Coronavirus update July 2 – Superintendent’s Update on reopening of schools

July 2, 2020

Dear BKW families and community,

I hope you are all safe and healthy. It has been a whirlwind the past three months. It is important to pause and express our appreciation to all our students, families, community members, and staff for having the grit and focus to make the shift to remote learning, despite digital challenges, and complete the school year with credible success. This was a heavy lift, with many problems to solve, but with patience and thought we found solutions to serve needs as they arose. I am grateful to be able to serve and support our students and community.

To everyone who participated in the budget vote and board elections. We are thankful for your vote of confidence and trust in supporting our budget and the current direction of our district.

I would be remiss if I did not say, “Congratulations” to the Class of 2020. With poise and grace, this group of young adults planned and executed a graduation ceremony like none before. They are a special group who has left an imprint on our district. I wish every single one of them the best for their future. They will do great things.

As the calendar has turned to July, our thoughts and planning have already been focused on the reopening of school in September. We have a fifteen (15) person task force meeting regularly and collecting current guidance and plans from around the country. We have very detailed guidance from the Center for Disease Control and the New York State Department of Health, as well as a guidance document released last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Our intent is to have our students back in school. We will also design operations and procedures to mitigate the spread of the virus- the use of masks where possible, handwashing, health screening of employees and visitors, disinfecting and cleaning throughout the day, and social distancing.

We believe it to be very important to have our youngest learners present to learn how to read and write, as well as effective social skills. We have been doing analysis of our instructional spaces and distancing protocols to guide our decisions about the healthiest way to deliver instruction to all students fairly.

We have taken steps to consider all student supports and delivery of services, including counseling, speech and OT/PT. We have made positive strides forward in the past few years, and we are determined to support students equitably in their efforts to continue the forward movement, academically and socially/emotionally.

In our secondary program, we may find we have ample space to conduct our programming on site. However, we see potential to create new opportunities for students to do hands-on projects, and/or work-based learning off campus under supervision. Our attitude is to find opportunity in every adversity or challenge.

Perhaps the two most challenging pieces to the puzzle are transportation and the uncertainty of future closures, whether short-term or long-term. We will be asking for more transportation feedback from parents in the coming weeks as we work to figure out how to transport students and abide by distancing rules.

In the event that we may have to close due to the virus at some point, or another, during the school year, we will maintain our remote platform capability. We know that some students do well in that setting, and we know that some students struggle in that setting. However, we must have a fall back position ready, if needed.

I will continue to share resources on our district website, so please stop in and review the current information. One of the lessons learned from the class of 2020 is that when we are unified, we can do anything. All segments of our staff are thinking through these issues, keeping students at the center of the thinking, and your feedback/support is greatly appreciated.

Enjoy some renewal time, and stay safe.

Regards,
Dr. Timothy Mundell
Superintendent of Schools

Resources

June 6: Governor signs executive order allowing in-person special education summer programs

On Friday, June 5, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order authorizing schools to provide in-person special education services over the summer. Summer programs for special education students will be offered at BKW on-site from July 6 to August 14 and will be aligned with health and safety protocols. Students who are usually served by out-of-district programs would continue at those locations. BKW’s extended school year special education programs serve students in grades K-6. More details will be provided to parents and guardians.

June 4: Message from Dr. Mundell about graduation, NYS Department of Health guidance

As Dr. Pitterson communicated in his most recent letter to senior parents, the BKW graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 will be held on June 24, at Jericho Drive-in, at 9 p.m.

We have worked closely with the senior class over the past month to gather their thoughts and design a graduation ceremony that reflects their best hopes for the event given these unprecedented circumstances and legal restrictions.

So there is clarity about the limitations imposed upon schools regarding graduation, please see the document linked below from the NYS Department of Health. As a district, we have taken steps to empower our seniors to design a ceremony that reflects their hopes, and we have done so in a manner that complies with all expectations in the current environment. We appreciate your ongoing support and flexibility as we all adjust to situations like this.

At the end of the day, our students were given a voice and stepped up to the plate with their best effort. We will celebrate their accomplishments. They are awesome!!!

Dr. Timothy Mundell
Superintendent of Schools

DOH COVID19 Graduation Document

May 24 – Online learning through June 17; staff conference day June 18

The academic year at BKW will end on June 17. This means that online learning will continue through that date, and as he directed in his May executive order declaring schools closed through the remainder of the academic year.

Monday, May 25, is Memorial Day, which is a federal holiday. Online classes will not be in session on that day, but will be in session Monday through Friday from today through June 17.

June 18 will be a conference day for staff.

