Back to school, again: Where each district in the Lower Hudson Valley stands on the full-time return to school

Sophie Grosserode
Rockland/Westchester Journal News

Eight months into the school year, a second back-to-school season is fully underway in the Lower Hudson Valley.

By April 19, at least 43 of the 54 school districts in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties will be offering all their students the option of at least four days a week in school.

All elementary schools in the region will have returned to full-time in-person school by that date, with the exception of East Ramapo's schools, which remain in a week-on, week-off hybrid model.

First graders gather their belongings as they prepare for lunch, in the K-2 Hawthorne Elementary School in Hawthorne, March 11, 2021.

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Fully remote learning remains an option in every district, as required by state guidelines.

"This is a celebratory day as we acknowledge a new chapter in returning to a sense of normalcy in the midst of the pandemic," said Bedford Superintendent Joel Adelberg in a welcome back message to the district, which returned to fully in-person learning on April 12.

Most districts made this change possible by saying goodbye to the six feet of distance previously maintained between students.

The state Health Department updated its distancing rules for schools on April 9 to match the most recent guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students can now be three feet apart without barriers between them, but local districts were laying or implementing plans for full returns before the change was made.

Under the old state rules, students were allowed to be closer than six feet when separated by physical barriers. Many schools invested tens of thousands of dollars in plastic dividers to facilitate full classrooms.

Some districts are now electing not to use barriers due to concerns that dividers could make it difficult for students to see or hear their teachers. In those cases, the money and hours of labor spent buying and installing dividers is a sunk cost.

"We're taking them down," said Harrison Superintendent Lou Wool. "If the kids are facing one another, I may opt to keep the barrier up as an extra precaution, but by and large, they're on their way down."

Superintendents have also cited staff vaccinations, months of in-house data showing very little transmission of the virus within school buildings, greater access to COVID-19 testing for school districts, and warming weather as major factors in their decisions to do away with hybrid learning.

District definitions of fully in-person learning include both four- and five-day weeks. Several districts have kept one day a week for remote learning, giving teachers an opportunity to plan or work with small groups of in-person students.

Below is a list of current learning models in the Lower Hudson Valley. 

Westchester

  • Ardsley: K-12 will make a full return April 19. 
  • Bedford: K-12 returned full time on April 12.
  • Blind Brook: Grade 6 returned full time on March 6, grade 5 on March 22, grades 3-4 on April 5 and grades K-2 on April 12. Grade 9-12 students will return on May 3.
  • Briarcliff Manor: K-8 students have been in five days a week all year. Seniors returned full time on April 12, and a return date will be set for grades 9-11 soon.
  • Bronxville: K-8 students have been in five days all year. Grades 9-12 returned full time in March.
  • Byram Hills: K-6 students have been full time all year. On April 19, 7-12 students will increase in-person time to 6 out of every 10 days. The district will not be sacrificing six-foot distance “until we get more clarification that students are not susceptible to transmission at three feet,” said Superintendent Jen Lamia.
  • Chappaqua: K-8 students have been in five days all year. The district anticipates beginning fully in-person instruction for grades 9-12 on April 19.
  • Croton Harmon:  K-12 will make a full return April 19. 
  • Dobbs Ferry: K-12 returned full time on April 12.
  • Eastchester: K-12 returned four days a week on April 12.
  • Edgemont: K-2 students returned full time in March. Grades 3-4 returned on April 14 and grades 7-9 on April 15. Grades 10-12 will return on April 19 and grades 5-6 on April 21.
  • Elmsford: K-12 returned four days a week on April 8. The district plans to move to five days some time in late April but has not set a date.
  • Greenburgh: Hybrid instruction expanded to five days in person, every other week, on April 6.
  • Harrison: K-5 returned full time on March 22 and grades 6-12 on April 7.
  • Irvington: K-3 returned full time on March 22, grades 4-5 on April 7 and grades 6-12 on April 12.
  • Lakeland: K-12 returned four days a week on April 6.
  • Mamaroneck: K-12 returned full time on April 8.
  • Mount Pleasant: K-2 returned full time on March 8 and grades 3-12 on March 22.
  • Mount Vernon: K-2 were already in school full time. Grades 3-8 returned on April 6 and grades 9-11 on April 12.
  • New Rochelle: K-8 students began receiving in-person instruction five days a week on April 15. Grades 9-12 attend three out of every six days.
  • North Salem: K-5 students returned full time in March and grades 6-12 on April 12.
  • Ossining: Kindergarten students were already in full time. Grades 1-5 returned full time on April 6. Grades 6-12 will return full time on April 19.
  • Peekskill: Hybrid students increased their in-person time on April 6; grades K-5 are in five days a week and 6-12 are in four days a week. Elementary virtual learners returned on April 12, and secondary virtual learners will return on April 19.
  • Pelham: K-5 returned full time on April 12. Grades 6-8 will return on April 19. In-person instruction for grades 9-12 will increase from 2-3 days per week to 3-4 days on April 26.
  • Pleasantville: K-5 students returned full time on April 7. Grades 6-12 will return on April 19.
  • Pocantico Hills: K-8 students have been in full time all year. The district has no high school students.
  • Port Chester: K-12 students returned full time on April 8.
  • Rye: K-10 returned full time in March and grades 11-12 on April 7.
  • Rye Neck: Grades 3-5 returned full time on March 22. K-2 and 6-12 students returned full time on April 6.
  • Scarsdale: K-5 returned full time on March 22 and grades 6-8 on April 12. Grades 9-12 will return full time on April 19.
  • Somers: K-6 students have been in five days a week. The district began phasing 7-12 in full-time on April 7.
  • Tarrytowns: K-5 returned full time on April 7, grades 6-8 on April 12 and grades 9-12 on April 14.
  • Tuckahoe: K-12 students were in school full time by March 18.
  • Valhalla: K-5 returned full time on March 8, grades 6-8 on April 6 and grades 9-12 on April 12.
  • White Plains: Grades K, 9 and 12 returned full time on March 22, grades 1-2 and 6-7 on April 5 and grades 3-5 and 8-11 on April 12.
  • Yonkers: K-12 returned four days a week on April 12.
  • Yorktown: Kindergarten and first-grade students returned full time on March 23 and April 7, respectively. Grades 2-4 returned full time on April 12. Grades 5-12 will return full time on April 19.

Rockland

  • Clarkstown: K-5 students returned full time on April 7. Grades 6-12 are still in hybrid learning.
  • East Ramapo: Hybrid instruction expanded to full weeks in person, every other week, on March 15.
  • Nanuet: K-12 returned full time on April 12.
  • North Rockland: K-12 will return full time on April 19.
  • Nyack: K-12 will return full time on April 19.
  • Pearl River: K-12 will return full time on April 19.
  • South Orangetown: K-2 returned full time on April 6 and grades 3-5 on April 12. Grades 6-12 remain in a hybrid model.
  • Suffern: K-12 will move to fully in-person instruction on May 3.

Putnam

  • Brewster: K-5 returned full time on March 22 and grades 6-12 on April 5.
  • Carmel: K-12 returned full time on April 13.
  • Garrison:  K-8 students have been in full time all year. The district has no high school students.
  • Haldane: Grades K-8 and seniors returned full time by March 22. Grades 9-11 will return full time on April 19
  • Mahopac: Grades K-1 and 6-12 returned full time the week of April 5. Grades 2-5 returned full time the week of April 12.
  • Putnam Valley: K-4 students have attended every day all year. Grades 5-12 hybrid students returned four days a week on March 16 and remote students returned on April 6.

Sophie Grosserode covers education. Click here for her latest stories. Follow her on Twitter @sdgrosserode.