The Utica City School District voted on Tuesday to delay an "in-person" return to classes beginning on September 8th. Prior to Tuesday's meeting, the district was moving forward with plans to bring students back into the classroom at the beginning of the school year.

On Tuesday night, due to complications related to COVID-19, the board of education voted to begin classes with students learning from home beginning on September 8th, through at least the next board meeting, which is scheduled for September 22nd. The board will then assess the virus and the health conditions and decide on whether to continue online, or begin the transition to bring students back into the buildings, according to board member Joseph Hobika.

"This was a very difficult decision because we all know the importance of in-person learning," said Hobika. "But we have no choice but to make sure we're providing a safe atmosphere for our students, teachers and staff and right now, that's the most important thing we had to consider. Our goal is work very hard over the next few weeks with hopes of getting these students back inside the buildings as soon as we possibly can."

The board's decision will place teachers inside the buildings instructing via live stream for the first three days of the week, with the option to teach remotely or from the classroom for days four and five. Students will be required to attend and those without computers will be provided with new Chrome Books. Students without internet access will be provided with hotspot access, allowing them to connect with the online class.

"We all agree that making sure our students receive a proper education is paramount," said Hobika. "We just couldn't ignore the apprehension of our teachers and staff because of a lack of preparation time and the so many unknowns surrounding COVID-19. Our administration and staff did an amazing job to get us ready to go back on the 8th, there just wasn't enough time," he added.

Schools around New York have voiced their concern that due to the late guidance that came from the state and thus the short amount of time afforded to teachers and staff to prepare for the "in person" return, it was extremely difficult to follow the new guidelines and guarantee everyone's safety. Many schools, including all of the "Big Five" school districts, are delaying in-person instruction in some form or fashion in order to safely meet the state guidelines.

Watch the board of education meeting here:


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