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GJSD ready to submit re-opening plan

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District is issuing a school reopening plan to the state that calls for in-person classroom learning one day a week for the first three weeks of school, with the rest of learning by virtual means from home.

School officially opens Sept. 8 and the city school system — like others across the state — are assembling plans for instruction in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The district has 23 committee members to deal with the changes.

Interim Superintendent Karen Geelan and other staff gave a report to the Board of Education at its online special meeting Wednesday night.

“This is not a simple feat,” Geelan said.

She said the Johnstown district’s plan is due to be submitted by Friday to the state Department of Health, and by Aug. 7 to the state Education Department. She said Gov. Andrew Cuomo still has to weigh in and there are questions remaining.

“There’s still a lot of questions about athletics,” Geelan said.

Geelan said the school year may start with staggered amounts of students being in class one day a week. All the students are receiving Chromebooks. The district would implement Google Classroom service, with on-demand instruction, Zoom instruction, and other platforms from home.

“We will have directional hallways,” she said.

The superintendent said various health standards must be met, including from the CDC. She said the district is collaborating with attorneys.

“We’re going to have better plans because we’re going to have more people involved with it,” Geelan said.

She said the new school year will bring social distancing, masks, and some students eating lunch sometimes in their homerooms. The plan is to start with one day a week in-person instruction, shift to two days after three weeks, and then see if the situation eventually merits total in-person instruction.

The superintendent stated, “We’re looking at a different mode of instruction.”

Geelan said the new plan encompasses health and safety, facilities, food service, transportation, school operations, social emotional wellbeing instruction, and communication/family and community engagement.

She thanked the PTA and PTSA with the plan, stating: “All of the things have been discussed and are part of the plan.”

“All students pre-K to 12 will be provided a device under any learning model,” said Rachel Heroth, district director of technology and instructional leadership.

In addition to having assigned Chromebooks, students will be availed wireless “hot spots” for students who don’t have sufficient internet at their residence.

“We received some free wireless [outdoor] access points,” she said.

All students will have specific school schedules that will be revealed to them in August.

“We are also adding a level of phone support for families,” Heroth said.

Geelan said the faculty will be monitored closely, adding: “The expectation is if you are sick and work for us, stay home.” Students in the same situation will be asked to stay home, and the school buildings will have rooms and protocols in case kids get sick at school.

Board member David D’Amore asked how substitutes will be brought in, and Geelan said the normal way with the expectation they will keep up with the lesson plan.

Nicole Panton, district director of curriculum and professional development, said the district will be required to meet certain requirements, including “educational equity” during the pandemic.

To start the school year, she stated: “We’re unable to bring all students back for full in-person instruction.” But she said the district will continue to monitor that.

Some elementary students will have pre-recorded on-demand instruction during their in-person classroom activities. Panton said. A secondary model will feature regular eight-period schedules that limit movements throughout the building. Students will be required to have a minimum of two live interactions with educators per day.

Board President Christopher Tallon asked how the district will know students are home actually doing their work.

Officials said the state still requires accounting for attendance, and families would still be contacted.

“I want to commend everybody for the work that has gone into this,” D’Amore said.

Geelan said the hybrid learning plan is “ambitious” and has been worked on since March 13.

Johnstown Junior-Senior High School Principal Scott Hale said state testing as normal will also come into play.

“You can see that it is complex and an awful lot of work has gone into it,” Geelan said of the plan.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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