Social distance concerns cited in Oriskany

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Administrators and district officials have been hard at work developing a plan in how instruction will look for the district in the fall, according to district Superintendent Timothy J. Gaffney. School districts in the state are required to submit a plan by today to the state Education Department for approval.

As for opening school in the fall, “that’s happening,” Gaffney said, adding that faculty and staff would report for a full day of work, Monday through Friday, as they are considered essential employees. Some preliminary plans for re-opening were discussed at the Tuesday, July 28 Board of Education meeting.

As officials developed the plan, the superintendent said safety was the number-one priority. While the plan needed to be developed around mandates established by SED and the governor’s office, Gaffney warned that “they keep coming up with updates, so” anything “could change.”

“You can’t have a traditional class with 20 kids — kids have to be 6 feet apart and wearing masks, or they can take their masks off while being seated,” he said. “So now you’ll have classes with 11-12 kids, maybe 13,” and they’ll have to adhere to social distancing and safety guidelines.”

The district is also collecting information from parents regarding transportation, and who would be able to transport their children to and from school. Children who are able to get a ride from a parent or guardian, “could open seats for other kids on the bus,” Gaffney said, because they too must also be socially-distanced.

A survey is available on the school district website, www.oriskanycsd.org, or parents are asked to call the district office if they are able to transport their child to and from school.

Information from the surveys, “will really drive our transportation routes and what type” of routes, and what the school day will look like, Gaffney said. He went on to say that the district is considering “two models” for how instruction will be implemented in the fall, depending on possible transportation.

As for how instruction will be implemented, with a possible hybrid model to include both in-person and online learning, “We’ve (district officials) been having some really good conversations about this,” said Gaffney. “We need to get information to families directly so they can plan ahead for the purpose of childcare and transportation.”

In addressing “equity,” the superintendent said the district’s instruction plan will include technology for every child — with each student receiving one learning instrument, such as a Chromebook, to take home. While there will be a hybrid learning model, “We want to start training kids how to use the technology” and implement it into school work, “right away in case we ever have to shut down again,” he said.

Gaffney also spoke about opportunities for teachers to track student attendance and participation. To adhere to social distancing and safety guidelines, students may report to school 3-4 days, with one day a week — Wednesday or Friday — dedicated to an “extensive clean” of classrooms and buildings. The extensive clean day would allow time for professional development for teachers, as well as grading, tracking student progress or meeting with individual students or groups who may be struggling to learn online.

“We have to think outside the box,” Gaffney said, adding that they’re also considering an extended day, from 3-5 p.m. online, for students to receive extra help or any possible emotional and/or social support. The idea is currently to have elementary level students reporting to school more frequently because that age group “benefits the most from live instruction,” Gaffney said.

Therefore, Pre-K, kindergarten, first, second and third grades would report to school three or four days a week, while fourth, fifth and sixth graders would need to go to a hybrid schedule because of lack of space for proper social distancing, the superintendent added.

In some scenarios, the gymnasium and cafeteria may also need to be utilized for instruction, Gaffney said.

“I haven’t met a district yet who has it all figured out,” said Gaffney. “But we’re getting there, and we’re having some good conversations.”

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