PITTSFORD, N.Y. — As some district school systems look for ways to fully reopen, one independent school in Pittsford has been operating with face-to-face classes since the start of the school year.
“I think what’s most important is that we have buy-in from our parents and our faculty and staff,” said Shannon Baudo, interim head of school.
While keeping safety precautions in mind, Allendale Columbia School is operating on a five-day in-person class schedule.
“We did find that most of our parents and our families, about 90% wanted to be here in person, but we do have some students who are doing more of a hybrid model and we do have some students who haven’t been back since the beginning of the year, and we’ve been able to adjust to that depending on whatever their needs are,” said Baudo.
“It was scary to come back, and we had a lot of things in place. I had to trust the administration,” said Donna Kwiatkowski, a nursery school teacher at Allendale Columbia.
The independent school says it is taking important measures to keep students and staff safe. Some of those changes include a new air filtration system, health checks, and routine disinfecting.
School leaders and staff say things have run smoothly, and the school saw fewer people sick because of the mask policy.
“They come through at the end of the day, after we clean behind the kids, and they come through with the big sprayer and spray all of the toys and disinfect everything,” said Kwiatkowski.
The teacher had concerns about her students keeping their masks on, but they surprised her, and it hasn’t been a problem.
“They will say, ‘put your mask on and come over here and look at my pasta,’ like they know that they have to have the mask on before they move away from their spot, they’re really good, good with masks,” Kwiatkowski said.
Students have noticed desks are spaced further apart in the classroom, and they must do temperature checks when getting to school.
“Each desk is six feet apart; it’s a difference, but it really doesn’t make too much of a difference. The only problem is if there’s someone in the back of the classroom with a mask on, it’s a little bit harder to hear them. That’s the only difference that I found," said Marlin Bassett, a senior at Allendale Columbia.
Most importantly, Bassett is happy to have real interactions with people daily instead of being stuck behind a computer screen.
“I think it’s been obviously not normal, but as good as you can get with the situation we have here. I think being able to go to school every day is easier to do every day than sit on a screen,” said Bassett.
The interim head of school says school districts have approached her about how the school was able to reopen with in-person learning.
“We have a big advantage, and we know that our school is different than most of the public schools. We sit on an almost 35-acre campus; our classrooms are expansive; we can move and shift and adjust as needed,” said Baudo.
The head of school is not sure what the next school year will bring for them, but says masks will likely be required to start the year.