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Dansville Central School District talks reopening plans

Jeff Miller
The Express
The Dansville Online

DANSVILLE — Within just a couple of weeks after Dansville’s High School’s postponed graduation, the district released a parent letter confirming plans for reopening Sept. 10.

The plan is to reopen in both a physical and virtual manner, so as to best comply with (i.e. interpret) New York State’s reopening guidelines.

“The guidance was never made 100 percent clear,” superintendent Dr. Paul Alioto said of the governor’s reopening guidelines. He said many superintendents, attorneys, the state education department and state department of health had disagreements over interpreting the governor’s plans and have yet to receive a definitive answer.

“There was a debate over whether or not six feet of social distancing meant six feet regardless of physical barriers and masks, or six feet and less...when masks and barriers were in place.”

The district was ready to purchase plexiglass barriers for the tops of desks to allow full class sizes. A parent survey found that about 80 percent of Dansville School District parents had wanted their children to return to school as normal.

But when the governor released his guidelines, the district discussed those guidelines with Livingston County Department of Health, the school’s physician and attorneys.

“We had to make a decision as to how we were going to interpret the language, and the way we decided to interpret the language was to be on the more cautious side. So that meant six feet regardless of whether or not there were masks or physical barriers in place.”

New York State Teachers Union had lobbied for the “six feet equals six feet” interpretation to protect everyone.

Having to make arrangements to distance students at least six feet apart meant that the district could not bring back full class sizes.

“We measured our classrooms, we looked at our classrooms and we tried to understand what a classroom might look like with six feet of social distancing between every desk and there was just no room for that many students,” said the superintendent.

So the district had to come up with another plan, which is a 50-percent attendance model, also known as a “2-1-2 hybrid model.” In this model, students will be broken into two cohorts. Cohort A will be in the classrooms on Mondays and Tuesdays, and learn remotely the rest of the week. Cohort B will attend the classrooms on Thursdays and Fridays, and learn remotely the beginning of the week. Wednesdays, all students will learn remotely and the school will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before the second cohort begins on Thursday.

For parents who wish for their child to not attend classes in person, an option for complete distance learning is available.

The district is also planning an achievement lab and activities program through Genesee Community College’s Dansville campus whereby between 100 to 200 students would be split up between eight rooms, the auditorium and gymnasium to allow students to receive socially-distanced after-school help through paraprofessionals. BOCES, which is also in that building, will be sharing an administrator and nurse during those hours. GCC will open their network so students will be able to use their devices.

However, the district will not be able to offer sports programs. They will also not be able to run extracurricular activities that require in-person participation. However, activities that can take place remotely could still be made available.

“Parents need to understand that mask rules and social distancing rules are going to be very strict, and that may take some getting used to because in Dansville, we’re an independent people, independent minded,” Alioto said.

The district will be having three Facebook Live sessions in the coming weeks where parents can watch, learn and ask questions about the reopening plans and upcoming school year. Dates for the Facebook Live sessions are yet to be determined.

The district is asking parents to send in their completed commitment form for their child, which was mailed with the parent letter this week, by this coming Monday so the school district can begin to plan accordingly. The commitment form also includes an option for transportation.