Local Matters

Community Sponsors

batavia city school district

March 23, 2021 - 4:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia city school district, news, notify, covid-19.

Following a presentation by Superintendent Anibal Soler, the city schools' Board of Trustees approved a plan Monday night that could have full in-class learning for all students whose families want it starting Monday, April 19.

Families who want learning to remain 100-percent virtual will be able to continue online education for the remainder of the school year.

The hybrid model, where students split time between in-home virtual classrooms and on-campus classrooms, will be eliminated.

The decision to return to full-time learning is being driven by data and what state and national leaders are saying about the importance of in-class learning, Soler said.

"I feel, along with the board, that this is why it is time for us to take some significant steps to get us back to school the way it used to be," Soler said during the meeting.

Soler noted that the Centers for Disease Control has changed its guidance on classroom instruction, providing the option to keep students three feet apart instead of six feet. While this change makes it more realistic to get students back in classrooms, six feet is still ideal and where possible, the district will strive to keep students six feet apart, Soler said, or at least five feet, or at least four feet, going to only three feet apart where a greater distance is not feasible.

Previously, one of the issues with opening up the schools was transportation. Currently, students who are transported by bus must sit one to a bench seat. In the new plan, two students will be allowed to share a single bench seat so long as both are masked.

Students will sit on the bus according to a seating chart, so that if later a student does test positive for coronavirus school officials can identify students who were within six feet of the COVID-19-positive student. Such students will be asked to quarantine.

The buses will be disinfected between runs.

The state's Department of Health has not yet approved these guidelines, but Soler anticipates that the state will approve the changes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a Feb. 19 briefing said he believes schools should go back to in-class teaching where COVID-19 prevalence is low and that the change should be a local decision. 

One factor in the district's favor is that at least 50 percent of the staff will be fully vaccinated by April 10. Soler believes the number of staff members vaccinated is actually higher but the district only has data for those individuals who accepted their vaccination through the district. Every staff member has been offered the vaccine.

Soler has already met with leaders of the teachers' and clerks' unions and both support a reopening plan as long as safety protocols are in place.

To prepare, support staff will start moving furniture in classrooms and cafeterias during spring break, March 29 to April 2.

From now until April 9, Soler will be holding virtual meetings with staff members to roll out the plan, answer questions, and address concerns. 

"They may have ideas we haven't thought about," Soler said.

All cohorts will be in virtual classrooms on April 15-16 in order to give teachers a final two days of prep before starting in-classroom teaching.

"This will give us a full 10 weeks of in-person learning for 80 percent of the district," Soler said.

The potential barriers to carrying out and continuing the plan, Soler told the board, are: if the district receives a directive from the Department of Health; or receives a court order; or if there is a spike in community spread or some other sign of the infection rate going up in the community. 

"Then we have to reset, go back to virtual learning for two weeks before resuming the hybrid model," Soler said. "We will continue to protect staff and students if we see a large number of cases."

The timeline allows two weeks between spring break and the resumption of classes. This means if increased social contact during spring break leads to a spike in cases, the district can reevaluate whether April 19 is the right time to go back to in-class learning.

But given all the evidence experts have gathered, Soler said, the district does need to get back to normal classroom instruction. It's better for the students academically, emotionally and socially. It will also be less stressful for teachers.

"Our teachers have been burning the candle at both ends," Soler said. "They have been working hard and managing two groups of students. I commend them on what they do but it's time to get them back to doing what they do best, which is teaching kids in front of them."

February 3, 2021 - 3:06pm

Press release:

Last week, the Batavia City School District Board of Education unanimously approved the addition of an Equity, Inclusivity, and Diversity in Education Policy (8140) and regulation (8140R).

This new policy outlines the process for achieving educational equity in the district and will help to eliminate barriers that hinder every student’s success. The aim of this policy is to provide equitable, inclusive and diverse opportunities for all students to reach their highest potential.

The Board of Education and Superintendent believe that every student has the right to an equitable educational experience and a sense of belonging at school. The Equity, Inclusivity and Diversity in Education policy is an essential step forward for BCSD in fulfilling that promise to all students.

Educational equity in Batavia strives to ensure that all students have equal access to courses, teachers, school environments, regardless of a student’s race or ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion, sexual orientation or native language.

This policy also places a premium on differentiating resource allocation within budgetary limitations, to meet the needs of students who require more supports and opportunities to succeed academically.

The Equity, Inclusivity, and Diversity in Education Policy allows BCSD to continue to move in a direction that reflects a community that is diverse, equitable and inclusive to all students in our learning community.

