PLATTSBURGH — A new executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday essentially canceled spring break for many public schools.
Cuomo had announced that all public schools in New York State are to remain closed until April 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, superseding any other previous guidance about potential dates to return to school, Champlain Valley Educational Services BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Mark Davey wrote in a message Tuesday.
That means every school district, including BOCES and its 16 component school districts, must continue providing remote instruction and meals for students as well as child care for essential workers every week day between April 1 and April 14, even if they had planned spring break during that time, the New York State Education Department recently clarified.
"Gov. Cuomo has full authority to make this decision, and local schools support his direction during this pandemic," Davey said. "All area schools will return only upon the Governor’s orders."
Local districts will follow the order in order to receive waivers from the 180-day instructional requirement, otherwise they could lose state aid revenue, he added.
Davey told the Press-Republican he believed the guidance was forthcoming, "due to the need to continue to provide support and essential services to students and staff."
CVES and its districts are video-conferencing daily and have been consistent with their messaging, sending out robo-calls to notify students' families of the changes, he added.
Davey said it is not clear yet what districts will be expected to do Wednesday, April 15 through Friday, April 17, the rest of spring break week.
"We will be awaiting further follow-up from the governor and future direction."
The governor has made it clear that his office is reviewing these executive orders two weeks at a time, Davey added.
He commended staff for providing instruction, maintaining services and supporting child care offerings.
"All staff have been asked to step forward and perform duties beyond what is expected, and they are doing so without hesitation."
Northern Adirondack Central School District Superintendent of Schools James Knight Jr. said that, in an effort to respect the needs of students and staff, "the suggestion has been made to continue doing what is asked of us but provide work that is not as labor-intensive."
For example, many teachers have made videos and asked students to record themselves reciting a poem or speech instead of writing or typing their responses.
"We are emphasizing a focus on the mental health of our students and their families by trying to encourage stress-relieving activities that can be done by the entire family and having students journal about their experiences," Knight said.
Knight expects to hear complaints and frustration as the news of spring break's effective cancellations sets in.
He noted that many of his staff members had already canceled their plans, but he thought they still expected to have the scheduled break days "to relax and focus on their families and home during this unique time in history."
Knight said he shared those frustrations.
"Even without a planned trip it is a time to reset and reconnect with your family without managing the daily stressors of work and school.
These stressors combined with the international stress of the coronavirus warranted a break for our students and their families."
PLANNING HAS BEGUN
Plattsburgh City School District Superintendent of Schools Jay Lebrun said planning has begun for the new mandate, but the district has yet to decide whether remote instruction will proceed unchanged during the week previously slated for spring break or if an alternative approach will be used.
The district has worked hard to create an instructional routine, and deviating from that could create unnecessary confusion, he said.
But students, parents and teachers have worked hard to adjust to remote instruction, and Lebrun believes everyone was looking forward to the scheduled break.
So far, the response from parents and students has been "one of disappointment and displeasure."
"Regardless, like every challenge which we've faced thus far, our district and all others will work hard and continue to support and educate our students," Lebrun said.
"I'm incredibly proud of what we've accomplished thus far, and this news is but the next hurdle for us to clear."
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