Grand Island Superintendent of Schools Brian Graham provided school district families an update later Aug. 26 on the reopening of school amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Graham told families that when Grand Island public schools open on Sept. 9, “We will have students attending school, in-person, using the hybrid model and students using the 100% remote model. The 100% remote model will be referred to as the Viking Virtual model.”
In arriving at the models, Graham said the district “employed a multi-layered planning process that included over 100 stakeholders from across the district, working in teams to make sure that our plans are comprehensive and minimize health risks to students, staff and families.”
Graham said the committees included stakeholders from several areas (students, parents, community leaders, teachers, staff, administrators and Board of Education members) and met multiple times “to discuss the safest way to reopen our schools. In addition to these committees, we held three parent forums, a forum for all of our faculty and another forum for all of our staff.”
According to Graham’s letter, the hybrid reopening plan will require:
•Cloth face coverings to be worn by students, staff and faculty;
•Each student, faculty member and staff to be provided with cloth and disposable face coverings by the district;
•Instructional staff to schedule mask breaks as appropriate;
•Parents, guardians and employees to complete a temperature screening each morning prior to their child boarding a school bus or being dropped off at school or the employee arriving at work;
•Employees to conduct a health screening and attest to their healthiness each day;
•Parents and guardians to complete a digital health screening form each morning prior to their child boarding a bus or being dropped off at school; and
•Students to be divided by the alphabet (A-L and M-Z) and accommodations made for blended families.
“In our hybrid plan, students will attend school with an altered schedule to reduce student population within the building and each classroom to approximately 50%,” Graham wrote.
Students will attend school in-person for two days a week following an A/B cohort model:
•Students with the last name beginning with the letters A-L will attend school two days (Monday/Thursday) while the students with the last name beginning with the letters M-Z are home on Monday and Thursday.
•Students with the last name beginning with the letters M-Z, will attend school 2 days (Tuesday/Friday) while students with the last names beginning with A-L are home on Tuesday and Friday.
•Wednesday will be a day where all students are home (hybrid virtual and 100% Viking Virtual) but teachers will be available synchronously to support students. Sidway students will have two 45-minute synchronous lessons with their teachers. Huth Road and Kaegebein elementary school students will have two 50-minute lessons with their teachers. Students in grades 6-12 will follow their schedule and attend 20-minute lessons throughout the day with their teachers. (Start and end times will be determined by each school.)
When students are home in the hybrid virtual or 100% Viking Virtual plan they will have access and opportunity to the greatest extent possible to:
•Teacher-directed instruction within the Google Classroom environment;
•The same curriculum, standards and performance indicators;
•Specialized academic support as appropriate;
•IEP accommodations, related services and academic intervention services (AIS);
•Daily synchronous academic and advisory support with a faculty specialist;
•Utilize a district mobile device such as a Chromebook or iPad. “All students grade 2-12 have mobile devices; we are waiting for devices to be delivered for students in grades K and 1,” Graham wrote.
“To reduce density on school buses, whether we are fully on campus or following a hybrid model, we will have new start and end times for our schools,” Graham said. Classes will begin in the morning at 7:15 a.m. at Connor Middle School, 7:58 a.m. at Grand Island High School, 8:43 a.m. at both Huth Road Elementary School and Kaegebein Elementary School, and 9:25 a.m. at Sidway Elementary School.
On Sept. 9, children attend with the last name beginning with A-L will attend, and on Sept. 10 students with the last name beginning with M-Z will attend. All students are home on Friday, Sept. 11 and will meet virtually and synchronously with their teachers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given the green light for low-risk sports to begin starting Sept. 21, but Graham said, “Although he has given his approval, the next phase of decisions will come from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and the various sections of the state where competition occurs.
“... As we begin the school year, we will not be hosting any in-person after school extracurricular activities. Our main focus when students are dismissed will be cleaning and disinfecting all areas of our school. The only before- and after-school programming that will continue is the childcare program operated by Just for Kids.
The health, safety, and welfare of our entire school community remains our primary focus. We respect that everyone has differing opinions and perspectives about COVID-19 and the requirements necessary for schools to reopen in a hybrid model. Our district must follow the guidance, mandates, and precautions established by the governor, New York State Department of Health, and the New York State Education Department.
“It should be recognized that our district will take every precaution and action possible to prevent the potential spread of the virus and to create a safe and healthy environment for all parties in our school community.”
By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Grand Island Rotarians didn’t turn up their noses when their school district needed help setting up 3,000-plus sneeze guards by the start of school in September.
The school district received the clear plastic shields, or personal protective equipment, that will block airborne particulates while students sit at their desks while attending class. Grand Island Central School District Superintendent of Schools Brian Graham turned to fellow members of the Grand Island Rotary for help meeting the deadline of Sept. 9, the start of school.
“I wasn’t sure how far along we would get with our own crew, and by inviting some volunteers, the work is moving along a lot quicker,” said Graham. “Given the date I think we’re going to be just fine, but you start to worry a little bit about the timing because we’ve got to do this in every building.”
Sherry Miller, president of the Rotary Club of Grand Island, pictured setting up clear plastic protective equipment, told Graham when the PPE arrived, “If you need volunteers, just let me know.”
“I sent the call out and I’m trying to get Rotarians here tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday to continue helping,” Miller said.