Troy CSD Superintendent John Carmello was one of 92 school district leaders in the area to request guidance from lawmakers regarding in-person instruction in the fall. One of the district’s primary objectives for the next school year will be the return to normalcy as much as possible, but guidance is needed now so that we can begin planning to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Key points include:

  • Removing cohort requirement at the secondary level.
  • Changing social distancing on school buses while maintaining mandatory masks, window ventilation and continued cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Adjusting social distancing in classrooms and cafeterias to 3 feet when students are eating.
  • Need for updated state guidance on in-person, virtual and hybrid learning by May 15


The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Elected Official,

On behalf of the 92 school superintendents in the WSWHE BOCES, HFM BOCES, Questar III BOCES and Capital Region BOCES regions, please accept our collective and continued thanks for your support of our schools over the course of this past year and for your recent support of the landmark state budget that will make a critical difference for so many of our schools and students.

We are writing to you today to ask for your help in creating reasonable and responsible guidance for in-person instruction that will allow all of our students to return to school onsite every day when the new school year opens in the fall of 2021. We can confidently say from the experience of this year that there is no substitute for students being in school with their teachers.

While the most recent guidance from April 9, 2021 is helpful in many regards, there continue to be many restrictions that will ultimately make a complete return to school impossible. In particular:

Cohorts at the secondary level

Maintaining cohorts at the secondary level in communities categorized by the CDC as high risk for community transmission presents several challenges. Most counties in the state are considered high risk (despite a decline in the transmission rate) and for many of our districts, it is simply impossible to establish cohorts as defined by the New York State Department of Health. In order for our districts to offer the range of courses they do at the secondary level – courses that students need to successfully prepare for their post-secondary choices – having different groups of students in different classes is necessary. The fact is that this is the only practical way to operate a comprehensive high school.

In order to meet the Department of Health’s requirement and bring all students back in-person, many of our districts would need to eliminate a significant number of courses to the detriment of our students’ education. Further, this guidance seems to be in contrast to the New York State Department of Health’s “Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,” which currently allows high-risk sports in consultation with the local health department. We ask for the same flexibility for in-person instruction.

Social distancing on school buses

While the guidance suggests that parents/guardians should be encouraged to drop off students at school, this presents challenges for parents who do not have transportation or who can no longer adjust their work schedules to transport children to and from school. Further, many of our school campuses are not designed to accommodate a significant amount of thru traffic.

We anticipate continued mask wearing on the bus at all times, in addition to window ventilation and continued cleaning and disinfection. With these measures in place, we believe a change to the social distancing requirement on the bus is both reasonable and necessary in order to have all students learn in person every day next year.

Social distancing in classrooms and cafeterias where students are eating

While many districts are able to flex spaces and, to some extent, schedules to accommodate students eating while six-feet apart, implementing this model for all students presents many challenges. In order to have all students onsite, many districts would need to have some students eating lunch as early as 9:30 a.m., which is clearly not practical or in the best interest of students. Allowing students to eat while three-feet apart would allow all schools to feed all students, in-person and on a reasonable schedule.

Guidance on in-person, virtual and hybrid learning

The 92 school superintendents in the WSWHE, HFM, Questar III and Capital Region BOCES regions are committed to having all students return for in-person learning in September. However, in order to do this, it will be critical that we receive guidance from the New York State Department of Health by May 15, 2021 and from the New York State Education Department thereafter. Waiting until the last minute will not provide adequate planning time, which is not in the best interest of our students or staff.

This guidance should outline protocols for in-person instruction of students, as well as virtual instruction and a hybrid (a mix of in-person and virtual learning). As much as we want students in classrooms with their teachers, we recognize that the prolonged nature of the pandemic and individual family needs will require districts to be prepared for all models of instruction.

Since September, our schools have implemented reopening plans with fidelity. These plans include social distancing, the correct use of masks, cleaning and disinfection protocols, careful monitoring of community spread of COVID-19, and a mix of high-quality learning models. We ask that you take into account the good work being done by all of our schools as you consider the changes we are requesting to the existing state guidance.

If we can be of any assistance in helping to build your or your staff members understanding of these concerns, we are happy to meet at your convenience. As always, thank you for your partnership and support of the children of the WSWHE, HFM, Questar III and Capital Region BOCES regions.


James P. Dexter
District Superintendent

Anita M. Murphy
District Superintendent
Capital Region BOCES

Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
District Superintendent

Dr. David Ziskin
District Superintendent

On behalf of the 92 Superintendent of Schools in the WSWHE BOCES, HFM BOCES, Questar II BOCES and Capital Region BOCES regions.

