VVS cancels half-day superintendent’s days to boost instructional time

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VERONA — Changes in academic testing and conference day schedules amid COVID-19 impacts, and finishing a middle school renovation project, were among topics for the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill (VVS) school district Board of Education.

For the matters during the board’s recent meeting, as outlined by the VVS district:

• At the request of VVS teachers, the board removed all of the half-day superintendent’s conference days from the second half of the school year,

The district said teachers “did not want to miss any more instructional time with their students.” The COVID-19 situation has limited opportunities for in-person instruction; the district shifted to all-remote instruction on Dec. 14, and is scheduled to return to a hybrid format combining in-person and remote instruction on Jan. 19.

The half-day conference sessions that were cancelled included Feb. 5, March 26, May 11 and May 20, VVS district Director of Student Programs and Communications Sondra Whalen said Thursday. Such sessions involve teacher participation for such purposes as professional development along with academic planning.

• The board accepted the recommendation of the state Board of Regents and removed Regents exam days from the student program calendar. The dates included Jan. 26-29, said Whalen.

The state had previously announced the January 2021 administration of high school Regents exams was canceled due to COVID-19. There have been no decisions regarding the June and August 2021 administration of Regents exams or other state assessment programs.

• A facility project update focusing on the VVS Middle School STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) wing and the middle school/high school library media center was presented by district Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Mark Wixson.

Both spaces were fully reconfigured to give students the opportunity to learn in state-of-the-art environments, according to the district. It added that teachers moved into the spaces during winter break and look forward to welcoming students there when hybrid instruction resumes later this month.

“As we look at the different spaces, we can see they are learner-focused and centered around the students. They are adaptable and flexible to the kind of instructional methods that the teachers are engaging with on a daily basis,” Wixson said. Among design features that will help with engaging learning, the district said, are such items as dual-sided magnetic white boards that can also serve as room dividers, bench seating and other small group spaces, plus flexible furniture.

The middle school project also saw safety and security upgrades including separation of the bus loop and visitor parking lot, the district observed; this eliminated cross-traffic between students being dropped off, visitors pulling in, and buses unloading. Also receiving a security upgrade was the school’s main entrance, with a double set of doors; a reception window between both sets of doors will welcome visitors and allow the building’s staff to check in guests.

The construction management team, Wixson, and the VVS maintenance department were commended by district Superintendent Martha Group. She also recognized the patience and flexibility of students and teachers during the construction phase, which lasted over a year. It was part of an overall $27.2 million multi-phase capital project that was approved by VVS district voters in December 2016 and also has included various other work.

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