MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The Mahopac School District will begin its hybrid-learning plan on Tuesday, Sept. 29, after a three-week delay attributed to a teacher shortage.
Students have done at-home, remote learning while they waited for the schools to reopen.
The district had originally intended to open with the hybrid plan, in which half the student body would learn in person and the other half learn remotely from home on any given day, starting on Sept. 9. But Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo said that many Mahopac teachers, who are also parents, live out of the district where schools were not opening for in-person learning. Those teachers were forced to stay at home and put in for the Family First Response Act, which allows them to take up to 12 weeks off for childcare. This left the district scrambling for replacements and thus delaying the hybrid plan.
“We had to make sure we had enough bodies [in the classrooms] for when the kids come back to school,” DiCarlo said.
In a prepared statement, the superintendent said, “As we plan to welcome our students back to our hybrid plan, we approached this work thoughtfully, and with an enormous sense of responsibility to provide needed support for the in-person learning of our students. Today, I am pleased to share with you a revised schedule for reopening beginning Sept. 29.”
DiCarlo said that in developing the timeline, there were key aspects that guided the decision-making process. He said the district has been working to find ways for teachers to drop their kids off somewhere in town for daycare so that they can come work.
Finally, after all the positions were filled and many confabs were conducted among teachers, union officials and administrators, the plan was put into action.
“We felt it was very important that we transition our youngest students as well as our building transition students first (grades K, 1, 2, 6, 9),” he said. “The hybrid model will start for grades 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 on Monday, Oct. 5.”
The district will use the “ezSCRN” instrument to conduct its required student health screenings, in addition to having students’ temperatures taken upon arrival at school. Beginning Oct. 5, all parents and guardians will be required to complete their child’s self-assessment screening each day their child is physically attending their school building.
While the positions have been filled, allowing schools to reopen for the hybrid model, DiCarlo said, competition between districts for employees is stiff and things could get challenging as the semester moves forward.
“This year there are going to be ups and downs,” he said. “About a month and a half ago I brought this up with Shanna Segal at the county Department of Health. There’s a problem with the symptoms. Because if we don’t adjust what those symptoms are, we are going to have teachers out every day. Right now, if you put down that you have a cough or a sniffle or a variety of other things, you have to go to the doctor and get a COVID test and then you have to wait for that test to come back. We are talking about days. So, we are asking the state Department of Health what that means. Is it a temperature and a symptom, rather than just a normal symptom that all of us have and have had all our lives? Unless some of these things are changed, it is going to make it very difficult.”