Superintendent of Schools in the WSWHE BOCES region

Michael Healey, Argyle CSD
Michael Markwica, Johnsburg CSD
Kenneth Slentz, Ballston Spa CSD
Lynne Rutnik, Lake George CSD
Michael Graney, Bolton CSD
Bruce Potter, Mechanicville City SD
Dr. Douglas Silvernell, Cambridge CSD
Kyle McFarland, Minerva CSD
Dr. Mark Stratton, Corinth CSD
Christian Fisher, Newcomb CSD
Kevin Froats, Fort Ann CSD
Michele French, North Warren CSD
Daniel Ward, Fort Edward UFSD
Kyle Gannon, Queensbury UFSD
Dr. Brita Donovan, Galway CSD
Dr. David Glover, Salem CSD
Paul Jenkins, Glens Falls City SD
Dr. Michael Patton, Saratoga Springs City SD
Brian George, Glens Falls Common
Dr. Ryan Sherman, Schuylerville CSD
Thomas McGurl, Granville CSD
Kristine Orr, South Glens Falls CSD
Mark Fish, Greenwich CSD
Patricia Morris, Stillwater CSD
Beecher Baker, Hadley Luzerne CSD
John Goralski, Warrensburg CSD
Andrew Cook, Hartford CSD
Patrick Pomerville, Waterford-Halfmoon UFSD
Dr. Jon Hunter, Interim, Hudson Falls CSD
Patrick Dee, Whitehall CSD
David Snide, Indian Lake CSD

Superintendent of Schools in the Capital Region BOCES Region

Kaweeda Adams, Albany CSD
Joseph Corr, North Colonie CSD
Dr. Timothy Mundell, Berne-Knox-Westerlo CSD
Dr. Brian Bailey, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk CSD
Jody Monroe, Bethlehem CSD
Dr. Thomas Reardon, Schalmont CSD
Dr. Patrick McGrath, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake CSD
Dr. Aaron Bochniak, Schenectady CSD
Carl Mummenthey, Cobleskill-Richmondville CSD
David Blanchard, Schoharie CSD
Peggy O’Shea, Cohoes CSD
Susan Swartz, Scotia-Glenville CSD
Dr. James Niedermeier, Duanesburg CSD
Patterson Green, Sharon Springs CSD
Kimberly Ross, Green Island Union Free CSD
Dr. L. Oliver Robinson, Shenendehowa CSD
Dr. Marie Wiles, Guilderland CSD
Dr. David Perry, South Colonie CSD
Dr. Maureen Long, Menands CSD
Francis Macri, Voorheesville CSD
Brian Dunn, Middleburgh CSD
Dr. Lori Caplan, Watervliet City
Shannon Shine, Mohonasen CSD
Dr. Cosimo Tangorra, Niskayuna CSD

Superintendent of Schools in the HFM BOCES Region

Richard Ruberti, Greater Amsterdam SD
Stephen Tomlinson, Broadalbin-Perth CSD
Dr. Nick Fitzgerald, Canajoharie CSD
Michelle Ellis, Edinburg Common SD
Thomas Ciaccio, Fonda-Fultonville CSD
John Bishop, Fort Plain CSD
David Halloran, Gloversville Enlarged SD
Dr. William Crankshaw, Greater Johnstown SD
Heather Philo, Lake Pleasant CSD
Christopher Harper, Mayfield CSD
Dr. Leslie Ford, Northville CSD
Richard Rose, Piseco Common CD
Adam Heroth, Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville CSD
Thomas Sincavage, Wells CSD
Nicole Dettenrieder, Wheelerville UFSD

Superintendent of Schools in the Questar III BOCES Region

Dr. James Franchini, Averill Park CSD
Aditya Joseph Dhar, Berlin CSD
Dr. Angelina Maloney, Brunswick (Brittonkill) CSD
Michael Wetherbee, Cairo-Durham CSD
Dr. Ronel Cook, Catskill CSD
Dr. Salvatore DeAngelo, Chatham CSD
Randall Squier, Coxsackie-Athens CSD
Jeffrey Simons, East Greenbush CSD
Benjamin Bragg, Germantown CSD
Tammy Sutherland, Greenville CSD
Michael Apostol, Hoosic Valley CSD
Patrick Dailey, Hoosick Falls CSD
Dr. Maria Suttmeier, Hudson CSD
Suzanne Guntlow, Ichabod Crane CSD
Dr. Antonio (Tiney) Abitabile, Lansingburgh CSD
Andrew Kourt, New Lebanon CSD
Christine Hamill, North Greenbush Common
Joseph Kardash, Rensselaer City SD
Jason Chevrier, Schodack CSD
Dr. Neil Howard Jr., Taconic Hills CSD
John Carmello, Troy City SD
Dr. Mary Yodis, Wynantskill Union Free SD