Parents and guardians in the Bedford Central School District had their first opportunity to ask district leaders questions about reopening plans for the fall during two virtual K-12 town hall meetings this week.
Over 600 people tuned in to stream the discussions held Tuesday, Aug. 11, and Wednesday, Aug. 12.
The robust attendance might have been partly due to a report released Aug. 10 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, which erroneously listed Bedford among a group of school districts that had not submitted their reopening plans by the July 31 deadline. It’s safe to say the report, and subsequent coverage in local news outlets, concerned parents.
“Our plans are out and have been out from the very beginning,” Superintendent Joel Adelberg assured the community at the outset of the community meetings.
After this clarification, each meeting focused primarily on the enforcement of health and safety protocols. In attendance to speak directly to these health and safety concerns was Dr. Louis Corsaro, a physician with more than 40 years of experience who represents and works with 60 districts, including BCSD, in Westchester County.
Dr. Corsaro detailed the school’s tentative protocol for minimizing exposure in schools. As previously reported, parents and guardians will be asked to fill out a health screening questionnaire each morning for their child or children. The questionnaire will screen for warning signs, such as a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Any responses indicating one or more of these conditions will result in the student being asked not to attend school and to seek medical attention, if the family already has not done so. Even if a child presents as asymptomatic, the screening will indicate whether the virus is present in the household, Dr. Corsaro said.
If a student develops a fever while in school, the student will be escorted to a quarantine room, which will be separate from the nurse’s office and equipped with special air ventilation. The quarantined student will have their temperature taken, as well as pulse oximetry to measure blood oxygen levels. If the student is determined ill, Dr. Corsaro explained, parents will be notified and asked either to send the student home or, if very ill, to a hospital emergency room.
In the instance of a student testing positive for COVID-19, all contacts in that child’s classroom will be asked to isolate for a period of 14 days, as mandated by New York State Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our intent is to be able to contain the classroom, isolate the classroom, and then only close that classroom rather than the entire school,” Dr. Corsaro said.
In the case of multiple confirmed infections, the entire school would close for a period of 14 days, while remaining under the oversight of Dr. Corsaro and the NYSDOH. District leaders are hoping to avoid this extreme scenario through the robust enforcement of social distancing, face masks and personal hygiene, as well as the planned health screenings.
“We’re going to be hardcore,” Susan Ostrofsky, principal of Fox Lane Middle School, said this week. “We’re spending the first two weeks of school just going over those protocols; we’re going to be very strict.”
For those students who may have difficulty complying with these regulations, there will be time set aside to make them more comfortable following the safety practices.
“We will work with Dr. Corsaro with students who may have difficulty wearing a mask for long periods of time,” Director of Special Education Deborah Dormady explained. “We will work with them on that so they can be fully engaged in school.”
This fall will also mark the first time since the pandemic began that students will be expected to compete a full day of school, either through hybrid or remote learning models. Principals said teachers will be taking attendance every day and students must be prepared to start the school day in-person or remotely at 8 a.m.
Additional town halls regarding reopening have been scheduled specifically for elementary education, secondary education, special education and the dual language program. Each school principal will also be holding their own school-specific town hall.
Mr. Adelberg also emphasized that conversations with the community would continue throughout the school year.
“We’re going to be reaching out to our parent community for feedback, we’re going to continue to seek you out for that information,” he said.
For the latest information regarding BCSD reopening plans, visit bcsdny.org or follow Bedford Central School District/Fox Lane on Facebook.