Message from Dr. L. Oliver Robinson – Welcome back! Forging ahead in 2021!

Written by on January 3, 2021

Dear Shenendehowa Community,

With 2020 in the rearview mirror, we look forward to embracing both the opportunities and challenges of 2021. 

As I noted in a correspondence last week, we remain steadfast in our commitment to forge ahead with efforts to provide a safe and high quality learning experience for our students. Unless staffing shortages require all-remote learning or there is an Executive Order by the Governor to close schools, our schools will remain open for in-person learning. In addition, remote learning options continue to be available to all families. 

Clearly, the realities of COVID continue to plague us as a society and we genuinely appreciate the concerns expressed by some. As I walked the malls this weekend to make some returns, witnessing the flocks of people brought a sense of normalcy. And, the presence of face coverings, social distancing and hand sanitizer being used by customer service employees reminded me that we all must remain diligent, taking on an even greater sense of responsibility. 

It is with that mindset that our school reopening plans were made and continue to be faithfully executed with a keen sense of reciprocal responsibility…being in it together. Administrators, faculty and staff have made the adjustments and have turned emerging practices into effective normal protocols. Students have adjusted to the realities of virtual learning, social distancing, hand hygiene and mask wearing. District personnel have fine-tuned protocols for contact tracing to minimize potential COVID exposures. Frankly, if it wasn’t for schools being open and completing contact tracing with fidelity, many cases would have gone undetected. We will continue to be even more diligent now that the quarantine period has been reduced from 14 days to 10 days by the NYS Department of Health.

Yes, the concerns are real and that is why we have been extremely diligent about ensuring safety protocols are being followed. Contrary to some recent politically-motivated comments or what some may choose to believe, let the facts speak for themselves – schools are safe places. We have been open for 16 weeks and to date we are not aware of a single COVID case that was due to someone attending school or working in a school building where protocols are followed. People are not contracting COVID at school, largely due to the keen contact tracing and our overprotective approach to keeping the message of COVID safety at the forefront. 

The data reveals COVID spread occurs outside of school, largely in family situations and social gatherings. Holiday break week serves as a great example where the District had to report cases on the NYS Dashboard for the time when schools were not in session.  The point I am making is that it is unfortunate that the New York State reporting process does not distinguish between when people contract COVID through travel, attendance at large gatherings, or other outside exposures, making it appear that schools are the source or cause of the COVID spread. SCHOOLS ARE NOT. 

We recognize that the COVID-19 infection rate has continued to increase in our area in recent days. If this region is identified as a designated Yellow, Orange, or Red  Zone, we are geared up to test the required 20% of in-person students and staff for COVID-19. We have completed all the necessary preparations and await the delivery of approximately 3,800 test kits this coming Wednesday, January 6. 

We thank the nearly 5,000 individuals, a combination of employees and students, who have consented to be tested.  Our nurse staffing, kudos to them, has completed preliminary training and stands ready to execute the testing protocols. In case you missed it, a video was made to demonstrate for students and staff how easy and unobtrusive the Rapid COVID-19 test is: https://youtu.be/y-7hLmUtiCo. Please consent to COVID testing so if we become a designated zone we will have a large and varied pool.

This is the most significant priority of the district and we continue to work with other districts within our region to ensure our collective best thinking and decision making.  In fact, the superintendents of the Capital Region BOCES met over the weekend (Saturday, Jan. 2) and we are united in our belief that schools are the best place for children to be during the day. We will remain focused on keeping our schools open, keeping our students and staff safe, and impressing upon parents and others to practice the same safety protocols out of school as they do when in school.  

We will continue to work with our public health partners to monitor all available information. At school, all of our health and safety precautions remain fully in effect. They include mask wearing, social distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, and the daily health screening. We again remind you that it is critical to honestly and accurately report when sick and to not show up for work or school. Anyone showing unexplained COVID symptoms must stay home.These are important precautions designed to limit the spread of the virus.

I am asking everyone to help shoulder the load as we forge ahead into 2021. Shen is in, we are in it together!

Committed to Excellence,

Dr. L. Oliver Robinson

Superintendent of Schools

Shenendehowa Central School District