Weekly Update from the Office of the Superintendent
Throughout the reopening planning process, our two goals have been:

  • Ensuring the safety of our students, staff, and families
  • Providing the best, most equitable education possible

As this work has moved forward, we have paid very close attention to several key areas which we knew would determine whether we would be ready to open our schools to students on Sept. 8 in a hybrid scenario while simultaneously providing a full virtual option:

  • Personal Protective Equipment: Ensuring that adequate sustainable quantities of all the different required PPE supplies are available for all students so that schools can reopen on a long-term basis
  • Cleaning & Safety: Ensuring that all the necessary cleaning, sanitizing, and safety protocols and procedures are in place for the first day of school, ready to be followed by students, staff, and families
  • Staffing Considerations: Including food service, transportation, teachers in the classroom, etc., across all the different options that have been considered

For the past several weeks, we, like most school districts, have focused on implementing a hybrid scenario. The requirements set by the state for in-person attendance and the safety measures needed to protect against COVID-19 necessitate a hybrid scenario. We have also planned for a fully remote scenario, should one be necessitated as it was in the spring.

We also reviewed extensive feedback, information, and survey data. In our Reopening Survey, more than 45 percent of parents favored a fully remote/online instruction. It was clear from the survey results that many families in our community have serious concerns about in-person attendance and would favor the option to take part in a fully virtual option as an alternative to a hybrid schedule. Over the past few weeks, we have set out to try and determine how such an option can be offered for parents simultaneously with our regular model of instruction.

Determination for Start of 2020-21 School Year

Based on the information we have acquired and continued to monitor up to today, we cannot guarantee that our two core goals will be met by the first day of school if we immediately begin in a hybrid scenario. For this reason, I have made the decision to begin the year in a fully remote scenario and, in five-week increments, phase in a hybrid schedule. We will also make the necessary investments and preparations to ensure that all families have access to a fully virtual option which ensures the same educational quality and equity as their peers in the classrooms.

I know this will present challenges for our families, but it’s the best available option that achieves our objectives of ensuring the safety of our students, staff, and families and providing the best, most equitable education possible. It was based on all of the most up-to-date information and data including staffing and PPE acquisition.
As the economy was reopened in phases, we intend to phase in a hybrid schedule so that we may gradually bring students back to our schools in the safest manner possible. Our goal is to do this in five-week increments as described here:

  • The first five weeks of school will be remote for all grade levels. BOCES CTE students will be transported if families wish for their CTE students to attend in-person instruction at BOCES CTE sites. BOCES CTE is ready to operate a hybrid schedule, and has secured all of the necessary stockpiles of PPE.
  • During this time, our schools will prepare to phase in a hybrid schedule for specific groups of students, such as Universal Pre-K, Kindergarten, Grade 1, and self-contained special education classes, while also retooling classrooms to serve in-person and remote students at the same time.
  • During this phase, these students (UPK-Gr. 1 and self-contained students) may be scheduled to return to school on specific days to get to know their teacher and learn about the new protocols, procedures, and safety measures they will follow to keep them safe.
  • These students would begin following a hybrid schedule starting October 13, the beginning of Phase 2.

In this manner, schools will gradually return to in-person attendance following a hybrid schedule with new grade levels and groups of students returning in five-week increments. The following are the targets we will be working toward; however, these are subject to change depending on the circumstances of the pandemic:

  • October 13, 2020: UPK, K, Gr. 1, and self-contained special education classes (the goal is for all self-contained classes to attend four days per week)
  • November 16, 2020: Gr. 2-4 and Gr. 5
  • January 4, 2021: Gr. 6-12 (because of winter recess)

The additional time will allow the district to make the necessary investments so that a full virtual option can be seamlessly integrated into our daily instruction, while guaranteeing equity and access to all content areas and course options for all students. Technology and training will be provided so that teachers will teach the students in their classrooms and the students at home simultaneously. This would enable families to access a fully virtual instruction at any point, whether they have signed up for one or not.
Benefits of a Phase-In Approach
  • Our schools have stockpiled vast quantities of PPE including KN95 masks, reusable face shields, reusable goggles microfiber wipes, spray bottles and solution. Items that are scheduled to arrive by the first day of school, though we can't guarantee it, are disposable masks, disposable gowns, the final shipments of reusable cloth masks, and the final shipments of disposable gloves.
  • Three areas we have faced challenges are polycarbonate dividers, which we are waiting to be manufactured, delivered, and installed, and sanitizing wipes for classrooms/buses and hand sanitizer dispensers for all classrooms, the standards for which have changed.
  • A gradual phase-in of the hybrid scenario will ensure that sufficient stockpiles of all the necessary PPE are on hand so that school operations and safety can be maintained indefinitely in a sustainable manner.

