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School Officials Review Reopening Plan

SHERMAN — Sherman Central School Superintendent Michael Ginestre and principal Ann Morrison unveiled a plan for a “hybrid” return to school this fall at a special meeting of the school board.

Ginestre began by emphasizing that the plan is not what they had hoped could be offered.

“I hope everybody knows we are working within the guidelines we have received,” he said. “The guidelines do not allow for 100% attendance, five days a week.”

Ginestre also emphasized that this plan is based on the guidelines the district has received so far from the CDC, the state department of health and the state department of education. However, he said, everything could change when Gov. Andrew Cuomo issues his directives.

Sherman faces several challenges that other districts do not, Ginestre said, including having only one building, operating a kindergarten through 12th grade schedule and typically having one bus run. However, he said the district had to “throw all of this out to come up with this plan because of the guidelines that are in place for health and safety.”

The plan the district is presenting is a hybrid model, Ginestre said. Grades pre-kindergartenthrough sixth and special education students will attend in person Monday through Thursday because only 10 to 12 students are allowed per classroom. “These rooms are not big by any stretch,” he said. “And those are the highest-need students and the highest-risk students.”

The important thing to remember, Ginestre said, is that all students will equitably attend, whether in person or learning remotely.

“All students will have a schedule and all classes are mandatory,” he said. “The only thing that will be different with remore learning is that the students will not be in the building. Everything else is the same.”

Students who are attending in person will be required to keep 6 feet from one another and all persons will be required to wear a mask upon entering the building and in all common areas, Ginestre said. It is still uncertain whether students will have to wear a mask while learning in the classroom.

Because only 10 to 12 students can be instructed in a room, each grade will have overrun rooms or “zoom rooms,” Ginestre said. The teacher will be live in one room and broadcast into the overrun rooms. These rooms will be monitored by certified personnel, he added.

Students in seventh through 12th grades will engage in remote learning Monday through Thursday and in person on Fridays, Ginestre said. Attendance will be taken every day and all students will have a schedule, he noted. They will not need lockers because they will remain in one room, he said.

Ginestre also said that students will be required to wear masks if they take the bus to school. Students must remain in their seats for the whole bus ride and only one child will be allowed in a seat, unless they are family members.

Ginestre told board members that the plan is based on guidelines from the CDC, from the state Education Department and from the parent survey. He noted that the district received a very good response to the survey, with 142 people submitting answers.

Parents were asked how concerned they are about the health and safety of their chidren as a result of COVID-19. When asked if they plan on sending their child back to school if all safety precautions are met, 13% of respondents said no. Also, when parents were asked if they would send their children back if they were required to wear masks, 48% said no.

“These are scary numbers,” Ginestre said.

He said the district was hoping for more positive responses to these questions.

Nevertheless, 74.5% of respondants said they would prefer in-person learning, while 25.5% prefer at-home instruction. Further questions dealt with transportation, blended learning and and whether the respondant’s children have someone at home to assist with learning,

Ginestre noted that it was very encouraging to see that 87.2% of parents indicate their children have reliable access to the internet. The final survey question asked if there were one request for Sherman’s reopening, what would it be, Ginestre told the board.

“There was really a mix of comments on this one,” he said. “They ran the gamut.”

Ginestre concluded his presentation on the operational side of returning to school by explaining how children would be screened prior to entering buses, how entering school would be conducted, and what the guidelines are for sick children and staff. Morrison noted that any child who is sent home due to illness will need a note from their doctor before they can return.

Morrison reviewed the district’s plans for instructional support, student support and wellness and for professional development of faculty and staff. She noted that the district will be using Google Classroom as their main platform. She told board members that wellness surveys and enhanced communication between students and teachers are important aspects of the plan.

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