL model on Monday, Jan. 4. Should it be necessary to continue the Remote Only Learning model past that date parents/teachers/staff will be notified through Parent Square.
BOCES: While in person instruction is on pause, GASD will continue to offer transportation to BOCES Special Education, outside placements and CTE programs. Students should follow their normal busing schedule and high school students will be emailed regarding their CTE schedule. Student Services therapies (OT/PT) will be remote only on Wednesdays through the in person pause period.
Teachers and Aides: During in-person pause, teachers have the option of teaching from their classroom or remotely. To keep the number of people in the buildings limited, staff should notify their building principal if they are coming in. Teacher aides have the option to work from home and are expected to join Google Meets and work with their assigned teacher to support student learning following their classroom schedule. General aides without a classroom will be assigned to one by building principals. If aides don’t have an electronic device to use remotely they may pick one up at their school Monday morning.
Other Staff: Clerical staff will be reduced in all buildings per supervisor assignments. Hall monitors will receive direction from their building principal as to their assignments. All nurses, central administration clerical, special education clerical, and custodial staff should report to work on their normal schedule.
Food Services: Grab and go meals will be distributed as usual on Wednesday, Dec. 16 and 23 then resume on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Access the following link for meal distribution information: https://www.gasd.org/gasd-announces-school-meal-changes-for-2020-21-year/
Athletics: Bowling will continue as scheduled but open gym workouts are on pause until Jan. 4.
Other: Any information not addressed here will be at a later time.