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Official: Students are happy to be back at HFM

JOHNSTOWN — Officials at HFM BOCES say one month into the new school year students have been eager to return and have been compliant with new health safety measures to limit the possible spread of the coronavirus.

HFM BOCES Assistant Superintendent for Student Programs Jay DeTraglia on Wednesday provided an overview of the return to campus during the first month of school to the Board of Education.

“Our teachers are doing a great job and administrators, having established a sense of normalcy for the students in getting back into a routine and a rhythm for the classes and the students,” said DeTraglia. “The best thing that I can say is from one of our administrators a comment that he made was we are focusing on school related items like we normally do, so in this time that’s not so normal, it’s great to hear that.”

DeTraglia went on to commend administrators and staff from the district’s special education program at Meco School in Gloversville which was forced to close temporarily on Sept. 16 and shift to fully remote learning until the building reopened on Monday after one individual at that site tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Within a day they were up and running with remote learning, being able to give their students the technology they needed after we had to close the building, they’ve done a really good job with that and really did not miss a beat. They returned to school on Monday this week and I checked in with [Administrative Coordinator Tammy Dingman] today and they are doing very well,” said DeTraglia.

The decision to temporarily close Meco was made in consultation with the state Department of Health and Fulton County Department of Health following contact tracing due in part to the size and nature of the special education program housed at the site that sometimes requires individuals to come into close contact with one another to meet the educational and in some cases therapeutic needs of students. The positive case at the site did not result in any additional reported cases of the coronavirus.

While HFM BOCES offered a fully remote options to families with concerns about the potential risk posed by the virus to household members if their student resumed in-person learning, DeTraglia indicated the majority of students opted to return to school buildings at the start of the school year following months of learning remotely after schools were ordered to close by the state in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“The kids were so happy and frankly so desperate to get back together,” said DeTraglia. “They crave the socialization.”

According to DeTraglia, students have been compliant with new protocols surrounding social distancing and requirements that face coverings be worn at all times inside of school buildings except when eating or other times as designated by administrators or staff.

“We have not had a single issue that has come to my attention about students being insubordinate relative to following safety protocols,” said DeTraglia. “By their participation and appropriateness, I think they’re very happy to be back into having some sense of normalcy.”

The district also made strides to ensure students could resume in-person learning to the fullest extent possible while complying with social distancing mandate by reconfiguring various building areas for use as instructional spaces.

“We are using just about every space in our building for classrooms. All of our conference rooms, the cafeteria, any space that you can imagine is being utilized right now,” said DeTraglia.

“We welcome any student every day I think across the board with the exception of the rotating schedule at Adirondack Academy,” noted HFM BOCES District Superintendent David Ziskin. “We were accommodating if there was a request for a compelling reason for remote learning or even hybrid, but we preferred, and we planned to accommodate them for in-person.”

Although students from component school districts dually enrolled in HFM BOCES programs are at times contending with rotating in-person and remote learning schedules at their home schools, DeTraglia said attendance has been “exceptional.” The administrator commended district staff for ensuring transportation to programs for students and the students themselves.

“Many of our students, especially in [career and technical education], are finding ways to get themselves to school on a daily basis whether it’s parents bringing them, being able to drive themselves, whatever it might be, so they’re making every effort to be here on a daily basis, even if their high school is not in session on a particular day,” said DeTraglia.

He went on to highlight the efforts of custodial and operations staff to clean and disinfect buildings before, during and after school.

“Just a tremendous job by our staff, teachers, administrators, entire support staff,” said DeTraglia. “They really have done an amazing job during this first month of school.”

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