Weekly Update from the Office of the Superintendent
October 23, 2020
On Tuesday, we were excited to recognize the talents of nine student artists, their art teachers, and our dedicated Board of Education members at the annual Student Artist Reception and Board Appreciation Night.

This annual event celebrates the phenomenal work of our art teachers and students and recognizes the importance of art in our schools. Artwork was featured by students Brynn Karan, Giovanni Cartone, Joseph McMillen, Alison Williams, Isaak Gilds, Callie Torchia, Suaad Yahya, Devon Cudmore, and Catherine Alverson.

As we observe NYS School Board Recognition Week, the event also gave us the opportunity to celebrate the dedication and critical work of our five Board of Education members: President Matthew Chimera, Vice President Andrew Gianni, and Trustees Lesley Battaglia, Jennifer Morrow, and Dr. Thomas Reigstad. Click here to learn more about this wonderful event and for the photo gallery.

Hybrid Phase-In Update

We remain on track to continue the phase-in of a hybrid schedule with Grades 2-5 returning on Monday, November 16.

We are looking at a multitude of factors that might make it possible to advance the next target date of Jan. 4 for Grades 6-12. There is no substitute for in-person instruction, and we want to bring our students back as quickly as possible if it can be done safely. We expect to communicate a determination next week, or the week after at the latest. We will still face obstacles such as transportation challenges that arise by having students attending in-person instruction while others remain virtual. An example of this is transporting students to CTE centers from both the school and home simultaneously.

Cluster Action Initiative

Our focus continues to be on reopening our schools and phasing in a hybrid schedule, but we are looking at other developments that are taking place across the state. Within the past couple of weeks, details have emerged regarding Gov. Cuomo’s new Cluster Action Initiative. This program is intended to target smaller areas where there is increased prevalence of COVID-19 transmission. It has already been put into effect in areas of New York City and its suburbs, and in the Binghamton area.

Under the Cluster Action Initiative, there are specific criteria that determine whether an area or neighborhood will be identified. Based on a variety of factors such as the positivity rate and hospitalizations, areas may be identified as red, orange, or yellow zones, with varying degrees of restrictions on in-person activity (red zones with the greatest restrictions, yellow zones with the least restrictive). In areas where this program has been put into effect, it is common to find a central red zone, encircled by an orange zone, encircled by a yellow zone. The boundaries of these zones are established by the state based on proximity to those who have tested positive.

In a red and orange zone, there can be no in-person school attendance, and schools must operate 100% remotely. In a yellow zone, schools may continue in-person attendance if they meet the state’s requirements. One of these requirements is for the school to test 20% of students and staff weekly. Schools in yellow zones are currently facing challenges such as how to carry out this testing and secure parental permission to test the required number of students.

As we enter cold and flu season amid fears of a potential uptick in COVID-19 transmission, it is important that the community understand this new program because it significantly impacts school operations. We are very closely looking at what is taking place elsewhere in the state, and proactively planning in the event that our own schools are impacted in the future. We are looking ahead to how we may be able to meet the testing requirement. Just to use our high schools as an example, we would need to test approximately 190 students and 40 staff at Kenmore East and 210 students and 50 staff at Kenmore West each week.

We are hopeful that we may have a mild cold and flu season, without a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases. According to the CDC, reports from the southern hemisphere, where cold and flu season coincides with our spring and summer months, indicate lower-than-expected flu virus transmission. This could be the result of precautionary measures that have been practiced since the start of the pandemic. That is why it is so important that we continue to follow these precautions. It’s the surest way to contain and control the spread of COVID-19 in our area.

We are very closely following local COVID-19 indicators and further developments on the Cluster Action Initiative. We will continue to keep the community informed of this new program and how we are preparing.
Health Screening & Return-to-School Guidance:

I wish to thank all of our families for doing such an incredible job completing the daily health screening through the new service provider EdVista. Leading in the overall completion rates was Edison Elementary, which had 94.3 percent of parents completing the screening attestation this week. We will also be highlighting the schools that have experienced a weekly increase in participation. As you can see, I enjoy competition, hence why I cited Edison's high participation rate. Parents: the challenge is on! Which schools will do the best?

We cannot overstate the importance of this task, because it ensures that students who are sick or at risk of spreading the virus stay home. Keeping our students healthy and safe is a partnership. We need to be able to count on our families, and in return, we will do everything we can to keep our community safe.

It is also important that families know when to keep their children home from school when they are sick, or if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. The Ken-Ton School District will always follow the requirements of the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH). ECDOH has provided specific guidance for students/staff who tested positive, have had close contact to one who tested positive, or are exhibiting a fever or symptoms. You can review this information here:

In general, if students/staff have a fever or symptoms (whether at home or in school), they can return if one of the following applies:

  • Ten days have passed since the onset of symptoms if symptoms have been improving. They must also be fever free for a minimum of 72 hours without fever-reducing medicine, or 24 hours if specified by a doctor.
  • They have been tested for COVID-19 and the test was negative.
  • They have a doctor's note clearing them to return.

Any students who have a chronic condition that mimics any symptoms of COVID-19 must provide a doctor’s note. For those who have been identified as a close contact, or who have traveled to an area that is identified on the NYS COVID-19 travel advisory list, ECDOH provides guidance on when they can return. In general, it is after 14 days have passed (a negative COVID-19 test does not decrease this duration). If you have any questions about these requirements, please contact your school nurse.
This week, I wish to highlight the outstanding work of our Mentor Program, which dates back more than three decades. Our four current District Mentors, Kim Glaser, Andy Lueth, Alex Marcinelli, and John Rojek, are currently working side-by-side all of our new classroom teachers to support them and help them achieve their full potential as educators.

Our Mentors represent skilled and experienced teachers. Many different Ken-Ton teachers have served as District Mentors through the years, as they work in this capacity for three years before returning to the classroom. They regularly visit new teachers' classrooms to observe, share knowledge and experience, model lessons, provide guidance, introduce new strategies, and more.

The Ken-Ton School District's greatest asset is its world-class teaching staff, and our Mentor Program provides the foundation. I thank all of our Mentors for their contributions, including those who served in this capacity in previous years, and the Mentor Policy Board which guides this work.
Oct. 29 Parent Q&A

We will be holding another virtual parent question-and-answer session from 5 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29. You will be able to participate via YouTube Live and can ask questions using the Chat feature. We will follow the same format as previous sessions, beginning with a short presentation. Then I will be joined by district administrators and we will answer your questions live on screen and in YouTube Chat. The link will be posted on our Parent Meetings page and on our homepage at www.ktufsd.org shortly before the meeting.

Community Connection Award

Lastly, I wish to remind our entire district community that we will accept nominations for our new Community Connection Award through Friday, Oct. 30. You can submit your nomination at www.ktufsd.org/nominate. The Community Connection Award will be awarded monthly to a member of the Ken-Ton School District community who has furthered or contributed to the betterment of the district and its schools, students, and staff. Nominations will be accepted quarterly, and awards will be presented at our monthly Board of Education meetings.

Any member of the Ken-Ton School District community is eligible to be nominated such as parents/guardians of current or former students, retired staff, volunteers, local officials, employers, alumni, and residents. Staff and students will be distinguished separately.
Thank you for reviewing this information. As always, we remain Ken-Ton Proud, Ken-Ton Strong, and Ken-Ton Moving Forward!

For previous editions of the Ken-Ton Weekly Connection, visit www.ktufsd.org/connection