District looks ahead to a ‘return to normal’

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

School buses will roll again Sept. 7 for the first day of school in the RCS district. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

RAVENA-COEYMANS-SELKIRK — The halls of the RCS school district will be alive with the sound of children’s voices once again this week as a new school year kicks off Wednesday.

After three academic years impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions — face masks, virus testing, quarantines, social distancing and more — district officials are now looking forward to a “return to normalcy,” District Superintendent Dr. Brian Bailey said.

“There don’t seem to be any unusual restrictions so for the most part, we will be returning to pre-pandemic status in all things, including arrival and dismissal times, including there currently is no directive around quarantine or isolation, so we are grateful to be thinking about doing the work that we have done for so long in the way that we are accustomed to doing it,” Bailey said.

Mandated face masks — an area of contention in many school districts around the state for much of the 2021-22 school year — appear to be a thing of the past for the moment as there is no state directive requiring them.

Students were also not required to test negative for the virus before returning to the classroom.

“People have the option to voluntarily test before they come back,” Bailey said. “There is no mandate to do that.”

Essentially there are no COVID restrictions at the present time, he said, which will mean a return to how school was conducted pre-pandemic.

“Some of the things that were affected weren’t just about masking, isolation and quarantine,” Bailey said. “We had the classrooms set up differently, our scheduling was different. That will also be returning back to normal so the work students do in the classrooms, especially in the elementary school classrooms, like working in small groups and being able to sit on rugs together, will be back.”

“It’s a very nice return to some social normal,” he added.

One of the changes at the elementary school level is a return to traditional arrival and dismissal times, which were changed during the pandemic to accommodate transportation and social distancing needs.

“Last year the day was a little shortened at the elementary school because when we started the year there was a requirement for distancing on school buses,” Bailey said. “Over the course of the year that did lighten a little bit, but we had really encouraged families to assist us by driving their children to and from school. Because of the number of families that were doing that at the elementary schools, we had to extend arrival and dismissal times.”

Those hours will go back to normal this school year.

“This year, we are actually encouraging people to put their children back on the bus so we can have our traditional dismissal time at the elementary school,” the district superintendent said. “This will give us a little more instructional time with the kids.”

The school day at the elementary level begins at 9 a.m. and dismissal Monday through Thursday is at 3:30 p.m., and Fridays at 3 p.m.

The return to normal is a good feeling, Bailey said.

“The most heartbreaking thing for us and families [during the pandemic] was wanting our kids to have normal social interactions, to have normal access to things, and for two-and-a-half years they didn’t have the same experience we did,” he said. “I think that is going to feel best for families — they will actually see kids being kids, the way we want them to be.”

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