MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The Mahopac School District’s hybrid model reopening plan to start school on Sept. 9 has been scuttled and pushed back to early October.
School Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo said on Friday, Aug. 28, the root of the problem is the high number of teachers requesting time off for childcare, leaving the district scrambling to find replacements.
‘About two and half weeks ago it started,” he said. “You had some school districts up north, where many of our teachers reside, that were not going to start hybrid, they were going to go remote to watch the others and see how it went.
“As more and more school districts did that, we had more and more teachers put in for the Family First Response Act, which allows them to take up to 12 weeks for childcare,” he continued. “We have become inundated with teachers requesting that. Now, we have to spend time to try to get these positions replaced. We have some nurses who are not coming in. So, we just don’t have the personnel to open the school year like we originally thought we’d be able to do on Sept. 9.”
The district is now looking at an anticipated start date of Oct. 5 to go back to the hybrid model it originally designed in which half the student body is in the school buildings, while the other half stays home for remote learning.
“I know it’s not easy to hear; it upsets me,” DiCarlo said of the last-minute change. “We put a lot of time and effort into it. This is not just happening in Mahopac; it’s happening all around the lower Hudson Valley.”
The days of Sept. 9, 10, and 11 will still be half-days, but they will be remote. On Monday, Sept. 14, the district will start the full remote schedule for everybody with some exceptions.
‘For our very fragile students with special needs and our English Language Learner population, they will still be coming in for a full day,” DiCarlo said.
DiCarlo said that many of the protocols and guidelines that the district must follow are being dictated by the state department of health.
“These are all the things that should have been discussed [by the state from the outset],” the superintendent said. “They were all put on the school districts to try to navigate their way through. How do we get our kids back in school? I think that really comes from the state level, and we have to start having those conversations with our state elected officials and the governor’s office. Putnam County is at .5 percent [COVID cases]. I struggle with that because if we’re not coming back now, then when are we coming back?”
DiCarlo said it’s particularly frustrating because he knows both teachers and students want to come back to the buildings.
“I know in my heart of hearts that teachers want to come back, they want a return to normalcy,” he said. “But they do have some real concerns, some real health concerns. And then on top of that is the childcare issue. It’s not easy.”
DiCarlo said finding replacements for the teachers opting to use the Family First Response Act will be a challenge because all the districts in the area will be competing for the same personnel.
“We are all competing for those spots,” he said. “I’ll be honest; I just don’t know [how quickly we can fill them]. We are all in the same boat.’
The governor said that schools utilizing remote learning can still have sports, and the schedules can be set beginning Sept. 21. DiCarlo said Section 1 was anticipated to address the issue this week.
“I think we need to do it. I think it’s important for kids,” he said. “If we can do it in a safe and effective manner, it’s the way to go. Kids have been playing sports the entire summer on club and travel teams and, at least to my knowledge, I haven’t seen anything wide-blown that has transpired.”
DiCarlo said he sympathizes with families who have been on this school schedule rollercoaster ride.
“I know the people of the Mahopac community are resilient,” he said. “We have never been through a pandemic before and I understand people are afraid.”