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Superintendent Uses Facebook To Send Students Message

Dr. Bret Apthorpe, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, administered a Facebook Live session with students Friday to discuss the ongoing closure of schools.

Contact among students and schools has been limited indefinitely due to COVID-19. However, Dr. Bret Apthorpe, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, spoke to students Friday and with parents Saturday via Facebook live.

With about 500 individual users watching at one point during Friday’s discussion, Apthorpe responded to questions from students and district families regarding the ongoing closure of schools.

During the video session Apthorpe encouraged students to take matters into their own hands by limiting contact with others to curb the spread of the virus.

“You define this moment right now,” Apthorpe said.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has placed numerous restrictions on daily lives, businesses, schools in the SUNY and CUNY system and public schools. Ahead of Cuomo’s directive to close schools, all schools in Chautauqua County, following a state of emergency declaration by County Executive PJ Wendell, announced that buildings and classes would be closed until at least April 20. However during Apthorpe’s video session, he told students he doubted schools would be back on April 21.

“I think they’re going to be closed for quite awhile,” Apthorpe said, responding to a question from a student. “Every morning here at my office I watch the governor and he does an hour and a half conversation with the public and he keeps talking about this trajectory of people getting sick. What I’m hearing that is it’s expected peak between 40 and 50 days from now. My guess is, let’s hope we’re all back after April break but let’s also realize that we probably won’t.”

Many of those who participated in the Facebook Live session asked about graduation, potential for summer classes, advancing grade levels and state assessments.

Apthorpe said much is dependent upon what the state Education Department decides and how long schools remain closed.

JPS is currently providing a meal provision program that dispersed 1,000 bags of food on its first day. Additionally, students have collected supplies, computers and learning packets for education at home. Also, Child care services will be provided five days a week beginning today from 7:30 a.m to 5 p.m. For any JPS student in grades K-5, childcare will be provided at Ring by the YMCA and Fletcher by the YWCA.

For any JPS student ages 3 and 4, childcare will be provided by the YWCA and A Children’s Place.

As for going about daily lives while utilizing JPS-provided school work, Apthorpe offered students advice.

“The purpose of school is to educate, right? It’s to help you kids learn skills, important knowledge. It’s not meant to be a punishment, and I know some of you might feel like it’s a punishment. So, what should you do when you’re not in school? I think first and foremost you need to have a routine. You need to have a healthy routine.”

Included in Apthorpe’s recommended routine were exercising, reading, keeping journals, completing school work and attempting to make the most of the time away from the classroom.

Apthorpe also encouraged students to reach out to their grandparents and older family members to check in on them.

“The reason they closed schools is to minimize gatherings of large amounts of people,” he said. “Kids, you are such an important ingredient to defeating this virus. When you’re young you feel real invincible. You feel healthy and strong. What we need is young people from all across the whole country just to stay home and be isolated.

“Wash your hands a lot and do healthy activities at home because we find that many young people are asymptomatic carriers of this thing. You might have it any not even know it and you might pass it off to somebody and that’s why schools are closed to minimize that.”

Apthorpe said, regarding students asking about advancing to the next grade level, that it’s more about a collection of certain knowledge by the end of the year. Additionally, Apthorpe told students to not “stress over tests” regarding ELA assessments and regents exams. As for ELA exams, Apthorpe said he was told they have not been shipped out to meet the previously scheduled testing dates.

SED announced a list of exams that are canceled and updated the state on further resources for learning at home. Canceled tests include New York State Grades 3-8 English Language Arts Test; New York State Grades 3-8 Mathematics Test; New York State Grade 4 Elementary-Level Science Test; New York State Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test; New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) in Grades K-12; and New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) for students with severe cognitive disabilities in Grades 3-8 and high school.

According to an SED news release, the state Education Department and New York’s nine public television stations also announced that expanded educational resources and “Learn-at-Home”programming is now available for all of New York’s students in response to school closings across the state. In addition, the state Education Department has launched a dedicated website featuring remote continuity of learning resources to provide districts and teachers with increased options.

Additionally, students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade will have access to PBS educational programming every weekday starting this week.

Regarding regents exams, Apthorpe said if the assessment is administered it won’t be given in the traditional sense. As for how the state Education Department will move forward about state testing and advancing grade levels, Apthorpe was unsure.

“What the state is going to have to figure out is what does this new paradigm mean?” Apthorpe said. “What’s the path for kids to get those skills and knowledge and when will they graduate? That’s what we’re waiting to hear. I bet you we’re going to have a graduation for sure. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I know we’ll have a graduation.”

Initial learning packets and online coursework were planned for students upon initial closure. However, Apthorpe acknowledged that students would soon be without work and noted that teachers are currently working on preparing more lesson plans. Additionally, Apthorpe said that while only essential staff are allowed in school building the custodial staff have been cleaning and disinfecting school facilities.

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