May 1 – 5 p.m. – Schools closed through remainder of academic year, Budget/school board vote June 9 by mail

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that all schools in New York State will remain closed through the remainder of the academic year including athletics and extracurricular activities. A decision on summer school will be made by the governor by the end of May, he said. All offices and facilities remain closed under PAUSE. Schools will continue remote instruction, supplying meals to students and offering day care help to essential workers under the governor’s executive order. School districts were also ordered to put together a school reopening plan for when that happens. 

Gov. Cuomo also signed an executive order setting the school budget vote and school board election vote day statewide to June 9, 2020. There will be no in-person voting. All voting will be done by mail-in ballot. More details coming on that.

April 24 – 12:30 p.m. – Scholarships available for child care for essential workers

New York State is using a portion of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funds to provide child care to income eligible essential workers at no cost. Essential workers who must work outside of the home and who are using a regulated child care provider will receive a scholarship for the cost of care as long as the funds to support it are available. All licensed and regulated providers who are caring for essential workers are able to participate in this new program.

In order to qualify for the scholarship, families must have an adjusted gross income at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four that equals an annual income of $78,600. 

Parents are asked to complete the following application for the CARES Child Care Scholarship via the link below. It informs parents that the application will be considered complete once the online application is finished AND the required supplemental documentation is submitted to Brightside Up, the Childcare Resource and Referral Agency (CCRA) for Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady counties. For parents that currently receive a subsidy from their local DSS to pay for child care, this scholarship can cover the parent co-pay. Parents should apply for the CARES Act Scholarship, and then contact their local Department of Social Services to get a letter stating their current co-pay. Please address any questions to Tricia Howland at thowland@brightsideup.org.

Click here for the COVID-19 CARES Child Care Scholarship Application

Links to important BKW resources

April 16 – 4:30 p.m. – BKW May prom canceled

In light of the governor’s extension of the closure of school through May 15, we regret to report that the 2020 Prom scheduled for May 15 has now being cancelled.

April 16 – 3:30 p.m. – Superintendent Mundell speaks about rural Internet access with Albany County Executive

man in suit speaks on TV
BKW Superintendent Dr. Timothy Mundell

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said an effort is underway to bring wireless high-speed internet access in the county’s Hilltowns, an area where balky service is impeding the ability of roughly 300 local children to take digital school classes during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Timothy Mundell, the superintendent for the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Central School District, appeared with the county executive today and said approximately 30 percent of the students in the district do not have access to high-speed internet.

The district has compensated by getting some families mobile hotspots and parking schools buses equipped with a wireless signal in public places.

“This really changes the ballgame,” Dr. Mundell said. “This is the information highway. This is the economy of the 21st century and we are preparing kids for their futures and not our pasts.”

“What we’re finding in the last 30 days is that learning changes, homework changes, meaning working from home for the parent,” Dr. Mundell added. “We do have families in households with 4 or 5 people attempting to access the Internet at one time … and parents get frustrated. So this is going to take care of that and we are truly appreciative.”

April 16 – 2:40 p.m. – Governor extends closure through May 15

Gov. Cuomo today extended his executive order to have all schools in New York State now closed through May 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote learning will continue in BKW Schools through that date.

April 16 – A message from your school psychologists

BKW school psychologists Emily Wylong and Dr. Katrina Emmerich offer BKW families a helpful newsletter with lots of resources for coping with the current situation.

April 6, 2020 – 1 p.m. – Governor extends closure through April 29; June Regents Exams canceled

Governor Cuomo has extended the closure of schools and nonessential businesses through April 29 to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. School would resume on Thursday, April 30.

The June 2020 Regents exams have been canceled,

Students who were registered in a class that was supposed to end with a Regents examination this June will get the Regents credit if they pass the class. Remember, passing the class will be based on students’ grades plus the students’ participation in lessons and completion of assigned tasks since March 13. If the class teacher does not think that a student has learned enough, based on participation frequency and or the student’s failure to complete assignments since March 13, the student will be given an incomplete (INCP). The student will then be required to attend summer school to earn the credit for the class and credit for the Regents examination. Failure to successfully complete summer school will result in the student having to repeat the course during the 2020-2021 school year and sit the Regents examination in June 2021. It of utmost importance that parents see to it that your child is regularly participating in and completing assignments at this time.

