Current Rye City School Reopening Plans
As of this week, there are still many critical unknowns with regards to what the 2020-2021 school year will hold. At the August 11 Board of Education meeting, I announced that the Rye City School District will be returning to school in early September using what is known as a “hybrid” model. I am still not able to definitively tell the community what the school experience will look like for the remainder of the fall, much less during the winter and spring. I think we can all agree that this school year is gearing up to be very different from what any of us in the District has ever known.
Governor Cuomo has told school districts across New York that they can reopen with an approved plan if they agree to follow all guidelines from the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department. Our plan is still under review, and none of these entities have provided specific guidance as to how schools are to operate. Much seems to be left up to individual districts to decide. Districts across the State are struggling to find the magic formula that will allow them to physically open schools while keeping students, their families, faculty, and staff safe from Covid-19. I think I can speak for myself and for the Board of Education when I say that none of us is comfortable with being put in the position of making public health and safety decisions and assurances.
As the District awaits State approval of our reopening plan, it has been left in the unenviable position of deciding how social distancing is to be accomplished given limited physical space that cannot contain all of our students simultaneously while maintaining the required 6 or 12 feet of distancing, depending on the nature of the activity, and how all the many new requirements are to be funded without state or federal assistance. After reviewing all the possible options, and in consultation with the Westchester County Department of Health and the District’s medical advisors, the Board of Education and I believe that the hybrid model is the best way to begin the school year. We hope that circumstances will soon allow us to safely return to full-time, in-person schooling for all students and faculty.
The Governor has said he will be keeping a close eye on Covid-19 transmission rates as the date of school openings approaches and that he may change his stance on reopening at any time. The District is also monitoring community infection rates through the Westchester County Board of Health, and is prepared to close and pivot to remote learning, if so directed by the Board of Health.
The District has worked hard over the summer to prepare for a variety of possible reopening scenarios and to modify our operations and physical spaces to meet new health and safety requirements. More information on these preparations is below.
On August 7, the Rye City School District posted an 81-page plan for reopening of schools as required by the State. The plan is available on the District website for the entire community to view. It consists of three possible models: fully in-school, a hybrid model (a combination of some in-school learning, some remote learning), and fully remote. The plan also contains detailed information about procedures related to health and safety, cleaning and sanitizing protocols, model schedules, and communication mechanisms. The plan is intended to be a living document in that it will be updated as more information becomes available, new guidelines are released, and as decisions are made about school reopening or closing. Updates will be added to the plan in bold typeface to differentiate them from original text.
I invite members of the community to view the plan at their convenience, and to revisit it as the year unfolds. We have also created a special section of the District’s website devoted entirely to reopening materials, including state and local guidelines and an evolving question-and-answer document. Again, please check back as often as interest and time allows.
On August 14, the District posted several additional plans, also at the behest of the State, including a Covid-19 testing plan, a Covid-19 tracing plan, and an abbreviated remote learning plan. The District is required to have a plan in place for assisting members of the school community with finding available testing centers should they exhibit symptoms or be exposed to a symptomatic individual. The District is also required to create a plan to provide contact information for individuals who may have come into contact with a particular Covid-19 positive student or staff member to State tracers. These plans are also available on the District website for the community to view.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the community of Rye for its support of the School District during these incredibly challenging times. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” rings particularly true this year. It will take all of us, working together, to be able to open our schools and maintain a healthy and productive learning environment for the children of Rye. I thank you in advance for your partnership.
- Eric Byrne, Rye City Schools Superintendent