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January 16, 2021 - 12:12pm

City school district asks families to pick learning model by Jan. 22 to ensure strong finish for the academic year

The Batavia City School District is asking families to make a final selection of which learning model — in-person hybrid or 100-percent remote — they want for their children in preparation for the start of the second semester of the 2020–21 academic year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Jan. 13 statement from the district, Superintendent of Schools Anibal Soler Jr. requested that families submit changes to their students’ learning modalities by Jan. 22. He said that this deadline will afford the district enough time to make adjustments to academic programming and transportation services before the semester begins Feb. 1.

“It may not change our numbers a lot, but at least we know moving forward that that is the final in-person hybrid and the final remote rosters that principals could use to kind of lock in the rest of their year,” Soler said at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting.

Families that would like to select a different learning method for the semester should complete the second semester Learning Model Form for each child in their household who seeks the change. Requests for changes can also be made via phone call to students’ respective schools. Those who do not want to modify their students’ academic format do not need to take action.

This survey process aims to strengthen the teacher-student experience for both in-person hybrid learners and remote learning students. The statement said that this learning model selection will allow teachers and administrators to plan more effectively for a stable end to “a difficult and fluid” school year.

“We don't want to burn out our teachers because they've already flip-flopped so much in the way that they teach,” Board Member Tanni Bromley said. “So if they can have a consistent roster, it would be easier for them to decide how they're going to move forward.”

The district’s in-person hybrid students shift between receiving face-to-face and at-home online instruction based on the cohort they are in. All remote-only learners complete their classes entirely in a virtual setting. Board members said at Monday’s meeting that some families have switched between these models multiple times throughout the first semester.

“Consistency for the student is probably best, too, in that if a parent chooses one, then it would be best to kind of ride that out,” Board Member Shawna Murphy said. “Get them through this year and hopefully we won't even be dealing with this next year. But the flip-flopping for the kid isn't good either.”

As of Jan. 15, BCSD reported that 92 individuals, on or off campus, among its students, teachers and staff members are currently testing positive for COVID-19. The district’s statement noted that it may need to transition to 100-percent virtual instruction for all students if an issue related to COVID-19 arises during the second semester. 

BCSD previously switched to fully remote instruction from Dec. 7, 2020 to Jan. 4, 2021 because of staffing shortages related to a rise in positive COVID-19 cases among its students, teachers and staff, and throughout Genesee County. An influx of family requests to move children from hybrid to remote learning was cited as a challenge the district faced in the days leading up to this switch.

“All of our teachers are feeling burned out,” Soler said. “I mean it is tough to navigate this virtual and remote, and it's just a harder year. So our teachers are working like maniacs. They're planning. They're trying to prepare.”

Changes to instruction methods will take effect Feb. 1 and remain in place for the duration of the school year. However, according to the statement, a student’s school may contact parents and guardians at any time during the semester to suggest a modification to the child’s learning format to accommodate their academic needs.

In terms of exceptions to learning model commitments, Soler said he wants families to understand “that if there's a situation that comes about, that they would need to go through their principal first, prior to seeking approval to change, but that only extreme extenuating circumstances would be considered.”

A mandatory quarantine period does not alter the second semester learning method of an in-person hybrid student who tests positive for COVID-19 or has been in close contact with someone who receives a positive test result.

“If that child is quarantined, then he has to go out,” Board Member John Reigle said. “If they test positive, they're out for a certain period. But that person committed to in-person [instruction]. Once they're cleared, they can come back.”

Board members expressed optimism at Monday’s meeting about the sense of normalcy and ease of mind that the second semester learning model selection can potentially bring to everyone.

“To kind of know what's going to be happening for the rest of the school year in February, I think that's a good thing because it's kind of getting back to normal,” Murphy said. “Regardless of what you choose, it's going to stay the same.”

The next board meeting will be livestreamed at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25 on the school district’s Board of Education YouTube channel.

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