School districts in Otsego County reopened on Monday, January 3, amid a continuing rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country, with the Omicron variant chiefly responsible.
But the response from the various superintendents was to stay the course and continue protocols that work for them, including guidelines such as mask wearing and social distancing.
Cooperstown Central School Superintendent Sarah Spross said district protocol last changed in mid-December, with layered mitigation strategies provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Otsego County Department of Health, and the New York State Department of Education. The guidelines include designating three-foot distancing spaces throughout school buildings.
“District leadership and nursing staff are currently working with the ONC BOCES, area superintendents, and the Otsego County Health Department to review new guidance and its impact on our operational plan,” Ms. Spross said.
Oneonta Central School Superintendent Tom Brindley said the city’s district remains prepared with safety precautions in place since the start of the 2020-21 school year.
“If there is a cluster that breaks out in the classroom or grade, we’ll work with the Department of Health,” he said.
Mr. Brindley said he wasn’t concerned COVID-19 would affect the school staying open.
“As long as we can transport our kids, feed our kids, and cover faculty and staff absences, then we can remain open,” he said.
Milford Central School interim Superintendent Romona Wenck said the district is ready for the opening regardless of COVID-19 news.
“We’ve been following the same protocols we’ve been following all year,” Ms. Wenck said. “We need to make sure we stay consistent and continue to move forward.”
She said area school superintendents meet weekly with Otsego County Health Director Heidi Bond, focusing first on ensuring the safety of students and keep a watchful eye on COVID-19 numbers in the school.
“Our school nurse does an out-standing job,” Ms. Wenck said. She said overall numbers of symptomatic students have been low to date, but the district nonetheless continues to keep a close eye on athletic programs and potential student exposure in such conditions.
“So far we’ve kept our school open and that’s the goal,” she said. “We don’t see high transmission in school.”
Worcester Superintendent Tim Gonzales echoed his county school administrator counterparts’ sentiments.
“We’ve kept the same protocols in place,” he said. “It’s worked so far. We don’t really want to change it, despite some fears of rising COVID cases in the county.”
“I know the Omicron variant is out there but if we keep doing the same protocols, we’ll be fine,” he said.