November 30, 2021

Classes resume in county amid uncertainty, concerns

ColinSpencer/staff reporter

Students exit buses Thursday at Smith Intermediate School in Cortland.

The Cortland Enlarged City School District has had every concern one could imagine about starting the school year, first-year Superintendent Robert Edwards said.

Get all the protocols in place for in-person learners. Check on the health and wellness of staff and students. Bring all the district’s technology up to speed and ready to go.

So far, it’s worked out.

“It’s been awesome,” Edwards said about the start of classes. “It’s been very, very smooth.”

While concerns have persisted since the district, school districts around the county have restarted to a different, but overall smooth start to classes.

In Cortland, there were concerns like having temperature screenings at entries and how to operate socially distant classrooms, Edwards said. But four days before the school’s Sept. 14 start, these issues were practiced and worked out.

“We’ve just had really smooth starts” to all of the classes, both online and in person, Edwards said.

Most students are taking classes in person five days a week with the rest learning online.

Overall, the students have been following mask wearing and social distancing protocols.

The district is looking to make sure that remote learners have reliable internet connections so they can accomplish their work, which is not something the district is alone in.

“These are big state and national issues that I’m hopeful our politicians are thinking about,” Edwards said.

At the McGraw Central School District, Superintendent Melinda McCoolsaid having around 90% of the district’s students, about 550 kids, back in classrooms has helped create a sense of normality.

“Being in school, being able to socialize with their peers, has been very heart touching to say the least,” she said.

Like in Cortland, students have been following safety protocols. However, some concerns have arisen in some classes, specifically physical education and music classes, McCool said.

For physical education, the concern has been how to keep students spaced 12 feet apart due to excessive breathing. So far, with fair weather, physical education classes can be outside, helping solve that problem. But changes may have to be made when the weather worsens.

Similar concerns have been raised similarly for chorus practices and concerts.

“Those are some things we have to work out as time moves on,” she said.

The students and staff at the Homer Central School District are just “happy to be back,” said Superintendent Thomas Turck.

The district has about 75% of its 2,000 students participating in classes in-person, many of them in a hybrid model of being in school two days a week and learning remotely the other three. Turck said screening protocols for staff and students developed by the district’s information technology department have worked well.

The district is focusing on remote learning and making more of a structured experience, where students will participate online while the classes are happening in person.

Still, Turck said the return to classes has looked a little bit like it did before the pandemic.

“We’ve found that while it’s certainly different, it’s getting us back to what we like to refer to as normal,” he said.