The Candor Board of Education met Thursday, Aug. 20, using a combination of in-person and virtual meeting technology. The few board members who met in the high school library media center had plenty of room to physically distance, and everyone logged into the Google Meeting platform.
All focus has been and remains on the school reopening plan. On Aug. 14, Candor Central School District posted its reopening plan on its website and asked for feedback from parents and community members. Questions and comments were incorporated into a series of community forums that were live-streamed last Wednesday and Thursday. The forums were recorded, with links posted to the district website (candorcsd.org).
At Thursday evening’s board meeting it was clear that, even with reopening plans in place, schools need to be nimble enough to respond to last-minute changes. For example, the state only recently notified schools that they will receive 80 percent of promised aid this fall. The remainder may, or may not, be released by the end of the year. On a more positive note, District Business Officer Sydney Wade thinks the state will extend the waivers that provided meals for all of the school students through spring and over the summer.
Speaking of money, asked Board Chair Ray Parmarter, what happens to the IAC (Interscholastic Athletic Conference) dues if fall sports are canceled? Athletic Director Pete Ahart explained that whatever is not spent for referees, etc., remains in the account and can be used in future seasons.
Junior-Senior High School Principal Wayne Aman reported that all Tioga County principals met for a virtual meeting to discuss reopening. Because schools face different challenges, no two reopening plans look the same.
“Our focus is on safety first and foremost,” Aman said. To that end, Candor has developed a schedule that meets the need of students and provides equity for in-person and remote learning.
One absolute requirement is that people on campus must wear masks. There will be a zero-tolerance policy; students who will not wear masks will be sent home to learn via remote classroom.
Another change is that shared classes with Spencer-Van Etten will not happen this year. Instead, students will have the opportunity to take new “concurrent enrollment courses” through the TC3 CollegeNow program.
The new courses are United States History, Participation in Government, Art (painting), World History and English 101.
“These are in addition to our already extensive menu of concurrent enrollment courses,” Aman said. Students who pass these courses receive college credit as well as credit for high school.
During the online forum, Aman clarified that all junior-senior high students are remote learners. In-class sessions will supplement and support online learning, he said. For example, if students are doing a science lab, that lab could be recorded and shared online for remote learners, or the teacher could provide a YouTube example of the lab.
Elementary School Principal Katie Volpicelli reported that 10 new Kindergarten families attended a socially-distanced in-school orientation. She described how remote and in-person classes will work for elementary students. There will be one remote learning teacher per grade level. “Teachers are pretty excited to take on that role,” she said.
As for in-person learning, each classroom will be broken into two cohorts. One group will attend morning sessions; one will attend afternoon sessions. The only time the pre-k to fourth-grade cohorts will leave their rooms is for specials, which are physical education, music, library and art. The specials classes are scheduled so there is time for cleaning in between classes, Volpicelli explained.
Fifth-grade students will be in cohorts for the day as well. The sixth grade faculty is working on a schedule similar to the high school, with cohorts remaining with one teacher for two days at a time.
District Superintendent Jeff Kisloski presented a big-picture overview of reopening. Developing a reopening plan during a pandemic required reimagining how school can be done, he mused—and they had three weeks to come up with a plan.
While guidelines from the CDC and New York State dictate much of what Candor can do, the school asked for input from faculty and staff, BOCES, Tioga County Health Department, the Board of Education, parents and guardians and community members.
“Some of the schools around us have gone to remote learning,” Kisloski said, noting that Candor has a great plan, and he wants to see it work. “About 80 percent of our families plan to send their children to school for in-person learning,” he said.
Of those, about half plan to transport their children to and from the school. For those depending on the school bus, there should be plenty of room to distance, and masks will be required during the ride. Monitors will be aboard each bus to make sure students remain safe and separate.
When does school start? This is the big question people are asking. Students attending in-person will begin with the morning cohort reporting Wednesday, Sept. 9, Kisloski said. The afternoon cohort will attend school on Thursday, Sept. 10, and Friday will be a remote learning day. Monday, Sept. 14, is the first “true” day for a.m. and p.m. cohorts and all remote learners.