Area schools outline details of online classes, activities during COVID-19 closure

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Plans and procedures for students and families during the month-long closures of student classes and activities due to COVID-19/novel coronavirus have been announced by area school districts.

Among the districts' details:

Rome

"While this crisis is scary, specifically for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, it is manageable," Superintendent Peter C. Blake said Sunday in his online blog. But he also emphasized "I remind people every day that there is not a professional alive that we can turn to and ask, 'what did you do last time...'. We don't have that luxury. For that reason, there continues to be more questions than answers related to the entire situation."

Blake urged people to follow the ongoing communication efforts of state and local elected officials and "stay informed."

Blake addressed several Rome district topics going forward.

Food Services — The district has "applied to the federal government to allow our district to enter into a food services mode that is similar to the summer feed program, which removes a lot of restrictions related to the providing of food for students," Blake said.

The district will continue to operate two food pantries in conjunction with the Rome Alliance for Education and Connected Community Schools. But the Bellamy Elementary School pantry will relocate to Staley Elementary School and open for business on Wednesday. The Gansevoort Elementary School pantry also will open Wednesday. Both pantries will operate Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and food is pre-rationed by Connected Community Schools. If people would like to donate to Connected Community Schools and the food pantries, they are asked to contact Melissa Roys or the Rome Alliance for Education through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RomeAFE/ .

Student work/assignments — Staff members are being asked to provide students/families with "one-page lists of resource materials from which students can continue to maintain the knowledge that they have already learned," said Blake.

While school is not in session, there will be no graded work for students. Blake said "staff members are available electronically...to work with students during this time. This is most likely going to occur via email, but some staff may opt to provide virtual instruction, GoogleMeet options for their students."

For families that may need a device at home to access the internet, Blake added, "we are working to develop a lease program for our Chromebooks so that students can take them home (similar to a library book, no cost) and that should hopefully be ready to roll out by the end of week."

The Spectrum company has announced it will offer free broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with children in grades K-12 or in college who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription at any service level up to 100 Mbps. Families can call 844-488-8395 to enroll.

Graduation/State assessments — Blake said "there is currently zero information at has been provided regarding either of these topics." He did note a document has been issued that reminds school districts of the make-up window for grades 3-8 assessments, "which happens to end on April 14, 2020." That is the scheduled to date for Oneida County schools to reopen.

Blake said he believes "right now people are focused on the immediate and not thinking that far in advance yet." The school district's stance, he noted, "is that this crisis should not negatively impact our students' academic standing." While there may be knowledge that "cannot be learned due to this situation," he added, "it should not prevent a child from graduating high school or progressing in grade. For that reason, I do not feel it necessary to be overly worried about this topic."

ThoughtExchange program — The district has launched a ThoughtExchange electronic platform with staff and families to anonymously "share with us their thoughts/concerns related to COVID-19," said Blake. The end date for the current exchange is Wednesday. It is at https://my.thoughtexchange.com/188867462 online.

Camden

The district plans to deliver "educational opportunity materials and food for families in need on Tuesday, March 17 by bus beginning at 8 a.m.," Superintendent Dr. Ravo Root said in a message Sunday to parents, guardians and community members. "We will leave the materials in between doors or on the porch so please be on the lookout for these materials."

School buildings will be open Tuesday from 2-6 p.m. for students and families regarding items that students may have left behind. Root said "we understand that students may need to retrieve clothing, shoes, books, and/or a variety of other supplies that they may need prior to returning to school on...April 14."

Root asked that people comply with Department of Health recommendations if entering a school building Tuesday: Do not gather in large groups; minimize the number of people who come into the building; do not come in feeling ill; keep a social distance apart of about six feet; wash hands before and after the visit.

Root also said that prior to the closure announcement, district faculty had worked Friday afternoon developing educational opportunities for students to take home the next week in the event of a closure. After the announcement, he said, he had several messages Saturday from faculty and staff asking to volunteer to be part of efforts by the district to get the educational materials to students at home.

Vernon-Verona-Sherrill

Superintendent Martha Group cited these steps being taken by the district:

A survey will be sent out to help families inform the district of their needs for food services, internet, and other materials; the district will "a digital learning program for students with Chromebooks, and help families access digital learning platforms;" the district will provide students who do not have Chromebooks with educational materials and supplies; parent hotlines will be established for "technical assistance and school-related needs."

Faculty and staff were reporting on Monday to continue working on digital and distance learning plans. Group said "our goal is to provide all VVS students with continuing educational opportunities, routines, and support services."

Group referred to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's waiving of the 180-day attendance requirement for schools, observing that "while the district will be closed for four weeks, families do not need to plan for classes to extend into July to make up days."

Adirondack

The district, which has schools in both Oneida and Lewis counties, is ceasing student attendance effective today through April 17, in conjunction with an announcement Saturday by the Jefferson-Lewis-Hamilton-Herkimer-Oneida BOCES region which includes the Adirondack district.

"Recognizing that students, families, and communities depend upon schools in so many ways, we will ensure that essential school business and support functions will remain in place throughout this closure period in order to provide critical health services, food distribution mechanisms, and facility maintenance," the BOCES announcement said. It said further information will be provided by district superintendents in the coming days.

Staff was to report today.

Oriskany

School buildings will be open Tuesday for students/families to pick up any materials or belongings that students may need, Superintendent Timothy Gaffney said in a message Sunday to parents, guardians and community members. The district has been "developing a plan for students/families to pick up textbooks, or other resources, at the school should you need access to retrieve such items," he noted.

If people need to come a school building, "please call the main office ahead of time to let us know when you may be coming so we may better prepare for your needs," Gaffney said.

The district administration, faculty and staff have "begun the work of planning and providing instructional support to our students during this time," said Gaffney. "Faculty and staff will be working this week to develop lesson plans and create resources for students that could consist of a blend of hard-copy materials or packets, Google Classroom 1:1 Chromebook instruction, and/or web-based lessons or tutorials."

In addition, the district is "crafting a plan that addresses school breakfast and lunch for our students," which could involve "a combination of pick-up points for breakfast and lunches and/or home deliveries for students as well," Gaffney said.

Gaffney asked for parents' and guardians' "collaboration in stressing the importance to your children of maintaining an academic schedule to work on and complete assignments. Teachers will be preparing lessons and administering assignments for your children as we navigate through this fluid situation...."

Gaffney said people can contact main offices in the school buildings if they have questions and concerns during the closure. Also, "communication to faculty and staff will be available through school email should you have any questions relating to your child’s academic progress."

Westmoreland

"It is my expectation that during the closure of school, staff will be working from home and students will be learning from home," Superintendent Rocco Migliori said in a message today.

By the end of today, a special “online learning” section will be on the district website with more information and resources, said Migilori. He added "we are working hard to make instruction and discussions between students and teachers as interactive as possible. Since this is a 'new' way of learning, I kindly ask for your patience as we work through some kinks and make adjustments."

The district will begin offering bagged meals to currently enrolled students, including pre-K, on Tuesday. Bagged meals will include lunch and the next day’s breakfast. Distribution will be Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m at the back entrance of the Primary Elementary School cafeteria, for pick-up only.

If people cannot make it to the pick-up site on a daily basis, the district will deliver meals to the home, said Migliori. People could sign up for delivery by calling 315-557-2614 or 315-557-2658 or emailing jwatson@westmorelandschool.org or mhawkins@westmorelandschool.org by the end of today.

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