School officials discuss details of fall reopening

State, regional and local committees and subcommittees are meeting to focus on the return to school in September and what it might look like. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — State, regional and local committees and subcommittees are meeting to focus on the return to school in September and what it might look like.

“Schools will be required to develop reopening plans and submit them to the state Ed Department by July 31st,” Massena Central School Superintendent Patrick Brady told board of education members Thursday night.

He said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to release guidelines for returning to school on Monday.

“Sometime between Aug. 1 and 7, the governor will make an announcement on the reopening of schools,” Mr. Brady said. “There’s a lot of information coming out that’s going to impact the schools in the fall.”

When September rolls around, education could possibly look like one of four scenarios — return without restrictions; in-person learning with new safety requirements in areas such as social distancing, personal protective equipment, masks and disinfecting; a hybrid of in-person and remote learning; or continued remote learning.

A number of committees and subcommittees are exploring the different facets of opening school doors again. Schools have been closed since mid-March when teachers and students went to distance learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Massena, Mr. Brady said the district has a Reopening School Committee and subcommittees for health and safety; teaching and learning (pre-kindergarten to grade six); teaching and learning (grades seven through 12); and social emotional learning/mental health.

The district’s Reopening School Committee, comprised of administration, union leadership and representatives from Trinity Catholic School met this week to begin plans to bring students and staff back this fall. The subcommittees are led by administration and include staff, parents and students.

Because there are no official guidelines from the state yet, the committees and subcommittees are using guidance that has been developed in other states like Massachusetts and Connecticut. They’re also using guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other sources for their preliminary planning.

Mr. Brady said they’ve also surveyed staff to get their input on how they envision teaching in person, in a hybrid of in-person and remote learning, or through strictly remote learning, and what suggestions they could offer.

Input is also being sought from parents, students, staff and community members, who are asked to take a survey developed by the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services. It can be found at, wdt.me/schoolsurvey and seeks input on what should be considered when planning to reopen schools. That survey will be available until July 16.

“We can really get a sense of what the community is thinking. In this case, we can go by community or by region. I think that will be helpful,” Mr. Brady said.

Board member Loren Fountaine said one issue they need to consider, if students return to the classroom, is that some of them may be high risk, catch the coronavirus and parents sue the school.

“What kind of insurance do we have to protect against things like that? I see that as a big issue, making sure our insurance covers that,” he said.

“How do we prove they contracted it here?” board member Kevin Perretta wondered.

“If the teacher tests positive and two days later they test positive,” Mr. Fountaine said. “I just want to be sure we have an insurance policy that covers that.”

Mr. Fountaine and Mr. Perretta also wondered what protocol would be used if parents didn’t want to send their student to school or staff did not want to return. Mr. Brady said they would need guidance from the state Education Department for the students, and staff could be taken on a case-by-case basis.

“It won’t be a blanket policy,” he said.

The district’s 11- and 12-month employees have already return to work as of Monday, he said.

“Many of them were already back,” Mr. Brady said.

He said those who have returned fill out an online questionnaire to screen for COVID-19 prior to their return. They are also expected to follow safety precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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