April 1, 2020 – 1 p.m. – Governor orders continuity of instruction; Hotspots assist with internet access

BKW Hotspot points located around the school district to assist with internet access:

  • Westerlo Town Park
  • Green Acres
  • Berne Senior Center
  • Knox Town Highway Garage
  • Old East Berne Fire Department (across from Dollar General)
  • Partridge Run parking area at the intersections of Ravine Road and Sickle Hill Road in the Town of Berne

1. Schools district vehicles will park at each location with a hotspot device
2. Password for the device will be posted on the window of the vehicle
3. Hotspots available daily from 9:30 am-12:30 pm and 2:30 pm-5:30 pm

Additional existing hotspots:

  • Berne Public Library
  • BKW Elementary Parking Lot
  • Knox Town Hall (password- knox)

March 31, 2020 – 2 p.m.

On March 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order closing schools until at least April 15. During this time, schools are required to provide continuity of instruction, meals for students and information on available childcare resources every weekday, including days originally part of the previously scheduled spring break.
 
BKW teachers have been sharing learning resources with our students and connecting with our parents and guardians throughout the school closure period. On April 1, teachers will be providing instruction, using approved platforms, that will move our students and classes forward by introducing the teaching of new content. Teachers and staff will continue to provide equal access to all students and collaborate to best meet individual student needs.
 
It is very important to know that we expect all students to make every reasonable effort to engage in these learning opportunities. Students’ work will be assessed to determine if they have demonstrated evidence of learning pertaining to essential content, concepts and skills. If a student has not yet demonstrated this level of understanding, teachers will designate their progress as “incomplete,” and will provide additional opportunities for them to resubmit work.
 
College-level and AP classes may be handled differently based on the direction provided by associated institutions and the College Board. Students who owe third-quarter work prior to March 13 should work with their teachers to make up that work.
 
We appreciate the valuable role that our parents and guardians play in educating our children, as well as the challenges they may face. We value your partnership as we move forward in doing what is best for our students.
 
To stay up to date about the latest news and resources related to the COVID-19 situation, please continue to visit this webpage for information about:
·        Instructional resources and information for students and families;
·        Meal distribution times and locations; and
·        Childcare resources for families of essential workers.
 
We understand the stress that may be caused by the current situation. Please know that we are here to support you. Parents and guardians have to manage many personal and professional responsibilities. As we often tell our students, we can try to make each day the best one possible, while working through our challenges together. 
 
Thank you for your continued patience, understanding and support.
 
Sincerely,
Dr. Timothy Mundell
Superintendent of Schools

March 29, 2020 – Noon

Annual school budget votes across the state are postponed until at least June 1, under an executive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that extends and expands restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
 
School budget votes were scheduled for mid May – the state’s next scheduled mass voting event – but were delayed by Cuomo until at least June 1 and potentially longer.
 
“Any school board, library board, or village election scheduled in April or May of 2020 is hereby postponed until June 1, 2020,” according to the executive order.
 
The order also indefinitely postpones collection and filing of nominating petitions for school board elections, which are also delayed until at least June 1. The order advised that the elections were “subject to further directive as to the timing, location or manner of voting for such elections.”

March 27, 2020 – 4 p.m.

Dear BKW parents and guardians, 

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today, March 27, that schools in New York State will remain closed until April 15. Sporting practices and events, rehearsals, shows, school events, activities and after-school programs will also continue to be canceled during this time.

Information about meals, child care for essential workers and the latest updates concerning the ongoing COVID-19/Coronavirus situation may be found on this website.

We will continue to follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New York State Department of Health, New York State Department of Education (NYSED) and the Albany County Public Health Department.

Specifically, school leaders continue to closely monitor guidance from NYSED about how these circumstances will impact the school calendar for the remainder of the academic year, including Regents examinations and graduation. We will share more information as soon as it is available.

Thank you for your continued patience and support. We will provide you with more information as it becomes available and continue to communicate with families via email, phone calls and our website.

Sincerely,
Dr. Timothy Mundell
Superintendent of Schools

March 17, 2020

Dear BKW parent, guardian, staff member,

Please note that due to Coronavirus health concerns and a directive by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, all district schools and offices are now closed until Wednesday, April 1st. Only “essential” workers will be reporting during this time.

Breakfast and lunch deliveries to families will go on as scheduled during this time.

If you need to contact someone related to a school matter or an emergency, please do so by calling the Office of the Superintendent of School at 518-872-1293 or email:

We will be either responding directly, or passing the message to the appropriate person to handle the issue. Please continue to check the district website frequently for news and updates.

Testing information

President Trump made a statement today cancelling Grades 3-8 Assessments which has led to NYSED informing districts of the cancellation of the ELA and Math Assessments and the grades 4 and 8 Science Assessments. The NYS Alternative Assessments have also been cancelled. There has been NO word on NYS Regents exams scheduled for June.
In the meantime be well and for the most current and accurate information about the Coronavirus please visit: www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus

 

Sincerely,
Dr. Timothy Mundell
BKW Superintendent of Schools