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Falconer School Reopening Plans Sent To Albany

Falconer Central School District board president Todd Beckerink discusses reopening plans for the fall semester, which were submitted to the New York State Education Department on Friday. P-J photo by Jay Young

FALCONER–A reopening plan for the Falconer Central School District was submitted to the New York State Department of Education on Friday after spending months in development by a reopening committee staffed by more than 50.

The district’s teachers, administrative staff, parents and community leaders have worked to outline a reopening plan aimed a preserving public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The undertaking includes a significant number of changes from a typical school year, addressing everything from transportation, to food service, to basic classroom organization.

“The past two weeks we have really been working on that reopening plan, and it was submitted to (the state education department) on Friday,” said Judy Roach, director of instruction and staff development.

The board discussed several parts of the plan, which can be viewed in full at www.falconercsd.org, as well as how future decisions made in Albany will impact the fall semester.

On Monday, Superintendent Stephen Penhollow held a pair of public information sessions regarding the reopening plan, allowing parents and students to ask questions and provide feedback.

“We have 12 pages of questions with their answers typed from those two sessions,” Roach said, adding that the discussion will be posted on the Falconer website.

Falconer Middle School Principal Terry English briefed the board on recent efforts to help students with information technology.

The district remains focused on making sure that all students have sufficient internet access and necessary devices that aid distance learning.

“We are in the process of purchasing more Wi-Fi hotspots for those families that might need it,” English said. “We have a number of devices on back order. We put in an order for Chromebooks, but then of course issues with shipping and coronavirus, factories being shut down, those are on back order. We anticipate we will get those in November.”

Several board members, including president Todd Beckerink, noted that many expectations for the 2020-21 school year are still up in the air.

“For right now, we don’t even know if the governor is going to allow schools to open, as of this minute right now,” Beckerink said. “He wants to look at the plans, he is either going to accept them, reject them, or tell you to go back and redo them. Our administrative team is working on it. They are coming up with the best plan that they see that will fit for tomorrow. If schools open back up in September I think it is going to be a daily change. Things are going to change, whether it is transportation, to the classroom, to the little kids in preschool or kindergarten.”

Board member Bob Carpenter added his concerns about how the district might deal with a possible outbreak of COVID-19 during the school year.

“We seem to continue having considerable new cases right here in the county, and most of them are in the southern part now which, they weren’t before,” Carpenter said. “How are we going to stay open? We can’t get (substitute teachers) on a regular basis. If you quarantine a number of staff members, how do you replace them?”

In other business, the board discussed ongoing summer construction projects, and approved funding alterations for the sidewalk entrance off of the visitor loop at the high school.

The board also approved the resignation of social studies teacher Timothy Butzer, who is retiring.

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