GHENT – All six school districts in the county will be closed for two weeks due to concern over the spread of the coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19. Chatham Central School District closed Monday, March 16, with Ichabod Crane closing the next day, Tuesday, March 17. Hudson and New Lebanon both held classes on Monday and Tuesday but canceled classes starting Wednesday. Germantown held a conference day on Monday with no students, just staff and on Tuesday students and staff attended school “to gather belongings, materials and other items that may be needed for a potential prolonged closing,” according to the Germantown District’s website.
Taconic Hills had a statement on its website Monday, saying that the district moved the conference day previously scheduled for Friday, March 20 to Tuesday. “We will use the day to continue long-term planning. No students will be in attendance…Tuesday,” according to the statement.
On March 16, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order directing all schools in New York to close by Wednesday, March 18 for two weeks ending April 1. According to a press release from the governor’s office, “At that time, the state will reassess whether to extend the school closures further and continue to suspend the 180-day instructional requirement. Schools that exceed the closure period without state authorization will not be exempted from the 180-day rule.”
Columbia-Greene Community College, in response to Governor Cuomo’s statewide directive to reduce the density of exposure to COVID-19, will be extending its spring break for students by one week, from Monday, March 16, to Friday, March 27.
In a statement, the college said this will allow “additional time to develop plans to transition courses, wherever possible, to remote instruction including distance- and online learning.”
The Columbia County Board of Supervisors declared “A Local State of Emergency” March 16, which will remain in effect for a period of 30 days unless rescinded or modified.
The state of emergency gives the chief executive of Columbia County, Supervisor Matt Murell (Stockport), the right to order regulation of public gatherings. It was accompanied by Executive Order No. 1 of 2020 and reads in part, “All social, community, and public events or gatherings, including Columbia County-sponsored events, where it is anticipated that attendance will exceed 50 people or more, shall be restricted, canceled or postponed…. For any meetings that are absolutely necessary, a venue should be chosen that can accommodate a six-foot distance between participants. Citizens are asked to restrict public appearances to critical activities such as obtaining fuel, food, or medical care. When in public, please retain a six-foot distance from your fellow citizens.”
On March 14, two days earlier than the county’s emergency declaration, Ichabod Crane Superintendent Jason D. Thomson released a statement saying that his district, along with the other 22 districts in the Questar III BOCES region, would “collectively cancel all classes.”
In his statement, he said the superintendents of the BOCES region school districts had met earlier that that day with representatives from the health departments of Columbia, Rensselaer and Greene counties “for several hours to develop regional plans in response to this rapidly developing global pandemic. I have also been in close coordination with the district administrative team and Board of Education leadership to keep them apprised of these discussions.”
Chatham announced on March 15 that the district was canceling all classes effective Monday. “All extracurricular activities are also suspended, and the Chatham Public Library will be closed. Although Chatham Central School District does not have any confirmed cases at this time, we are seeking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to ease public anxiety about schools being in session during this public health crisis,” a press release reads.
In the announcement from the Hudson City School District, Superintendent Maria Suttmeier wrote on Monday before the governor signed the executive order to close the schools, “Because this is not a mandated closure, some districts have altered these dates to suit their specific needs so there will be differences in district schedules and procedures within our county. This situation can change by the hour or day so communications will continue to be updated as deemed necessary.”
She acknowledged that the closing will be an “inconvenience for our families, but our primary concern is the health and safety of our students and staff. Ultimately, we wanted to be thoughtful about planning and not make a sudden decision that does not allow our families and staff to prepare for what could be a more extended closing.”
Hudson planned to use the school days for students to gather “belongings, materials and other items that may be needed for a prolonged closing.” The district is also asking that families complete a survey about technology in their homes which is on the district’s website at www.hudsoncsd.org.
The Ichabod Crane District was planning to send home academic materials at the end of the day on Monday “for all grade levels in an effort to keep our students engaged and to prevent regression of essential skills and content while classes are canceled,” Mr. Thomson said in the release. He added, “We will work with available resources, including our Google classroom platform, to provide online/distance learning to grade levels where appropriate.”
Additionally the district will be setting up three distribution centers “where families who qualify for free and reduced lunch during the 2019-2020 school year can pick up a free bagged breakfast and lunch for children under the age of 18.”
The Hudson City School District statement said school personnel are “exploring the best options for maintaining our school breakfast and lunch program during this prolonged closure.”
Many of the districts pointed out that there have as yet been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County but, as Germantown noted, “We are seeking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to ease public anxiety about schools being in session during this public health crisis.”
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