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JPS Seeks Feedback As Reopening Plan Released

For the last several weeks, a 50-person group of teachers, administrators, support staff and others representing each facet of the Jamestown Public Schools district combed through 145-pages of state guidelines in formulating a detailed approach to the 2020-21 school year.

Now, the district is looking for members of the community to join the conversation.

“We learned about the guidance from the state, we transformed it into a template, we worked on the template and came up with some models — now we need the community to tell us what works for them,” superintendent Dr. Kevin Whitaker told The Post-Journal, referring to a survey located at jpsny.org/reopeningsurvey that asks for the community’s input after the district released its tentative plan on Friday — deadline for schools across New York to submit their individual plans to the state education department.

In its plan, the district options for distance learning or partial in-person instruction. Neither plan outlined includes the traditional in-person instruction five days a week.

The plan — available in full or in a “reader friendly” version at jpsny.org/reopening — details two “learning models” that could be selected based on state guidance and parent feedback.

The primary is a hybrid learning model, includes both in-person and distance learning for students. Specifically, students would attend school in person at least two days a week or part of the day, with assignments to be completed at home on other days. Each school would determine the daily schedule and student attendance groups.

“One of the models that have gained a lot of traction is the 2-1-2 model — an A group and B group: the A group goes to school in person for two days of the week, then they are remote for three days of the week,” Whitaker explained. “The B group goes on other two days of the week and they are remote for the other three days of the week with one day in between for deep cleaning of the buildings and there’s no in-person learning on those days. It might be a Wednesday, it might be a Monday.”

The remote learning model — a required backup design by the state — would consist of students receiving full-time instruction through distance learning, with classes held online for several hours each day. Instruction may be provided through live or recorded lessons.

Whitaker explained, however, there is a “tug of war” that exists within the hybrid model.

“There’s a balance that we’re looking for of instruction on one side as to what’s best instructional and on the other side you have logistics and operations,” he said. “If we could just magically transport kids, we’d know what we’d have to do. But, we can’t because of the guidelines from the governor and health department. Another version of the 2-1-2 is the staggered 2-1-2, where you might go to school on Monday and Thursday as the A group and the other group might go Tuesday and Friday.”

He also understands that that model could pose its own issues.

“That seems weird and it would be challenging for child care, but the reason why that is good on the instructional side, you see face-to-face your elementary kid on a Monday and then they only miss two days in terms of face-to-face,” he said. “That, instructionally, works great. But, operationally, can parents navigate that? We’re going to try to answer those questions.”

That’s where the community’s feedback comes into play through the use of a survey — located at jpsny.org/reopeningsurvey.

“This survey is to tell us about the impact of these things on your life,” Whitaker said. “We designed the survey in a way that it’s asking about the impact on child care and on the impact of health at home or how certain cleaning practices are important to you. We’re asking about what parents are most concerned about, we’re not asking for a popular vote.”

And while remote learning will include similar elements to the approach the district took in wake of the COVID-19 statewide shut down in March, Whitaker emphasized that the approach moving forward will be quite different.

“It’s not going to be like it was from March to June,” he said. “There’s a difference between distance learning and emergency online learning. Emergency online learning was, ‘Hey, it’s Friday you’re planning on your kids coming back on Monday and poof we’re going to do it on the computer now.’ That’s entirely different from what this is and we have it built it into some of these models for teachers to have time to plan for the kids who are in the non-in-person model and what they are doing at home with check-ins and attendance and expectations. … The state education department has pretty clearly said what we did March to June statewide was an emergency. That’s not going to be okay if we do that again in September.”

“That’s instruction time now,” he added. “It’s no longer ‘do the best you can.’ This is classtime now.”

The survey will be open to the school community through the end of next week and close on Aug. 7, completing the second phase of the district’s reopening plan at which time the third phase — re-evaluating the current plan based on feedback — will begin. Once that is completed around Aug. 15, the district will begin implementing the measures in the runup to the first day of school in September.

“From the 15th of August, we’ll be focused on implementation until the beginning of school,” Whitaker said.

He also credited the team that worked to come up with Friday’s plan.

“It was so important for us to have people on that committee that included everyone,” Whitaker said. “I needed to hear from secretaries, I needed to hear from bus monitors, I needed to hear from transportation people — what stuff works? I just am amazed at the amount of work the group has done. It’s a bunch of volunteer people who are putting in tons of hours and they were thinking about this stuff all the time. It’s impressive and awe-inspiring.”

The district encourages parents and students with reopening-related questions to reach out via email at questions@jpsny.org.

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