CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — As students began returning to Shenendehowa School District schools last month Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson made several efforts prior to the opening and shortly afterward reminding everyone, young and old alike, to follow the CDC and NYS Department of Health COVID protocols.
By following the requirements to wear face masks, wash hands, and stay the appropriate distances apart while in school and out, the number of cases of coronavirus in district classrooms could be minimized he said.
On the second day of school, at the Sept. 15 Board of Education meeting, he noted that the single focus for the previous months had been getting to opening day and that the second day would be better than the first and third better than the second.
He told the board that night, “We will have problems and we will have COVID cases”. Robinson was hoping practice with the masks and the distancing would become second nature to the kids and their parents.
“To the kids, I say practice the same safety procedures out of school that you do in school. Be that ambassador for your peer group,” he said that night.
On Sept. 21 Robinson appeared with the superintendent of Stillwater Schools and two health experts on a live chat on the county’s Emergency Services Facebook page where he discussed Shen’s opening day.
During that chat, he and the other school superintendent were asked how they sent the message to follow the protocols while at home. Robinson told the questioner that each Friday school staff emphasize to parents to have the kids practice the protocols while at home.
“COVID,” he said, “is not generated in school. It’s brought into the environment. It’s not school versus community. It’s school and community. We’re in it together.”
Ten days later he made a video about detecting COVID cases in the schools and contact tracing. He posted it on the Shen website. In the video, he explained the difference between the terms isolation and quarantine, what contact tracing is and how it’s done, what happens when a positive case is found in school, and the need for the community to practice due diligence.
Robinson explained the hours involved in the process of contact tracing by school administrators as well as staff of the Saratoga County Department of Public health; how Shen staff is called at night when a case is diagnosed and immediately starts a review as to where the student sat in class, at lunch, and on the bus to find out who was around them.
“We want to control the spread of COVID-19,” he said in the video. “A lot of time is spent on finding who the exposed parties are and making sensible decisions on who goes into quarantine and who doesn’t.”
He gave kudos to the students and the district staff for following the protocols.
“This [wearing of masks, social distancing and hand washing] must be done in school and home,” he said in the video. “This is truly about collective work and civic responsibility. I’m asking you, please exercise due diligence. If we all do these things we will have a new norm.”
Two weeks ago at the Oct. 6 Board of Education meeting his frustration with a few in the community not following the protocols could be seen clearly.
“Here we are in the third week of school and each day is pensive still because so much is contingent on the behaviors of a few bad apples that can truly, as the proverb says, spoil the whole bushel. It’s really that,” he said.
Robinson said he was “harping” on the subject of the protocols once again because he wants the schools to stay open and continue to be a “safe, vibrant learning experience for all students and our community”.
“People really have to step up to the plate,” he said. “People are showing up to outside events without masks and it doesn’t matter that you are outside because if you’re in a group and are mingling with others without a mask that’s a problem. I see it here on campus.”
He went to describe sporting events where health protocols are seemingly tossed to the wind and it obviously irritated him.
“I am saying to the community, we have to be responsible for each other,” he said. “So I am pleading again with our public to be considerate of that fact. If you can’t be motivated by your own personal health and wellbeing be motivated by the fact we’re trying to create a great experience for our students.”