Dear GD Families,
Our goal is to continue, as we successfully did last year, to provide in-person learning five days per week during the entire 2021-22 school year. The spread of the Delta variant has certainly complicated our reopening plans, but we are confident that continuing the mitigation efforts put in place last year will provide a safe learning environment.
The recommended layered approach to mitigation strategies from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) enabled us to remain in school during the 2020-21 school year without a whole-school shutdown and with very few positive COVID-19 cases within our school community. Gardner-Dickinson will continue many of the same guidelines and strategies that were proven successful to prevent outbreaks and/or a school closure.
The following is a summary of our anticipated reopening plans based upon the guidelines and recommendations provided by the CDC, NYSDOH and NYSED in conjunction with our Regional County Departments of Health.
As you are aware, things are changing every day and directives for reopening schools have been back and forth with little detail. We are now being told that additional guidance will be forthcoming from the NYSDOH by September 1, so please be patient and continue to look at our updates on our website. A full updated reopening plan for the 2021-22 school year will be posted to our website by September 1.
Below is a summary of what we anticipate in our updated reopening plan unless we are directed to do otherwise by NYSDOH:
Multi-Layered Mitigation Strategies
Wynantskill UFSD will continue to:
- require parents to screen their children before bringing them to school, ensuring that they stay home and are seen by a doctor when they are sick;
- check the temperatures of all students and adults as they enter the building;
- promote frequent handwashing with soap and water and offering hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available;
- clean and disinfect our building and school buses; and
- maximize our ventilation system by running it 24 hours instead of 12.
*Please note as an additional screening tool this year, surveillance testing of students and staff may be implemented in the late fall in conjunction with Rensselaer County DOH.
In accordance with CDC and NYSED recommendations, face masks covering both the mouth and nose will be required for all students, staff and visitors inside schools and on school buses regardless of vaccination status. Masks will be optional when outdoors on school property. Students will be provided mask breaks when seated in class and socially distanced.
Students will remain at 6 feet of physical distance whenever possible throughout the school building. All classrooms will be set up so student desks are 6 feet apart from each other. Allowing us to continue at 6 feet of physical distance in the classroom is due to the fact that we have adequate space in the building to add additional learning spaces. We added a third section of 3rd, 5th and 7th grades by allocating additional rooms for classrooms and hiring additional faculty. Class sizes are between 15-20 with 20 being the max. Teachers may choose to have students work for short periods of time at 3 feet (pulling 2-3 students to the back table for reteaching) following additional mitigation strategies listed above.
All students and staff must wear face masks while riding on a school bus regardless of vaccination status. CDC guidelines permit buses to operate at full capacity. Windows and roof hatches will be open to increase ventilation on the bus. Cleaning and disinfecting will continue following each bus run daily.
Parents who plan on driving their children to and/or from school, are asked to please inform Kathy Fazioli, firstname.lastname@example.org, and/or Mike Goyer, email@example.com, in our Transportation Department to assist with our planning.
We would like to see our students move to the cafeteria this year instead of eating in their classrooms. We will attempt to social distance our students as much as possible and provide layered mitigation protocols that will include hand washing or hand sanitizer before and after meals; limiting mask removal to the duration of eating; cleaning and disinfection between lunch periods; providing increased ventilation of seating areas.
When indoors, students will maintain 6 feet of social distancing during physical education instruction. Physical education teachers will prioritize outdoor activities as weather permits.
Both girls and boys modified soccer teams will be offered to students this fall.
We are currently working with Questar III and Rensselaer County DOH to review requirements to implement a surveillance testing program of student athletes in accordance with CDC recommendations. Parent/guardian consent for testing of students is required and we will have more info coming soon.
Thank you to our new and very talented music teacher, Marie van Maastricht. We will be offering band this fall to our 7th and 8th graders. Band students will maintain the 6 feet social distance of students during instruction with bell covers to prevent aerosol spread.
A full remote option for students will not be made available this year from our faculty and staff at Gardner-Dickinson, as we are focusing all of our efforts toward our daily in-person instruction.
A fully remote option will only be considered for those students who have a documented medical condition that does not let them attend in person learning. Documentation for such a medical condition will be necessary for the district to discuss out-of-district remote options. Questar III BOCES is currently developing a program for medically eligible students, which would be taught by BOCES faculty. If you have a child that would be in need of such an alternate program, please contact Dr. Yodis as soon as possible at 518-283-4600 ext 250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CDC indicated that vaccination is the leading public health strategy to end the pandemic. All eligible individuals are encouraged to receive the vaccine as soon as possible.
Currently, there are three vaccines available (Pfizer-ages 12+, Moderna-ages 18+ and Johnson & Johnson-ages 18+). If you have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, please contact your family physician. If you need assistance finding where you can get a vaccine, click here.
- Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools (CDC)
- COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Back to School Health and Safety Guide (NYS Education Department)
We understand your apprehension and your continued frustration with the ongoing pandemic. However, we must continue to work together, model safe behavior and best practices for our students.
We need to continue to focus on our Gardner-Dickinson school community, which is like no other, and continue to have hope. Hope for wellness, hope for peace and hope for a successful in-person teaching and learning experience where our children are able to grow academically, socially and emotionally.
This pandemic has forced us to adapt and function in ways we have never imagined. This will undoubtedly be another year that will test our strength, patience, and ability to plan, adapt and improvise, but I am beyond confident that we will get through it together. We did it last year, and we will do it again … this time better, this time stronger! GD Family Strong!
Thank you for your continued support,
Dr. Mary Yodis