On Friday, Dec. 4, Broadalbin-Perth Superintendent of Schools Stephen Tomlinson made the decision to have all students in the district, pre-K through grade 12, switch to a fully-remote learning model starting Monday, Dec. 7 until after their upcoming holiday break, which starts on Dec. 24.
“Remote learning is definitely not our first choice, but when nearly half of your staff is depleted because they need to quarantine, in-person teaching and learning is no longer a feasible option,” Tomlinson said. “In-person learning is the goal, and every decision we make will hopefully be a step in the right direction towards making that goal a reality after the holiday break.”
Tomlinson said he realized that by going remote, there would be some adverse effects for some families. One priority that rose to the top was the NY state requirement that school districts facilitate child care for families with parents or guardians who are essential workers: health care workers, law enforcement, fire fighters, members of the military, employees of nursing homes and utility companies, and teachers, among others.
Just five days after deciding to go remote, B-P pulled together resources to launch a child care program for essential workers, at no cost to families. The program, which is being held at B-P Elementary School in Perth, launched Wednesday, Dec. 9 and, on its first day, hosted 142 children. The program will run through Wednesday, Dec. 23.
“The essential workers in our community have been working tirelessly for months to help stop the spread of COVID-19.” Tomlinson said. “B-P’s child care program allows our essential workers to continue their important work in the community, with some peace of mind knowing that their children are being well cared for.”
Tomlinson credits BPES Principal Dan Casey, Assistant Principal Kerri Barker, and the elementary staff with creating the program on short notice, noting that many of the TAs and other staff members from both BPES and the B-P Jr./Sr. High School would otherwise not be needed as much during remote learning, making them available to help run the child care program.
“After polling our families to see how many of them would take advantage of a program like this, we were quickly able to shift our staff resources to make sure the program would be fully staffed,” Casey said. “We have the staff, the space and the resources to help these families out and we were happy to do so. None of this would be possible though, without the hard work of our teaching assistants and aides, who really are the ones monitoring the students and facilitating their remote learning every day.”
Program participants are provided free breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack. B-P support staff is on hand to supervise students and help support their remote learning, but Casey cautions families to “make sure students know they are accountable for their own work” and makes it clear that the staff is not there in a teaching capacity.
“Overall, this program provides essential workers — who are needed at their places of work to support the greater community — a place where they can have confidence that their children are safe with adequate adult supervision,” Casey said.
Tomlinson noted that the program will not be able to operate if Fulton County is placed in a yellow, orange, or red zone by New York state. Under those zone restrictions, school districts are required to test 20% of in-person staff and students. At this time, Broadalbin-Perth does not have the capacity to administer COVID-19 tests, but district leaders are working with the state Department of Health to prepare to administer tests after the new year.
Casey said that, to-date, no family has been turned away from the program, but that they are near capacity. B-P students whose parents or guardians are essential workers are eligible for the program. Interested families should contact the BPES main office at 518-954-2700 for more information.