As Capital Region businesses, restaurants and retail stores slowly begin to reopen during the second phase of the state’s multi-pronged Reopening Plan, BH-BL is preparing to reopen its offices on Monday, June 15.
The district shifted to remote learning and teaching as well as remote working in mid-March when Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Although school district offices were classified as essential businesses, BH-BL school leaders, as a safety precaution, opted to limit the number of employees on campus at any given time to essential school administrators, supervisors, administrative assistants, food service, maintenance, and security.
“For the last couple of months we have limited our on-site personnel,” says Superintendent Patrick McGrath. “The state, however, has said businesses can now return onsite as long as preventive practices and protocols are put in place. We are looking forward to opening our offices.”
As part of the Reopening Plan, the Governor announced that the state was divided into seven different regions and that businesses were categorized into four phases. In early June, he declared that the Capital Region was allowed to enter into Phase II of the Reopening Plan. Office-based work, including school district offices, was deemed eligible for Phase II. (Phase IV is when school districts can return to in-person instruction.)
This past week, BH-BL’s Custodial Department took measures to ensure the school buildings are ready for staff and in compliance with Phase II protocols. This includes following the Center for Disease Control and NYS Department of Health guidelines to thoroughly clean each workspace daily; ensure hand sanitizer is readily available throughout each building; and that paper towels and hand soap are continually stocked in the restrooms. Additionally, common areas and entryways have been rearranged to ensure a six foot social distance and include floor markers where people might typically form lines. Directional arrows have also been placed in frequently travelled hallways to ensure one-directional foot traffic.
The district will also closely follow health and safety screening criteria established by the state that prohibits any employee or visitor from entering district buildings without undergoing a COVID-19 screening. The screening includes three questions that pertain to experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, testing positive for COVID-19, and being in contact with someone who has COVID-19. The district’s Human Resources Department will maintain a daily log of the screenings should the department need to notify the County Department of Health.
In accordance with reopening practices, BH-BL will supply every employee with a face mask that must be worn when moving throughout a building and when they are less than 6 feet away from others. Visitors coming to any of the buildings must also wear facemasks at all times. Plastic shields have been fabricated for shared workspaces. Meetings involving more than 10 people at a time will continue to be conducted digitally through Google Meet.
“This is a first step in a journey,” adds McGrath. “The BH-BL Re-Opening Committee has begun developing plans for faculty and student re-entry in September. It is our hope that we will be back together in a traditional fashion at that time. However, as we have seen, much of our planning is constrained by the most current guidance from the Department of Health and the Governor. Our work this summer is focused on being well-prepared for any eventuality.”
The offices at all five school buildings and the district office are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.