October 21, 2021

Students returning to classes full time

Metro Creative Graphics

After a year largely spent in remote and hybrid learning, students in several greater Cortland area districts are returning to the classrooms full-time, although issues remain in some places over busing and social distancing.

Marathon’s older students returned to the classrooms Monday; Homer expects most of them back April 19.

In Homer, the district sent a survey to parents in March asking whether they would want their students to be taught fully in-person or fully remote for the rest of the school year, Superintendent Tom Turck said.

This change to learning came after the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for schools that social distancing can be reduced to 3 feet from 6 feet as long as everyone wears a mask.

“For the most part, it would look like something any normal year,” Turck said Monday.

Prior to this change, the district offered hybrid learning styles for junior high and high school students, where students would learn two days a week in-person and three days remote, Turck said.

For Homer, the biggest issue with social distancing was with fitting students on buses because only 22 students could be spaced out properly on buses meant to hold 66 people, he said.

“That’s the big thing we’re trying to decipher now,” he said.

As the district looks to bring back full-time in-person learning for about 930 students in the middle and high school, Turck said district officials have been going through classrooms and measuring spaces to accommodate the expected increase in students.

The district has asked that all parents complete the survey by today so detailed planning for additional bus routes and other measures can get under way.

Turck said the district will start in-person learning fully on April 19.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “Humans are meant to be with one another and this will allow us to get back to that.”

The change as well won’t affect the length of the school year either, he said.

Marathon Central School District is facing similar changes as it began in-person learning five days a week Monday for all middle and high school students as well, said high school Principal Holly Marcolina.

“This is going to make things a lot straightforward for us,” she said.

The elementary school had been fully learning in-person since the start of the school year in September.

Marcolina said the district had hybrid learning for its junior high and high school students. High school seniors started learning in-person three days a week in January and junior high school students got three days as well in March.

Unlike Homer, the district had all students come back to in-person learning, Marcolina said. Parents wanting remote learning for the rest of the year had to opt out, most students returned Monday.

“I’m ecstatic,” Marcolina said. She’s been the principal for 13 months; Monday was the first day all her students could be at school in person.

Like Homer, Marathon is still working on bus routes to accommodate students and social distancing.

Cortland has offered in-person learning five days a week since the beginning of the school year in September, Superintendent Bob Edwards said.

As of Monday, 1,297 students across the district were learning in-person with 668 learning remotely. This has included spacing shifts in classrooms to allow for proper spacing.

“A ton of work for staff, and we are grateful for them,” Edwards said in an email.