Pelham schools to offer virtual options starting Monday due to post-holiday Covid-19 concerns

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The Pelham school district will offer the option of virtual learning to grades 3-12 starting Monday for families concerned about the increase in Covid-19 infections following the holidays, while seeking to keep schools open and teaching in-person “as long as we have sufficient staff to do so,” according to an email to parents from acting Superintendent Dr. Dennis Lauro.

Students in grades 6-12 can choose “live streaming” of classes starting Monday, while teachers will post assignments in Google Classroom, the email said. On Tuesday, grades 3-5 will have the option of “virtual learning” via a Google Meet link, and materials and assignments will also be available Monday on Google Classroom.

The difference between “live streaming” and “virtual learning” was not made clear in the email. A district spokesman said he didn’t believe there was one.

Grades Kindergarten through second will not have a virtual option “because we do not believe it is effective for younger students,” Lauro said. Students in those grades can get assignments online.

“This period of time will pose a particular challenge to all of us as we navigate the next two weeks,” Lauro said. “We hope that allowing these virtual accommodations will help those who are not comfortable sending their children to school at this time, while balancing the need to continue providing effective in-person instruction for those students in the classroom.”

Pelham had 168 active cases of Covid-19 and Pelham Manor 138 as of Wednesday, according to the Westchester County dashboard. On Wednesday, the latest day the dashboard had been updated, Pelham Manor had 15 new cases and Pelham 14.

The Yonkers, Mount Vernon and New Rochelle school districts have announced they will go fully virtual for at least the first week of classes after the holiday break.

The Pelham school district will follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s new recommendation—also adopted by the New York State Department of Health—that essential workers, including education staff, can isolate for five days after testing positive for Covid-19. However, students who test positive or unvaccinated students who are exposed will still need to quarantine for 10 days before returning to school.

“Since I arrived here in late November, I continually find myself making daily decisions which are not necessarily popular,” Lauro wrote. “While not always universally popular, there is a need for a decision. I have made every attempt to listen to all sides of the situation before making a decision. My motto as an educator has always been to make decisions based upon putting students first. It has always guided me and it will continue to do so.”