Eldred board, administration continue to fine-tune reopening plan

By SUSAN WADE
Posted 7/28/20

ELDRED, NY — Superintendent John Morgano began his remarks by thanking high school principal Traci Ferriera for overseeing the creation of the district’s reopening plan, which was shared …

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Eldred board, administration continue to fine-tune reopening plan

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ELDRED, NY — Superintendent John Morgano began his remarks by thanking high school principal Traci Ferriera for overseeing the creation of the district’s reopening plan, which was shared with the public on July 13, and reported in the River Reporter online and in its July 16 edition.   

The refinements to the original plan include a decision to have in-school instruction on an alternating week basis. A schedule of activities will be adhered to accommodating both the in-school and at-home instruction so that students at either location will be provided with the same amount of structure and academic rigor.

To help ensure a safe environment, the filtration systems in both school buildings will be replaced, rendering them four to five times more efficient and cleaner. 

Said Morgano, “It is a solid plan that provides five days of real instruction rather than packets or supplementary work. It’s real school. We don’t know how long we’ll need to do this, but we could go on for a long time with no learning loss. Teachers are going to practice the first two days following Labor Day during conference days to provide a chance to make sure the technology and bandwidth works.” He acknowledged that there are “problems we can solve now and there are problems we haven’t even thought of yet. We’ll fix the problems as they arise.” 

He reported that the state has decreed that the taking of students’ temperatures is the parents’ responsibility, but that the district will perform this task daily regardless of the state’s position. “I want to be able to tell parents it is safe to send their students to school,” he said. 

The New York State Department of Education will review the plans submitted by the 700 districts and identify model plans. For the rural environment, Morgano anticipates the district’s plan to be identified as a model plan. 

The reopening plan is responsive to the needs and desires expressed via a survey of families with high school students. Of the 186 responses received, 88.7 percent of parents want their child back in school and 76 percent want real-time “live” teaching when their child is not in school. The survey also identified 18 families without internet or with unstable high-speed internet. More than half of the respondents preferred a schedule of attendance in-class every other week. The other choices considered were every other day or alternating every two weeks. 

The plan also responds to parents’ concerns that there be live teaching and that a schedule be maintained that students and teachers alike follow when remote learning occurs. 

There is a significant cost to the plan, district treasurer Caleb Russell explained. In addition to the nearly $100,000 price tag to replace the air filtration systems, additional investments in cameras, microphones, soundbars, laptops with cameras, chromebooks, disinfecting sprayers and additional cleaning products, and masks for students and staff are expected to cost well north of $100,000 beyond what was anticipated in the equipment budget. Additional bus monitors and school monitors will also be hired to assure compliance with distancing, mask wearing and other requirements could be an additional $150,000. In all, Russell said that the total cost could be as much as $500,000. 

Despite these high numbers, unless state aid is cut further, the district does not anticipate dipping into its fund balance and is hopeful that federal aid will come its way. 

New elementary teacher Amber Perri was introduced at the meeting and the board approved the promotion of June Hallock to the position of full-time cook. The position was open due to a retirement and Morgano stated that a full-time cook is required in each building location. 

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