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Sherman To Use Hybrid Learning Through End Of School Year

SHERMAN — The Sherman Central School District will continue to follow the hybrid model of instruction that has been in use throughout the 2020-21 school year, board of education members and administrators determined at a special meeting on March 31.

Michael Ginestre, district superintendent, reminded board members that “we have received word from the CDC that we can reduce social distancing in the classroom to three feet. However “there’s no imminent announcement that we know of,” he said. “There are caveats and there are issues with this. Despite what the CDC says, we are at the mercy of the governor and the New York state Department of Health.”

Ginestre said it was important for the district to be prepared for any outcome.

“We are prepared to act in any way we have to,” he said. “But we definitely want to think about what will be best for the kids.”

In anticipation of a possible change, Ginestre said the district sought public opinion through a survey sent to all school families.

“We had 124 respondents and the answers were interesting,” he said.

The first question asked if parents were in support of the change in social distancing from six to three feet and 62% of the respondents said yes, Ginestre said. However, Ginestre noted that, if social distancing were reduced to three feet, students would be required to wear masks at all times. The second question asked if parents would support this, and 53% said no, Ginestre said.

The third question addressed the matter of quarantine, which would result in a mandated quarantine for the whole class if someone tested positive. In the survey, 54% of respondents said they do not support this change.

The final question asked if parents would rather keep the six-foot social distancing rule for the remainder of the school year and 61% said yes, Ginestre said.

“This answer surprised us a little bit,” he said.

Board members were largely in agreement that no change should take place before the end of the school year.

Theresa Guzman said she felt the three-foot rule is geared mainly toward schools that have not been able to open or to bring students back more than one or two days a week.

“We kept the students coming throughout the year,” she said. “I feel we should concentrate on the system as it is. That’s my two cents, anyway.”

Ginestre agreed, noting that the new guidelines are primarily for kids who have had very limited access to their teachers.

“We’ve made a lot of adjustments to bring the kids back, already,” he said.

District Principal Ann Morrison said that the school has accommodated all requests from students in ninth through 12th grades who want to receive in-person instruction.

“I don’t know of anyone in grades nine through 12 who wants to be in school and who is not here at least three days a week,” she said.

Board member Colleen Meeder said that bringing all the students back at this point would not restore normalcy because of other restrictions.

“It’s a matter of weighing how much time and effort it will take to administrate this as opposed to focusing on maintaining a good education and finishing the school year,” Meeder said.

Meeder also noted that the district is just beginning to restore its sports program and to bring all the students back five days a week would be overwhelming.

“We are also diving into sports and this virus has not gone away,” she said. “There are still a lot of moving parts. Does it make sense to try and manage all of this for a couple of weeks?”

Board President Brian Bates said he feels that trying to bring all the kids back full time would be stressful for the students at this point.

“For eight weeks, we are going to upend what the kids are doing? All it’s going to do is rattle them,” he said. “We could use the small period of time remaining to do other things for the kids.”

In other business, board members approved a plan to seek public approval to transfer the Nature Center property to the village. Attorney Dana Lundberg reviewed the particulars involved in such a transfer.

Lundberg said the school district does have the ability to convey real property to another public entity, either for a dollar amount, as a lease, or simply as a transfer for the amount of $1.

“But in each of these instances, voter approval is required because it is not the school’s property; it is the voters’ property,” Lundberg said.

Lundberg said there are two stipulations to a transfer of this sort. First, the real estate must be property that is no longer needed by the district. Also, the transfer must include the stipulation that the property will be used by the entity it is going to, he said.

Lundberg told board members that the leasing provisions are more stringent and will not work for this situation.

Meeder, who is also mayor of the village of Sherman, said that the only changes that would be made to the property would be the expansion of the pond and the installation of a spillway to take excess water away.

“Hopefully there will be some improvements in the areas of aesthetics and maintenance, but, other than that, there will be no changes,” she said.

Ginestre agreed, noting that the district maintains the property, but does not make use of it because it is not part of the school campus.

“It is easier to take the kids across the street to the football field than to the Nature Center,” he said.

Lundberg pointed out that the real property being discussed is actually three parcels and that the transfer would include alll three.

“You put it out to the voters as a proposition to transfer the three parcels for $1 on the condition that the village pay all costs associated with the transfer,” he said. “That includes standard title work and the deed.”

Meeder said that, though the village and the Board of Education have agreed to the transfer, it is important that voters realize that the village will be paying the associated costs.

“It should strengthen the leaning towards a ‘yes’ vote if it says the village will pay the costs,” she said.

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