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Williamsville elementary students 'Plan to Pivot' back to classrooms Monday

Williamsville Central Schools
Students at Maple East Elementary School prepare to be back in the classroom full-time.

Williamsville elementary school students will return to classes in district buildings Monday, but it is not clear whether middle and high school students will return to the buildings most of the time in this school year. The rate of COVID-19 is rising rapidly in Erie County, particularly among young people, and shows no signs of even moderating. Guidance from Albany and Atlanta is that elementary school students are safe enough to go back to class five days a week. The rest aren’t.

In an online briefing for parents Monday evening, Acting Schools Superintendent John McKenna said there is increasing family support for students being in classrooms, according to surveys. Williamsville calls this its "Plan to Pivot." For high schools, that would be four days a week; for middle school, five days.

McKenna said all buildings are being prepared for full-time students, just in case.

"We know that we have adequate space in our buildings to handle that change. We actually thought there would be a little bit more, but this is fine. So it makes it so that the change that will make this transition will be very doable from our standards, and we’ve been making those changes right now in our buildings and the classrooms are being prepared as we speak," he said.

Because Albany has bought into decreasing the space between students, there will be more access to sports and musicians in district bands will be allowed to be much closer than 12', the standard until Monday.

"According to the updated guidance from the New York State Department of Health, whether in an area of low, moderate, substantial or high rate of transmission, elementary schools can reduce social distancing from 6' to 3' to allow for the return of full-time, in-person instruction," said district nurse practitioner Christine Harding.

The district is readying everything from rules for breakfasts for students to complexity on the buses that get kids to and from school. The district is also planning its summer program.

"We have, in fact, brought on, as we have done in years past, administrators for summer school, at the elementary and middle school level and also high school level," said Assistant Superintendent Marie Balen. "Again, as Dr. McKenna mentioned, we are looking at our programming. Any social distancing guidelines that are in effect for the regular school year will need to be maintained in summer school. So we are looking at sites. We are looking at programming. We are looking at student needs."

For a lot of school districts, summer school is considered a major opportunity to push back on the erosion of learning caused by remote learning rather than in a classroom.

Plan to Pivot presentations by elementary school building will be held online Tuesday evening. Middle and high school presentations will be Wednesday evening. McKenna said principals will send out Zoom links to the meetings.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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