B y PJ Ferguson

 

The Whitehall Central School District closed on Monday, March 16, because of rising concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and will remain closed until at least Friday, April 17, but it is uncertain if the pandemic will be resolved by then as New York State cases are now anticipated to peak by the end of April, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state health experts.

Whitehall Superintendent Patrick Dee

“No one working in a school system has faced anything like this,” said Whitehall superintendent Patrick Dee, “We are in uncharted waters.”

Even with the facilities closed, the district is looking to continue to educate students in grades 4-12 online and deliver packets to younger students.

“We’re trying to retain some level of normalcy and provide some level of quality education,” said Dee.

While the majority of Whitehall students have access to the internet, the district is asking parents to reach out to them if they do not have internet capability and instead packets will be delivered.

The district has provided their grades 4-12 students with Chromebooks to complete their lessons.

The lessons will not feature live interactions with their teachers as “the streaming capabilities are not necessarily there for a lot” of the students.

As Whitehall has a fairly large percentage of economically disadvantaged students, sitting at 64%, the district is also taking the initiative to deliver breakfast and lunch to those who opt-in to the service.

If you would like to opt-in, call the school of your oldest child and provide the names of all of the children that meals will be provided for.

Meals will begin being delivered this week at your child’s bus stop location at their usual elementary school pick-up time.

“Individuals picking up food are strongly encouraged to follow all recommended precautions while waiting, and maintain appropriate social distancing,” said Dee in a written statement posted on the school’s website.

The bus runs will also be used to deliver the instructional packets to students.

All spring sporting events and other extracurricular activities are also postponed until further notice.

All staff will continue receiving full pay and benefits during the school’s closing. Those in the administrative offices will continue to work on-site.

The district will allow students in small groups of 10 or fewer to come into the schools to retrieve belongings.

It is anticipated that the closing will impact state test exams but it is unknown to what extent.

“State Ed has been of no help or support throughout this matter,” said Dee, “There are a lot more questions than there are answers.”

Dee could confirm that the school year will not be extended into the summer, as Governor Cuomo has waived the 180-school-day mandate.

As the news surrounding the pandemic continues to change by the days and hours, Dee admits that they are “making this up” as they go in this unprecedented situation.

“We’re trying the best we can for our students,” said Dee.

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