Utica, N.Y. - Utica City School District Superintendent Bruce Karam took the podium Saturday morning at a special Utica City School Board meeting.
The meeting was designed to inform the school board and the public what is being done by the district to get students and parents through this next month now that schools have been ordered closed until April 14th.
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente issued a state of emergency late Friday afternoon to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which one result of was, all public schools in Oneida County would be closed until April 14th.
Karam told the school board and some parents and students in attendance on Saturday that the district has been preparing for this day for the past month.
Karam says the district will provide grab-and-go lunches and breakfasts for students during the closure. The meals can be picked up at the entrance to their child's school from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. starting this Tuesday, March 17th.
Karam says students were given two weeks worth of assignments by their teachers before school let out on Friday, "A letter was mailed home to parents explaining the plan. Each classroom teacher has provided a minimum of two weeks of standard-based instruction for students to take home."
Karam says after the two weeks of standard-based instruction, students will then use Google Classroom web-based instruction to continue their studies online.
Karam says administrative staff will still continue to come to work at the district's administration building.
Teachers and other instructional staff within each school will work from home, but Karam says there will be some staff members in each school to handle calls from parents, "Each building's principal will be reporting with their secretaries to handle any issues that come up with parents or students if they call in if there’s an issue." Karam says parents with questions should call the main number at their child's school.
Karam says in his 30 years in the district, he's never come across any kind of similar situation as we are seeing right now, "I’ve never seen a situation like this to this level."
Karam says physical work to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in each school district building actually began last month "We’ve been very proactive. We started back in February cleaning buildings, ordering new kinds of cleaning equipment, foggers to scrub down and disinfect and kill germs in our buildings. We’ve also been proactive in staff, developing our teachers so they can do online learning with students in case of the possibility of closure, which we now have."
Karam says this isn't going to be an easy month and urged parents to help by keeping an eye on their children so they do keep up with their assignments, "We will all get through this right now. It seems like dark days, but we will get through this and things will get better."
One other question asked by a school board member was, will the school year have to be extended due to the closure?
Karam says no, because the state's requirement that students are given 180 days of instruction was waived by Governor Cuomo on Friday due to the coronavirus pandemic "We don’t need to extend the school year because 180 days have been waived by the governor’s executive order."
The school board also voted on Saturday to use all platforms, including the school district's 'Channel 3' television channel, to keep parents informed. The goal is to have that information up and running on each platform as soon as possible.