CR: Refuse to wear a mask? Stay home


By Jim Poole

Of all the issues Cobleskill-Richmondville had to deal with in planning a September reopening, masks may have been the toughest.
That was Superintendent Carl Mummenthey’s observation at Monday night’s school board meeting.
And, he added, there was plenty of input on masks and other topics, not only from staff, but also from parents and students.
It’s all part of C-R’s reopening, which calls for kindergarten through eighth grade to attend school in-person in small classes and high school divided between in-person and remote.
Facemasks, Mr. Mummenthey said, proved to be “one of the most powerful moments” in the discussion.
In the end, C-R’s 30-member task force backed the policy of students and staff wearing facemasks and also social distancing.
“It’s a double layer of protection,” Mr. Mummenthey said. “We ended on the right side of this decision.”
C-R is working on facemask protocol––cleaning, storage and sanitation––and “how to wear it and how not to,” Mr. Mummenthey added.
Recognizing that having students wearing masks for six or seven hours is a challenge, he said there will be opportunities for “mask breaks.”
It could be that parents refuse to have their children wear masks. In that case, Mr. Mummenthey said, they’re opting for remote education, not in-person.
“For those students who forget their masks, we will have some,” he said. “But if it’s a personal statement, you’re going remote.”
Not only for masks but for all other reopening issues, C-R is depending on cooperation from parents “more than ever before,” Mr. Mummenthey said.
Parents have already played a key role in planning, having participated in two virtual town meetings––with about 200 participants at each––and responding to a C-R survey that received 1,350 responses.
“To each and every parent, you have our thanks and your feedback impacted” the planning process, Mr. Mummenthey said.
Staff has also been a huge help, he said, with more than half of the 400 employees responding to a survey.
Also, besides the large task force of administrators, teachers, staff, parents and students, each of C-R’s four buildings had a committee to work on specific issues within each school.
“We have not allowed the pandemic to get in the way of conversation and engagement,” Mr. Mummenthey said.

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Other pandemic-reopening topics from Monday night:
•About 30 percent of parents want remote education for their kids. Those choosing remote can’t switch to in-person until the second semester in January so that C-R can maintain smaller class sizes in the first semester.
•School board members wondered whether there would be enough bus drivers for the extra runs. A driver normally works four hours; extra runs will push that time to six to eight hours, Mr. Mummenthey said. Some drivers may have other job commitments.
•Board members discussed whether to continue their meetings as virtual or switch back to in-person. They’ll make a decision before their next meeting August 31.