NORFOLK — It’s not set in stone, but Norwood-Norfolk Central School Superintendent James Cruikshank gave his board of education a preview of what reopening school to more students could look like with revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
“I teased out from the guidance things that have to change. It’s not solid, it’s not done yet. I can go through and show you somewhat of a template of where we’re going,” he said during the latest meeting.
Any updated guidance must be developed with stakeholder feedback, but will not be reviewed or approved by the New York State Department of Health. Mr. Cruikshank has shared a draft plan with the board of education, reviewed it with administrators and shared with parents and staff during Zoom sessions that were offered to answer any questions.
“I met with the community on March 29 to talk about the CDC changes. Tomorrow I’m going to start working with our teachers and our non-instructional units, getting their feedback. Once I get a lot of feedback, then I’ll have a better sense of what our community acceptance will be. That’s written in there. It’s up to communities to a large degree,” he said.
Under the updated CDC guidance, masks must be worn by everyone at all times, but can be removed during meals if individuals are seated and appropriately physically distanced. Mr. Cruikshank said masks are the norm at Norwood-Norfolk, and the students have adapted.
“They’re no longer even accepting mask breaks,” he said.
To better meet the guidance for meals, he said additional space can be added in the cafeteria where practical, as well as outside and alternate locations such as hallways and the elementary school lobby.
The CDC has set new physical distancing recommendations for classrooms, in some cases with at least 3 feet permitted and cohorting recommended. At the middle and schools, physical distancing must be at least 6 feet if cohorting cannot be maintained.
“Cohorting is just recommended. This guidance pushes elementary. We’re not seeing the transmission between them,” Mr. Cruikshank said.
If the transmission rate increases and adjustments must be made, students in grades seven and up would likely have to shift to a hybrid model.
“What are we going to do if it hits a high and we’re in the middle of a third period math class. That’s what we don’t know,” he said.
Under the updated guidance, there could be room for additional remote elementary students to return to in-person instruction, with cohorting already in place to keep the same students together throughout the day.
At the middle school, there would be room for additional grades five and six remote students to return to in-person instruction, with cohorting already in place.
Grades seven and eight, as well as high school students would return to four days per week of in-person instruction if they choose, and no hybrid model would be used unless community transmission rates were high and cohorting was not possible.
In the busing area, Mr. Cruikshank said they could continue to encourage parents to transport students or have students bike to school. School districts and BOCES are encouraged to maximize physical distancing and attempt to reduce density on buses.
He said bus capacity would range from 13 to 36 students on a 60-passenger bus to maintain physical distancing.