Dear Parents/Guardians:

The District was notified of four new cases of COVID-19 within the school community, one of which will require all grades at Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School (PK-5) to pivot to fully remote learning starting on Monday, January 25 until Monday, February 1, 2021. The decision to move the entire elementary school to remote learning is due to insufficient in-person staffing resulting from quarantines and not from widespread illness.

Today we were informed that a staff member at MCSES tested positive for COVID-19 (contracted outside of the school setting). The staff member was last in school on Thursday, January 21st. We have been in communication with the Columbia County Department of Health and after completing thorough contact tracing, it was determined that a significant number of elementary staff and students were potentially exposed and must be quarantined as a result. This does not mean that all MCSES students and staff are under quarantine, but the number of quarantines will limit our ability to deliver in-person instruction at MCSES safely and effectively.

Unfortunately, we have no other option but to pivot all of PK-5 to remote instruction starting on Monday, January 25, 2021. This includes all elementary special education classes. There will be no afterschool program during this time. This does not affect students in Grades 6-12, who will continue to participate in regular instruction as scheduled. In-person classes at MCSES will resume on Monday, February 1st. Any updates or changes will be communicated.

We are in the process of notifying impacted families and staff who were identified as contacts and asking them to quarantine. We encourage you to offer your full cooperation if you are contacted by a representative of the county health department or our school district. If you are not contacted by a representative there is no further action needed on your part.

Free breakfast and lunch for all students will continue to be available during this period of remote learning (Monday-Friday). Please see our website for the meal pick up times and locations.

We are committed to ensuring equitable access to education for all students. If your child does not have adequate internet access at home, please contact the MCSES Main Office at 518-828-4360 ext. 1112 as soon as possible to request a district-issued internet hotspot.

In addition to the positive staff member at MCSES, positive COVID-19 test results were reported for three high school students. Two students are fully remote and have not been physically present on campus. The third student was last in school on Tuesday, January 5th. Based on the last date of in-person attendance and the date of the positive test result, no school contact tracing was required (as advised by the DOH).

Lastly, please remember that we all play an important role in keeping our schools open for in-person learning. We are committed to providing a safe in-person learning environment and we must continue working together to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community. We ask that families continue to follow all safety guidelines outside of school hours including wearing masks or face coverings, washing your hands, practicing social distancing, avoiding gatherings, and staying home if you/your child are sick or awaiting test results. Know the symptoms of COVID-19 and how to identify them in yourself and others, particularly the loss of taste or smell as that is considered a primary indicator of COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals. Anyone with questions or who needs to report a COVID-19 related health issue should contact their child’s principal or school nurse.

I understand that a sudden shift to remote instruction is inconvenient but it is temporary and we greatly appreciate your continued flexibility and support. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the schools or email your child’s principal if you have questions or need assistance.

As always, the health and safety of our students and staff is a top priority. Thank you for your support, understanding and flexibility during this especially challenging school year.


Dr. Maria Lagana Suttmeier, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools