Smooth opening with capital projects completed, COVID restrictions lifted

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

No masks are required at Guilderland High School this year. The state lifted the requirement.

GUILDERLAND —  The school district here had “one of the smoothest openings in a number of years,” Superintendent Marie Wiles told the school board on Sept. 13.

“Our buildings look great,” she said. Many upgrades were completed over the summer.

“Our teachers and students have come back energized, enthusiastic …,” Wiles went on. “People are thrilled the specter of all the protocols are not hanging over everyone’s head.”

Over the summer, the district’s recovery task force worked through all the latest guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state’s health and education departments, Wiles said. “We have redone all of our COVID protocols,” she said, noting they are posted on the district’s website.

As with any infectious illness, students and staff with symptoms are to stay home. If they test positive for COVID-19, with or without symptoms, they are to stay home for five days.

Wiles said it is up to individual teachers to decide if they want to “open a Google Meet” so that a student isolating at home could be part of a classroom lesson.

“There will be variation …,” said Wiles, noting that it is “not one size fits all.”

Board member Rebecca Butterfield, a pediatrician, said, with students required to be out for five days, “I worry it could be a deterrent for them testing for symptoms.”

Students and staff exposed to COVID no longer need to quarantine. Also, proof of a negative COVID test is no longer needed to return to school.

The district will provide at-home test kits to students and staff who request them.

Vaccinations are not required nor are masks.

Guilderland will no longer report positive COVID-19 case numbers to families as it had previously in regular emails. School districts statewide are not required to report COVID-19 data to the New York State COVID-19 Report Card.

Wiles told The Enterprise this week that school nurses will report COVID cases they are aware of to Albany County’s health department as they do other infectious diseases but the district will no longer systematically track each case, which Wiles said was labor intensive.

“COVID is still with us,” concluded Wiles to the school board. “We’re much better at managing it and keeping school going.”

The board will hold a public hearing when it next meets, on Oct. 11, on a proposal that would allow board members “under extraordinary circumstances,” such as isolating for COVID, to participate in school board meetings through video-conferencing.

Besides illness, other circumstances include disabilities and caregiving responsibilities.

If the resolution were adopted, board members could participate in discussions and voting without their location, as now, being required to be open to the public. A physical quorum would have to present at the in-person meeting.


Capital projects

The district was “very active” in the nine weeks over the summer getting work done on capital projects  — one passed in 2019 and the other in 2021 — said Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders.

“We did carry on all our summer programs,” said Sanders.

He congratulated Cliff Nooney, director of maintenance and physical-plant management, and the custodial and maintenance staff for “putting it back together” in time for school to open.

All seven district schools now have safety and security improvements like phones, cameras, and LED displays, Sanders said, and there is now a single lockdown button that also contacts police.

Most classrooms now have large, interactive Promethean boards, he said, and those without are having the new boards installed on second shifts.

Sanders listed the projects, besides the universal safety features and Promethean boards, completed during the summer at the district’s schools:

Guilderland Elementary

New ceilings and lighting in the 200 Wing and a new ceiling in Room 406 for music; new boiler and sidewalk installation; cafetorium and stage refinishing; and a concrete pad for a new outdoor cooler/freezer;

Lynnwood Elementary

Completed heating, ventilation, and air-condition exhaust work in the 100 Wing; the nurse’s office was made over with a bathroom accessible to people with handicaps; and a new boiler was installed;

Pine Bush Elementary

Roofing was replaced; HVAC installation in the Red and Blue Pods; paving was completed; and a new boiler was installed;

Westmere Elementary

New ceilings and bathroom fixtures in the 100 Wing; new plumbing infrastructure and domestic water; and a new kitchen hot water heater;

Farnsworth Middle School

Plumbing infrastructure/domestic water; new roof installation; new pavement and striping; new sidewalks; about  88 new HVAC units and associated exhaust work; new chiller installation; and new flooring in 10 abated classrooms; and

Guilderland High School

New HVAC in the West Gym and library; new roofing in the West Gym; East Locker Room reconstruction; five science classrooms refurbished; Room 33 HVAC exhaust; radon tunnel exhaust fans; and the new track and turf field installation is in progress.

It was originally thought that the synthetic football field would be ready for the high school’s homecoming game but Sanders said that is “slipping away.” 

Noting the recent rains, he said the work is “weather dependent” and the hope is still to get an October football game played on the new field.

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