School has certainly looked different this year.
COVID-19 sent us remote for the last three months of the 2019-20 school year. This fall, Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES has had to change the way we operate to make school safe enough for students to come back to in-person learning.
We’ve added extra cleaning staff, who routinely disinfect frequently used surfaces like doorknobs and tables. Our staff was trained on proper handwashing technique and mask use at the beginning of the year. We have stationed hand sanitizer stands around hallways and classrooms for easy use.
Our staff and students answer screening questions every morning before entering our buildings using a web form on their phones. Everyone is encouraged to practice physical distancing wherever possible, all big staff meetings have moved online to video conferencing, students are entering buildings through separate entrances closest to their classrooms rather than all filing in through one entrance to avoid crowding, and classes are grouped into cohorts to limit the number of people each student comes into contact with each day.
And of course, we all wear masks all day and every day.
Despite all of these efforts, COVID has been spreading in our community to the point where the Franklin County health department asked all the schools in the county to shift to remote learning for the holiday season so they could get the spread under control.
In response to the recent spike in local infections, in addition to sending students remote, we have shifted non-instructional staff to a staggered schedule where only a portion of them are in the office each day. We’ve also asked our staff to avoid unnecessary travel.
At FEH BOCES, we pride ourselves on instructional programs that give students hands-on experience that will directly help them in their future careers. That kind of learning is a huge challenge to shift to a remote setting. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share stories about what our staff is doing to keep students engaged through this remote period and to keep their learning as experiential as possible.
We’re doing all we can to give students the best technical education we can under the circumstances. But there’s no question that the best way for them to learn the skills we teach is in person. That can only happen if the COVID-19 infection numbers go down.
At FEH BOCES, we’re doing our part to stop the spread. So please, we are asking you, the people of our community, to mask up, physical distance, and avoid gatherings. Stay home so we can get our kids back to school.