KINDERHOOK—Ichabod Crane School District Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow told the Board of Education at an online and in-person meeting March 2 that 40% of the staff is now fully vaccinated for Covid-19.
She said that several more staff members have already received their first shot of vaccine and will get the second dose this month. She did say that staff has had a hard time finding vaccine sites and signing up. But she also said that fully vaccinated staff members do not have to quarantine when exposed to Covid-19, a status that will help keep the district’s schools open.
The board hosted this month’s meeting in-person in the primary school cafeteria, and also on Zoom. Three board members attended the meeting online along with some administrators and about 80 members of the public. The rest of the board and other administrators were in the cafeteria with no members of the public.
Superintendent Guntlow reported to the board on academics, saying that student course failure rates in the second quarter had gone down and that the school is offering several programs to help struggling students, including in-person classes on Wednesdays when normally there are only online classes for the middle and high school students.
She also reported that the federal government plans to deny waivers from states that want to defer standardized testing this year. New York will give some state Regents exams, though Superintendent Guntlow said plans have not been finalized.
The district is waiting for guidelines on reopening. Currently students in the primary school (K-3rd grade) and 4th and 5th grades attend school five days a week. Students in the middle school (6th-8th grades) and the high school attend school on a hybrid schedule with two days of in-person learning and three days online.
In an email after the board meeting, the district announced that starting March 15 the 6th grade will attend school four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday). Students in grades 7 through 12 will remain on the hybrid schedule but will be using “a model of synchronous instruction where students will be required daily to join a Google Meet.”
The district is also in the middle of a major capital improvement project. Currently classrooms in the high school science wing are under construction. In the middle school, a pod of classrooms should be ready for students to move back into by April, according to a report at the meeting.
In another matter before the board at the March 2 meeting there was a long discussion about a new Equity, Inclusivity and Diversity in Education policy. The policy was adopted during the consent agenda of the meeting without debate. But during the meeting a board member and a private citizen questioned language in the policy suggested by the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA).
District resident Jerome Callahan, speaking during the public comment section of the meeting, focused on the purpose of the policy, asking, “What are you trying to right in the district?”
He said the policy might be a liability and asked that the board have the policy reviewed by the district’s insurance carrier.
Board member Jeffrey Ouellette agreed with Mr. Callahan and asked the board to have the district’s insurance agent look at the policy.
Other board members said this was not normal practice and asked Mr. Ouellette what concerns he had with the policy.
“My concern is board liability,” Mr. Ouellette said.
Board member John Chandler said Mr. Ouellette’s request was not a proper use of the district’s insurance carrier. And board member John Antalek said the board had discussed the policy with the district’s attorney. “We did everything he recommended to us,” Mr. Antalek said.
When Mr. Ouellette called the policy “a new frontier” Mr. Chandler pointed out that equality in education is not new and pointed out other policies on the issue that are already in place.
Board member Elizabeth Phillips said to her “it feels off” to send this one policy to the insurance carrier to review, and pointed out that the new policy was pared down from the policy that NYSSBA suggested.
The three page policy states at the beginning that “All children deserve to have equal access to opportunity regardless of the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, the language they speak or their background,” adding that the district “recognizes that students in this country have been historically marginalized due to inequalities associated with aspects of their identities and their contexts, including, but not limited to, race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sex, sexual orientation or gender (including gender identity and expression).” The opening paragraph ends with: “We are committed to addressing these historic inequalities and helping each and every student to equitably access learning opportunities in school to enable them all to thrive and to build a better society.”
Board President Matthew Nelson told the board he would discuss the liability issue with the school district’s attorney.
Also at the meeting:
• Athletic Director Tim Stewart reported on the district’s winter sports, which included high risk sports like basketball and wrestling. Mr. Stewart said the season, which ends soon, “worked out well.” Student athletes are being tested for Covid-19 and there are other restrictions in place. On March 8, an email went out to district parents saying “that we were informed on Sunday, March 7, that our High School Girls Varsity Basketball Team was exposed to a positive Covid-19 case at their away game on Saturday, February 27. The positive individual was a student-athlete on the competing school’s basketball team. As a result, our Girls Varsity Basketball Team and their coaches were notified and placed under mandatory quarantine”
• The board heard a presentation on the proposed 2021-22 budget. Assistant Superintendent Lucas Christensen reported that the district plans to have the same number of teachers next year and they plan to include funding for the summer program and some new technology for classrooms
• The PTA donated $10,000 to the primary and middle schools. Middle School Co-Principal Tim Farley said his school plans to use the funds for a new kiln so that all three schools in the district will have a kiln for art projects.
The next board meeting will be Tuesday, April 13 at 7 p.m. To find out how to attend the meeting, go to www.ichabodcrane.org
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email firstname.lastname@example.org