Voorheesville OKs pre-K program; school reopening plan forthcoming

The Enterprise — Sean Mulkerri

Voorheesville Superintendent Frank Macri on Monday presents the school board with a plan for opening schools in September. On Tuesday, the plan was put on hold when it was announced that the State Education Department would be putting out reopening guidelines for all schools to follow.

NEW SCOTLAND — The Voorheesville School Board at its meeting on Monday accepted a proposal from Serendipity Day Care Center to provide the district with full-day pre-kindergarten for 18 four-year-olds.

The resolution allows Superintendent Frank Macri to work with Serendipity on the specifics of a contract, which would then have to be approved by the board. Serendipity’s contract would be for one year and Voorheesville would have the option to renew annually.

Also at its Monday meeting, board members were presented with a school reopening plan that, as of Tuesday, had been put on hold while the district waits for new reopening guidance from the State Education Department. 

Included in this year’s state budget was funding to allow for universal pre-kindergarten in school districts across New York. Voorheesville, which doesn’t have pre-K, received about $146,000 for the initiative, but the enacted legislation only provides funding for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years.

Serendipity, located on Grove Street in the village, will create an 18-student pre-K program to accommodate the district’s needs, Macri told the board on Aug. 9, in addition to offering its typical pre-K programs. Voorheesville’s pre-K students will be housed separately from Serendipity’s other pre-kindergartners, he said.

The goal, which Macri admitted was “aggressive,” is to start the new program on Sept. 8, the first day of school for Voorheesville. It will be a lottery-based system; notification is being sent out this week alerting the community about the need to sign up for the lottery, he said. 

The pre-K program would follow Voorheesville’s 180-day school calendar, Macri said, with the school day running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and with lunch being provided. The district will not provide transportation, he said, “but everything else is going to be there.”

The program is completely funded with state money, Macri said; school taxes are not being used to pay for it. Voorheesville will “only be able to support the program while the money’s in,” Macri said, referring to the state funds being used to run the program. “We were given this money from the state,” he said. “The state can give; the state can also take it back at some point.”

If the state were to pull the funding, Voorheesville “would not be offering the program,” Macri said. 

The issue with the state-funded program is that Voorheesville receives a certain amount of money per student, about $5,400 per pupil, and if Serendipity’s prices increase — whether through increases associated with cost-of-living, staffing, or inflation — “that’s going to put a damper on that program,” Macri said. 



Before offering his reopening plan to the board on Monday, Macri began by placing an asterisk on his presentation. 

“I want to preface everything by saying this is completely tentative,” Macri said of the plan, because he had yet to speak with administrators, school staff, or parents, “so this is a preliminary, preliminary draft of everything that’s there.”

Macri said he was meeting with administrators on Tuesday, staff on Thursday, and making a virtual reopening presentation to parents on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Macri told The Enterprise of the plan he presented not 18 hours earlier, “I’m basically going to scrap or not use the majority of it right at the moment.” 

The New York State Education Department had just released a letter that said, although the department doesn’t have direct jurisdiction over public-health matters, it does have oversight authority of schools, Macri said, and forthcoming guidance from the Education Department will address mask-wearing; social distancing; remote learning; transportation; community-transmission tracking; and potential funding sources. 

Last week, the state’s Department of Health declined to provide guidance for the opening of schools amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in New York.

During Thursday’s reopening presentation, Macri will tell parents further guidance from the State Education Department is coming, he said, and will also tell them masks are to be worn unless he hears otherwise, because the district’s current directive comports with the most-recent guidance from the Centers for disease Control and Prevention and from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Macri had been working on a reopening plan with the superintendents of the 24 local school districts that make Capital Region BOCES.

That plan, a layered mitigation strategy, included a sliding scale of 18 protocols and how the district would respond to each if community-transmission rates were low, moderate, substantial, or high.

For example, if there were low community transmission, indoor masking would not be required; at moderate transmission, masking would be encouraged for all and required for unvaccinated adults and staff; and masks would be required for all when the two highest transmission rates are met. 

Macri said on Tuesday a new mitigation plan based on State Education Department guidance would likely resemble the outline of the 18-point plan presented on Monday, but “I just can’t guarantee what that’s going to look like now.”



The school board on Monday adopted a resolution related to face covering for the upcoming school year.

The Voorheesville Central School District, the resolution states, “will abide by current guidance issued by the CDC relating to masks in schools.”

The resolution will stay in place because it follows CDC guidelines, Macri said on Tuesday, but, if the State Education Department issues different guidance, that’s what the district will adopt. 

During the public-comment portion of Monday’s meeting, board members heard about a half-dozen in-person comments from parents asking the board not institute a mask mandate for the upcoming school year, which was in addition to the three similar emails received earlier that day. Five pro-mask emails were sent by parents as well. 

The crux of comments that related to students and mask-wearing said masks had the ability to cause both social and mental-health issues; rashes; anxiety; and difficulty learning.

Some speakers asked board members to take what they’ve heard from public-health experts with a grain of salt, while others offered to provide them with research they’d found that supported their anti-mask views. 

Some speakers sought to frame the issue in a larger context. 

One parent with two children in the district, who identified herself as Zona, equated mask mandates with the oppression suffered by citizens under communist regimes.

“And then for you guys to send out an email at 9:07 a.m. telling us that masks are mandated for this school year, but to have the meeting now at 7 p.m. is literally a slap in the face to all of us,” she said. “You didn’t even give us the opportunity to come in and speak and say whatever we wanted to say. You sent out the email [and] made the decision without even wanting to listen to us. That’s a shame.”

About 50 minutes into public comment, board President Cynthia Monaghan had to clear up this issue for speakers, some of whom had accused the board of instituting a mask mandate before parents had a chance to speak on the subject.

“I just want to clarify to folks who don’t usually come to these meetings,” Monaghan said, “the email that went out today was specifically saying that anyone who came to the board meeting tonight was to wear a mask. That was it.”

The board passed its resolution adopting CDC guidance related to mask-wearing at the end of its meeting, after public comment and Monaghan’s explanation about how board meetings are run. 

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