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Gloversville submits reopening plan to state

Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent David Halloran is pictured. (Photo submitted)

GLOVERSVILLE — Reopening plans submitted to the state by the Gloversville Enlarged School District and released online call for a hybrid model that will see students K-12 in school and learning remotely on alternating days.

Under the reopening plan, students K-12 will be split into two teams that will have assigned in-person attendance days of Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays with each team attending school every other Friday. Self-contained special education and pre-K students will attend school daily.

Superintendent David Halloran on Monday pointed to the district’s plan as promoting the health and safety of students and staff in compliance with guidelines released by the state Education Department and state Department of Health for the reopening of schools while maximizing in-person instruction for all grade levels.

Plans were developed with input from administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents and guardians, local health department officials, health care providers, employee unions and community groups.

“I think the committee we put together did a nice job of coming up with plans. The safety parameters we put in place will be effective in hopefully mitigating any potential spread of COVID-19,” said Halloran.

However, the superintendent expressed regret that the district’s plan could not include daily in-person instruction for all students at the elementary school level while maintaining compliance with social distancing protocols in the available space in district buildings and maintaining ratios of students to teachers.

“I would have been much happier if we could have brought in all K-5 students every day, I know a rotating schedule puts a hardship on parents who work,” said Halloran.

To better accommodate parents of multiple children, the district will seek to ensure students within the same families attend school on the same day as their siblings or enable younger children to attend school on alternate days from older children if a family prefers.

While many school districts have proposed hybrid models that see students attend school each week in-person on Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday with off days reserved for remote instruction, Halloran pointed to Gloversville’s approach as providing students the greatest access to teachers possible while closely balancing opportunities to learn new content in class and working on skills remotely every other day.

“We looked at all of those different scenarios and arrived at the one we did because we felt frequent interaction every other day on-site provides regular interface between teachers and students,” said Halloran. “Having students in class one day learning, they are exposed to new concepts and skills, then they go home to work remotely on what they learned in class and then they are back in school the next day to make sure they understood.”

“There is no one way to get this right,” he added.

Halloran pointed to the rotating model as further providing a better structure for lesson planning for teachers while providing consistency to parents. Students will have opportunities to interact with teachers on remote learning days while completing assignments or accessing pre-recorded or live streamed lessons.

Students may also have opportunities from home to participate remotely in live classes with their counterparts who are attending class in-person as the district seeks to improve on the remote instructional model that was implemented in the spring to ensure students are more actively engaged.

Given the continued uncertainty of whether schools in the state will be permitted to reopen in the fall with Gov. Andrew Cuomo expected to make an announcement sometime this week on whether they will remain open for the duration of the coming school year, Halloran pointed to the importance of improving remote teaching methods in case schools are once again limited to providing solely remote instruction.

“We are going to continue planning professional development opportunities for health and safety, social and emotional wellness of students and staff and instructing in a remote environment,” said Halloran.

Families with vulnerable household members will also have opportunities to access fully remote instruction for children if needed, as the district continues to develop plans to accommodate students in these circumstances.

“We are certain we will have students who are not able to come in-person, the district will do what we need to provide for the educational needs of those students,” said Halloran. “The district is aware of the different scenarios for every family and we are trying to find a way to meet individual needs without spreading ourselves so thin we are ineffective across the board, that cannot happen.”

The exact details of how some classes like physical education or performing arts will be conducted in-person are still being developed as the district works to finalize the master class schedule. Students at the elementary level and likely at the middle school level will not transition between core classrooms, with teachers instead moving between rooms as needed.

Travel by students to various classrooms throughout the day between periods at the high school level presents a larger challenge to the district that officials are currently working through.

“We want to ensure students are not sitting at desks another student was sitting at prior without it being disinfected. We’re still ironing out the nuances of our plan,” said Halloran.

All students and staff will be required to wear face coverings while on busses, in hallways or offices and any time they are unable to maintain social distancing. Students will be able to remove their masks during instruction when seated at least six feet apart.

The district has designated space in each school building for the isolation of students or staff in the event an individual develops symptoms of the coronavirus while on-site. Parents and guardians will be asked to conduct health screenings and temperature checks of their children before coming to school each day to be logged through an online software.

Staff members will be similarly required to complete health screenings and log results. Students and staff who cannot complete the assessment before arrival at school will be subject to screening on-site.

“If parents are not playing a role in that, that is not an ideal situation and it is going to logistically create a bottle neck with kids being screened coming into school and create a risk of potentially ill students coming into school,” said Halloran.

The superintendent noted that the district’s plan for reopening schools is a “living document” that can be modified or amended as needed in the weeks before the first day of school or as the school year progresses depending on conditions and regulations related to the coronavirus.

“We appreciate the community’s patience as we work through this unprecedented time, we are trying to offer the best academic program we can while ensuring district facilities are as safe as they can be,” said Halloran. “We understand there’s going to be hardships placed on some families with our plan and we do not discount that, we are working on this around the clock and we appreciate everybody’s patience and understanding.”

The Gloversville Enlarged School District’s reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year can be viewed online on the district website at gesdk12.org.

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