One of the largest school districts in the Hudson Valley is reversing course and now plans to begin the year fully remotely after planning for a hybrid model to kick off the academic year due to potential staffing shortages.
The Lakeland Board of Education announced that educators will be teaching students remotely when it kicks off the school year on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
The Lakeland Central School District enrolls students from both Northern Westchester (Yorktown, Cortlandt, and Somers ) and Putnam County (Carmel, Philipstown, and Putnam Valley). Its district office is in the hamlet of Shrub Oak in the Town of Yorktown.
Distance learning will be the norm for educators and students at the district's five elementary schools, two high schools, and one middle school through at least Tuesday, Oct. 13, at which point district officials will reassess the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
“We are keenly aware that this change will result in challenges for some families, and I apologize for this hardship and late notice,” Schools Superintendent Brendan Lyons said at a Board of Education meeting last month.
“However, we cannot justify having students arrive at schools each day without assurances of adequate staffing.”
The bulk of the requests for leave reportedly came in the past few weeks as schools ramped up to reopening.
Lyons continued: “The district was to open in a hybrid learning model. However, in the last few weeks, we have received numerous requests for leaves of absences for medical and other personal reasons such as childcare from our schools and departments.
“This, coupled with the expected absences due to sickness as well as required absences due to mandatory, daily employee health screening for COVID-19 symptoms, made for an impossible situation.”
The Board of Education said that some educators and other staff members have expressed reluctance to returning to the classroom during the pandemic, which forced their hand into transitioning away from a hybrid teaching model.
The Board said it plans to have its staffing shortage resolved by the proposed Oct. 13 deadline to welcome students and teachers back to the classroom.
“This hardship is not unique to the LCSD,” Board of Education members posted online. “Hiring in the best circumstances has been increasingly difficult as New York State faces a teacher shortage. But we cannot bring students to school safely without adequate supervision.
“We are waiting for more information so we can post and hire for the needed positions,” they added. “We are also working with community resources to create a childcare option for our teachers so they can return to work. Our teachers are talented professionals, and we want them back in the classroom with our students.”
In a statement on Monday, Aug. 31, the board said, "It has come to our attention that at our Board of Education meeting on Aug. 27, 2020, some in the community felt we were placing the blame for moving to an all-remote model on the teachers.
"This is absolutely not the case. We unequivocally support the Lakeland Central School District (LCSD) employees and understand that they, like all of us, have difficult decisions to make when it comes to the health, safety, and care of themselves and their families."
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