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batavia city school district

November 19, 2020 - 12:22pm

Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. today said that multiple factors came into play in his decision to restrict instruction next Monday and Tuesday to 100-percent virtual remote learning days for all students, except those who attend classes at the Genesee Valley BOCES campus on State Street.

“It’s a combination of things,” Soler said. “Erie County went 'Orange' (a COVID-19 level, which is part of Gov. Cuomo’s micro-cluster zone structure) and so a lot of our employees live in Erie County, which sometimes impacts our ability to get quality substitutes, and it impacts our ability to get substitute teachers in general as there has been a shortage of substitute teachers.”

Soler said several students and staff members are finishing their days in quarantine, “so that also impacts us from having some in-person. We also have a growing number of cases in the region and in the county, so that was another variable that I looked at as well.”

And there’s the close contact piece, even if you’re not infected, he said.

“If you’re exposed to somebody for 60 minutes … you get deemed as close contact and you have to quarantine,” he explained. “And then we just have anybody who just feels ill – a headache, or sniffles or don’t feel well and can’t come into work; just regular absences.”

He said considering all of that, leadership determined to have no students in any of the district building on the two days prior to Thanksgiving.

“Hopefully, this will allow kids and families to have a good holiday without having more kids in quarantine or more positive cases coming up,” he said. “It’s just preventative. We’re still having remote instruction, and our kids are used to that model since they’re in that model every other day – with the hope that we go back to normal on the 30th.

A letter to district families concerning this change can be found on the school’s website.

October 20, 2020 - 11:39am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, batavia city school district.

soler_and_mask_1.jpeg

Although COVID-19 mandates are forcing students and teachers to cover their faces, they “can’t mask the Batavia pride,” according to Kathie Scott, public information coordinator for the Batavia City School District.

On Monday, Scott posted information about “Can’t Mask the Batavia Pride!” on the district’s redesigned website, writing that the campaign is “in response to all the reorienting that has been required to reopen school – from social distancing and face mask mandates, to hybrid and virtual learning and sport delays/cancellations.”

Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. informed the school board about the campaign at its meeting Monday night at the high school library (which can be viewed on the district’s YouTube channel).

Scott said the campaign “has been in the works for a while,” with discussions taking place with the fire department, police department and others throughout the community to make it happen.

“I’ve received a couple of emails since it went up … and we’re just looking forward to people participating,” said Scott, who has worked behind the scenes for almost 25 years to keep the public abreast of the district’s positive developments. “I know that there is a lot of community pride in Batavia, so it’s kind of a natural extension of that.”

Per the website:

“Can’t Mask the Batavia Pride!” is a reminder to our community of learners that there is something that hasn’t changed: the pride of and in Batavia. Community members like you are sharing a few positive words of encouragement, pride, appreciation, and/or support that will mean a lot to our students, their families, and staff.

Scott said there are several ways people get display their Batavia pride, including ordering a large Blue Devil head-on-a-stick mask that can be delivered or picked up by calling her at (595) 343-2480, ext. 1018, or sending her an email at:   [email protected].

Other options are taking a digital photo or recording a short video (maximum of 30 seconds) with the mask, but not covering the face; or providing a short positive message of support, encouragement, pride or appreciation -- directed to students, staff, and/or families.

Click here for more information.

Soler also talked about the new school district app that is available for Android and iPhone -- Batavia CSD, NY.

With the new app, people can access documents, events, news updates, and even emergency notifications.

It can be downloaded on Android at https://bit.ly/3i6EAyc or iPhone at https://apple.co/3jOg8ls.

In another development, Soler thanked the board members “for their commitment to the City of Batavia and to its children” in conjunction with School Board Recognition Week (Oct. 19-23) as designated by the NYS School Boards Association.

“Each of you devote countless hours to make sure our schools are helping every child to learn at a high level,” said Soler, adding that board trustees make tough decisions, develop a budget and provide accountability that our citizens expect.

He then presented each board member with a travel bag as a token of the district’s appreciation.

Photo from Batavia CSD website: Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. with the Blue Devil head-on-a-stick mask.

October 13, 2020 - 4:21pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, batavia city school district.

The Batavia City School District has created an executive director of operations position as part of a reshuffling of jobs that has reduced the number of employees on its administrative leadership team.

“It’s important for people to know that we didn’t grow our administration,” Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said today while reporting that he was able to shift staff members to reduce the number of administrators from 19 to 16 and save the district around $70,000.

Soler said that two of the job changes affected last year’s budget and one took effect in the current year’s budget.

“I really didn’t understand why we had 19, and the reality is that we only have half of our kids coming every other day,” he said. “So, some of that need isn’t there.”

He emphasized, however, that the school district is one of the largest employers in Genesee County and should have a human resources manager, which is a key component of the executive director of operations position.

“For us not to have an in-house person in charge of human resources – personnel and benefits – was not good,” he said. “We created that position … and just made some moves internally.”

Trisha Finnegan, formerly the director of Special & Alternative Education, was appointed as executive director of Operations.

The rest of the current administrative team at the Batavia City School District is as follows:

  • Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr.;
  • Business Administrator Scott Rozanski;
  • Molly Corey, executive director of Curriculum & Instruction;
  • Jason DeGraff, director of Facilities;
  • Amanda Cook, director of Special & Alternative Education;
  • Michael Bromley, director of Health, Physical Education and Interscholastic Athletics;
  • Paul Kesler, Batavia High School principal;
  • Nate Korzelius, Batavia High School assistant principal;
  • Julia Rogers, Batavia High School assistant principal;
  • Ashley John Grillo, Batavia Middle School principal;
  • Lindsey Leone, Batavia Middle School assistant principal;
  • Bernadette Krumpek, Batavia Middle School assistant principal;
  • Brian Sutton, John Kennedy Intermediate School principal;
  • Maureen Notaro, Jackson Primary School principal;
  • Jeffrey McKinney, John Kennedy and Jackson assistant principal.
September 24, 2020 - 3:49pm

Submitted photos and press release:

As part of the Batavia City School District’s adjustments to pandemic protocols, Jackson Primary’s music teacher, Lisa Gilebarto, is a “traveling musician” this year, bringing her cartful of equipment into preschool and first- and second-grade classrooms, rather than having the students come to the music room. 

Her transition to going into classrooms as well as delivering online instruction was boosted by some very practical help from the community. All Jackson students – whether they are following the remote learning or hybrid learning model – received their very own bagful of instruments to use during music class.

While the District’s music department was able to purchase small maracas and tambourines for each student. The gallon-size storage bags, donated by Walmart, also contain drums made from plastic containers donated by individuals and by Batavia First Presbyterian Church.

They also contained rhythm sticks made from dowel rods that were donated by Home Depot, Valu Home Center, and the church. The dowel rods were crafted to the proper size and smoothness by volunteers Bob Alwardt, Dave Paladino, Jane Haggett, and Joyce and Bob Saxer.

Youth group members and adult volunteers from the church spent an afternoon at a local park unpacking the donations onto picnic tables, then assembling all of the music-making packages.

September 10, 2020 - 10:12am

As would be expected, anxiety at both the instructional and administrative levels is evident as the Batavia City School District prepares to welcome back students.

“We’re feeling all of the feelings at once,” said Mark Warren, president of the Batavia Teachers’ Association, on Wednesday. “Everybody is excited to be back and wants to see their kids, their students. They want to get back to working with students. For a lot of people, though, there’s some fear mixed in – in terms of being around groups of people.”

The first day for classes – some in-person and some remotely thanks to COVID-19 – is next Monday. Teachers returned on Tuesday for the first of four days of professional development.

Warren said most teachers are “overpreparers” who are feeling less than confident considering the changed landscape and prevailing stipulations.

“There are many people who really want to be overprepared, and that is very challenging in this brand-new environment,” he explained. “There are teachers who feel underprepared, not in a negative way, but these are people who are overplanners and overpreparers. This is a new experience for them and they can’t do what they normally do.”

When told about the current mood of district teachers, Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said he is apprehensive as well.

