Board of Education Discusses Reopening School

Lucy Edmunds, Editor-In-Chief, Senior

In recent months there has been pressure by both parents and students to open Pelham schools for complete in-person learning. Arguments have been made regarding the importance of in-person learning for students, especially for those of high school age. The Pelham Board of Education gathered to discuss this possibility, a position that 858 high school student parents advocated for in a recent survey. 

The Board’s stated priorities for reopening schools for complete in-person teaching are as follows: 

  • Holistic health and safety of students, 
  • Holistic health and safety of staff, 
  • Quality delivery of core curriculum in an equitable manner, 
  • Alignment with requirements, guidelines, and most recent scientific research. 

With all that in mind, the transition would require strict following of New York State Department of Health restrictions. Additionally, achieving the reopening of schools would require an Advisory Task Force (which has been established), advocacy by the community, planning at the administrative level, and administering a family reopening survey amough other examinations and manipulation of available learning space.

Distance is vital in protecting schools against the spread of COVID-19, however, the high school is not equipped for the standard 6 foot distance between all students. The board proposed that they would revisit options for additional space such as tents/outdoor learning and the old Hutchinson Elementary School. However, making these options available is not a small task:  there must continue to be a bell schedule that leaves five minutes for students to travel from class to class, room and practicality for students “shields”, a system to eat lunch safely, as well as a plan extracurricular courses such as band, orchestra, and chorus to proceed. Another concern is teacher attention to students who choose to remain virtual with the majority of classes being in-person. There must also be options for Physical Education courses in the event that weather restricts their activity space. The board reminded that despite precautions, limiting space in any manner and adding to the population of students that congregate at school each day will ultimately increase the amount of COVID-19 cases.

The Pelham Board of Education included in their presentation, a list of metrics that will be used to assess the school’s ability to fully open. CDC guidelines and community should play an obvious role in this. Internal testing results (which are planned to be 20% high-risk athletes), vaccine rollout and warmer temperatures along with adjustment of furniture placement and air purification will also be taken into consideration.

There yet to be an established date for full-return to the school. The board’s discussion slides may be procured through an email sent to parents and staff of PMHS.