Herkimer BOCES shifts Dec. 21-22 to virtual instruction as precaution

Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES is moving all K-12 and adult education programs to virtual instruction for Monday, Dec. 21, and Tuesday, Dec. 22, as a precautionary measure in response to COVID-19 to extend the amount of time students will be out of school buildings before returning to school in January 2021.

The holiday recess in the Herkimer BOCES region was already scheduled to run from Wednesday, Dec. 23, through Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, with students returning to school on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. With Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 now switching to virtual instruction, students will not be in school buildings for 16 days prior to the anticipated return from break.

“Please note that this is only a shift in instructional delivery – we are not extending the holiday break,” Herkimer BOCES District Superintendent Sandra Sherwood said. “There isn’t a case of COVID-19 causing this, and we are not in any kind of zone designation, so we are not under orders to do this – we are doing it only with an eye towards being able to open for in-person instruction after the break.”

This change affects students in Herkimer BOCES programs for kindergarten through 12th grade and adult education, as well as Herkimer BOCES 10-month instructional staff. There is no schedule change for Herkimer BOCES 12-month staff. Prekindergarten programs will vary based on the schedule of the location of the school district they are located in.

With the holidays, there are concerns that people will not abide by the guidelines that have reduced the spread of the virus so far: social distancing, wearing face masks, frequent hand washing, and avoiding gathering with people outside of your immediate household, Sherwood said. The changes for Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 mean that students will be out of the school buildings for more than the 14 days recommended by the New York State Department of Health for quarantining, so the hope is that this will help avoid having to close programs or buildings at the start of 2021, she said.

“Ever since the closure last school year, we have been working very hard to put protocols in place that will allow us to stay open for in-person learning, and when you look at the level of viral spread in schools, we have done an excellent job in that regard,” Sherwood said. “Even our governor has pointed out what a good job schools are doing at reducing the spread of the virus within our walls.”