“I’m anxious, too, and nervous, and worried and making sure everything is going to work out the way we planned it,” he said. “But I’m also optimistic that we’ve done our part. We won’t know until we try.”

Warren, choosing his words carefully, acknowledged the challenges involved with embarking upon a foreign system and, with 250 instructors in the district, the varied opinions on reopening.

“In the two days that we’ve been back, there has been a fair amount of professional development – teaching us how to be good remote or hybrid teachers,” Warren said. “There’s still some of that left to go. But one of the bigger challenges that we have right now is actually implementing a lot of those things.”

He said teachers “need some more time … it’s going to be a process,” but emphasized that the union has not asked administration to push back opening day.

“Every teacher here went to school to learn to teach in an in-person environment. All of these things that we’ve done over our entire careers are completely changed in the virtual or remote environment,” he offered. “Some of the things that may be super effective in the classroom just won’t work in a remote setting – especially since we’ll be seeing the students for about 40 percent (of the time) that we’ve seen them in previous years.”

Warren mentioned that lessons plans requiring sharing of materials or working in small groups “can’t happen in a remote environment, so we have to adapt all of lessons that we’ve done into ones that will work in a remote environment, and that’s going to take time.”

Soler said he understands the emotional strain involved in reopening under these conditions.

“No one has ever opened a school under these requirements or guidelines,” he said “There are some concerns that things could go wrong, but we’re trying to be cautiously optimistic and be strong about it. We’re trying to use common sense … to get the operational stuff going and making sure the kids and staff enter the building safely.”

Considering the daily protocol required just to enter the school building, it isn’t hard to realize that employees would be on edge.

“Every morning when they come in they have to fill out a daily attestation (an official confirmation) that says that they feel good and they don’t have a temperature – any of those things that they’re coming to work on – before we take their temperature at the door,” Soler said. “It’s a brand-new process and if you think about it, it is a bit scary.”

The attestation seeks the answers to several questions, he said.

“Did you check your temperature? You don’t have a fever over 100 degrees. You feel well. You don’t have any symptoms like shortness of breath or fatigue, body aches, fever, chills, sore throat or any loss of taste or smell,” he said. “You haven’t been exposed to anybody with COVID – typical Department of Health protocol questions.”

If the answer is yes to any of those questions, the teacher can come to work and have his or her temperature taken again, Soler said, adding that face coverings must be worn at all times.

Soler said those feeling ill during the day will have to contact their doctor and receive a negative COVID-19 test – “another layer of complications that we can’t control.”

The superintendent said he thinks attitudes will improve with time.

“We’re in day two with the staff and believe that every day that they’re here, the comfort level will get better and better,” he said.

He also stressed that district parents want their children back in school.

“We’re all fearful; we all want this to work. We want our kids back and we want the socialization, the normalcy of that, which will help our families. This community wants to be back in person as much as possible,” he said.

As far as staffing is concerned, Soler said that only a “handful” of teachers have asked for child care leave and one teacher with 38 years of experience decided to retire.

Warren is asking for his members to trust the process.

“There are teachers who are anxious about coming back for health and safety purposes, and there are teachers who are anxious about coming back because we’re doing something we’ve never done before – in terms of remote learning,” he said. “But, just seeing our colleagues this week has been great and seeing our students next week will be great.”

August 12, 2020 - 5:12pm

It’s happening in Texas. Could it happen in our neck of the woods?

The Garland Independent School District and Lancaster ISD in Dallas County, Texas, reportedly will allow their teachers to wear scrubs once schools reopen.

According to a story on WFAA, the ABC television affiliate in Dallas, Garland ISD Superintendent Ricardo López said that teachers had requested the change to the dress code in light of the fact that they will be responsible for health-related measures to combat the coronavirus.

“Scrubs are easier to clean. You don’t have to worry about ruining them. You put them in high-temperature hot water and if they come out a little faded, you are not going to worry that it is not your best clothing. So, we said why not,” López said.

As far as teachers in scrubs in Genesee County, depending upon how things go in September, it is a possibility.

“I did have a teacher this past week who ‘joked’ about it to me,” said John Fisgus, superintendent of Oakfield-Alabama Central School District. “The funny thing is, I don't know how ‘joking’ they were. I basically stated, ‘Well, we don't have a formal dress code for teachers, staff, and faculty, so as long as it looks appropriate for work, do what you think is best for you!’ ”

Fisgus added that if everyone wore scrubs, “it could look bad,” but said that in certain instances for faculty and staff, he wouldn’t mind it.

Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said scrubs or protective gear might be allowed if a teacher believed that he or she needed that type of clothing to feel safe.

“We just expect them to dress professionally, but if they wanted to wear something that they felt they needed then, obviously, we would want to work with them,” Soler said. “Hopefully, that would come from some kind of recommendation or accommodation, but again we want our staff to feel safe and we want to feel safe.

“If they feel that’s what they need to come in to teach, we just would want to be aware of that -- as far as the optics are concerned -- and make sure that is truly necessary. We’re not necessarily opposed to it, but that’s not something we’re out there promoting.”

Soler said Batavia teachers haven’t brought up the issue.

“I think Texas is in a different spot right now – they’re a major hot point while they’re opening schools, whereas in New York our infection rate is lower,” he offered. “I know there are serious concerns around the virus, legitimately so, but that has not come up in terms of folks wanting to wear anything of that nature.”

Mark Warren, president of the Batavia Teachers’ Association, concurred that the subject has not come up yet.

“If people wanted to do that, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But it hasn’t come up in discussions with the district,” he said. “I don’t think there would be a rule against it. I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t be allowed.”

Teachers in all districts will be wearing masks, social distancing and, to some degree, assisting students with the proper protocols to ensure everyone’s health and safety.

Proponents of scrubs say that type of clothing has its advantages for the following reasons:

  • They present a clean and neat appearance;
  • They are durable;
  • They are easy to care for and disinfect by washing and drying;
  • They have pockets for storage;
  • They aren’t that expensive.

It is said that a good pair of scrubs holds up through at least 30 washes, so in theory, teachers can buy uniforms once each school year.

Soler said he will be wearing a suit and tie – as well as a facemask – and adhering to all the other requirements mandated by the governor’s office and the state Department of Health.

“We’re not saying, hey, go out and get a full hazmat suit and come into work,” he quipped. “We’re hoping to make this feel as normal as possible.”

August 10, 2020 - 5:28pm

Update: 6:40 p.m.

Batavia Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., at tonight's Board of Education meeting, has reported that school will start for students on Sept. 14, following four days of teacher training days -- Sept. 8-11.

He also said that some days scheduled as off days will now be school days, ensuring that there will be 180 days of learning for students.

Soler said that virtual public meetings are being planned for each of the district's schools prior to Aug. 21, as required by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

--------------

Reading, writing, arithmetic, respiratory hygiene.

Teachers will need to be versed in much more than academics during the 2020-21 school year, which gets underway in less than a month.

“We have days at the beginning of the school year that are teacher-only when we’re going to receive some training on COVID procedures along with some professional development on teaching the hybrid model and the virtual model,” said Mark Warren, president of the Batavia Teachers’ Association.

He said the exact training days prior to the date when students return are expected to be determined at the Batavia City School District’s Board of Education meeting at 6:30 tonight. It can be viewed on the district’s YouTube page.

Warren said teachers and other staff will be trained how “to instruct students in proper hand washing, how to cough and sneeze appropriately, and recognizing the symptoms of COVID.”

“I’m not sure if it will be district-led or coordinated by the health department or by another outside person coming in to the school,” he said.

According to the Batavia City School District’s 97-page reopening plan, the district “will ensure all students are taught or trained how to follow new COVID-19 protocols safely and correctly, including but not limited to hand hygiene, proper face covering wearing, social distancing, and respiratory hygiene.”

The plan was developed by the Reopen Batavia Strong Task Force, which included input from the teachers’ union, Warren said.

It spells out that additional training will be provided in:

  • Prevention of disease spreads by staying home when they are sick.
  • Proper respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoiding the use of communal objects. If communal objects must be used, provide information on proper disinfection procedures between use. Examples of communal objects include, but are not limited to, other workers’ phones, desks, offices, computers or other devices, other work tools and equipment.
  • Providing employees and students with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19.
  • Risk factors and protective behaviors (i.e., cough etiquette and care of Personal Protective Equipment).

