Letter from Superintendent McGrath: Classes to Resume Jan. 4 & Other Updates

I hope everyone had a restful and enjoyable break and that 2021 is a great year for us all.  I have a few important housekeeping items to share as we get ready to return to school tomorrow.

Covid-19 Update

You’ve likely seen on the news over the past few days that there has been conflicting information and guidance about school closures in our area. I want to reassure you that at BH-BL we are resuming classes, both in-person and remote, as previously scheduled on Monday, January 4. (Monday is a maroon day at the middle and high schools and a Fireflies day for kindergarten students.)

We recognize that the COVID-19 infection rate has continued to increase in our area in recent days. However, all available data indicates that the rate of virus transmission in schools is low. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that the precautions schools have taken have been effective. In fact, within the past 10 days we have only received notification of two new reported cases of COVID within our district.

Unless staffing shortages require all-remote learning or there is evidence of broader virus transmission in schools, our schools will remain open for in-person learning. We will continue to work with our public health partners to monitor all available information, including how the increased infection rates relate to schools. Please visit our COVID-related page on our website where we post notices about COVID-19 cases and other relevant information.

At school, all of our health and safety precautions remain fully in effect. They include mask wearing, social distancing, daily cleaning and disinfecting, and the weekday health screenings through Qualtrics. We again remind you that it is critical to answer the screening honestly and that anyone who is sick should stay home. These are important precautions designed to limit the spread of the virus.

Social Media Threat

You may also have seen some social media chatter about a threat involving our high school. During the holiday break local law enforcement investigated a student-related threat made in early December and only recently reported. The investigation concluded that there was no credibility to the threat and the situation has been deemed harmless by the police. Appropriate measures are being taken by high school administration to address the actions of the student involved.

Winter Weather

Lastly, the weather forecast is calling for a wintry mix tomorrow morning that may impact the morning commute.  As is always the case this time of year, we could potentially call for an emergency closing or delay using our regularly established procedures.  This one looks like it would only be a 2-hr delay if anything at all, but I thought it was worth mentioning since there is some uncertainty in the forecast and it’s our first day back!

Please note that since we used two snow days in December, we have limited flexibility to call additional snow days.  At this point our calendar could accommodate one more snow day with no alterations and the possibility of an additional snow day with slight alterations to end-of-year schedules. With nearly three months of winter weather ahead of us, there is the possibility at some point this winter of holding “fully remote” days of learning rather than traditional snow days, depending on the circumstances.  The decision on “fully remote” versus “traditional snow day” will be made as early as possible and will be announced through all of the regular communication channels.  It makes sense to reserve our remaining traditional snow days for times when power outages are a factor in addition to hazardous road conditions.  Unlike a traditional snow day, a “fully remote” day will count for attendance and state aid purposes, and students would be expected to be in “remote” attendance.  Specifics of the schedule for a “fully remote” day would vary by grade level and details would be communicated to parents and students by your principal.  Refer to our “Emergency Closing & Delays” web page for updated procedures.

We look forward to welcoming back our remote and in-person students tomorrow and kicking off 2021 in a positive, hopeful way. As we head into the second half of the 2020-21 school year, we are focused on creating the best educational experiences we can provide under the circumstances and safely returning to normalcy as soon as possible. To do this, we must all work together, be flexible, and adhere to the health guidelines that have helped us be successful so far this school year.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email me or reach out to your school principal.

Patrick McGrath, BH-BL Superintendent