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Whitaker Talks Virus Report Cards; JHS Upperclassmen

Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Whitaker is still hopeful more Jamestown High School students return to in-person instruction at the East Second Street school building sooner rather than later.

Currently, as part of the district’s reopening effort, most students in 10th through 12th grades are learning from home. Freshmen meanwhile are attending courses in-person.

“There are always folks in those grades 10 through 12 that really want to get back to school and we really want to get them back to school,” he said after Tuesday night’s board of education meeting. “So, we still are working on the AP classes, those singletons, that we’ve talked about before to get those kids back to school. I’ve had conversations with a lot of those teachers. We’re working with (high school principal) Mr. (Dana) Williams to figure out what the logistics of coming in for that class looks like.”

He added, “Our freshmen have been enjoying the opportunity to tour the building, learn the building with our staff members in small groups so that they don’t get lost or taken advantage of.”

Whitaker also talked about the process of populating New York state’s virtual COVID-19 School Report Card — a centralized dashboard for all data related to the novel coronavirus by school district. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the measure, which requires school districts, local health departments and testing laboratories to report their data to the state Department of Health, on Sept. 8.

“It came as a surprise,” Whitaker said. “Obviously the school superintendents like myself are busy opening up schools and so on Sept. 8 when this was announced, we’re in buildings and talking with kids and parents and teachers, so we’re not glued to the governor’s press conferences where he suddenly surprises us about COVID dashboards.”

Still, Whitaker noted that the transparency the governor is aiming to provide is important.

“It’s important that people know what’s going on and so we, very quickly, got word of an information session that the state Department of Health put up and so I watched that,” he said. “Jessie Joy (Chief Information Officer) has been very helpful in getting that information on a daily basis and that dashboard has changed so they’re still building that plane while it’s in the air.”

He added, “It was a surprise, it was a thing that we didn’t anticipate on the first day of school, but we got it done and transparency is a good thing and so I encourage parents to check it out.”

The district on Wednesday said two students, siblings who have not been in the high school in person, have tested positive for COVID-19.

David O’Rourke, Chief Executive Officer and District Superintendent for Erie-2 Chautauqua Cattaraugus BOCES, told The Post-Journal last week that no districts within the regional footprint are testing students or faculty on-site. Instead, districts are working very closely with the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services.

“School districts themselves in this region cannot provide tests themselves under their reopening plans,” O’Rourke said. “Testing and contact tracing comes from the county health departments.”

“The state made a statement that they gather that information that they have it already from providers,” Whitaker added. “The county Department of Health is supposed to be notified if there are any cases and we may hear informally from other people, parents, kids or whatever. They want all of the information so that they can make sure they have the information that’s out there. There are still questions about that. We work closely with the Department of Health.”

According to the report card’s website — schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov — Jamestown Public Schools has reported zero cases among the 3,653 on-site students and staff districtwide. That number includes 2,938 total students, 404 teachers and 311 additional staff members. That site also lists 1,696 students — which includes the upperclassmen at Jamestown High School — 11 teachers and two staff members who are off-site.

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