‘In the Loop’ with the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education
By Jodee Riordan
Board of Education President
Lewiston-Porter welcomed back students, faculty and staff to school this week. Thank you to everyone for your patience and support as we navigate returning to school during a global pandemic. With so many changes, so many new learning models, schedules, protocols, rules, restrictions, traffic patterns … launching 2020-21 is a lot to manage. In any given year, there are always scheduling and transportation issues – and this year was no different – but all things considered it went well.
This first week was a time to get oriented and address challenges. Monday, Sept. 14, will be the first full day of new academics/graded instruction for the 2020-21 school year.
To review our learning models and schedules: Students are returning both in person and 100% remotely. Students in the hybrid model will be on campus two days a week and virtual the other three. All students in the hybrid model will all attend virtually on Mondays. Students on our green team (last names A-L) are on campus on Tuesday and Wednesday, remote Thursday and Friday; students on the white team (last names M-Z) are remote Tuesday and Wednesday, on campus Thursday and Friday. Daily Lancers (certain ELL and special education students) will be on campus Tuesday through Friday. Students who are enrolled in the 100% remote model will not attend in-person. They will be virtual five days per week. There are over 400 students currently enrolled in the remote model.
This is all very new and different and challenging, and we know things will continue to evolve as we go forward. As I noted last week, new guidance on food service to public health were issued at the wire. Let’s take a look at these changes:
In accordance with new New York state guidelines, the Lewiston-Porter Central School District will be providing all Lewiston-Porter students with meals daily at no cost. Students will have regular breakfast and lunch served on the days that they are in school. On days students are remote (hybrid and all 100% remote learners), families will be asked to pick up grab-and-go meals. The grab-and-go bags will consist of two meals (breakfast and lunch). This service began Tuesday and will continue throughout the 2020-21 school year, or until amended by further New York state guidance.
Meal pick-up procedures are as follows: Lunches will be available for pick up Monday, Tuesday (for Tuesday and Wednesday) and Thursday (for Thursday and Friday). Families will pick up the grab-and-go meals at high school main entrance. We ask that families follow these time guidelines (when possible) to avoid crowding and traffic issues: last names A-L: 8:30-9:15 a.m.; last names M-Z: 9:15-10 a.m. Families are asked to present identification at pick up.
Families who are eligible for free and reduced lunch or do not have transportation should email [email protected] to make other arrangements. All information is posted to the district homepage. The process will likely evolve during the days and weeks ahead: Please be patient as we work through the logistics of this very important service.
Absolutely every precaution is being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our schools. However, we must all recognize that the possibility of illness exists as there are positive cases within our community. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Health Department (NSDOH) just launched an online dashboard that will track real-time COVID-19 infections and testing operations of every school and school district in the state. All positive cases will be reported to the new state website. The public will be able to view that website and search by district and building. “The COVID-19 Report Card” is now live: https://schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov/.
In addition to the new dashboard, school districts will also follow a new reporting requirement requiring a letter to be sent for all positive cases. In order to familiarize the community with the notification requirement, Superintendent Paul Casseri shared the letter provided by the Niagara County Department of Health to all school districts to be used to report to the public. It reads as follows:
“Please be advised that an individual in the [specify building(s)] has tested positive for COVID-19. The District has been in contact with the Niagara County Department of Health (‘NCDOH’) regarding the situation, and the District is following all of the NCDOH’s directives and guidance to help prevent the potential spread of the virus.
“The NCDOH is in the process of contact tracing all potentially affected individuals. You will hear directly from the NCDOH if you or your child(ren) are determined to be at potential risk, and you will be advised at that time if any particular steps or precautions need to be taken. Please note that the District has cleaned and disinfected all potentially affected areas and rooms.
This letter does not mean that you or your child(ren) were necessarily exposed to or in close contact with the individual who tested positive for the virus. Rather, we are simply informing you of the positive case. It is important that we all continue to comply with established health and safety protocols like social distancing, face coverings, good hygiene practices and monitoring for symptoms, among other equally important preventative techniques. If you or your child(ren) do experience any symptoms of COVID-19, please stay home and contact your physician.
“We ask that you please respect and honor the privacy of any individual in our school community who has tested positive and, instead, focus on the measures that we know to be effective in stopping the spread of the virus.”
It is essential to realize that positive cases will not necessarily shut a building or the district down. We are waiting for NYSDOH and NCDOH to confirm the threshold for closure, and to determine the length of a closure resulting in a shift to remote learning. These decisions would all be in conjunction with the Niagara County Department of Health. NCDOH is conducting all COVID-19 testing and contract tracing in all Niagara County school districts, including Lewiston-Porter. Again, notification of a positive case does not mean your child was necessarily exposed to or even in close contact with the individual who tested positive. NCDOH will contact you directly if your child is determined to be at potential risk, and you will be advised at that time if any particular steps or precautions need to be taken.
Please also familiarize your family with the “Return to School/Work Flowchart,” sent home and posted directly to our homepage: If your child presents symptoms in school, Lew-Port school nurses will discuss next steps with the family based on the guidance in this flowchart.
Please note in every scenario proof of a negative COVID-19 test is a final requirement for a return to work or school. This guidance is required by the Niagara County Department of Health. We recognize that is not mandated for schools in other counties, but we must follow the guidelines required in our county by our DOH. NCDOH is steadfast in their position that a return to work or school for any employee or student showing COVID-19 symptoms will require a doctor's note, proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and resolution of the symptoms. We will continue to work closely with NCDOH to keep our entire school community safe.