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April 12, 2020 IRCSD COVID-19 Update

A MESSAGE FROM SUPERINTENDENT


DOBMEIER

Dear Members of the Indian River Community,

First, we hope this finds you and your family well after Spring Break. The weather in the North Country
was beautiful, and we all needed a bit of sunshine, warmth, and the opportunity to be outside enjoying
whatever helps us recharge from the long COVID winter.

Late on Friday, April 9th, NY schools received updated guidance from the New York State
Department of Health regarding the latest recommendations from the CDC. Among other items, this
guidance addresses the important issues of physical distance in schools, masking, and other COVID-
related considerations for schools.

As with so many items during this time, the guidance details are often not visible via the media
headlines or social media. Our building and district teams are reviewing these guidance documents for
potential opportunities in how we may incorporate shifts into our existing plans for a slow, steady, and
thoughtful return to in-person instruction. Here are a few highlights from the updated guidelines:

Masking - 100% masking (with scheduled breaks) is required prior to any changes. IRCSD is
already doing this aspect of the guidance, so there will be no challenge with this particular item.
Yay!
Classroom spacing - In certain classroom situations, students may be able to be positioned with
3 feet of spatial distance as long as certain criteria are met (low community positivity rates, 100%
masking, 6 feet distance for teachers/adults, continued cohorting, etc.). There are also different
spacing restrictions for grades K-5 vs. 6-12 related to county-based transmission of COVID-19. As
of this writing, Jefferson County is indicated as ‘Substantial Risk’ (borderline ‘High Risk’) meaning
that cohorting of students is still recommended to reduce possible transmission.
Music/PE - Music and other breathing-intensive activities may now utilize a six foot distance rather
than 12. This shift had been anticipated and can be implemented with minimal difficulty. Yay!
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Transportation - Transportation/busing must still include a minimum of 6 feet of spatial distance.
This area continues to be a great challenge for large geographic school districts like Indian River,
and will likely prevent large-scale returns to in-person learning, at least for the short term.
Mealtime - Students may remove masks while eating, but must be spaced at least 6 feet apart
during meals. This, too, creates the logistical challenge of feeding students with enough space
(and supervision within spaces).

With the above in mind, any changes to our academic program will be slow and methodical. We are
hopeful that the future will allow welcome changes that will allow for a full return of our students to
daily in-person attendance. (As of this writing, IRCSD has brought more than 500 students back to
some form of three or four day instruction with more added each week.) As mentioned above, even
with a reduced community transmission rate, IRCSD faces real challenges in the areas of
transportation and meal service for large-scale shifts. Despite these challenges, it is our intention to
continue to explore ways we can safely increase in-person student instruction opportunities for
students, and we will do so with careful consideration of health and safety concerns as well as
academic opportunities.

Again, please be aware with this new guidance, we will need time to review, understand, and
implement any changes. It will also be important to obtain feedback from all of our stakeholders.
Therefore, any new guidance will not be met with an immediate/overnight change. Rather, we will
need a period of time to plan for the remainder of the school year (busing routes, classroom spaces,
student schedules, etc.) based upon NYSDOH recommendations, feedback from our stakeholders,
and our current efforts to return more students to school on more days. It is likely that you will receive
requests for input via survey(s) and/or other means in the near future. Please help us by sharing your
thoughts.

Thank you for all you do to support our students and community! Please stay safe, stay healthy, and
remain #WarriorStrong!

Mary Anne Dobmeier


Indian River Central School Superintendent

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