Virtual Option:
  • Nearly 1,700 students have registered for a fully remote/online education for the first 20 weeks of schools. These families cannot be denied access to an education, or compelled to attend school in-person. The district currently does not have the staffing to operate a full hybrid schedule simultaneously with a separate virtual program, while providing equity and access to specific course options/content areas. A gradual phase-in of the hybrid scenario will allow the district to make the necessary investments so that the full virtual option can be seamlessly integrated into our daily instruction as long as one is needed, while guaranteeing equity for all students. We will work together with staff to appropriately design this and to move forward with this model.
  • This option would not just be limited to the 1,700 students who signed up, but any students. Those who didn’t sign up, those who change their mind, and students who are quarantined and sick would also be able to take advantage of this opportunity. The goal would be for the option to be available to all students, including those who are uncomfortable with in-person instruction or have mitigating circumstances. This would also provide access to all content areas, electives, and course offerings to those participating in the fully virtual option.
  • Students can seamlessly shift between the two options, which many families have requested. It also gives us the ability to seamlessly shift between our hybrid schedule and a fully remote schedule should the circumstances of the pandemic necessitate it.

  • Attending school with all of the safety measures required by NYSED and necessary to keep our students, families, and staff safe represents a major change for students, staff and families. Both will need time to learn these new protocols and procedures and to adjust.
  • A phased-in approach to reopening has been used throughout the country as the safest way to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing flexibility, the ability to evaluate and adapt, and opportunities to adjust to new procedures and standards. It gives us the opportunity to gradually reopen our schools while observing what is working and not working in other districts around the country.
Challenges & Work Ahead
Over the next two weeks, staff will be working hard to launch a fully remote learning model beginning Sept. 8 for all students and grade levels.

A major priority for the district will be providing families in need with devices. We know that, in a fully remote learning model, access to instructional devices is critically important. Currently, we are not a 1:1 district, with one device per student, but we are working to get there fast. In fact, just yesterday, our Board of Education approved the acquisition of a significant number of devices. We will not be able to get these devices out to families right away, so the challenge for the district which we are working hard to overcome is to provide as many devices as possible as a stop-gap until these devices arrive. Next week, we will be communicating with families regarding device acquisition.

Our schools will also be moving very quickly to finalize back-to-school information including teacher assignments, supply lists, schedules, and orientation information, which will be sent to families by August 31.

Simultaneously, over the next seven weeks, staff will be working to prepare our buildings for the phasing in of in-person attendance in a hybrid schedule. Central to this will be rolling out a new model of instruction that facilitates virtual at-home instruction for those who choose or need it and in-person attendance in the classroom, simultaneously. This will begin on Oct. 13 for students in UPK-Gr. 1 and then in five-week increments. This will require new technology, extensive training and collaboration, and a new way of looking at classroom instruction during the pandemic.

We will also plan additional parent and family meetings. It isn’t a requirement, but we wish to provide families with as many opportunities as possible to ask questions and communicate regarding the plan for the 20-21 school year. Some of these will take part at the district level, following the same format as our previous meetings, and additional meetings at the school level.

This is not the best possible scenario. The best possible scenario would be an end to the pandemic and a return to full in-person instruction. But this is the best, most sustainable option that maintains the safety of students, staff, and families while creating the best, most equitable education possible for all of our students, in a sustainable manner during the pandemic.
Erie County Childcare Task Force Survey

The Erie County Emergency Childcare Taskforce is working with Erie 1 BOCES and local school districts to develop a plan to meet child care needs on the days your child(ren) are not on-site at their school. The first step in developing that plan is to determine the possible need for childcare/school-age programs in your area. Please help us to determine the possible need for services by taking the survey at the following link: Erie County Childcare Task Force Survey