VCSD has ‘guardrails’ for reopening 

— From Always in Focus Photography

Voorheesville Superintendent Frank Macri, shown here at graduation in June, said this week that the district will use a multi-level committee approach to address its reopening, and that a parent advisory group will meet biweekly to review the district’s plans and offer feedback; over 150 parents said they’d like to be included in the advisory group.

NEW SCOTLAND — Far from sitting on its hands, the Voorheesville Central School District has been working on a reopening plan as it awaited state guidance released this week.

During Monday’s virtual Voorheesville School Board meeting, Superintendent Frank Macri said the issuance of in-person instruction and reopening guidance from the state will give Voorheesville “the guardrails” it needs to come up with a reopening plan.

Macri said that Voorheesville will use a multi-level committee approach to address its reopening. Macri will meet weekly with the building administrators to discuss “all options” and develop plans focused on facilities, instructions, social-emotional, and maintenance.

At the district-level, Macri and his “core cabinet” will meet weekly with the transportation and facilities supervisor while meeting more frequently with building principals.

At the building-level, each principal will convene his or her own reopening committee, Macri said, consisting of staff, students, and parents — each group will work on “fine tuning” building-specific plans, for example, transportation for students in kindergarten through fifth grade or online learning for students in kindergarten through second grade.

There will also be a parent advisory group that will meet biweekly to review the district’s plans and offer feedback, he said; over 150 parents responded that they would like to be included in the advisory group. But Macri said “it’s very difficult” to have more than a dozen people in a group and still “be able to hear voices.” He said Voorheesville would find other ways for the community to be able to offer its feedback to the district. 

Per the state guidelines, the school district will have to come up with three types of learning programs, Macri said, in-person, online, and a hybrid model.

Voorheesville will look at “synchronous learning both in person and virtually,” Macri said, meaning school would start and end at specific times, which wasn’t the case for the last three months of this school year.

Using the analogy of a snow day, Macri said schools may have to take “virtual learning days” during the school year “in order to see where COVID is and how its spiking.”

Board member Timothy Kremer noted new costs will be associated with implementing the state’s guidelines, which Macri acknowledged, citing increased transportation costs as one example.

Macri also said, “The money aspect is one comparison in comparison to everything else that we have to also deal with,” like the safety of students, staff, and faculty, and how students will actually be taught in the fall.

Depending on which guidance is to be followed, a 56-passenger bus could only accommodate 28 riders — or as few 14 students. The new transportation guidelines could impact bus routes as well as start times, he said. 

Macri offered the board some good news on transportation: In a 700-family survey, 95 percent of respondents said that their child would be able to wear a facemask in the fall.

Speaking to further limiting the impact COVID-19 would have on the district’s bottom line, Macri said that Voorheesville has to be “very cautious in what we purchase” and “smart with our expenditures,” and added that the district  would look to “maximize” its purchasing power by partnering with other school districts on group buys through the Board of Cooperative Educational Services and other consortiums.

And he said there could be “flexibility” with staffing that could address some costs.

A number of questions still remain.

For example, will there have to be options for both online and in-person learning to happen simultaneously, Macri said. “That’s the big one, the Board of Regents right now is talking about flexibility in attendance,” he said. “So that makes me think that we are going to have to give options for both.” 

But that’s also an instance where the district will have to wait until Wednesday to see what the state’s Education Department guidance says on the matter, Macri said.

Another question is if a student is quarantined for 14 days, the district has to get that student all the information he or she needs, Macri said. “The best way [to do that] would be to stream that information right from the classroom … And that’s some of the technology aspects that we’re looking into at this time,” he said.

He also said that the district has to discuss how to “reconfigure our facility, to meet the needs of our students and staff,” and how quarantined staff and students’ issues would be addressed. 

“And for continuity purposes: What does it look like to move from in-person to virtual [learning] depending on day-to-day spikes,” Macri said, because there is a possibility that “one day we’ll be here” and the next day “we’re just not going to be here.”

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