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Webutuck extends in-person pause, students to return Jan. 11

School administrators plan for COVID in the new year

WEBUTUCK — While students were initially expecting to return to school on Monday, Jan. 4, following the winter break, the North East (Webutuck) Central School District decided to take extra precautions to protect students, staff and community members from the spike in COVID-19 cases during the holidays by continuing its full remote instruction through Sunday, Jan. 10, with students returning to school in-person on Monday, Jan. 11.

In his letter to Webutuck families on Wednesday, Dec. 23, Superintendent of Schools Raymond Castellani reported that Dutchess County is currently seeing its highest number of COVID-19 cases since the spring, with the number of positive cases identified in the county calculated at 9.4% on Tuesday, Dec. 22, with a seven-day average of 6.4% of positive cases at that time. 

He explained that the numbers spiked since the days before Thanksgiving when the five-day average of positive COVID-19 cases was in the 2% range. As a consequence, Castellani reported school districts throughout Dutchess County and the Mid-Hudson region have decided to extend their “holiday pause” of in-person learning to the recommended 10 to 14 days after the new year.

During the Webutuck Board of Education (BOE) meeting on Monday, Dec. 21, BOE members voted to authorize the district to continue its remote instruction model through Sunday, Jan. 10.

“The board has had a real difficult time trying to juggle getting students in as much as possible to be in school in-person instruction, and it’s really based on the data we’re getting from Dutchess County and the spike from the holiday spike was high, so I think it’s a great decision in respects that we’ve taken every precaution to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Castellani said.

The spike in COVID cases was high after Thanksgiving due to the number of people who traveled, and another spike is predicted in the coming weeks after a reported 85 million Americans traveled for the Christmas holiday. Again, schools said they are trying to manage with such realities when planning reopenings, but that it’s difficult.

Though the administration team wants all of its students back to school as soon as possible, Castellani said he believes the district’s remote instruction is very strong and very successful at this point.

“What we don’t want is to come back too early and have to close again,” he said.

Come Monday, Jan. 11, and Tuesday, Jan. 12, the district plans to have students in grades seventh through 12th resume the hybrid instruction model with the district’s A cohort attending in-person learning and its B cohort remaining in remote instruction. Cohort B will start attending school in-person on Thursday, Jan. 14, and Friday, Jan. 15, while cohort A remain in remote learning. Meanwhile, students in grades pre-k through sixth will continue their Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday schedule, starting Monday, Jan. 11, and Wednesdays will continue to be a correspondence and communication day with remote learning for the district’s students.

In terms of his expectations for the new year, Castellani said, “I’m hoping that we are back to normal as soon as possible for our students and our families.”

To stay up-to-date on the district’s plans, families are encouraged to check out Webutuck’s website at www.webutuckschools.org or to call the district office at 845-373-4100, and to keep reading The Millerton News.

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