Dear Byron-Bergen parents, guardians, and families:
My name is Scott Bischoping and I am serving as the District’s Interim Superintendent for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Although I have only been with the District for a short time, it is clear that Byron-Bergen is a very welcoming school community and I look forward to getting to know everyone.
The main topic that I would like to address is the possible change in instruction delivery to students in grades 6 through 12. You are likely aware of a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases and the positivity rate associated with the virus in Genesee County. That, along with state regulations allowing students to participate in higher risk sports, has opened discussions on transitioning students in grades 6-12 back to 5-day in-person instruction.
While the larger conversation regarding guidelines continues to evolve, we are preparing to transition students in grades 6-12 to 5-day in-person instruction at some point in April. If the social distancing expectations set by the NYS DOH are updated between now and spring break, we will use the break to increase classroom seating and return students in grades 6-8 and 11-12 beginning Tuesday, April 6th. Grades 9 and 10 would transition back beginning Monday, April 19th.
If the 6 foot social distancing guideline is not changed, we will pursue other options which could include physical barriers or use of additional personnel and spaces to return students for more days each week. In this scenario, our target date to begin the transition is April 19th.
Our top priority is the health and safety of our school community members. Byron-Bergen School District continues to report some of the lowest positivity rates in the region and, despite regional fluctuations in COVID-19 positivity rates, schools remain safe places when following CDC guidelines. We will continue to monitor the local and regional COVID-19 rates, the impact of vaccinations, and the introduction of variants of the virus. These will also contribute to any decisions made regarding the format for our instruction.
We feel confident in our ability to implement changes safely while incurring minimal risk to our students, faculty, and staff. However, we are asking for your feedback to help us gauge the level of support for this change. I encourage you to review the Question and Answer sheet accompanying this letter. It will provide information to assist you in completing the survey. A hard copy of the survey has been mailed home and you are welcome to complete and send to the Jr/Sr HS Office or the District Office. This survey can also be completed online through ParentSquare.
We look forward to getting your input so that we can make a decision that is in the best interest of our entire school community.
Return to 5-day in-person learning for grades 6-12 FAQ:
What would the transition to 5-day in-person learning look like?
If the NYS DOH updates social distancing guidelines, the transition to 5-day in-person learning would roll out in two phased intervals beginning Tuesday, April 6th. All grade levels would be in the building on Monday, April 19th, the first day of the 4th quarter. The phased-in return would be as follows:
- Tuesday, April 6th: Grades 6- 8, 11 and 12
- Monday, April 19th: Grades 9 and 10
If the NYS DOH does not update social distancing guidelines, the phased-in return would likely begin on Monday, April 19th. More information will follow.
Why does the District believe it may be the right time to return to 5-day in-person learning?
Several factors are being considered:
- Scientific data and guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) provide evidence that the use of face coverings, social distancing, and hand washing prevents the spread of the virus.
- Data shows that COVID positive students typically contracted the virus outside of school.
- Regional COVID numbers are decreasing, therefore cases coming in the building from the community are also reduced.
- The change to warmer weather will allow for fresh air in classrooms and outside activities which decreases the likelihood of transmission.
- There has been no increase in spread among students who participated in sports or other activities where social distancing is not possible but where face coverings and hand hygiene are still maintained.
What changes would there be to in-school health and safety regulations?
Jr./Sr. HS students would still be required to remain socially distanced whenever possible. If NYS DOH guidelines are not updated to reduce required distances, there will be certain classroom situations where it is not possible to maintain the required distance between individuals. In these cases, barriers may be installed, and students may be required to wear face coverings. Brief mask breaks will be provided.
How will students maintain social distance for lunch?
Lunch spaces will be reorganized to maximize efficiency and provide appropriate distance between students for lunch.
Why would the District invest in barriers in order to bring all the students back to school if barriers will only be temporarily necessary?
If the NYS DOH does not adjust social distancing guidelines by Spring Break, the District believes it probable that the current, or similar, guidelines will remain in place at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. With the expectation that a pediatric vaccination will not be ready until late summer or early fall, there would be no reason for a change in guidelines if they are not changed by the beginning of April.
How will transportation be affected?
Students have been required to wear face coverings on the bus all year and, because of the limited number of 6-12 students who ride the bus, there is an expectation of minimal seat sharing.
What are the risks of returning to 5-day in-person learning?
For many high school classes, there would be no change. For those students in classes requiring desks closer than 6’ distance, there may be a chance that more students will be quarantined should a student sitting nearby test positive for the virus. Due to either the use of barriers or the expectation that students wear face coverings paired with the lack of transmission within the school to date, the District does not anticipate an increase in transmission. The situation would be very closely monitored and adjustments made as needed.
What actions will the District take in the event of rising COVID numbers?
There is always the possibility of an increase in transmissibility with variants of the virus. A spike in cases would cause the District to revert to the existing hybrid schedule or temporarily move to fully-remote learning, depending on the severity.