Guilderland High School moves to all-remote classes

GUILDERLAND — Within the week, the Guilderland school district has had five new cases of COVID-19.

The fifth case, at Guilderland High School, was announced Wednesday in an email from Superintendent Marie Wiles. That last case forced the high school to all-remote learning, beginning on Thursday, Nov. 19, and lasting until Thanksgiving break, which starts on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

The high school had previously been on a hybrid schedule with some in-person classes and some remote classes.

This makes a total of 10 confirmed cases for the district so far this school year.

The four other new cases were announced on Friday, Nov. 13. On Friday afternoon, Farnsworth Middle School announced a new COVID-19 case; on Friday evening, three cases were announced at Guilderland High School.

“In combination with mandatory quarantines from last week, this new case has created a staffing shortage for grades 9-12,” Wiles wrote in her Wednesday evening email to GCSD families. “Because of the staffing shortage at the high school level, we are transitioning to all-remote learning for grades 9-12 ….”

She also wrote that the high school principal, Michael Piscitelli, is working with the Albany County Department of Health to assist with contact tracing and to determine who will need to quarantine as a result; the Department of Health will follow up with those individuals.

Wiles outlined these specifics of the new schedule:

— In-person eighth-grade students will continue to come to school on their scheduled days;

— All students in grades nine through 12 should continue to follow their regular schedule each day;

— Students in self-contained classes will still report to in-person instruction;

— Students in BOCES Career and Technical Education programs will still attend in person and will be picked up and dropped off at their homes; and

— The planned half-day of instruction on Nov. 24 will remain remote-only for all students.

Free meals will be available to students in grades nine through 12 during all-remote learning with no registration or sign-up required.

Wiles concluded, “We recognize how challenging this uncertain time is. Please know we are committed to our school community’s health and safety and will continue to work through these hurdles together.”


Earlier GCSD cases

Albany County has been experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, as has the rest of the country, since schools opened in the fall and people have returned to more inside activities.

Last week, the county’s health commissioner, Elizabeth Whalen, said that about 15 percent of the county’s COVID-19 cases in the last two months had come from students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Whalen urged parents to keep their children home when they are sick and to get them tested. At a press conference on Nov. 13, Whalen urged parents to be sure their children wear masks and not attend parties.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, Wiles had sent an email notifying the school community that “an individual connected to both Farnsworth Middle School and Guilderland High School has tested positive for COVID-19.”

Five days later, on Nov. 13, came the announcements about the case at Farnsworth and the three cases at the high school.

While the district does not reveal if the people who have tested positive are students, staff, or teachers, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the state’s COVID-19 Report Card, which tracks COVID-19 cases in schools across the state, noted the person who worked at both the middle and high schools and tested positive was a teacher.

On Nov. 18, the state tracker showed that the three new cases at Guilderland High School were all students, and that the Farnsworth Middle School case was also a student. The newest high school case was not yet listed on the tracker.

Besides the November COVID-19 cases, Guilderland in September had two cases at Altamont Elementary and two at Guilderland High School.

Last March, a woman in her 30s associated with Farnsworth Middle School had one of the first two cases of COVID-19 announced in Albany County. Shortly thereafter, the governor shut down all schools across New York for in-person learning.

Guilderland, like other school districts, went to remote learning. Then, for this school year, the district developed plans that allow younger students to learn in person while older students combine remote learning with in-person learning. Some students have chosen to learn entirely from home.

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