CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Four virtual public meetings presented in the past week by Shenendehowa School District administrators have given the Shen community a better understanding of the district’s reopening process.

The meetings were scheduled in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s demand that school districts hold such events prior to reopening.

Shen’s public meetings were scheduled for Aug. 13, Aug. 17, Aug. 18 and Aug. 19. The Aug. 13 meeting on Complete Virtual Learning (CVL) and the Aug. 17 meeting on Safety, PPE, and Contact Tracing were the only two viewed prior to this newspaper going to press.

The Aug. 18 meeting was scheduled to focus on foodservice and transportation. The Aug. 19 meeting was to focus on instructional program logistics.

Both meetings saw approximately 40 minutes of information presented by school administrators followed by nearly an hour of live (via chat room) questions and answers.

The Aug. 18 meeting on the CVL model was presented by Shen Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson and Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum Elizabeth Wood. At the time of the meeting Robinson said approximately 923 students had registered for CVL model; 488 elementary students, 223 middle school students, and 211 high school students.

He prefaced the information to be given by saying both in-person instruction and that in the CVL model will be different than it was before the start of the pandemic.

In the first meeting, Wood presented the general goals for reopening, some specifics on the elementary complete virtual learning (CVL) model, specifics on elementary in-person instruction, the grade 6 CVL model, grade 6 in-person instruction, grade 7-12 CVL model, and grades 7-12 in-person instruction.

She also answered a number of repetitive questions the district had received already on both forms of instruction such as why the district was asking families to commit to the CVL model so early, why it appears so hard to staff the CVL model, and what are the class sizes for the CVL model.

During her presentation Wood noted that the goals for reopening would be to focus on core content areas, skill-building, making connections with teachers and students, satisfying core graduation requirements, and ensuring that students have Shen teachers as much as possible.   

Questions came in via the chat mode almost immediately upon Robinson starting to speak and continued non-stop right up to the end of the meeting.

The questions asked covered a range of areas such as the expected time commitment for students in elementary CVL, world language courses for middle school students, textbooks and/or workbooks for the CVL model, Chromebooks, what happens if the school has to revert to an all CVL model, safety, can in-person students switch to CVL if they feel unsafe, transportation opt-outs, science labs, and special education in the CVL model.

On Aug. 17 Robinson was joined by Shen’s Director of Policy and Community Development Rebecca Carman. Carman was the main presenter for the public meeting on safety, PPE, and contact tracing. She is also the district’s liaison to the Saratoga County Health Department.

Covered as part of this public meeting were topics such as promoting behaviors that reduce the spread of infections from the novel coronavirus, how the district will work to maintain healthy environments, procedures to be set in place for contact tracing, and how the district will see to the social and emotional well-being of its students.

Within those topics, Carmen detailed items such as hygiene protocols, who would be expected to wear masks and when, cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, hallway transitions, lunch, signage and messaging, and health and wellness supports such as student support counsels and an ad hoc advisory council.

When the session was opened to questions they flowed in as they had in the first session. Many of those asking questions in this meeting had done the same in the earlier meeting.

Carmen and Robinson were asked about bathroom breaks, contact tracing and quarantining, the length of time during the day students will be asked to wear their masks, social distancing, classroom setup, the performing arts, protocol after a positive test, recess, homework, holding classes outside, and random health testing of students.

To the last question, Robinson said the district is not allowed to give students health checks.

“We are not authorized nor are we qualified,” he said. “That is the purview of the Saratoga County Health Department.”

He also put many minds at ease when he said the amount of homework that may be assigned will be limited.

“We’ve been moving away from homework for a while,” Robinson said. “We will be extremely mindful about it. As a parent as well as a superintendent I don’t want kids sitting in class all day and then having to sit at home. I can’t say there’ll be none at all but we’re aware of the situation.”

He noted that the district is trying to provide quality education in an unusual situation, a pandemic era and that everyone must pitch in if the district is to be successful.

“We are planning for the very best experience at Shen first starting with the safety aspect of it and then the quality educational experience our students will receive,” he said. “I trust and hope that our community is mindful of that.”

For the families who couldn’t join the meetings live he recommended they view the videos of them on the district website. He also noted that the website has a large FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section which will answer many questions.

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