As a school year like no other in recent memory winds to a close, Niagara Falls School District officials are already looking ahead to the fall.
Superintendent Mark Laurrie told members of the school board that plans for reopening the schools in the fall are being addressed. Among options being looked at is a plan to have students come to school on alternating days.
Laurrie addressed board concerns about the plan, primarily if the state would hold the district to the standard 180-day learning. Instead, kids who came to school on one day would do socially distanced learning on the second day, which would count for their attendance in school. Over the summer, school cleaners will be working to disinfect schools as much as possible before the return of students in the fall.
Before the cleaning, students and teachers will be able to go to their schools next week to pick up any belongings they might need. A staggered schedule will be established for students to clean out lockers and laptops.
Laurrie also talked about the district’s meal program. As of the meeting, they had served more than 240,865 meals across the district.
As for the district’s learning packets. Laurie said there are more than 140 students, less than 2% districtwide, who have not been received the learning packets which were given out. Though, Laurrie is sure they might have moved away, he does want to make sure they are able to learn.
“77% of our homes have technology, 23 percent report that they don’t,” Laurrie said. “We’ll update that monthly. The problem with that 77 percent, as I’ve shared before, often times that’s one device in a home of five people. That’s one device that has a learning data that’s quite outdated, and that’s one device that has to be shared amongst many students. We have issued to date, 120 laptops to high school students, starting with AP College level seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshman.”
More than 500 laptops will be provided to pre-K and kindergarten students for the learning that will occur over the summer. Laurie was worried about internet access among students but this has not been much of an issue. There has been a no-harm grading policy for students who have been turning in work throughout this time.
The plan for summer school is to have it virtually. Laurrie said some of the subjects that will be taught are Algebra, Living Environment, Global Studies and U.S. history. He added their will not be any summer camps for this year but said there will be limited summer offerings to offer students a break from socially distanced-learning.
He also announced that no money has been lost over the course of the pandemic, though Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced possible budget cuts in April.
“The governor’s executive order said, if revenues don’t come in at a certain amount, he has the right three times during the year to cut us, and he said up to 20 percent,” Laurrie told board members. “Well, the date and time came and past and he has yet to give us any new information. So, you’re saying what if he cuts us and you’ve already approved a $153 million budget. My answer to you then is we will need to tell you where we are going to save the money on a cut and use extreme discipline not to spend over the new number.”
A special meeting will be held on May 28 for people to speak, via phone or submitted comments about the district’s budget, code of conduct, building level safety plans, and district-wide comprehensive safety plans. The election for the school board and budget will be held on June 9 by a mail-in vote, with a statutory meeting on June 10.