Story by Elise Fisch
The Florida Union Free School District School Board met on Thurs., Mar. 19, in the cafeteria of S.S. Seward Institute. The meeting was moved from its usual location in the Memorial Building in order to accommodate social distancing measures that require Board members to sit six feet apart from each other due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Board members also agreed to keep the meeting as short as possible in order to limit the amount of time the attendees spent outside of quarantine.
Superintendent Jan Jehring discussed a three-part strategy that the District plans on implementing in order to address the effects of the pandemic. Originally, the schools were to be closed until sometime in mid-April, but the District anticipates orders from Albany that would extend the length of school closures.
Childcare Plan for Medical Personnel & First Responders
The first part of the strategy is the Childcare Plan, which would mean using the schools as daycare facilities for children of first responders and medical personnel who are still required to go to work. The plan would include using teams of teachers and school faculty to be on site to receive children at drop-off and to provide childcare. The District will be working with the local branch of the YMCA in order to make this plan a reality.
Providing Food for Students
The second part is the Food Plan, which offers breakfast and lunch to all students in the District 18 years of age and younger. The program runs from 10 a.m. to 12 noon daily, and so far, has only been available to those who have reached out to the school directly.
The District will be offering the program to the public in order to ensure that kids who rely on their school lunch programs for nourishment are still able to benefit. The Board also discussed making lunch deliveries to those who don’t have access to transportation of their own, though this would be on a case-by-case basis, and social distancing measures would still be followed.
The third part is the Instruction Plan, which will focus on online classroom resources for the students. As of now, the online classes are being used to keep kids educated, informed, and socializing. Teachers have left books and packets available for pick-up in the entryway of the S.S. Seward Institute, and have been posting exercises online. The assignments are not necessarily mandatory, and no work is being graded at this time, but they are designed to keep students’ minds active and academically focused. This will help make the transition back to school easier, whenever that may be.
Teachers voiced concerns for the students that have yet to log in to the virtual classroom, let alone complete an assignment. The Board hopes to move in a direction that would allow for full lessons to be taught online, rather than just the distribution of assignments.
Coleen Connolly of the Cornwall district, who was present at the Board meeting, took her students on a virtual tour of Disney World, because their mental well-being and entertainment is as much a priority as their education during this time of quarantines and isolation.
Without knowing exactly when or how the COVID-19 pandemic will resolve, the District wants to be prepared no matter the situation. The safety and welfare of the students is at the forefront of their concerns, and these plans being put in place will help to ensure that the kids are fed, looked after, and educated.
Until more direction comes from the State government, many questions will remain unanswered, but the dedication of the teachers and school faculty will continue to serve the community.
The next School Board meeting will be held on Thurs., Apr. 16 in the S.S. Seward Memorial Building, located at 51 North Main St. in the Village of Florida.