The plan also advises that the district will designate those familiar with the Center for Disease Control and Occupational Safety and Health Administration protocols, and Department of Health guidelines in each building as trained screeners. Screeners will be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment provided by the district.

Warren said students have to wear masks on the bus and when they’re transitioning, but said he believes they are allowed to take them off when they are seated and are six feet apart.

He acknowledged that it could be difficult for the younger children.

“I have a second- and fourth-grader and we’ve been working on it at home,” he said.

On the scholastic side, Warren said some teachers will preside over exclusively online courses and others will have a mix of in-school and virtual.

“My preliminary schedule, for example, has one of the courses as an online-only course, and the rest of the courses are hybrid courses where I’ll see the kids some days and they’ll be remote some days,” he advised.

Warren teaches 11th- and 12th-grade math – calculus and a third-year elective called Math for Trades.

July 28, 2020 - 5:17pm

bcsd_reopen_info_sheet.jpg

About 315 students in the Batavia City School District will be taught exclusively in a “distance learning” capacity, according to the reopening plan that will be submitted by Friday to the New York State Education Department and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Batavia Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. today shared details of the strategy to educate the district’s nearly 2,200 students as the 2020-21 school year approaches. The first day for all students is Sept. 9.

Prior to submitting its comprehensive report of about 50 to 60 pages, district officials on Monday released a Reopen Batavia Strong graphic that outlines the health protocols that will be in place as well as the daily schedule for students – breaking the Monday through Friday routine into five “cohorts.”

“This is a visual piece for parents – the 30,000-foot view,” Soler said, advising that it can be found on the district website and Facebook page. “The Reopen Batavia Strong Task Force gave us recommendations, input and feedback, and we feel this is a good plan.”

Looking at the graphic, one can see the following:

-- Cohort One: Students with last names beginning with A-K attend school Monday and Wednesday; remote learning takes place Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

-- Cohort Two: Students with last names beginning with L-Z attend school Tuesday and Thursday; remote learning takes place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

-- Cohort Three: High school students taking BOCES career technical education courses (at the building across from Batavia High on State Street) attend school on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; remote learning takes place on Wednesday and Friday.

-- Cohort Four: Students with special considerations and targeted academic support attend school every day.

-- Virtual Cohort: Parents who chose 100 percent remote learning for their child(ren); remote learning every day.

“It’s important to emphasize that the virtual cohort is parent driven; it is the parents’ choice,” Soler advised, noting that about 15 percent of the student population has opted for distance learning at this time. “We thought it was important to give parents some choice. Some parents feel unsafe, and have the right to feel that way. Some of them don’t want to bring them in until they have full assurance that their health and safety are protected.”

Cohort Four students (around 250) will consist of total in-person learning for students with special needs and considerations, such as disabilities, English language learners and pupils with individualized education plans, Soler said.

“They will have more of an intensive, in-person given the fact that we have some legal obligations with their individualized education plans,” he said. “Also, this cohort will include students that teachers feel need more individual attention as well as access to food and a caring adult every day.”

The superintendent said the thought process was to use last names as a way to keep students from the same household in school together.

“We do know that some families have mixed last names in the household and we will make considerations for those families,” he said.

Soler said district administration and staff are entering uncharted territory.

“We had a rushed experience last year – shutting the schools down fully. Now, we have an idea of the direction we’re heading in,” he said. “This is still all pending the governor’s approval. He could say, this is a good plan, it’s not a good plan. Or he could decide that schools aren’t going to open across the state – they’re going to go virtual. I’m hoping that’s not the case, given the fact we have a low infection rate in this community.”

The governor is expected to announce his decision on reopening between Aug. 1-7.

Until then, maintenance and janitorial staff at the various Batavia schools are reconfiguring desks and disinfecting classrooms.

“The 6-foot social distancing really minimizes how much in-person we can do,” Soler said. “We want to err on the side of safety and health. There are a variety of opinions out there, but we have to go off what we feel is best. We have a responsibility to provide optimal safety and health for any of our families, even if they agree or disagree with wearing masks. We’re bound by the guidance that is put before us.”

Regarding child care, Soler said the “virtual day” was moved from Monday to Friday to have the least negative impact upon families seeking child care.

“We thought it would be easier for them to find someone to watch their kids (on Friday) than on a Monday,” he said.

Teachers will report to school every day and will be able to livestream their classes to include students who are at home, Soler said.

“We believe that’s the least burdensome on our teachers. That way, they won’t have to recreate a lesson. Kids can watch live and interact with their peers in the classroom. It will require us to do some training on best practices on what distance learning looks like,” he explained.

Soler said that a teacher may be assigned to be a full-time virtual educator or may have one of his or her five classes designated as a virtual class. He also said that a schedule is being set up for distance learners, such as having English at 8 a.m., Math at 10 a.m., etc.

Of course, he wishes that all students could be taught in their school buildings.

“We have families that are really adamant about in-person but, again, we just don’t have the capacity,” he said. “We don’t have enough teachers to split every class to maintain health and safety protocols at a high level and we also don’t have enough building space to cut our classrooms in half and basically double each class.”

July 20, 2020 - 11:18pm

Two days in school; three days learning remotely from home.

That is a possibility, at least at the beginning, for the 2020-21 year for students in the Batavia City School District.

Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. tonight presented a sample weekly schedule at the district’s monthly Board of Education meeting livestreamed over its YouTube page.

Speaking for nearly an hour, Soler touched on various scenarios that he and the Batavia Reopening Strong Task Force are facing with the start of school less than two months away.

How students will be educated certainly is up in the air thanks to COVID-19 and its impact on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision-making process.

Last week, the governor announced that a school will be able to reopen only if its region is in Phase Four and that the daily infection rate in that region is at 5 percent or lower over a 14-day average. Furthermore, if a school does reopen, face coverings, social distancing, health screenings and strict cleaning guidelines will come into play.

The state education department has issued a 145-page reopening document, covering a wide spectrum of topics, such as submission of reopening plans (which are due by July 31), communication, health and safety, facilities, nutrition, transportation, social/emotional well-being, attendance, technology, athletics and extracurricular activities, special education and staffing.

Soler said the district’s reopening plan revolves around three options – in-person learning, 100-percent virtual (distance) learning, and a mix of the first two models.

If it comes down to the third choice, it is conceivable that – depending upon the day of the week and the first letter of their last name -- on a particular day, some students would be in school and some would be receiving instruction remotely online.

While emphasizing that nothing is etched in stone at this point, Soler offered a daily schedule that could look like this:

Monday – Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade: virtual learning, but students at Genesee Valley Educational Partnership across the street from the high school (BOCES and Commercial Trades) would have in-person learning.

Tuesday – Pre-K through 12th grade with last names ending in A-K, in-person; last names ending in L-Z, virtual.

Wednesday – A-K, virtual; L-Z, in-person.

Thursday – A-K, in-person; L-Z, virtual.

Friday – A-K, virtual; L-Z, in-person.

This schedule would hold true for all students unless their parents opted for 100-percent virtual learning, Soler said.

When asked about the alternating schedule’s effect on parents’ child care plans, Soler said the idea was to have set in-school, out-of-school days so parents could plan their child care accordingly. He did acknowledge, however, that “we imagine that no model is going to suffice with (parents’) day care schedule …”

Soler said the district is asking parents “to make a choice that they can live with and support as a family, knowing that in-person is up to five days,” he said, adding that an online registration form has been created for parents to indicate their preferences. “It probably won’t be every day if 2,000 people choose that choice (in-person learning).”

He said that as of this morning, 300 of 500 respondents chose in-person schooling while 75 or so opted for 100-percent virtual online. In the end, Soler said he thinks enough students will opt for 100-percent virtual, which will enable the district to “dedicate a workforce of teachers to just be virtual and work with those kids.”

