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Chautauqua Lake School Preparing For Return

School Superintendent Josh Liddell speaks during the recent Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education meeting. The school is making plans to have students return in person five days a week. Photo by Gregory Bacon

MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua Lake Central School is cautiously moving ahead with plans to reopen its school district for all students five days a week, starting Sept. 9.

During the recent Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education meeting, officials discussed in great detail everything from bus rides, to entering the building, to classroom teaching, lunch and more

Before the school board meeting, which was held in person and limited public attendance, attendees were required to get their temperature checked before entering the meeting room. School Superintendent Josh Liddell said six scanners would be placed at various entrances for students and staff when they arrive in the fall.

Part of the reason Liddell believes they will be able to open full time compared to other districts in the county is because of their size and newness. “Modern, larger buildings help social distancing requirements. We are very fortunate to be sitting in a school district that’s not that old in comparison to many neighboring school districts,” he said.

Not including BOCES students that participate in special education, Chautauqua Lake has around 790 students total.

The classrooms are generally larger and they can fit around 15 desks per classroom and still maintain the 6 foot rule.

The hallways are wide enough for two-way traffic. Students in kindergarten through third grade will stay in their classrooms with the same teacher while students in grades fourth through sixth will have their teachers rotate to the students. Older students will be dismissed between periods and must follow the markings on the floor, including walking single file, six feet apart.

Teachers will dismiss groups of students to visit their lockers, instead of having them all cluster between periods.

Liddell noted the lunch tables will have clear dividers, which are being made by Jamestown Plastics. The eight foot tables will now seat four students.

Prepackaged food will be served for lunch, Liddell explained, and no cash will be accepted.

The water fountains have been closed, but the school has installed water bottle filling stations.

Liddell said they are currently in the process of replacing the school’s 653 filters with MERV 13 filters. “For those that don’t know, that’s the filter for the air filtration system. It collects very minute particles,” he said.

School buses will transport one student per seat and masks will be required for students while on the bus. Students from the same family will sit together. According to Jim Morrison with the school’s transportation department, they will need to make an additional three runs.

After each bus run, drivers and bus aides will clean all surfaces and then the interior will be sprayed with an approved disinfectant.

The school district has surveyed parents regarding the plan to reopen full-time. According to Liddell, around 85% of families say they will send their students. The remaining 15% will be taught virtually by their own teachers.

Every student, including those being taught virtually and those who will be taught in the physical classroom, will be provided electronic computer devices so that if the state does order a shutdown the students will be prepared. “We were very concerned that we might not be able to get those in time. As you can imagine, there’s been an influx of school districts throughout not only New York state but throughout the country looking for one-to-one devices,” Liddell said.

However the school was able to secure enough devices, partly because Southwestern School District was able to help them out.

Since the school board meeting, Chautauqua Lake held three Zoom meetings with parents.

“Our parent meetings went really, really well,” Liddell said in a phone interview Thursday. “Parents are grateful to have a choice.”

Most of the questions during the Zoom meetings dealt with the details and protocols that will be implemented. “We’re actually developing a Q&A document that we’ll be putting up on our website,” he said.

Liddell said while things can always change he feels “cautiously optimistic” that things are going to work.

He applauded the many school leaders, including the 38 members of the Reopening Committee, who participated in drafting the plan that was submitted to the state. “The group that has been working on this has done an amazing amount of work. …. I couldn’t be more proud of that leadership team,” he said.

He also applauded the willingness of parents and community members when it comes to being on board with the school’s plan. “Everybody’s working together,” he said.

Board of Education President Amy Webb agreed. “The Chautauqua Lake Board of Education is confident and proud of the extensive re-opening plan that has been presented to our school community. We are grateful to all of the teachers, faculty, staff and administrators who worked tirelessly to produce a comprehensive plan, that is prepared to educate our students to the best of our abilities,” she said.

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