MALONE –– The Malone Central School District has opted to work toward a hybrid reopening program –– a plan that drew a raft of questions and concerns as each element of the proposal was discussed during a presentation at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday. According to a survey of parents, students, teachers and community members by the school district, 42% preferred 100% in-person instruction, 23% chose all virtual instruction and 30% preferred a hybrid of the two. Five percent of those polled wrote in their own ideas for reopening.
The board reasoned that since over half of those surveyed did not want to go back to completely in-person instruction, the board would opt to work toward a hybrid model.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said that his administration will decide next week how schools will be allowed to reopen. He had earlier issued “data-driven guidance” for reopening schools in regions of the state in phase four of reopening if the region’s daily infection rate remains below 5% using a 14-day average. Schools will close if the regional infection rate rises above 9%, using a 7-day average, after Aug. 1.
At Franklin Academy, that hybrid model is currently framed to work by splitting the school’s 720 students into equal two groups organized alphabetically by last name. Students in either group will attend in-person school twice a week, with one day reserved for cleaning, and the opposite cohort of students will not be present, instead receiving instruction via video call. Students will be taught in two-hour blocks by their teachers.
The current plan is still in development, and the district’s reopening committee will continue to meet to work on a final plan.
The elementary schools will work similarly to the high school, but will break up their learning blocks into 25-minute lessons within the same classroom, so as to avoid monotony for young students.
Social distancing and masks will be required in school facilities at all times. Temperatures of students and staff will be taken, with employees expected to take their own temperatures before reporting to work. Those with a temperature over 100 degrees will not be allowed into Malone’s schools.
A full detailing of the plan is set to be released Friday, according to the board.
The school district’s plans were met with a plethora of questions and concerns for those physically present at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Education. The nearly four dozen people who attended the meeting via Zoom had their microphones muted by the board for the duration of the meeting.
Superintendent Jerry Griffin addressed some of the concerns raised by those physically present.
“We don’t let employees come in here with any T-shirt they want to wear,” Griffin said in response to a question of how the board would handle employees who refuse to wear a mask on a claim of constitutional rights. Griffin also noted that employees give up certain rights as they enter the doors of the district’s schools.
Other concerns included whether doors would remain open; how teachers will handle instructing students, especially at the elementary level, for extended periods of time; and how much of the full curriculum will be able to be taught.
“Some of us are going to have to live far outside our boxes,” said secondary academic subcommittee head Brian Doe, who teaches English at Franklin Academy.
Doe also noted that the plans are evolving and the current plan is a framework the district will be able to “build into.”
“What academics will look like is still under review,” said Doe.
“How students are graded is still under review.