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Odessa discusses school reopening

ODESSA--Odessa-Montour Central School District Superintendent Christopher Wood detailed aspects of the district's reopening plans for the school board during a meeting Thursday, July 25. Wood said if schools are allowed to reopen in the fall, they may need to utilize a hybrid at-home/in-school model. With the state deadline for schools to submit plans that adhere to new state guidelines by July 31, Wood asked the board if there was a preference between two hybrid plans. One would have two days in-school for students every week (Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday with Wednesday off for cleaning), or alternating between two days and three days each week.
"Without wanting to influence your decision, I hate (the plan calling for two days for all students) and greatly prefer the other hybrid plan," Wood said.
The board then discussed the pros and cons of both plans, with some saying they prefer the consistency of two days every week while at the same time allowing for deep cleaning at the school on Wednesday.
"Selfishly I want students in the school every day, but that isn't just why I prefer (alternating two days and three days)," Wood said, adding, "Whenever there is a holiday, more often than not it is on a Monday. For students who have the Monday/Tuesday block, they will unfairly lose days. You know what day almost never has holidays? Wednesday."
With the board split between the two plans, it was decided to allow Wood to make the decision.
Along with finalizing plans, Wood said the district has been hard at work buying 90 gallons of hand sanitizer and thousands of masks and gloves. Wood also detailed the work that is being done to turn every single room in the school into a classroom in an effort to ensure all social distancing protocols are adhered to.
"We are going to use the cafeteria, the library, and offices," Wood said. "We are removing furniture to make sure there is as much space as possible."
It was also discussed how students should have their temperatures taken before being allowed onto a school bus or into the school itself. Some board members said parents should take students' temperatures themselves and then write a note to school everyday certifying that they took their child's temperature and what it was.
"According to a survey we sent out to parents, while most parents trust themselves to take their child's temperature, they do not trust that other parents have," Wood said.
Wood said creating plans that fall in line with new state guidelines has been arduous, especially when considering the state has offered little to no guidance as to how schools are supposed to actually adhere to the rules in place.
"Honestly, I think these guidelines were created with the goal of preventing schools from reopening in the fall," Wood said.
Part of the difficulty stems from the fact the guidelines were not issued until July, giving schools little actual time before the deadline.
"And we won't even hear back from the state on our reopening plan, we will only find out if it is rejected," Wood said.
Still, even if the plan is accepted, Wood said the final decision as to whether schools reopen lies in the hands of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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