A new year brings new beginnings and endless possibilities for the year ahead. After all schools have been through since last spring, it finally feels like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Almost.
There are still several months of uncertainty but one thing is certain: the Hudson City School District (along with many other districts) has managed to keep our schools open for in-person learning far longer than anyone thought possible. It shows that our rigorous health and safety protocols related to the novel coronavirus are working. Many people thought all students would be learning remotely by November, but the masks, social distancing and heightened cleaning have prevented the widespread infections within our buildings that many expected and feared.
The in-person learning environment is extremely important, especially for younger students. Therefore, as the positivity rate in our area continues to rise, we are prepared to comply with state-mandated testing in schools so that we may remain open for in-person instruction. If we are directed to do so, the HCSD will begin testing a specified percentage of in-person students and staff for COVID-19 on a rolling basis. We are working with the Columbia County Department of Health and Questar III BOCES to secure test kits and training for our school nurses. We recently shared a testing FAQ and demonstration video with our families so they can feel more comfortable providing consent for their children to receive the non-invasive nasal swabs at school. You may review this information on our website.
By randomly screening a percentage of the asymptomatic in-school population, we should be able to show that the virus is not as prevalent in our schools compared to the greater community. If, however, in-school testing returns a positivity rate equal to or above the positivity rate in the greater community, HCSD will face the difficult decision of whether or not a shift to fully remote instruction is in the best interest of students and staff.
We are optimistic that randomized testing will further demonstrate how our school buildings are safe for in-person learning under the current health and safety protocols. Since opening in September, there have been 22 positive cases within our school community at the time of writing, none of which were traced to spread inside the schools. In every case, the individual was exposed to the virus outside of school. The daily health screenings and other safety measures that are in place are helping to keep our students and staff safe at school.
Maintaining a safe school environment would not be possible without the cooperation and hard work of HCSD students, staff and families, as well as our strong partnership with the Columbia County DOH and Questar III. Our teachers and school staff have never worked harder to support our students, in school and virtually. Seeing our students in pre-kindergarten through high school take on the social responsibility of this pandemic and follow the safety protocols every day makes me all the more proud to be the superintendent of the Hudson City School District.
This year has been tough but we are proving that Bluehawks are resourceful and resilient. We will get through this and in some ways be stronger for it. We have learned a great deal about our students and ourselves, with the greatest lesson being that together we can do anything.
This column by Dr. Maria Lagana Suttmeier, Superintendent of Schools, appeared in the Register-Star newspaper on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.