VESTAL, NY (WSKG)—As the new school year starts, districts across the region are finalizing their plans for in-person classes amid the pandemic.
The Vestal Central School District is coming back for in-person learning, five days a week, for the first time since the pandemic started. Clifford Kasson, Assistant Superintendent for Finance, Operation and Personnel, said the district had been working for months to prepare for the new year.
“We’re ready to adjust, and I think that’s what you have to be, with this pandemic,” said Kasson. “You have to be at a point where you have plans in place where you can adjust accordingly, and still maintain an education for our students.”
Kasson added that it helped to have takeaways from the school district’s experiences from last fall.
“Obviously when you can draw upon experience, it helps you moving forward,” Kasson said. “And that’s what it was this year. Still a lot of work this year, but we had a foundation, we had a beginning place where we started from, and we expanded from that.”
The district’s plan includes indoor masking for students and teachers and 3 feet of distance between masked students in classrooms. If a student tests positive, the school will follow quarantine protocol based on how close other unvaccinated students were and for how long.
Unvaccinated students who were within 3 feet of the student for over 15 minutes while masked will need to quarantine. Students who were unmasked within 6 feet, for longer than 15 minutes, will also be required to quarantine.
Kasson said the district is working on a way to provide instructional support to students in quarantine, and that the Broome County Health Department will provide testing at their sites for students. He added that the district had tested and analyzed school filtration systems in preparation for the new year.
The Broome County Health Department also held a vaccine clinic for kids 12 years and older in the school’s gym, on Friday.
Joy Klimachefsky was one of the parents who brought her child in for the shot. Her daughter, Katie, is 13. Klimachefsky said she wanted to make her transition back to school easier, and protect their older family members.
“I think we’re all ready for the freedom that comes with being able to gather in our homes and with our families and our friends,” said Klimachefsky. “So, I’m hopeful that this vaccine will be transformative for us.”
Klimachefsky said that speaking with her daughter’s physician during her annual checkup last week helped her make the decision to get her daughter vaccinated.
“She said ‘my child was the first one in line to get the vaccine,’” Klimachefsky explained. “And that really reassured me, if my physician is saying this is really safe for kids.”
Klimachefsky is a preschool teacher and has two other daughters who are seven and 11. She said she is cautiously optimistic about the new school year, and feels comfortable sending her kids back to class.