But, he said, “some parents have said, ‘I’m not going to send my child back; I don’t feel comfortable and I don’t feel safe until there’s a vaccine.' ”

About 60 parents checked “other” – an option that could mean that their child will be homeschooled.

Soler said the district will call parents who chose “other” and, if applicable, will clarify the difference between homeschooling and virtual online teaching.

He also said that all staff members, including administrators, are expected to report to their school building every day, unless they “qualify for some kind of leave or were physically unable to work.”

The superintendent told board members that he was “hesitant” to reveal the sample schedule at this time, but did so “because when we share this (with the task force) on Friday … the word will get out there, so we’re trying to be proactive and transparent.”

He said the plan could be changed if a large number of students choose to be taught remotely – “then everybody will be able to come every day because we have so many people signed up virtually.”

Other highlights of his report to the board:

-- Administrators are exploring the use of Robert Morris on Union Street, the former elementary school building, to provide more in-person opportunities. “The challenge for us is staff; we don’t have more teachers, so we’re looking at how we can use aides,” he said.

“How do we feed them if they’re at Robert Morris because we’re required to feed everybody – (breakfast and lunch) whether they are in-person or signed up for remote (learning).”

-- Sanitation, cleanliness and other health-related mandates will result in increased costs.

Soler said he estimated that providing disposable masks to every student and staff member would cost the district about $800,000. He also said the district is looking at hiring more janitors and already has purchased “jet packs” for deep cleaning and polycarbonate sheets to block offer areas in the main offices.

“We still have a responsibility to clean every day – and will probably alter our cleaning staff schedule to be more of an afternoon/evening schedule,” he said, adding that staff would be charged with teaching proper hand washing and making sure hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies are readily available.

-- Social distancing will result in fewer students per class. He said that the 6-foot-apart rule will drop class sizes from around 24 to about 10-14, depending upon the square footage of the room. Also, students will have to eat in their classrooms because of the restriction on crowd size in the cafeteria.

For those in chorus or band, for example, the social distancing requirement increases to having to be 12 feet apart.

Also, the capacity on the bus will decrease considerably, from 50 down to about 22. Fortunately, a recent district survey revealed that parents overwhelmingly indicated they will transport kids to and from school if necessary.

-- Fall sports have been delayed until Sept. 21. “That’s a big impact; a lot of kids rely on fall sports. What does that mean for us as we reopen?” Soler asked.

-- Soler said the district will have a mobile app that mirrors its website to go along with the reopening plan. He said parents and students will be able to livestream to find out the lunch menu or the sports schedule for the day, for example.

In the end, Soler seemed resigned to the fact that it’s virtually (no pun intended) a no-win situation.

“If we do this perfectly, everyone still won’t be happy. Our team is working very hard … trying to look at all perspectives,” he said. “At the end of the day, everybody wants everybody back – in what was termed normal conditions, no mask, no social distancing, full bus, full activities, full sports, and we just can’t do that.”

He noted that field trips may have to be put on hold and other events may have to proceed without spectators.

“Imagine having a concert with no one in the audience,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking at, those kinds of things. It breaks my heart.”

The governor is expected to make his final decision during the week of Aug. 1-7.

In other developments:

-- Soler reported that 129 students are enrolled in a virtual summer school for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, with some individual in-person components.

The program, coordinated by Bernadette Krumpek, is focused on math, reading and writing. A different learning model for students in grades 9-12 also is available.

-- The board voted in favor of a contract with the City of Batavia for a School Resource Officer for 2020-21, with the district to fund the salary and benefits of the officer. The district budgeted $125,000 for the full year.

The City would be responsible for the SRO’s vehicle, uniform, equipment and training. The Batavia City Council is expected to vote on the resolution at its Aug. 10 meeting.

-- Mark Warren, president of the Batavia Teachers’ Association, issued a statement indicating its support and involvement in the district’s reopening task force.

“The members of the Batavia Teachers’ Association miss our students and we would love nothing more than to return to a normal pre-COVID school building, but that is not the reality at this time,” he said.

“We are working as part of the Reopen Batavia Strong Task Force to create a reopening plan that meets the educational needs of the school district and focuses on the health and safety of the students, faculty, staff and community, based on the directives and parameters released by the state, created by experts and backed by science.”

July 10, 2020 - 3:46pm

A full two-thirds of respondents to a Batavia City School District survey concerning reopening want students back in the classroom this fall in a traditional setting with health-related guidelines in place.

“Most of our parents want in-person classrooms and so do we,” said Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. today following the first meeting of the BCSD Reopen Batavia Strong Task Force.

The Google Meet videoconference drew 51 participants, with 35 of them being parents of Batavia students.

Thus far, 875 people have responded to the survey, with nearly 600 of them identifying themselves as in the parent/family category. About 650 of the respondents said they had students in grades 5-12.

Soler said he is hoping to get 2,000 responses before the survey concludes on Monday, which also is the day that guidelines from Gov. Andrew Cuomo are expected to be released.

The BCSD survey can be found on the district’s Facebook page.

On the subject of reopening, 67 percent of the respondents either “agree” or “strongly agree” that in-person school should reopen in September with some new procedures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

When asked if in-school should resume in September with face coverings when social distancing is not possible, 46 percent said “agree” or “strongly agree” and when asked if distance learning should be used until a COVID-19 vaccine is found, 68 percent clicked “disagree” or “strongly disagree” while 10 percent said “strongly agree.”

Additional survey results are as follows:

-- On the impact of COVID-19 on their family: 72 percent, some impact/noticeable impact; 22 percent, significant/severe impact; 6 percent, no impact.

-- On their confidence level to send their child back to school knowing the district will comply with all CDC guidelines: 33.6 percent, strongly confident; 28.8 percent, confident; 23.3 percent unsure.

-- On sending their child to kindergarten this fall: 54.3 percent of 247 responses said they will enroll the child; 45.7 said they won’t.

-- On having half the students in school, the other half learning remotely: 49 percent either “strongly disagree” or “disagree.”

-- On transporting their child to school to reduce the number of bus riders: 66 percent “strongly agree” or “agree.”

-- On their comfort level with busing, even with sanitizing: A mixed bag with 24 percent who “strongly disagree,” 22 percent who are “neutral” and 28 percent who “strongly agree.”

When queried about the most important safety measures, hand sanitizer in classrooms/common areas, daily temperature taking and no sharing of materials were the top three. Other measures included in the survey were COVID-19 testing, wearing masks at all times and no use of the auditorium, lunchroom or playgrounds.

Sixty-two percent said they expect sports and extracurricular activities to be provided with reasonable safety measures. Fifty-one percent responded that fans should be able to attend and 34 percent were in favor of just parents being able to attend. About 14 percent indicated that events should go on without any fans.

“The biggest thing is let’s not forget the health and safety of everybody,” Soler said. “I’m hoping we’re pretty good in the (Finger Lakes) Region; our data has shown that we’re good and that we’re able to open and welcome kids back.”

He said that social distancing will present quite the challenge.

“You’re not going to have 20 kids in a class,” he said. “With having six feet between everybody, it’s going to change things and make things a little bit interesting. We’re going to have to look at how we use our space and our buildings.”

Batavia City School District buildings are Jackson Primary School (PK-1), John Kennedy Intermediate School (2-4), Batavia Middle School (5-8) and Batavia High School (9-12).

Soler said he put the task force together to look at the big picture – reopening -- but also, through the work of subcommittees, “to peel away at some of the smaller conversations.”

“In anticipation of that official guidance we feel it is important to begin to run through potential scenarios, challenges and also include student and parent voices in that process,” he said.

Subcommittees are health, safety & athletics; transportation, facilities & nutrition; teaching & learning; equity & digital access; budget & fiscal; social-emotional needs; Special Education, English language learners & multilingual learners; and staffing & human resources.

The district, in line with directives from Albany and Center for Disease Control guidelines, is considering three models of teaching and learning:

-- In-Person (w/masks & social distancing);
-- Hybrid (Flex Model) Alternate Schedule (Distance Learning & In-Person);
-- Virtual School  – 100-percent online with an emphasis on proficiency.

