Foreword from Ulster BOCES District Superintendent
Since mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced most components of our society, including our schools, to face the reality that our world has changed. Businesses have been shuttered, millions have become unemployed, and schools have closed their buildings and transitioned to remote learning almost overnight. For the past several months we have lived in this new reality. Perhaps most unsettling is the fact that we really do not know when or how the COVID-19 pandemic that has controlled how we exist and behave, will end.
Even with so many unknowns, we have set about to plan for the reopening of our school buildings and the continuation of our educational program delivery. Our reopening plan has at its core two non-negotiables.
First, our plan will include all the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all of those who come to work and learn at any of our sites. Our goal is to minimize the chances of spreading the COVID-19 virus in our buildings and in our communities. We have been guided by the science behind how this virus spreads, and the recommendations of the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NYS Department of Health (DOH), and the Ulster County Department of Health. Our planning will necessitate changes as to how we will use physical space, scheduling, and the monitoring of all of those who enter any of our sites.
Second, our plans must be transparent to instill confidence and trust such that our teachers, students, and their families will feel safe, ready, and prepared to resume face-to-face teaching in our schools. To accomplish this second point, we are committed to regular and frequent communication during the weeks leading up to the opening of school in September.
Our goal is to create a school environment that is caring, supportive, and flexible. We will identify students and families who need help and will take all necessary steps to support them. The past months have traumatized our students, staff, their families, and our communities. We recognize that this trauma exists and will do all that we can to minimize the impact on our students, staff, and families. We are committed to paying attention to the social-emotional well-being of all.
We also recognize that this pandemic has created an opportunity for us to reflect on the systems and practices that in the past, may not have helped every child. We are also committed to refining those practices, eliminating them where necessary, and instituting systems and practice that will maximize the chance that every student who crosses our threshold has the possibility of realizing their full potential.
We have divided our plan development work into four key areas or guiding principles. These areas, the pillars or guiding principles, are:
- Health and Safety
- Teaching, Learning and Educational Commitments
- Community and Communication
- Well-Being and Support
You will see these principles in all that we develop.
We are currently developing specific plans to address the challenges that we will face in implementing several of the recommended practices, such as social distancing, wearing masks, checking temperatures, and other aspects to ensure that only people without symptoms are allowed in our schools. The specific plans to address each of these challenges will follow.
This Reopening Guide is a living document. It is likely that some aspects of our reopening plans will change as conditions in our community’s change. What will never change is our commitment to ensuring that all who come to us to learn and work will do so in a safe, secure, and healthy environment.
Thank you for your continued support and trust.
Charles V. Khoury, Ed.D.
District Superintendent & Chief Executive Officer