Mask, sanitize, repeat: Students start school year at North Syracuse School District with COVID precautions in place

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NORTH SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — More students in Central New York are headed back to the classroom on Wednesday for their first day of school. One of the districts welcoming students back was North Syracuse School District.

After a long summer of uncertainty, Colleen O’Connor, a 5th grade teacher at Roxboro Road Middle School and a Teacher of the Year recipient, welcomed students back to the classroom with a positive outlook.

“We can’t wait to have everybody back in the classroom and learning in the way we should with each other,” said O’Connor.

With in-person learning making a full return this year, O’Connor and the North Syracuse School District is making sure students are learning in a safe and healthy environment.

“We’ve taken great care to arrange our desks so they have at least three feet between them. Then if we move into groups or at the other table we will be making sure we have three feet of space. When they walk in the hall we ask them to keep three feet apart,” says O’Connor.

To help students maintain hand hygiene while in the classroom, O’Connor has set up multiple hand sanitizers throughout her classroom that students can use.

“Before they use markers, they’ll sanitize their hands, before they get a book from the library they’ll sanitize their hands. We encourage them to do that when they enter. We encourage it as much as we can,” says O’Connor.

Beyond keeping students physically healthy, the district wants to make mental health a priority, too.

O’Connor added, “60 people from this building did training this summer for restorative practices to help kids deal with coming back and just everything that’s going on.”

School counselors are also available to students and their families.

North Syracuse CSD has been working with the county to administer COVID-19 testing starting next week on Sept. 15 and 16.

“We’ve offered a vaccination clinic just last week, just as a last minute to get people vaccinated and students as well,” says Dan Bowles, Superintendent of North Syracuse Central School District.

Bowles says the district has sent out letters to families giving parents the option to voluntarily sign their child up to be tested on a regular basis, which will be random.

“We are looking to have at least 10 percent of the population submit to that voluntary testing. For the staff who are unvaccinated, due to the executive order have to be tested weekly,” says Bowles.

94 percent of school staff is vaccinated.

Another protocol Bowles mentioned was transportation. All students riding the school bus will be required to keep their face mask on, as well as school bus drivers. Bowles says windows and top hatches will stay open for ventilation.

“We had a lot of parents since last year continue to transport their students. If they choose to do that, we encourage that,” says Bowles.

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