“Do we bring all the kids back or certain grade levels back? That’s what I was doing today with our parents and various stakeholders," Soler said. "We have to think of these various scenarios and various teaching and learning models. I don’t have any answers yet but knowing that next week we’re supposed to get some guidance, we need to think about this now.”

After learning of the state’s guidelines, tentatively set for Monday, Soler said the task force will proceed with: subcommittee meetings; posting of the survey results; a second task force meeting (July 17) sharing data with the Board of Education (July 20); a third task force meeting (July 24); submission of the district’s plan to the state (July 31); and the governor’s decision (Aug. 1-7).

July 2, 2020 - 3:34pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, batavia city school district.

The Batavia City School District is forming a Reopen Batavia Strong Task Force to be partly comprised of parents and students to assist in sharing information and formulating a plan going into the next school year.

Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., in a tweet on the district's website, wrote that "your input and participation in our reopening plans is vital."

Those interested in joining the committee are asked to send an email to [email protected] by Wednesday, July 8. The email should include the person's first and last name, best email address and phone number. 

Parents are asked to state where their children are enrolled and students are asked to identify their school and grade level for the 2020-21 school year.

The task force's first meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, July 10, likely in a virtual format.

Soler has indicated that three options are on the table at this point -- full in-person school attendance, a hybrid model of in-school and remote learning, and a 100-percent remote learning environment.

June 17, 2020 - 3:30pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, batavia city school district.

While expressing remorse in having to eliminate jobs, Anibal Soler Jr. today said he is excited over the public’s approval of the Batavia City School District 2020-21 budget and the capital project that will result in a new playground at Jackson Primary School.

The district’s first-year superintendent also said he is looking forward to a revised commencement event on Saturday, June 27 that will feature four or five outdoor mini-graduation ceremonies at Batavia High School on State Street.

“It’s a good outcome for us,” Soler said in regard to Tuesday’s absentee ballot tabulation on the $51.4 million spending plan that passed with 1,489 “yes” votes compared to 862 “no” votes. “We worked hard; it was a tough budget season. Obviously, we had to make some tough decisions.”

Soler said it was difficult laying people off, but admitted the district “had to right some things” in light of its – and the state’s – current financial situation.

“I appreciate the community for supporting our budget with a zero percent tax increase, which is important given the economic crisis caused by the pandemic,” he said. “And we still don’t know what the future will look like as people go back to work.”

Batavia’s budget could be subjected to cuts down the road since Gov. Andrew Cuomo has specified different measurement periods through the end of the year in regard to the state budget. Any revenue shortages incurred by New York State likely will result in reduced state aid to local governments and school districts.

Soler said he hopes for the passage of a federal stimulus package to provide funds to the states, but, if not, the district did include a “pandemic adjustment” line in its budget.

“We hope there’s no impact but we won’t know until the governor makes a decision on his budget,” he said.

Jackson Project Passes by 198 Votes

The superintendent said he is happy that Jackson Primary School will be getting an age-appropriate playground and restroom renovation after residents passed a capital project referendum by a 1,277 to 1,079 vote.

Funded by capital reserves, the $619,151 project will cost the district about $60,000 after state aid is appropriated – and it does not affect the tax levy.

“I’m excited that the kids got an age-appropriate playground as we continue to make Jackson Primary a premier primary school in our region,” Soler said.

He also said he was pleased that three current board of education members – Alice Ann Benedict, Barbara Bowman and Tanni Bromley – will be returning.

“To have consistency on the board always helps us as we continue to work together and implement the mission and vision of our district,” he said.

Soler also responded to questions about the abolished positions and layoffs, public comments criticizing changes in the reading program at the Middle School, and administration’s relationship with the Batavia Teachers Association.

Administrators to be Reassigned

He said that two administrative positions – coordinator of assessment & instructional services, and the other in technology -- were abolished and those two employees will be reassigned to fill two vacant assistant principal positions.

“That was a decision of the board to protect building level administrative positions versus district level – in terms of people who were at a higher level,” he said, noting that the district has two assistant principals at both the high school and middle school and one at both John Kennedy Elementary and Jackson Primary.

Soler did not disclose the names of the new assistant principals or where they would be assigned, only saying that the board of education is scheduled to approve the transfers at its June 22 meeting.

“We’re looking at making sure there are strong teams on every campus, and we may move our assistant principals across the four buildings to make sure we have a balance of talent, also gender, things of that nature,” he said. “There is a plan for reorganization that will be shared publicly once the board approves the assignments.”

Soler said that although the district abolished or eliminated about 33 positions, only about seven teachers were laid off after the district learned of retirements and resignations.

“And recently a special ed teacher told us they are moving out of state, so that will bring back one that was laid off,” he said. “We believe we will chip away, and hopefully, depending upon attrition and retirement and moves, potentially we will have nobody laid off at the end of the day.”

Changes in Approach to AIS Reading

Academic Intervention Services is a program for students challenged in reading and math. Soler said the district is modifying the way it delivers these services.

“Our elementary teachers have been doing the (AIS) math, so they’ll just pick up the reading,” he said, adding that New York State regulations allow for elementary teachers to provide instruction in AIS math and reading. “In the past, they had reading specialists. But we don’t necessarily need a reading-certified person to deliver AIS. An elementary certified teacher can deliver this to the kids.”

Soler said AIS is only for pupils who have been identified as needing additional support.

“We will be able to give kids what they need,” he said. “Yes, we changed our approach a bit but we believe we can still deliver high-quality programming. Plus, we protected all of our electives, which we know kids love – art, music, physical education, things of that nature.”

Lessons Learned During Budget Process

Soler acknowledged some missteps in dealing with the Batavia Teachers Association, which was asked (and refused) to take a pay freeze to avoid layoffs and, later on, voted against a proposal to change the start and end times of the school day.

“I think it was a tough process, and they didn’t know me and they still don’t necessarily know my approach or my focus,” he said. “So, I think that some things may have been miscommunicated given the fact that I came in January and the budget process started a month or so after that. In hindsight, I learned some lessons for myself on communication and trying to get the word out.”

He said he heard “a lot of negative feedback from people assuming that reading was eliminated.”

“We didn’t completely eliminate reading; we did reduce it,” he said. “And those were people who didn’t have 25 kids in their class, or 22 kids; they were supplemental supports.”

Soler said he hopes there isn’t any lingering animosity with the teachers’ union.

“I appreciate them even exploring the scheduling as an option of (cost) savings. That didn’t work out but we’ll continue to work through those conversations and maybe down the road we can re-explore that,” he said.

Graduation Under the Willow Tree

The governor’s mandate that graduations be limited to 150 people have quashed the district’s plan to have commencement at Van Detta Stadium.

“We have more than that graduating (165), so our high school principal, Mr. (Paul) Kessler, has developed a plan to kind of have smaller, micro-graduation ceremonies all on the same day,” Soler said.

The new arrangement is to have 30 or so seniors with their parents and some staff taking part in the smaller graduation ceremonies – in front of the high school under the willow tree that has been the backdrop of numerous commencement exercises in the past.

Soler said the first one will start at 11 a.m. Each ceremony will run for about 45 minutes and will be followed by a 30-minute intermission to allow for people to leave and the new group to enter. Each student will be allowed to invite a maximum of four family members and/or friends.

June 8, 2020 - 10:52am

Over the past couple weeks, Genesee County school districts -- like others throughout the state -- have been gearing up for Tuesday’s counting of paper ballots that will determine the outcome of 2020-21 budgets, propositions and board of education elections.

Now, per an executive order signed on Sunday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, it looks as though they’ll have to wait a bit longer.

The legislation extends the deadline for submitting school budget absentee ballots by mail through June 16, while retaining the requirement that ballots can be delivered by hand to school offices through 5 p.m. tomorrow.

“Obviously, it will delay our process by a week,” said Scott Rozanski, Batavia City School District business administrator. “Tentatively, we will begin to count on June 16 once mail is received.”

Rozanski said he has yet to receive specific guidance on the legislation, which also extends the deadline to submit absentee ballots for the Primary Election until June 23 -- the day of the election.

