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GESD eyes May as target date for in-person

Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent David Halloran addresses the Board of Education during Monday night’s meeting. (V)

GLOVERSVILLE — Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent David Halloran said it is time to get K-8 students back to school for in-person learning. Halloran, along with the Board of Education, is looking at bringing students back as early as May. A survey will go out to residents in an effort to get feedback on the plan, according to board discussions at Monday night’s monthly meeting.

“We need to get back to the business of educating these students in-person,” said Halloran.

The district is evaluating the new guidance from the CDC, the New York state Department of Health and local health departments. New guidance includes reducing the physical distancing guidance for in-person instruction from 6 feet to 3 feet. As of early this week Assistant Superintendent James Wager said they had received 290 responses back from parents, with the vast majority in favor of transitioning from their current hybrid model to five days a week in-person learning. The survey will service as a tool in planning the reopening with an anticipated start date of May 1. A virtual meeting that will allow the community to ask questions in real time is being planned.

“We know parents will have questions and concerns. Balancing health with the educational needs of our students is our priority,” Halloran said. “We also know that many parents are concerned with students being asked to wear masks all day, particularly during instruction. We have seen kids do it, and they actually handle it pretty well. They are really very compliant and they will of course have mask breaks.”

Wager echoed Halloran in the need to address parents who have mask-wearing concerns, acknowledging that while it is not ideal, the district can make it work.

“There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to mask wearing. They will have opportunities to take the masks off, to get fresh air. They won’t be wearing them for six hours straight,” said Wager.

Halloran said it is crucial to at least get the younger students back so they can start to evaluate where the gaps are in reading and math. He said having in-person access to the students so they can not only identify academic needs, but emotional and mental health needs as well.

“Even though it will only be for that last six to seven weeks, it will be a sort of dry run for us so we can see where we need to focus going forward,” said Halloran.

The high school is looking at a “pause” on returning to school full time. Halloran said ironing out schedules would be challenging. The district is looking at forming possible cohorts to deal with the logistical issues of having the older students back full time.

In budget news, the board adopted a proposed budget for the 2021/2022 school year for submission to the community on May 18, with anticipated appropriations and revenues of $67,262,883. The proposed budget will result in a 1.13 percent property tax increase for residents. Absentee ballot and in-person voting information can be found on the district website.

Halloran said the board is looking to add an additional guidance counselor at the high school next year, as well an additional school psychologist. He said given the current needs of the needs of the community, which he said have been magnified since the pandemic began, he feels both positions are important.

“I really want to look at adding that fourth counselor to the high school. A strong guidance department can make a major impact. We need to look at that department and its’ skill set and determine how to best utilize it,” said Halloran.

The board approved the appointment of Bernadette Callender as assistant principal at Boulevard School, with a start date of July 1. Calendar comes to Gloversville with many years of experience in the Mohonasen School District, where she is currently a special education teacher at Bradt Elementary school.

“I am excited to be here, and to work with this team,” said Callender.

The next Board of Education meeting is the annual budget hearing scheduled for May 11.

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