In just one week, students will be boarding buses to head to school, or maybe they will wash up and prepare at home for their virtual learning; either way, the new school year is upon us.
Last week we spoke with members of Tioga County’s Public Health Department, along with county officials and school superintendents to find out how confident they were feeling about the start of a new year.
For Tioga County’s Public Health Department, one can only imagine that a pandemic has been quite challenging; but for the start of school, members stated that they are 110 percent ready.
According to Heather Vroman, Public Health supervisor, each school will be assigned a Public Health representative to assist with tracing.
Kylie Holochak, Senior Public Health educator and Public Information officer for the department, stated that if a positive case is detected in the school, the department will work with them to get a list of class members exposed, and will then conduct tracing. Once those affected are notified, they will be advised to quarantine.
How this will all look is anyone’s guess, but the department is confident they will be able to trace and then implement safe quarantine practices as we head into the school year.
“We don’t have a huge department, but they have done great so far and I’m extremely confident in them,” said Legislator Marte Sauerbrey of the return to school, and the health department’s role in the equation.
And Vroman understands herself the concerns that many parents have with this unique return to school.
As a parent, Vroman sees education as vital.
“They [children] need to be educated,” said Vroman, adding, “We need to trust in the education system.”
To date, Public Health has communicated with each school superintendent, and they have also provided toolkits to administrators that will guide them through the process if a positive case is detected.
“The schools are working equally as hard right now,” said Holochak. “So hats off to them.”
In Owego, Luke McEvoy, spokesperson, noted that they are ready to start school in the district on Sept. 14. So far, he added, 75 percent of the students will attend in-person, and 25 percent will be virtual. He also mentioned that they would have a nurse in each building, and about 450 to 500 students in each building every day.
In Newark Valley, Superintendent Ryan Dougherty reported that 80 percent of their students will be a combination of in-person and virtual, or hybrid, and that 20 percent are virtual only. They also have a nurse at each of their three buildings.
For the Tioga Central School District, they are reopening on Friday, Sept. 11. According to Superintendent David Hamilton, the district will have two nurses on staff, for a ratio of 486:1, and 20 percent of the students will receive virtual learning with the other 80 percent expected to arrive in-person. Remote learning, he added, is for the first five weeks.
And of course, as stated by one of the superintendents, things can change depending on decisions out of Albany. But for the most part, they are ready.
In a press release received by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, he announced a new dashboard that will be available Sept. 9 to assist with tracking and tracing at schools.
According to the release, New York school districts will be required to provide the Department of Health with daily data on the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in each school beginning Tuesday, Sept. 8. The information will be publicly available at https://forward.ny.gov/schools.
You can also contact your school office, or visit them online to stay up to date on schedules and any delays. And as always, we will continue to follow the opening.