Back To Class?
Parents Raise Concerns To School Board
Several parents raised concerns to the Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education on Tuesday night regarding what they believe to be a lack of clear information regarding a return to in-person education for students in grades 10 through 12.
Frank Galeazzo, who spoke at an August board meeting with similar concerns over evaluation periods for the district’s reopening plan, commended the district for its decision on Monday to add in-person instruction on Fridays to students’ schedules in elementary and middle schools starting Oct. 23
“We’ve asked you to shorten those windows up a little bit which it looks like you did, but we still have not heard a lot about our 10 through 12th-grade students,” he said. “Where is the equity for our 10th through 12th-grade students? What happened to the evaluation of specific classes?”
The district had committed itself to bring back in-person instruction for certain classes, namely Advanced Placement courses, and is still planning to do so. Jamestown High School principal Dana Williams is expected to announce those arrangements this week
Galeazzo also suggested to board members, on the recommendation of his daughter, that students who are coming back be brought back for full-day instruction rather than half-day instruction.
“Her concern and the fear of some of her friends is that when you get into middle school and you get into that half-hour block for that subject, by the time you get done with that half-hour you really don’t get a lot out of it,” he said.
“It would be nice if you guys could give some background as to why you guys came up to these conclusions or solutions,” Galeazzo added. “What did you look at? What else did you look at? Why would that work? Why wouldn’t that work? We just would like a little more transparency about what has been looked at and letting the public parents know that this was a very hard issue to navigate.”
Roslyn Sisley also commended the board for their decision to have students attend an additional day in person but encouraged for the return to be expanded as much as possible.
“One more day is great, but it’s kind of not enough,” Sisley, a retired teacher, said noting that she also has a student in AP classes who is struggling with having to learn virtually.
“Those classes are hard for those kids and I think it’s difficult on the computer,” she said. “I think that is hard for those kids, plus the mental anguish that some kids are going through I think the more that you can get them into school, that will help. … We just need to see if we can get some of them back sooner than later.”
Whitaker told the group that he appreciated their feedback and explained the district’s thinking process and that the district’s ultimate goal is to have all students back in school as soon as possible.
“We have to balance that against the safety risk,” he said. “If we brought everybody back at once, the concern was not only would it not meet New York state requirements in time — it came out in July — but we would have a much higher risk of transmission through school and that shuts the whole thing down.”
He explained that full-day instruction may be coming soon, but that the district’s choice to continue half-day instruction for the time being was out of caution.
“We want to build this very carefully as slowly and as reasonably as possible,” he said. “The move to a full day is our next step. Not this intermediate step. Full days may be coming. I don’t know when that will happen.”
Uncertain guidance from New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who classified the Western New York region as a “hot spot” and introduced additional guidance on closing schools Tuesday — also complicates things, he said.
“I wish I could bring everybody back,” he said to parents. “I wish we could do that safely. Eventually, we will, but there’s a lot of forces conspiring against us right now and unfortunately, that’s where we are. Ultimately the goal is to move forward, get more kids but do so as safe as possible.”
Tuesday’s meeting began with the board entering into executive session to discuss a disciplinary matter. Later in the meeting, board members approved a resolution to proceed with Civil Service Law 75 — which allows for removal and other disciplinary action against an individual — charges against a member of the Association of Jamestown Paraprofessionals.
The board also voted to approve Spanish speaking positions — a school secretary and a clerk and also voted to approve school comprehensive education plans for three district schools that “Targeted Support and Improvement Schools” by the state Education Department — Ring Elementary School and Jefferson and Washington middle schools.
Board members also approved an agreement with the city of Jamestown for installation and use of safety cameras on all buses transporting district students in accordance to a law passed by the state Legislature that amended the Vehicle and Traffic Law to help address the continued violation motor vehicle operators illegally overtaking or passing school buses.