Albany superintendent: Social, emotional well-being of students is big priority

ALBANY – As students in the Capital Region get back to backpacks, learning and homework, educators and health officials are focused on making sure the school year is as smooth as possible after a challenging year and a half.

"We know that regardless of whether students were in-person or virtual in their instructional process, we know that there was a feeling, and a sense of disconnectedness that you can only get through being in person where you were engaging in learning firsthand," said Albany School Superintendent Kaweeda Adams.

With a focus on getting kids back into the classroom for full in-person learning, safety remains the top priority.

"We are following the guidance, and we are following the data, and we are listening to the medical professionals," said Adams.

The Albany School District’s even considering using some of its American Rescue Plan money to upgrade its air filtration systems, which already meet state standards.

As they get ready to welcome back students, Albany County Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen says she applauds Gov. Hochul’s mask mandate in schools.

She’s got a message for parents who may not agree with it.

"We know that these masks are going to be mandated for children. They will take their cue from you," said Whalen. "If they feel that parents are very angry and very upset, this filters down to the children and it is not helpful."

Superintendent Adams was also asked whether she would consider mandatory vaccines for staff, like the Bethlehem district is doing. She says the board will be looking at this and discussing it.

Albany County reported 97 new cases in their Friday briefing, with 516 active cases in the county, and 25 people hospitalized.

Nearly 64% of all people in the county are vaccinated.