Click the above link for teacher website links, Google Classroom Codes, and other resources for you during this time.
To the Whitehall Community:
Over the past several months, the Whitehall School community has cooperatively worked together to support a safe return to a hybrid model of in-person instruction at the elementary school for the 2020-2021 school year. By taking extraordinary steps to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission within our district, we are happy that we have been able to maintain our model of instruction to this point, and are excited to continue to have students in the building on a daily basis.
While the infection rate in Washington County remains relatively low, the infection rate across New York State is increasing, and the CDC and DOH are projecting an increase in community transmissions due to the holiday season. As part of Executive Order 202.68, Governor Cuomo introduced a "Cluster Action Initiative" which classifies regions, based on infection rates as yellow, orange, or red. If designated, each color requires enhanced public health restrictions, which include limits on non-essential gatherings, houses of worship, restaurants and taverns, gyms and fitness centers, personal care services, and schools. If a school is located in an area identified as an Orange or Red zone, those districts would be required to transition to a fully remote learning environment.
Yellow Zones however, do allow for schools to remain open, those schools in yellow areas must conduct random weekly COVID-19 tests on 20% of the in-person population (students, faculty and staff). For us, that would mean we would be required to test approximately 95 individuals weekly (a different 95 individuals each week) until the district can show that it is below the State threshold for the region. Before any testing of the student body could occur, the district would be required to obtain signed consent from a parent or guardian. Please note, we are NOT planning ANY testing at this time, in the event that we must test, we would notify the community and seek consent at that time.
We will continue to will work with our partners at the Washington County Department of Health to explore all options to continue our current model of instruction. It is important to note that in the event the Whitehall CSD falls within a yellow zone, it is likely that neither the district, nor the county would have the resources necessary to comply with the testing requirements that have been set forth by the state. This would likely force us to transition to fully remote instruction. We are however continuing to investigate this and look for potential solutions that would enable the district to remain open in the event that the region is identified as a Yellow Zone.
As a school community, we understand how important it is for students to be in school. In-person instruction is not only beneficial to our students' academic and social development, but also provides our parents/guardians and family members the opportunity to work without the added burden of securing daily childcare. The community of Whitehall has dedicated a great deal oftime, energy, and resources to allow the district to operate on our current model and I could not be more-proud of the work that has been done to this point. I would however, continue to implore every member of our community to continue to exercise caution and follow all recommended COVID safety procedures as we move forward; this will help to keep the regional COVID cases low and ensure that we can continue to maintain in-person instruction at our elementary facility. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the district at 518-499-1770.
Superintendent of Schools
November 16, 2020
To the Whitehall Community,
I wanted to take a moment to share some news that I hope that everyone enjoys. While the COVID world has taken so much from our students; sports, clubs, and many school events that we all enjoy each year - The Color Run, Harvest Festival, and Homecoming, just to name a few. As such, I want to ensure that our students can have a little bit of normality in this crazy world.
Snow Days have always been some of the most "looked forward to" days of the year for students. The discussions between students and their friends and teachers the day before a big storm, the participating in those old wife's tales the night before to ensure that a snow day happens and waiting for the phone to ring in the morning with the voice that says "school will be closed today because of inclement weather". Well, that's something that we can still give our students.
In the event that a snow day must be called, there will be NO SCHOOL. There will be no in person instruction and no on line instruction for the day; we want our students to have some small sense of normalcy in these crazy times. We hope that as we progress through this year and approach the holiday season that each of you remain healthy and safe.
Superintendent of Schools
On August 24, 2020 the Whitehall Community suffered a catastrophic loss when a rogue storm dropped nearly 7" of water on the Whitehall Community_ As I have previously shared, the Whitehall High School suffered extensive water damage that was caused by back-up of water and sewer into our building. Our engineers have stated that this was created by a failure of our numerous outside and roof drains ability to accept the inordinate amount of water that fell during the storm. On August 27, I shared a letter with the community indicating that we hoped to have students at the High School, back into a clean and safe environment during the second marking period. I also shared that l would update the community as we knew more and if the time frame for our return would need to be extended. Today, I am providing that information.
For nearly 3 weeks following the storm, the district contracted with Service Master, a water remediation company, to evacuate the water from the building and dry-out the inside of the school to the best of their ability. Since the storm, the district has been working very closely with 'our contractors who have had to remove a significant amount of construction work that had been completed as part of our summer 2020 construction project, as it had gotten wet and could not be salvaged. Additionally, the district has contracted with lntertek-PSI to complete environmental testing and identify areas of the building that have hazardous materials that were disturbed as a result of the water damage, and to identify the spaces in the building that have developed mold growth due to the water damage.
On October 19th the District Buildings and Grounds Committee met with our Clerk of the Works, Architects as well as Environmental Specialist to receive an update on the extent of the damage as well as the timeframe necessary to complete the remaining work. We have discovered that there will be extensive abatement of asbestos floor tile that has been disturbed by water infiltration as well mitigation of mold growth that has developed inside of many of the facilities walls. All of these affected areas will then require extensive restoration and replacement work when the abatement/mitigation is completed.
The district initiated the Abatement and mitigation work several weeks ago. Unfortunately, due to the extensive area of the building that was impacted, it is anticipated that the abatement work will last into the month of March. The remediation and repair process consist of containment barriers being set up by wing, with continuous air monitoring conducted during the abatement. When the abatement is complete in a wing, additional air quality testing must be completed and "pass" before the containment barriers can be removed and the area can be turned over to the contractors for the necessary restoration work.
From a health and wellness standpoint, we cannot have students safely in the building as Abatement work progresses. As such, we hope to be able to have a partial reopening of the High School facility at some point during March. If there is a possibility of reopening, even partially any sooner; we certainly will.
While I certainly recognize that this is not the news that any of us were hoping for; it is imperative that we protect the health and safety of our students and staff. We simply cannot permit students in the facility until it is deemed a safe and healthy building by our environmental consultants.
Lastly, we continue to struggle with our insurance carrier NYSIR (New York School Insurance Reciprocal). We will continue to aggressively seek the coverage to which the school is entitled and we, as well as our experts firmly believe we possess. The Board of Education has provided approval to Litigate the matter in a Court of Law if necessary. The district is currently in process of interviewing law firms that specialize in insurance matters to do so. The Whitehall Central School District will NOT stand by and allow the insurance carrier to dictate what they will cover based upon their narrow interpretation of the policy. In the meantime, the district is developing contingency plans to utilize reserves, fund balance as well as building project dollars to complete the work necessary to allow our students to return to school.
As a I ways, I appreciate your continued understanding as we work together to overcome this significant community challenge .
Superintendent of Schools
For Thanksgiving Break we will be providing our usual two days worth of meals on Monday, 11/23. We will also be providing a three day frozen meal kit for any family that wishes to take one for the school break. We will have a signup form for these kits at the next few pickups so we can have enough for everyone.
There is no online or in person classes, Tuesday, November 3rd, for a Superintendent's Conference Day.