With the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases in the City of Newburgh and surrounding areas, the Newburgh Enlarged City School District made the call to return to completely remote learning, from the recommendation of the Orange County Department of Health.
The remote transition is not until Monday, November 30, following the Thanksgiving weekend. Students in the blue cohort will have their last in-person learning day on Tuesday, November 24, where they should be prepared to bring all learning materials home with them. For the gold cohort, that day was on Friday, November 20.
The decision was made because “although school infection rates are low, our community is experiencing a rise in cases.” As of November 18, the City of Newburgh has a total of 2,047 cases, 157 of which are active. The Town of Newburgh has a total of 1,092 cases, 112 of which are active. New Windsor has a total of 1,271 cases, 146 of which are active.
New York State’s COVID-19 “Report Card” tracker for cases in schools, recorded that the district had a total of 80 positive tests since September 1 that were lab reported and 69 positive (52 students and 17 teachers/staff) tests since September 8 that were reported by the school district. Twenty-one of the lab reported COVID cases were in the last seven days and 21 of the school district reported positives were in the last seven days as well.
“We preferred a socially-distant, in-person model, however, given the national and local trends, it is prudent for us to pivot to fully remote at this time,” read the Newburgh Enlarged City School District’s announcement.
Just days before, Superintendent Roberto Padilla sent out another letter forewarning parents and guardians that the district could be transitioning to remote learning soon.
“Fortunately, we have had time to prepare for this scenario and are much better equipped for a smooth transition than we were in the spring,” read the letter.
The transition to remote learning will be until Friday, January 15. They plan to resume live, synchronous instruction four days a week on the following Monday, which is January 19. Wednesdays will continue to be asynchronous learning days. However, the decision to resume learning will also rely on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s metrics and what the COVID-19 situation looks like at the time.
“Based on the research that indicates potential infection periods and quarantine times, January 15th is 14 days after New Year’s Eve, one of the last holidays in this upcoming season,” said Cassie Sklarz, communications strategist for the Newburgh Enlarged City School District.
While students are remote, weekly meal distribution will continue on its same planned schedule. Meals are provided at no cost for all children ages 18 and under. The school district also has technology support for those who need it.
The Newburgh Enlarged City School District was remote for all of September so the remote learning situation won’t necessarily be new, but it doesn’t make it any easier on parents and guardians.
Community members had a flood of questions like will they be able to opt out their student from in-person learning for the rest of the year and if the school day would be starting at 7 or 9 a.m., as they started at 9 a.m. back in September. Others had concerns about child care options.
The district hasn’t issued any guidance on childcare or discussed work spaces like the hybrid centers they had in September for those who need access to WiFi and an adult to assist them if needed. However, places like the Child Care Council of Orange County, Inc. have resources for childcare, including a scholarship to fund child care for those who have to go to work.
“Although the infection rate in the area is trending upward, positive cases in the schools have been relatively low,” said Sklarz on why they gave such notice to the transition to remote learning. “We also understand that families may need to prepare for an extended period of remote learning. We recognize this may cause a hardship on families, however, we are required to follow the science and recommendations of the medical experts. We will continue to work with families through our Family and Community Engagement Department to help in areas that we can and assist outreach to the Childcare Council of Orange County.”