Protect our community to keep kids in schools

Please, help protect our community so our kids can get back to school.

In-person learning is important to our local children getting the education they need to prepare them for the world. That’s especially true of students in our BOCES programs, which put an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning. But in-person learning can only happen if COVID-19 cases are under control.

Yet COVID-19 infection rates are on the rise in and around Franklin County, and we are sadly losing members of our community. Because of this, we recently made the decision to pause in-person learning while the county tries to get control of the virus.

As we’re forced to send students back into remote learning, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that I understand the tough decisions parents are faced with right now. Some have to choose between a paycheck and staying home to take care of their children. They’re being asked to oversee a home classroom and day care while working their own full-time jobs. They are overworked, overwhelmed and exhausted. These facts have weighed very heavily on all of our decision-making this year.

I also want to acknowledge that I’m incredibly proud of the way our teachers have adapted to remote learning. The level of creativity and innovation that I’m seeing is simply amazing, but I also understand that we would all love to see our kids back in school.

All of the local schools have put a colossal amount of effort into keeping schools as safe as possible for kids. We all have detailed COVID-19 plans in place, with a wide variety of tactics employed including grouping students into cohorts to limit exposure, installing hand sanitizer stations and signs encouraging physical distance between people throughout buildings, and shifting large meetings to video conferencing. Head to our website, www.fehb.org, to learn about the safety measures all of us at Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES are taking to protect students and staff.

But there’s only so much that school leaders can control. If the community isn’t safe, it makes it much more difficult for the schools to remain safe.

I know it’s not easy to continue with COVID-19 protocols. We’re all sick of wearing masks. We’re all tired of not being able to hug our friends. We’re sick of not going to the movies, not working out in groups, and staying home instead of traveling. We are all extremely sick and tired of missing our families.

But COVID-19 is still very real, and it’s only getting more real by the minute in our rural swath of the North Country that had largely avoided its impacts up until now. Columbus Day and Halloween led to our highest infection numbers yet, and public health officials tell me they are incredibly concerned about what will happen after Thanksgiving and the upcoming winter holidays.

It’s with this in mind that I would ask you to follow what the experts say: Wear a mask, wash your hands, avoid crowds and large gatherings, and stay home as much as possible.

If we can follow these guidelines through Thanksgiving and the remaining holiday season, we can all work together to get our numbers in the North Country back under control.

The sooner we can do that, the sooner we can get our students back to school.

Dale Breault is district superintendent of Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES, which has schools in Malone and Saranac Lake.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today