In a press release, Cuomo said “the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world, and while we are making great progress and the numbers keep going down, no New Yorker should have to choose between their health and their right to vote.”

Robert Schneider, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, said, in a press release, the delay muddles the school budget process even further.

“The executive order will likely cause confusion among voters in districts that did not face supply chain issues, thereby adding to what has been an extremely frustrating, costly and cumbersome board election and school budget vote process,” Schneider said.

Rozanski and John Fisgus, Oakfield-Alabama Central School superintendent, said they are ready to count their district’s ballots, and both are reporting a significant increase in voter participation.

“We received over 300 ballots a day for the first four days (since May 29) and now they're coming in at around 150 per day,” Rozanski said. “This will be the highest number of votes since I arrived in 2003. We have already exceeded the highest number, which was in 2012-13.”

Last year, about 550 votes were cast in Batavia.

At Oakfield-Alabama, Fisgus said that more than 700 ballots had been received as of last Friday – more than three times the number of voters in 2019.

As far as counting the ballots is concerned, both districts have their teams in place and will be forming an “assembly line” with different people assigned to specific tasks – opening the envelopes, distributing the ballots and counting the votes separately for the budget, other propositions and school board election.

They also said that guidelines are in place to ensure voter anonymity since the outside of the envelopes have to be signed in order to be considered. 

“(Starting at 5 p.m. on June 16) we will open the envelopes but the ballots will remain folded as not to see the information checked as it must remain anonymous and separated from the envelope,” Fisgus said.

He said the ballots will be placed in a secure lock box, and the two teams counting the ballots will be charged with tallying the budget votes, capital project vote, bus purchase and board member votes.

“Once all the legal ballots have been counted, the teams will come together for a final tally of the propositions and board candidates,” said.

Rozanski said the Batavia district is using a local vendor to assist in the process.

“We have partnered with ABS (Applied Business Systems) to have the mailed ballots delivered to them using their Business Reply Mail permit,” he said. “Each day we receive notification of the ballots received and an employee picks up the mail. In addition, ballots could still be dropped off at the Administrative wing at Batavia High School (by 5 p.m. tomorrow).”

To be eligible to vote, persons must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years of age or older, and be a resident of the school district for at least 30 days prior to June 9 – all in accordance with the provisions of section 5-106 of the Election Law.

-----------

Reigle to Run for Batavia Spot

The Batavia City School District has another candidate for the school board as John Reigle has thrown his hat into the ring as a write-in.

He joins incumbents Tanni Bromley and Barbara Bowman as well as recent appointee Alice Ann Benedict in the race for the three open board seats.

The two candidates receiving the most votes will serve from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023, while the third-place candidate’s term will be June 9, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

May 28, 2020 - 5:46pm

There will be no change in the daily schedule for students at the four Batavia City School District buildings.

“After thoughtful consideration and collaboration over the last six weeks, the members of the Batavia Teachers’ Association voted against a proposal to change the start and end times at all district buildings,” BTA President Mark Warren said following today's online voting by union members.

District administration had suggested the change during the 2020-21 budget process, maintaining that the proposed starting and ending times would save $200,000 in transportation costs. The outcome of the vote will not affect the passed budget.

With the “no” vote by the teachers, the school day will continue as follows:

-- Batavia High and Batavia Middle, 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

-- John Kennedy Elementary and Jackson Primary, 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The proposal called for BHS and BMS to be on 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. schedule, and for JK and Jackson to be on a 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. schedule.

Warren said he exit polls revealed two main concerns.

“The current research on sleep patterns and the school day for teenagers supports a later start time for secondary students, and concerns were also expressed over modifying the students’ schedule in the midst of all of the changes going on due to the pandemic,” Warren said.

He said the BTA’s goal moving forward is “to work collaboratively with district administration as we determine the best path to reopen the school buildings in the fall to ensure the safety of students and employees.”

Warren said all four building votes would have had to be favorable for the measure to pass, but indicated that it was rejected at all four schools.

May 20, 2020 - 1:42pm

As Genesee County school districts gear up for 2020-21 budget voting and school board elections, The Batavian is providing the following capsule summaries to keep residents informed about key dates, propositions and candidates.

Per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order, all school districts in New York State will hold annual budget voting and board elections on June 9 through absentee balloting.

Absentee ballots will be mailed to eligible voters and must be returned to the district offices by 5 p.m. on June 9 or they will not be considered or counted – no exceptions.

It is essential to remember that additional state aid cuts could be coming and would affect districts’ budgets going forward.

Details about the schools’ budgets and candidates as well as contact information can be found on their respective websites.

ALEXANDER CENTRAL

Budget by the numbers -- The proposed budget is $18,540,258, an increase of $315,497 from the 2019-20 plan, with no increase in the tax levy. The budget (virtual) hearing is set for 7 p.m. on May 26 via Zoom using the log-in details posted on the district website, and will be available for viewing on the website’s BOE link starting on May 27.

School board election – One position is up for election for a term of five years commencing July 1, 2020 and expiring on June 30, 2025 to succeed Richard Guarino, whose term expires on June 30, 2020. Candidates are Christopher Mullen and Diane Steel.

Websitewww.alexandercsd.org

BATAVIA CITY SCHOOLS

Budget by the numbers – The board approved a $51,470,725 spending plan with cuts in staffing and other items but no property tax increase. The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on June 2.

Additional propositions – Richmond Memorial Library trustee voting, with Kristi Evans the only candidate at this time for a five-year term starting on July 1, 2020. As two seats are open, the other will be filled via the write-in candidate process. Jackson Primary playground, a $618,000 capital project to construct an age-appropriate playground at Jackson Primary School.

School board election – Incumbents Barbara Bowman and Tanni Bromley along with recent appointee Alice Ann Benedict are running for three board seats. The candidates receiving the most votes will serve from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023, while the third-place candidate’s term will be June 9, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

Website – www.bataviacsd.org

BYRON-BERGEN CENTRAL

Budget by the numbers – The board adopted a proposed budget of $24,599,800, including a tax levy of $9,024,961 – an increase in the property tax rate of 1.99 percent. The public hearing on the budget is set for 5 p.m. on May 28, and will be recorded and placed on the district website.

Additional propositionsBus purchase, proposal is for two 70-passenger school buses at a maximum cost of $246,000, with 90 percent covered by state aid. The tax income is estimated at $2 per year on a house assessed at $100,000, according to Superintendent Mickey Edwards.

School board election – Three people are running for two open trustee positions – incumbents Tammy Menzie and Amy Phillips and challenger Lynn Smith. The terms are for three years, beginning on July 1.

Websitewww.bbschools.org

ELBA CENTRAL

Budget by the numbers – The board is meeting tonight via Zoom to consider the $10,269,322 spending plan that calls for a slight tax increase that equates to an increase of $39 for the entire year based on a house assessed at $150,000. The public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. on May 27, also via Zoom.

Additional propositionRe-establish a vehicle and transportation reserve and school bus purchase. Superintendent Ned Dale reporting that the district wishes use existing reserve funds to purchase a 65-passenger bus and a 24-passenger bus with a handicap lift.

School board election – Incumbent Michael Riner is the only slated candidate for his seat, which expires this year.

Website www.elbacsd.org

LE ROY CENTRAL

Budget by the numbers – The board approved a $26,334,488 budget that includes a 1.99 percent property tax increase (which is below the district’s tax cap of 2.8 percent) and does not add new positions or programs. The budget hearing presentation will be posted on the district's website at www.leroycsd.org on June 2.

School board election – Incumbents Richard Lawrence and Jacalyn Whiting are running for the two three-year terms.

Website – www.leroycsd.org

OAKFIELD-ALABAMA CENTRAL

Budget by the numbers – The board approved a $21,123,746 budget, up 1.4 percent from last year, with a zero percent property tax increase. Superintendent John Fisgus reported that the budget preserves all educational programs and extracurricular activities, adding that tiered plans are in place if the state makes additional cuts in aid. The public hearing on the budget is set for 10 a.m. on June 1 and will be considered “adjourned” as it will be conducted remotely.

