The Newburgh Enlarged City School District officially reopened its doors to students on Monday, October 5 for a hybrid model of teaching as they enter phase two of their reopening plan.
The District is aiming for all grade levels to be in a hybrid school rotation by the end of the first semester.
The first to return to school are students with special needs, those who receive specific services and students new to a grade level.
Phase three, which has an unknown start date, will allow grades 3, 4, 5, 7, 10 and 11 to begin in-person learning. By phase four, every student will have the option to return to in-person learning.
The reopening is taking place with two separate cohort groups, blue and gold. These inform students on which days they are allowed to attend in-person classes. The blue cohort comes for in-person learning on Mondays and Tuesdays while the Gold Cohort comes on Thursdays and Fridays.
Wednesday is a virtual, asynchronous learning day for all students.
Starting on October 5, all scholars, including 100 percent virtual scholars, returned to a normal school day schedule. Start times are at 7:15 a.m, 8:15 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., following their three tier system.
To uphold safety, all students, employees and visitors are required to wear a mask while on school grounds. However, mask breaks are allowed for students at the direction of the classroom teacher.
As many families struggle to navigate virtual and hybrid learning, the District has created hybrid centers to help provide relief.
Students who are not scheduled for their blue or gold in-person day can utilize the hybrid center and receive access to WiFi, Social Emotional Learning supports, meals and an adult who can assist them instructionally if needed.
Transportation is also provided if needed. The locations that have been identified as hybrid centers include Horizons on the Hudson, Fostertown, Vails Gate and NFA Main. Scholars do not need to attend one of these schools to access the center.
Criteria for eligibility is being developed due to limited access.
Despite the scheduled reopening, there has been a recent uptick in positive coronavirus cases in the area. Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus reported on Monday, September 28 that there were 112 positive COVID-19 cases in Orange County, being the largest jump since May. A week later, on October 5, there were 113 new cases. To put it into perspective, there were only 38 positive cases on Monday, September 21.
On October 4, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported that 21 percent of all positive cases in New York came from a total of 20 hotspot zip codes, with an Orange County zip code sitting at number one.
The Orange County zip code was 10950, which includes Monroe, Woodbury, Kiryas Joel, South Blooming Grove, Marycrest and Walton Park.
However, 12550 is also on the hotspot list. This zip code includes some of the city of Newburgh and neighboring municipalities. There was a 7.2 percent positive in the 12550 area on October 3.
During Governor Cuomo’s October 5 press conference, he said that schools in New York City’s hotspot zip codes will close on October 6. He said that the state “may” close schools in Orange and Rockland county hotspots at some point and that “we don’t have the same level of problem.”
Parents are concerned about children who come from out of the City to attend the district.
“A zip code is not the best definition of the applicable zone,” said Cuomo. “A school in a zip code is an imperfect indicator because the school’s enrollment area is different.”
Orange County Executive Steve Neauhaus said he is advocating that shutdowns happen based on municipalities, instead of zip codes.
One concerned individual commented on Facebook, “If a parent did not opt for 100 percent virtual before the deadline but now don’t feel comfortable sending their child to school because of the cases on the rise in Orange County (Newburgh/New Windsor included). What are their options at this time?”
The Newburgh Enlarged City School District is advising people at this time to contact building principals if they wish to switch to completely virtual learning.
“The district has been monitoring the situation everyday nationally, in Orange County, and in local school districts that have already returned to in-person learning,” said the District’s Communications Director Cassie Sklarz. “It has been very helpful that some data has now been provided by zip code. At this time, the district reopening plan remains the same, and we expect to share information about additional reopening phases next on October 9th.”