March 9, 2021

Hornell schools prepare to welcome back students full time

Hornell, March 9, 2021 — The Hornell City School District will begin implementing its transition plan for the return to full in-person learning for all elementary students, starting with North Hornell Elementary on March 16, 2021. 

Bryant Elementary and the Intermediate schools will follow on  March 22, with planning for the High School underway with a return date to be announced shortly.  Students and families who have opted for fully-remote instruction may continue with that model, with guaranteed access to free school meals. 

The students’ return to their classrooms is made possible in part by recent changes in county guidance concerning contact tracing and quarantine protocols, current community case numbers, evidence of a lack of spread of this virus within the school as well as the district’s high vaccination rates for employees. 

“Beyond the health of students and employees, one of the biggest obstacles to the full reopening of our schools has been the looming threat of widespread quarantines, the potential impact on our workforce, and our ability to ensure continuity of learning and operations,” said Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Palotti.

New county guidelines take a more surgical approach to the identification of Covid-case contacts simplifying contact tracing and reducing the number of people who need to quarantine, Palotti explained. Under new, guidance, the definition of a contact to a positive case entails greater physical proximity and longer times of exposure. In addition, individuals who have been fully vaccinated are not subject to quarantine when exposed to a positive case.  The district continues to advocate for further flexibility from New York State with guidance relative to social distancing.  

“Our district is in a unique position where vaccination is concerned,” Palotti added. “Of all our faculty and staff who are interested in the vaccine, 100 percent have already received one or both shots. District-wide, 80 percent of our personnel have been fully or partially vaccinated.” 

Palotti credits ongoing collaboration with the Steuben County Department of Health, local hospitals, clinics and healthcare practitioners for the district’s successful vaccination rollout. 

The district’s decision to return students to their classrooms full-time still faces a logistical challenge in the area of transportation. “We are very thankful to all families who have been able to self-transport their students this year, making it possible for the district to reduce bus occupancy and comply with health and safety guidelines,” Palottti said. “For that reason, we encourage able families to continue to self-transport at this time.” 

Reflecting on this incomparable school year, Palotti expressed his gratitude to parents and students, faculty and staff, and a long list of community organizations including the City of Hornell, the Hornell Children’s Home, the YMCA and other community groups that assisted students and families.

“We are extraordinarily fortunate to rely on and work with such a supportive, flexible and resilient community,’ Palotti said. “This year has really brought out the true spirit of our city and its people, and we couldn’t be more grateful and proud of being Hornell.”