By Lisa Rice
Warwick Valley Central School District Superintendent Dr. David Leach presented highlights and talking points on the district’s reopening plan to the Board of Education via a remote meeting on Mon., Aug. 6. The entire 60-page plan is available for review on a “micro-site” on the district website dedicated to the reopening and includes answers to 62 Frequently Asked Questions. Everyone, especially parents, are encouraged to review the website.
Pine Island Elementary – Kindergarten Center
In correspondence reported prior to the start of the presentation, a letter from Len DeBuck of the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce expressed pleasure that the district is utilizing the school again and stated that the Pine Island community is willing to help get the school ready for kindergarteners.
As part of the district reopening plan, all kindergarteners whose parents choose in-person education, will attend Pine Island Elementary school for classes five days per week.
Park Before/After Care Director Steps Down
Correspondence was also received from Jean Thomasburger, Director of the Park Avenue Kids Before and After Care program, expressing her feeling that with all the unknown factors due to the pandemic, she will no longer be able to provide care. She leaves this position after 20 years of service to the community. Dr. Leach advised that about an hour before the start of the meeting, someone else expressed interest in resuming the program. He is confident that the program will resume without disruption.
Leach: ‘We Are Going to Open Schools’
“We are moving ahead here to do our best to open our schools in person,” Leach stated.
The district took on the challenge of preparing a reopening plan with four guiding principles: providing a safe learning and working environment; maximizing family choice; providing a high standard of instruction; and provide clear, proactive and timely communications to stakeholders.
As long as the district meets the state guidelines for reopening and remains in Phase 4 without the spread of the virus going over 9% in the community, the Warwick Valley Central School District schools will open for students on Tues., Sept. 8 with both an in-person, in-person/remote hybrid and fully remote distance learning models. The choice is solely up to parents as to which model students will attend.
Full in-person instruction is available to grades K-2 and special needs students. A hybrid of in-person and remote attendance alternating every other day is being offered for grades 3-12, allowing the district to reduce student capacity by 50%. The plan is for students with last names A-L to attend one day and M-Z the next; however, depending upon the actual numbers, that could shift slightly. It is expected that 10-15% of students will attend full remote distance learning.
When attending in-person, social distancing will be imposed. Desks will be spaced six feet from each other and extra tables have been removed. Students will eat lunch in their classrooms. Masks will be required by all staff and students. While there will be mask breaks, parents are encouraged to assist children in getting accustomed to wearing masks. There will be designated mask breaks according to New York State Department of Health guidelines.
In-Person Instructional Plans
Students in grades K-12 will work with a licensed teacher for part of the day and a certified instructional aide for part of the day, which will allow for smaller class sizes. In terms of instruction, it will be similar to a typical school year.
Grade 3-6 will have both in-person and at home teachers working together. Remote days will include 90 minutes of live instruction with projects to be assigned that foster self-reliance and independent work. Distance learners will have 90 minutes of live instruction every day.
Grades 7-12 will have the same schedule whether remote or in-person. Every student will be enrolled in a maximum of eight classes total. Each day will consist of learning in only four classes with longer periods to limit transition time between classes in the school building. Classes will be 75 minutes with teachers live streaming to remote students.
The first 35-40 minutes will be shared instruction after which remote students will be asked to sign off and work independently to allow teachers to focus on the in-person students that day. All students will have to follow the regular school day schedule in real time even if learning remotely. Each student will receive 100 minutes of instruction every four days per instructional period. Attendance will be kept for all students regardless of whether they are in-person or remote.
Chromebooks & Laptops for all Students
Every student K-12 will be given a Chromebook. Distribution will take place at the end of August. Students in K-2 will have Chromebooks that are kept in class, unless there is another lockdown. Students in grades 3 and 4 will pick up Chromebooks, but will be instructed to keep them at home encouraging face to face instruction when in-person.
Grade 5-12 students are welcome to carry their Chromebooks back and forth, but must make sure they are charged before bringing to school. Portable Internet will be provided on a need basis. School WIFI is being expanded to building parking lots so that parents have the option to access WIFI from cars if needed.
Buildings will have walk-through temperature screening machines that read up to 70 students per minute. There will also be handheld contactless thermometers in buildings. Parents are urged to assess their child’s health daily before sending to school. The school will be working with Orange County Health Department and will participate in contact tracing with strict protocols for the health and safety of all students and personnel.
Cash will not be accepted for food service. Parents intending to have their children buy lunch are encouraged to sign up with myschoolbucks.com.
The summer has been spent cleaning and updating all school buildings to optimize cleanliness. New flooring has been added and rooms have been painted. Clutter was removed to allow for more space and all air filters have been replaced. They will be replaced more frequently than manufacturer guidelines.
All cleaning products used in school buildings kill COVID. Classrooms will be equipped with both wipes and spray disinfectants. More cleaning staff has been hired and all high-touch surfaces will be thoroughly cleaned every day. New Kaivac cleaning systems have been installed in the restrooms and they will be cleaned continuously throughout the school day.
Water fountains and hand dryers have been eliminated. Bottle fillers will be available. PPE, portable partitions and sneeze guards have been purchased. These upgrades were paid for by savings from closing the school in the spring and reserve funds.
District Prepared for Second Wave
Leach added that they have been in touch with experts and a second wave is targeted for October. The district is ensuring a robust Distance Learning Academy and preparing for a smooth transition if a lockdown again becomes necessary.
“We can’t be complacent,” he said.
Warwick Receives Safety Excellence Award
A motion was made and passed to accept a check for $500 from Utica National Insurance Group as award for the district winning the School Safety Excellence Award.
The four-classroom lease between BOCES and Sanfordville Elementary was renewed through 2025.
A resolution was passed to reopen Pine Island Elementary as a satellite school.
The 2020-2021 student calendar was adopted. School will begin on Tues., Sept. 8 instead of Thurs., Sept. 3. Instead Sept. 3 and 4 will be superintendent conference days.
In-Person Board of Ed Meetings Resume
The next meeting of the Warwick Valley Central School Board of Education will be held on Thurs., Aug. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and will be held in person. However, the meeting will still be made available remotely for those who choose not to attend in person.