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Delaware Academy returns to in-person learning model May 3

Read on for guidelines, accommodations, and special considerations regarding a move to in-person academics. 

Sunday, April 25 2021

Hello Delaware Academy Families,

I am writing to provide everyone an update on the District's plans for a return to in-person learning.  Please read this notice in its entirety.  Since our first community survey, our Reopening Committee has met on a weekly basis in addition to many hours spent by district leaders to evaluate the opportunities and concerns related to a plan for this return. 

I'll first start by sharing my utmost gratitude with our Reopening Committee for their hard work and "can-do" attitude throughout our meetings.  Although we started with the same committee that had tackled reopening over the summer, we added more students, another parent, more teachers and another Board member.  This team grappled with many difficult decisions and discussed many reasons "why" and "why not.”  However, this team worked hard to find solutions, constantly weighing potential costs with benefits, grounded in CDC and NYS DOH guidelines and requirements.  The team sought to develop solutions that offered minimal disruption to master schedules and to maintain teacher/student relationships that have already been established. 

Potential sacrifices and risks were also discussed including the fact that quarantine procedures will not change, meaning that if there is a positive case in a classroom, more students may be present within a six-foot radius if distancing is reduced to three feet.  Other sacrifices included changes to lunch times and procedures, increasing class sizes beyond what we've become accustomed to this year, the possibility of changing locations for a few classes in the HS, and asking our families to assist with daily transportation.  

The position of the NYS DOH and Delaware County Public Health are clear.  NYS DOH guidance notes that, "Responsible parties should prioritize efforts to return all students to in-person instruction."  In a regional call with Public Health it was noted that, "Every district must put their best foot forward in returning students to in-person learning."  As you know, we also asked our families to complete two surveys, resulting in a majority of families seeking to return despite these potential sacrifices and risks.  

Therefore, starting on Monday, May 3, Delaware Academy's Plan is as follows:

• Elementary School - All students who wish to return to in-person learning every day will do so. Classrooms are being reset to add student desks to meet updated physical distancing allowances of 3-feet between students. Remote-only models will continue to meet the needs of students who choose to remain remote learners through the same remote-only specialists at all grades.  This means no change to current models in grade K-1.  In grades 2-5, class sizes will increase to approximately 20-24 students.  For lunch, grades 4-5 will walk to the MS cafeteria for lunch each day.  This will result in changes to lunch times in grades 2-5.  Grades 2 & 4 will now eat lunch from 10:15-10:45 and grades 3 & 5 will eat lunch from 12:30-1:00.  These changes are necessary to maintain the required six feet of distance while eating.  A hybrid option will be maintained at the Elementary School only.  We have done our very best to keep the same teachers for all students, however this may change over the next week as numbers are finalized.  You will receive a letter, confirming your child’s teacher from Mrs. Mable. 

• Middle & High School - All students who wish to return to in-person learning every day will do so.  There is no longer a hybrid option.  Remote-only models will continue to meet the needs of students who choose to remain remote learners.   However, in some classes where this results in all students returning in-person, synchronous (livestreamed) remote instruction may not be available.  In those cases, instruction will be delivered asynchronously.  Classrooms are being reset to add student desks to meet updated physical distancing allowances of 3-feet between students.  There are no changes to the master schedule.  Grades 6-8 will have lunch during their currently scheduled periods, however, 1/2 of the class will eat for 20 minutes then move to the gym for P.E. while the other half of the class eats.  This maintains six feet of physical distancing and increases opportunities for all middle-schoolers to have P.E. in school.  There are no changes to lunches for grades 9-12, where physical distancing remains at six feet.   

The following items apply to all grades (K-12):

• Masks will continue to be required throughout the day, except when distanced at six feet for eating and during teacher-directed mask breaks. 

• Transportation – NYS regulations for transportation have not changed.  We will continue to seat one student per seat, unless there are members of the same household who will be seated together.  All seats will be assigned.  Due to the increased number of students who require will transportation on a daily basis, and in order to maintain regulatory requirements, the District will be extremely limited in its ability to grant daily requests for changes to transportation pick-up or drop-off locations.  If a bus is at capacity, such requests will be denied.  Thank you to all parents and guardians who have indicated that they are able to provide transportation. 

• Early release is still permitted for Seniors unless directed to stay for academic support. 

• Changes to models will not be allowed after May 3.  If you require a model that is different than what you already noted on the last survey, please call your child’s Main Office by Friday, April 30.

Elementary Main Office:  (607) 746-2105

Middle/High Main Office:  (607) 746-1281

• All other District procedures including daily health screenings and cleaning and disinfection protocols will continue. 

County metrics have been checked and confirmed with Delaware County Public Health for this reset.  Should infection rates rise, we will shift back to individual quarantines, partial closures, or remote-only platforms.  We will not shift back to hybrid models.  The District will continue to notify the community with each identified case.  A link to the most recent NYS DOH Guidance document can be found HERE

There will be a Public Forum, in which the updated plan will be presented along with an opportunity for public Q & A on TuesdayApril 27 at 6:00pm in the auditorium.  This is part of our regularly scheduled BOE meeting.  In-person seating will be limited, pre-registration required, and open to faculty, staff, and parents/guardians.  There are links on our website to the Board of Education meeting and to a form to submit questions virtually following the presentation. 

I truly believe that this is an opportunity; an opportunity to reunite our students and begin to re-establish classroom cultures, an opportunity to address the social/emotional effects that models of isolation have had on our students, and an opportunity to prepare our students for a full return in the fall. 

Simon Sinek, a leadership author and writer said, "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."  This has certainly been a year of change and Delaware Academy has risen to the challenge every time.  Here we are again.  Please join us as we keep moving forward.    

Sincerely,

Kelly M. Zimmerman
Superintendent

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