Additional propositions – Capital improvement project, $15.3 million, with no impact upon taxpayers. Major goals of the project include safety/security measures, code and handicap accessible updates, building repairs, infrastructure upgrades and landscaping. School bus purchase, $135,000, to be financed.

School board election – Five candidates are running for three open positions – Jackie Yunker Davis, Daniel N. Groth, Douglas Russo, Shanda Spink and Pete Zeliff. The candidate receiving the most votes will begin serving on June 10 with the term ending on June 30, 2023. The terms of the two candidates with the second and third most votes will be July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023.

Website – www.oahornets.org

PAVILION CENTRAL

Budget by the numbers – The board adopted a $17,684,182 budget with no change in the tax levy and no major changes beyond contractual increases and expected costs related to the coronavirus. The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 26 via Zoom. Links will be provided in the district newsletter and on our web page once they are created. 

Additional propositions – Change of board of education term, with the proposal calling for making all seven seats five-year terms – an increase of two years from the current term.

School board election -- Incumbents Margaret Gaston and Callin Ayers-Tillotson are running for re-election.

Website – www.pavilioncsd.org

PEMBROKE CENTRAL

Budget by the numbers – The board adopted a $23,679,522 budget with a zero percent tax levy increase and no property tax increase. The budget hearing will be held remotely on May 26, and the adjourned budget hearing will be available to view on the district website BoardDocs link beginning on May 27. The district's Dragon Tales publication will be mailed next week with all the details.

Additional propositions – Purchase of buses, with no impact upon taxes.

School board election – Dan Lang is running for a one-year unexpired term and Heather Wood is running for a new five-year term. Additionally, an election to fill three seats on the Corfu Public Library is scheduled. Kristie Miller, Julie Hengenius and Tony Kutter are up for election for three-year terms.

Websitewww.pembrokecsd.org

May 5, 2020 - 8:11pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, batavia city school district.

The Batavia City School District Board of Education tonight postponed adopting the 2020-21 budget for two weeks in anticipation of receiving word from Albany on the amount of state aid it will receive.

Over the past few weeks, district officials have had to take drastic measures to close a $1.6 million budget gap, most notably the elimination of about 30 jobs across the district. They still were about $47,000 short of reaching what is a “negative” tax cap (minus .38 percent) before making some more changes earlier today.

Those adjustments determined the tenure status of five elementary teachers who also are certified to teach reading, at a cost of $130,382, and scaled back three BOCES programs – alternative education, Instructional Support Services and model schools -- resulting in a savings of $177,649.

This enabled the district to hit the desired target, which unfortunately has been a moving target. However, with the state aid situation in flux, further financial modifications may have to be made.

Subsequently, Business Administrator Scott Rozanski recommended that the board wait until news of additional state aid adjustments and call another meeting to adopt the $51.4 million budget on May 19, two days before the deadline.

Board President Patrick Burk, mindful that district residents and media were watching the proceedings, explained how the board has reached this point.

“The current budget shows the decrease in state aid … through the budget that has been proposed to the state, which is $453,327, on top of the flat expenditure from the governor’s budget, and we have had a couple of questions that can be explained a little bit further,” he said.

Burk said the board was informed that the district would be getting an increase of $800,000 in state aid, based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first abstract of the budget.

“Since then … state aid is actually minus $453,327 as opposed to a plus $800,000,” he said. “On top of that, we were working with an unknown tax cap that, rightly or wrongly, the assumption in the past has at least given us some leeway in letting us raise some increase in taxation, although in our past years, it’s been relatively modest.”

He added that by the time the district’s tax cap was determined, the board “realized we were at a negative tax cap, and there goes some revenue that could possibly have been raised through the tax cap – and we ended up with a minus between $7,500 and $8,000 tax cap.”

Burk said he expects further state aid reductions that will affect the 2019-20 district budget – the first of the state’s four specified “measurement periods” is set for this month – but has not received word if any current year reductions would carry over to 2020-21. Any cuts in 2019-20 state aid would have to be made up by tapping into reserves, he said.

After that, Burk recommended that the board push the budget adoption meeting to May 19 “so we can know what the reduction will be for the current year and whether or not that is going to impact the 2020-21 year.”

His suggestion was accepted by the board.

Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said he agreed with the decision, adding that conversations are taking place with state education officials this week, which leads him to believe actual monetary amounts will be revealed soon.

He also mentioned the “political posturing” that is going on between the governor and President Trump in regard to the possibility of a federal stimulus bill to support states and localities.

“The hope is that we get something, but I just want everyone to be reminded that when the new budget was proposed, there was already a pandemic adjustment line in there that literally washed itself out … if we do get a bailout, I don’t necessarily think it will help us, I hope it will,” Soler said. “But I think they already have preplanned a lot of this stuff and we’re caught in some of that political posturing that goes on.”

In other developments:

-- The board tabled decisions on a $618,000 capital project to construct an age-appropriate playground at Jackson Primary School and a singular $100,000 capital outlay project at either Jackson, Batavia High School or Batavia Middle School.

Burk said that the current playground at Jackson is for intermediate or elementary pupils, not primary, and that capital project funds can't be transferred into the general fund.

Rozanski said that the capital outlay proposal comes with a 90 percent aid appropriation, reducing the district’s final cost to $10,000. He also noted that the capital outlay program, in its fifth year, identifies one location and is completed by a general contractor.

Eventually, the board will decide on one of these three options:

-- Jackson Primary: New restroom in the gymnasium;
-- Batavia High: New stage floor and new clocks;
-- Batavia Middle: Exterior doors and landscaping.

-- The board did approve taking $55,720 from the district’s repair reserve fund (which was at $173,782) to replace the gymnasium floor at the high school, a move that followed a public hearing at which no public comments were submitted.

Rozanski said the work will level the gym floor and eliminate the “dead spots.”

-- Burk said the budget vote and school board election will be done totally by a mail-in ballot, with postage paid envelopes to be mailed to district residents after May 19th and before June 9th.

Burk said it will cost $1.16 for every ballot – possibly as much as $32,000 total – since law prohibits electronic balloting. He said that the Richmond Memorial Library ballots will be included with the school’s ballots.

The board meeting took place via videoconference on the board’s website YouTube channel -- www.bataviacsd.org.

May 1, 2020 - 12:31pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, batavia city school district.

New York State schools are officially closed for the remainder of the academic year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today.

Despite the news that students won’t populate school buildings, the educational process and plans for a meaningful commencement experience continue.

“We’ll stay the course and hope that we'll get better guidance from the governor in the coming weeks,” said Anibal Soler Jr., Batavia City School District superintendent, moments after the governor’s announcement.

Distance learning will remain in place, while a decision on summer school is expected to come at the end of May.

Soler said his district will continue to provide meals, remote instruction to those who have internet access and dropping off packets of school work for those who don’t.

“We have to graduate kids and we have to provide grades; we still have those expectations regardless of traditional brick and mortar, coming-to-the-building experiences,” he said. “We will continue to try to keep our kids motivated and excited about school even though it’s such a weird time for everybody.”

Commencement was supposed to be on June 27, and Soler is holding out hope that Batavia’s seniors will “get a ceremony that they deserve.”

“I think time is in our favor here. Hopefully by then we’ll have some guidance on what we’re supposed to do, such as keeping everybody six feet apart,” he said.

He said having the ceremony at Van Detta Stadium, even if it’s late in the summer, would work well.

“We want to do it right and make sure people are protected and healthy as much as possible,” he said.

May 1, 2020 - 9:50am

The Batavia Teachers’ Association has postponed a vote on a proposal to modify the school day at the four Batavia City School District buildings.

BTA President Mark Warren on Thursday night said that the vote – actually four separate votes by those who work at Batavia High, Batavia Middle, John Kennedy Intermediate and Jackson Primary schools – will not take place today as originally planned.

“We want to work out some of the wrinkles and provide answers to the questions that some of our members have before voting,” Warren said. “We haven’t set a new date yet, but it will not be before the next Board of Education meeting on May 5th.”

School Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. raised the possibility of changing the school day schedules earlier this week as a cost-cutting measure as the district maneuvers to close what once was a $1.6 million budget gap.

