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JPS Prepares For Future Impacts Due To Virus

P-J file photo by Jordan W. Patterson

During a meeting designated for budget talk, it was expected of Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education members and administrators to further discuss the ramifications of COVID-19 and school closures.

During the meeting, the board discussed ongoing protocol regarding distributing information, learning materials and food for the school community.

Additionally, board members discussed potential delays with the state budget process and even delays to the May 19 school budget vote in Jamestown. The board discussed the potential for state aid adjustments occurring after the state budget is approved, due to ongoing circumstances.

Paul Abbott, JPS board president, raised concerns of the budget vote being pushed back to later in the school year.

“May 19 is a very fluid situation,” Abbott said. “The indication we’ve already gotten in regards to school board budget votes and school board elections is that we’re probably already looking at June.”

Dr. Bret Apthorpe, JPS superintendent, said he agreed with Abbott’s suggestion based on information he’s read and seen..

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has placed numerous restrictions on daily lives, businesses, schools in the SUNY and CUNY system and public schools. Ahead of Cuomo’s directive to close schools, all schools in Chautauqua County, following a state of emergency declaration by County Executive PJ Wendel, closed schools due to the fear of spreading coronavirus.

Last week, JPS began providing a meal provision program that dispersed 1,000 bags of food on its first day. Additionally, students collected supplies, computers and learning packets for education at home.

Also, child care services will be provided five days a week beginning today from 7:30 a.m to 5 p.m. For any JPS student in grades K-5, childcare will be provided at Ring by the YMCA and Fletcher by the YWCA. For any JPS student ages 3 and 4, childcare will be provided by the YWCA and A Children’s Place.

Apthorpe held two Facebook live sessions last week, one for students and one for parents and families. The first saw more than 500 online engagements while the second observed more than 1,000 engagements with members of the district asking Apthorpe about the future of the ongoing closures.

Apthorpe, during Tuesday’s meeting that was held via video conference, announced he would be holding more Facebook live sessions moving forward.

One recurring question in the first round of video sessions was related to state assessments. However, the state Education Department announced a list of exams that were cancelled including New York State Grades 3-8 English Language Arts Test; New York State Grades 3-8 Mathematics Test; New York State Grade 4 Elementary-Level Science Test; New York State Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test; New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) in Grades K-12; and New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) for students with severe cognitive disabilities in Grades 3-8 and high school

A second round of live sessions will be held Friday, March 27th at 10 a.m. and for parents on Saturday, March 28th at 9 a.m.

Additionally, during Tuesday’s meeting, there was even a discussion about the impact to the ongoing superintendent search. The board hired New York State Leadership Group while Apthorpe will see out the remainder of the current school year.

Apthorpe has previously said he’s made himself available after June 30, the approved resignation date, if a candidate has not been selected by that time. However, the search process may be potentially slowed down given the ongoing fear of spreading the pandemic and the possible ramifications to an employment search.

A March 28 board retreat is being held via video conference as well to follow social distancing recommendations.

On a positive note, Patrick Slagle, JPS board vice president, praised the school district’s response to the virus and its impacts.

“I’m hearing just great talk in the community about the response to this whole crisis we’re going through,” Slagle told school officials Tuesday. “I hear that Jamestown has their game together. The communication is excellent. The programs are excellent. Everyone I see – well, I don’t see that many people – but when I talk to people on the phone or whatever I’m just hearing great things. So I think a shout out goes out to everyone involved for the great work that’s being done.”

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