Amid concerns about re-opening its school buildings in September during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Warwick Valley School District officially began the 2020-21 school year by swearing in its newly re-elected members, president and vice president for the coming term at its annual organizational meeting on Thursday, July 2.
The school board continues to meet by phone conference as it navigates the pandemic. A notable change about this meeting is that it – along with all scheduled meetings for 2020-21 – was held on a Thursday, changing a long-standing precedent of Monday meetings.
Returning to the board were members John Garcia, Bob Howe and Dory Masefield; Sharon Davis took the oath to continue as board president; Keith Parsons was again sworn-in as school board vice president.
Schools Superintendent Dr. David Leach also took his oath of office.
The board approved several items on its agenda, including both a plan and a committee for Special Education students for the 2020-21 school year, as well as okaying the list of impartial hearing officers.
The BOE gave its assent to board members Dave Eaton and Dory Masefield as delegates to the Orange County School Boards Association, with Keith Parsons and Eilleen Gagliano to serve as alternates.
Re-opening school in the fall
The administration is working with a task force comprising medical professionals, teachers and school board members, among others, according to Schools Superintendent Dr. David Leach.
The task force’s first meeting was held about a week ago; they expected to release a formal statement on July 7, regarding re-opening.
“We have time now ... to put a plan in place,” Leach said. “We’re trying to practice positive thinking,” despite the challenges concerning the pandemic.
“There’s no expiration date to student learning,” Leach continued. “There will probably be some portion of (the coming year) that will be remote learning.”
The district will be drawing on a variety of planning resources, including New Jersey, Connecticut and other relevant state plans; articles of interest on the subject; and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. There is no official plan from New York State yet.
Leach said he’s giving the task force about a week to digest the materials, consider the pros and cons of different models, and will expect the group to vote by consensus.
The task force will break into operation teams, investigating instruction, safety and health and economic issues. Leach emphasized that medical professionals will be a part of this process.
He added that the group will continue to meet over the summer, and will keep the public informed at regular intervals, and will explore social distancing, “cohorting,” mask-wearing, etc.
“It’s a thorough process ... so far, so good ... we’ll keep the Board apprised,” Leach said.
He continued that the district will make available press releases, videos and current thinking about the pandemic on the section of its website dedicated to COVID-19.
“We all want ‘normal’ back, but none of us can guarantee it.”
Aug. 6, 7 p.m., regular meeting via teleconference.
Aug. 20, 7 p.m., special meeting.