Soler said that $200,000 in transportation costs would be achieved by the following:

-- Putting Batavia High and Batavia Middle on a 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. schedule. Currently, the schedule at those two schools is 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

-- Putting John Kennedy and Jackson on a 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. schedule. Currently, the schedule at those two schools is 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

This would enable the district to use fewer buses across the four schools, a tiered approach that also would give every student in the district the opportunity to ride a bus if they so desired, Soler said.

On Tuesday night, the Board of Education authorized the cutting of 30 positions to slash more than $1.5 million in expenses.

A favorable vote on the school day schedule – in all likelihood all four buildings would have to pass it -- would enable the district to wash away a $47,000 budget shortfall and meet the state-mandated property tax cap, thus avoiding a 60-percent plus one supermajority vote of the public to pass the budget.

Contacted this morning, BOE President Pat Burk said he hadn’t heard about the vote postponement, but didn’t think that would affect the board’s plan to vote on the budget on Tuesday.

“Actually, we have been looking at areas other than personnel to find another $47,000 to cut,” Burk said. “The vote to change the school day schedule, if passed, would provide extra funding that we likely will need down the road not knowing what is going to happen with state aid.”

Burk said he thinks changing the schedules could help attendance, since all students would be able to get a ride to school, and have little impact upon extracurricular afterschool activities such as sports and music.

April 29, 2020 - 1:50pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, batavia city school district.

Batavia City School Board President Patrick Burk described having to cut 30 staff positions as “incredibly sad” and said he hopes that New York State doesn't inflict any more pain upon the district.

On Tuesday night, by a vote of 4-1, the Board of Education cut 30 full-time positions and one half-time position to produce personnel cost savings of $1,586,513 -- and move the district within $47,000 of complying with the state mandated tax cap.

Burk, Barbara Bowman, Shawna Murphy and John Marucci voted in favor of the reductions while Tanni Bromley voted against the measure. Peter Cecere was absent.

“Today, in reflecting on it, it is just incredibly sad that we have to look at ways to bring the services needed within our school community by not having some of the people that have provided those needs,” Burk said. “And it affects people in several areas. The cuts were across the board."

The positions to be cut are as follows:

-- Two district administrators;
-- One treasurer;
-- One secretary;
-- One Grade 7-12 math teacher;
-- A second school resource officer;
-- Two special education teachers;
-- One clerk-typist;
-- Five reading teachers across the district;
-- Five elementary teachers;
-- One maintenance worker;
-- Ten teaching aides (most long-term substitutes);
-- One half-time music teacher.

Burk: 'The best we can do considering' ...

“For me to have to do something that there’s no other answer to was, and is, probably the saddest thing,” Burk said. “We had to do this one other time, reducing staff when gap elimination aid started, but I think it’s hard when everything in the world right now is so uncertain, and to keep everybody employed to the end of the school year is the best that we can do considering the situation.”

Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said the positions marked for deletion were decided in a previous executive session, with last night’s action “getting us pretty close to where we need to go to (toward balancing the 2020-21 budget).”

By eliminating these positions, the district’s proposed budget increases by $999,440 (1.98 percent) and the tax levy climbs by only $39,905 (0.2 percent), Business Administrator Scott Rozanski said.

But since the district is in a “negative tax cap situation,” it needs to come up with another $47,000 to meet the cap and avoid a 60-percent plus one supermajority vote of the public to pass the budget.

Soler said about $200,000 in transportation budget savings can be achieved by modifying the school day schedules at the district’s four locations.

Soler proposes changing school hours

His plan, which needs support from the Batavia Teachers’ Association, would put Batavia High School and Batavia Middle School on a 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. schedule, and John Kennedy Intermediate School and Jackson Primary School on a 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. schedule. By doing this, the district would be able to use fewer buses across the four schools, thus saving money.

Soler said that every student in the district would be able to ride a bus, calling it a "huge win." He said that he expects the teachers’ union to vote on the proposal this Friday.

The superintendent said he is wary of more state cuts to school aid, offering that another 20 percent reduction would result in a $6 million shortfall and “would decimate us.” He is hopeful that it would be much less than that, if at all.

“We’re at a good spot with the budget but I’m still concerned about what is coming (from Gov. Andrew Cuomo),” he said. “There was talk about this being an opportunity to reimagine schools. I really don’t know what that means with all the contractual obligations (that we have).”

Burk said the board plans to adopt a budget on May 5, but may have to convene earlier depending upon news out of Albany.

More state aid cuts down the line?

“I’m concerned that we may have more adjustments at the state level. If federal money doesn’t come through, districts could be cut by 20 percent,” he said. “There could be reductions in the current 2019-20 school aid formula that will result in further reduction. I’m hoping that we have enough left over from a couple of areas to cover those reductions.”

As far as who will be laid off, Burk said decisions are based on longevity, with the school board and the unions coming to an agreement on employees’ service time.

“The way the system works is that we announce the positions and then the bargaining units are given the sheets to determine if their records of longevity match our records of longevity. Once those are merged and both parties agree (then individual employees will be notified),” he said. “If there’s a position being cut in a specific area or tenure, the person who has been here the shortest time is cut.”

He said that the teacher aide positions were long-term substitutes “who would have been gone at the end of the (school year) anyway and then repositioned as needed starting in September.”

Burk said three points come to mind when looking at the current budget scenario:

“The three things that are probably the most disturbing are that instead of an increase in aid that originally was proposed by the governor …, we’re actually getting a slight decrease; that our tax cap because of the economy and building, and so forth, which is far too confusing, has actually ended up being a negative number; and that while we knew we had some increases going into next year, we didn’t really know to what extent the retirement and health insurance total number would be.”

Burk, who has led the board for many years, said a major problem with the entire process is that the school district has to present a budget in May without knowing what the local tax dollars or the actual state aid figures will be until September.

Benedict voted in as new board member

In other action, the board voted unanimously in favor of Alice Ann Benedict filling a vacant spot on the board.

Benedict previously served on the school board for 10 years, including three as president.

“Alice Ann is a real solid person, she’s from the community – a Batavia graduate – and when the vacancy occurred she expressed interest,” Burk said. “We need as many minds and as many thinking people on this process from now until whenever it ends up being as possible.”

Burk said Benedict will serve until there is another election, with the date unknown at this time.

April 8, 2020 - 3:42pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, batavia city school district, covid-19.

Batavia City School District leaders are making plans for a graduation ceremony, even in the unfortunate event that students are unable to return to the classroom.soler.png

That’s the latest word from Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., a couple days after he received news that June Regents exams were cancelled and nearly a month into a prolonged “recess” caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“We’re looking at a couple of different options … and whenever it happens, we will give our kids the graduation ceremony they all rightly deserve,” said Soler, who was hired in January.

Currently, graduation is scheduled for June 27 at Genesee Community College but that could change depending upon the status of mandated social distancing.

“If we get clearance, we’ll have it there,” he said. “If not (and it has to be postponed) we’re thinking about a summer graduation – maybe on school grounds or at Van Detta Stadium. We definitely want to celebrate our kids.”

Soler said he agreed with the state Education Department’s decision to forgo the Regents exams.

“I think it’s good. It was tough decision but it was made in favor of our students,” he said. “We have guidance now of what the rest of the school year will look like. It’s a weight lifted off the kids’ shoulders.”

The superintendent said that remote learning continues at the various grade levels through Google classroom, with students equipped with Chromebooks.

“We’ve been a one-to-one district for a couple years now, but what was a supplemental thing now has moved to a primary (position),” he said. “With kids not dependent upon an exam to graduate, they can get their course credit by getting those assignments in.”

He said he hopes that students will be able to come back to school – “maybe June 1st,” he said – and spoke of school’s role in students’ “social and emotional well-being.”

Soler also said he is pleased that the district has been able to keep kids fed during the coronavirus shutdown.

“As of Monday, we’ve provided 30,000 meals – breakfast and lunch – to the community,” he said, noting that meals are available for pick up from 9 to 11 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays at both Jackson Primary School and John Kennedy Elementary School.

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