Ithaca City School District Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown has announced that ICSD teachers will return to school buildings on October 5, with a hybrid model for in-person and virtual teaching and learning.

According to Dr. Brown’s letter to the ICSD community, when surveyed in August, 56% of students chose in-person learning, 32% of teachers chose in-person teaching. He writes that this created an “impossible staffing model”.

The hybrid model for (PreK-5) and the middle and high schools differ drastically -  preK-5 students who selected the in-person learning option will attend school in person 5 days per week. Those PreK-5 students who chose the distance learning option will continue to receive distance learning 5 days a week.

ICSD middle and high school students who selected the in-person learning option will be separated into two cohorts this fall. One group will attend in-person classes Monday/Tuesday, and the other cohort will attend in-person on Thursday/Friday. They’ll receive distance learning instruction the other three days of the week.

Dr. Brown adds that Wednesdays are planned for office hours, lessons that are not simultaneous, music lessons, individual help & counseling sessions, caregiver conferences, and teacher development in virtual learning.

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The Tompkins County Health Department has released updated demographic data on the 383 positive cases of COVID-19 reported in Tompkins since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Ithaca Voice reports that the largest change in the data since its last update is a jump in the number of positive cases in the 10 to 29 year age range.  In July’s update - before college students returned to the area - data revealed that just 36 percent of the 202 cases at that time were in that age range.  New data shows that 61 percent of the current 383 cases are found in people aged 10 to 29, and 36 percent of those cases are from people in the 20 to 29 range.

Additional information was released pertaining to two major clusters of coronavirus that emerged in early September.  As of Sunday, September 13, the first cluster was made up of 129 total people; 48 of those had positive cases, and the remainder was close contacts.  The second cluster contained 52 people, 14 who tested positive and the rest 38 close contacts.

More data from the health department shows that the percentage of cases in different races closely follows the demographic profile of the county.  Other data shows that most of the positive cases since March are not related to travel from areas with a higher caseload than Tompkins — even as students returned to campus.

Kruppa also announced that the county has spent nearly $433,000 so far in COVID-19 related expenses.

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Cornell University has reported no new cases of COVID-19 out of over eighty nine hundred total viral tests administered in the last two days, reports the Cornell Daily Sun. Due to these results, the university has moved its alert level to green, after being at alert level yellow for two weeks.

The new change to a green alert level is due to the low positive rate for the number of tests, which is 0.8% as of September 14.  A press release from the University’s communications department notes that despite the decision to lessen the alert level from yellow to green, students are still limited to gatherings of 10 people or fewer.  At gatherings, masks and physical distancing are required.

There are currently only three positive cases on Cornell’s campus.  This number is out of the total students living on campus or off-campus and in the Ithaca area that are taking at least one in-person class.  The three cases are down from a total of 29 reported from September 8 to September 14.

Looking at the local COVID-19 caseload, the latest numbers, released Wednesday from the Tompkins County health department, indicate that there is only 1 new positive case, along with 2 new recoveries. According to the County Health Department, that leaves 38 active cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins.

In Schuyler County, there are no new cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, according to their Health Department. 4 active cases remain in Schuyler.

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Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino released his first version of the 2021 county budget on Monday, the Ithaca Voice reports.

Next year’s budget plan reflects the difficult position that the county finds itself in as a result of steep decreases in sales tax revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This past spring’s closure of local higher education institutions combined with decreases in household spending has resulted in a $ 4.7 million dollar shortfall of sales tax revenue.

The county is also dealing with rising costs of social services due to the economic fallout of the pandemic - there are increasing numbers of applications for SNAP, Medicaid and need for heating assistance.

The proposed $189 million dollar spending plan includes a tax levy increase of 4.97 percent.   This would be the first tax increase in six years, resulting in a cost of $ 6.38 dollars per $ 1000 of assessed property value.  The proposed tax levy exceeds the county’s tax cap by 0.88 percent.

In order to be prepared for any cuts to state aid, Molino says that the county would be increasing the amount of money in its contingent fund to $ 1.9 million dollars.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteer Esther Racoosin