ALLEGANY — As with many school districts across the state and country, Allegany-Limestone has devised a few options to select from for its plans of reopening in September.
Superintendent Tony Giannicchi said Thursday the district has options for in-person classes and distance learning, as well as a hybrid of the two for the first scheduled day of school Sept. 3. The plans will take into account the status of the pandemic in New York state during that time frame.
“We have the framework (for reopening) but there are just different questions that are coming up right now,” Giannicchi explained. “The Department of Health in Cattaraugus County has been really fantastic and they’re giving us as much information as they possibly can to help guide us.”
He said both Scott Payne, district superintendent of Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and Dr. Kevin Watkins, the county’s public health director, have been helpful in their assistance.
“We’re trying to get the latest guidance documents, our number one priority is to make it safe,” Ginannicchi continued. “We definitely want to follow the proper guidance when we make up our plan.”
He said the tentative plan for now is for grades kindergarten through five to attend in-person elementary classes in some capacity, while middle school and high school students can participate in distance learning, as needed.
“Number one, we have to follow all the rules and make sure everybody is safe in the elementary school, but we also feel it’s really important for the elementary kids to have daily interactions,” Ginnicchi added. “The older kids can probably handle online (learning) more” easily than a younger child.
He admitted busing will be a challenge as the district is limited to transporting 20 children per busload.
“That’s probably the biggest obstacle for a lot of districts,” Giannicchi surmised. “A regular bus can seat 60 to 65 kids, so you cut that by one third. You can put a little more (students) together if they’re related. That really is the obstacle or else you could be transporting kids all day.”
He said the district will likely encourage families to transport their children to campus, if possible.
“Schools aren’t meant for a mass drop-off, and we already have a great number of parents who drive their kids — especially at our elementary school which is land-locked in the village,” he continued. “Our middle school and high school with our current (capital project) has expanded the driveway knowing that we’d have more drop-offs in the future. So it coincided with this whole issue.”
Giannicchi said the district is also reviewing different air filters for unit vents in the rooms of the school buildings.
“It’s lucky we have Mazza close to here working on our current building project,” he said of the local heating and air conditioning company.
In addition, masks and hand sanitizers will be provided to all students.
“We’ve been buying masks and hand sanitizers since last April and May,” Giannicchi recalled.
“The cost that is put on the district for supplies and transportation we didn’t budget for because we didn’t really know what we were getting into,” he stated. “The cost that is passed onto us is pretty high.”
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)