Board of Education President Alice Ann Benedict agrees that “this commitment to BCSD will impact every corner of our district from our curriculum, to our teaching and our staff, our Board of Education, and Administrators, making it imperative that we approach every situation with adiversity lens in a quest for equity and inclusion for all members of our community.”

As the district moves forward and takes courageous steps needed to promote educational equity, the Superintendent will be charged with reviewing and monitoring the progress of the district’s equity goals, and will share an annual report with the BCSD community informing all stakeholders of the district’s overall progress.

For more information you can view the new policy and regulation here:

**********************************************************************************

January 30, 2021 - 11:34am

While pleased that the Batavia City Council voted to support the My Brother’s Keeper initiative designed to help boys and young men of color with their academic progress, Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. believes that some clarification about the program is warranted.

“Regarding the My Brother’s Keeper story (that was posted on The Batavian on Tuesday – the day following the City Council meeting where the measure was discussed at length before passage), I believe there was some unfamiliarity with what the grant was requiring and the tight timeline for submission to the New York State Education Department created some additional angst,” Soler said.

According to documents provided to Council members by Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, the school district came to the city, seeking a municipal partner in order to apply for the NYSED grant, with a Feb. 1 deadline being set for this year’s grant cycle.

Goals of the program, an extension of an initiative promoted by former President Barack Obama several years ago, include forging teacher/community relationships to address learning needs at every grade level; enhancing family relationships; creating a culturally diverse and engaging atmosphere for learning; and utilizing school, family and community to provide the best opportunities for academic, social and emotional growth.

As explained by Tabelski in a memo to City Council, the city’s role would include advertising the MBK program, providing public meeting room space, and providing mentors and homework assistance at the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool program.

Soler said he followed up with City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. after the meeting to “clarify any confusion or answer any additional questions he may have had, and thanked him for his support.”

“The MBK grant is supplemental funds to support the district's efforts on increasing the academic achievement and college and career readiness of boys and young men of color by sustaining effective relationships with families,” Soler said. “The grant doesn't obligate the city for any services; it just allows them to endorse and or partner in our efforts to pursue this funding opportunity and if we receive this grant we would be able to supplement any city efforts on family and community engagement.”

Jankowski, during Monday night’s meeting, said he was concerned about the last-minute timing of the grant and also about the cost to the city, especially considering that city officials are in the midst of developing the 2021-22 budget.

The city council president ultimately voted in favor of supporting MBK as did the other Council members in attendance, except for Rose Mary Christian, who said she was going to contact the Civil Liberties Union about the legality of an initiative that targeted a specific group.

When asked why he voted in favor of it, Jankowski said he believes the program has merit, but needed “to understand how this would impact our community, and there was a tight time deadline.”

“After doing some research, getting some answers during the Council meeting and the reassurance of Council Member Patti Pacino, a retired teacher, I felt comfortable voting yes,” he said.

When it was mentioned that it seemed to be something that the school district and Genesee County were negotiating over originally, Jankowski said he wasn’t sure of that, but is “hopeful that the city/school partnership for this program will turn out to be a positive one.”

Christian, contacted this morning, said she did call the CLU but did not receive a response.

“I just felt bad because they didn’t include girls,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what nationality they are or what heritage, it just didn’t include them. Like (Council Member) John Canale said, it’s for Hispanic, people of color, the Black community – that’s fine – but what about Caucasian?”

Christian said students across the cultural spectrum need help “and our teachers should be available to give as much help as possible to all that need it.”

Previously: Council members voice objections but vote to support My Brother's Keeper school initiative

January 26, 2021 - 1:18pm

Batavia City Council members called out the Batavia City School District over the timing and the focus of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative on Monday night -- following a somewhat strained 25-minute discussion – before approving a resolution to support the program designed to enhance educational and vocational opportunities for boys and young men of color.

“What have we been doing for five years if we knew this and why haven’t we been helping these children five years ago?” asked Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. during the board’s Conference Meeting at City Hall Council Board Room.

Jankowski was referring to the My Brother’s Keeper program introduced by former President Barack Obama about six years ago.

“If I remember correctly, President Obama brought this to light in 2014-2015 and New York State adopted it in 2016, and now you’re telling me the studies already show that we have youth in our own community that are identified as having concerns or troubles, and they’re not at the same level?” Jankowski said.

“What are we doing in the school system right now to help these kids – persons of color or others that may need it – and why are we waiting a week before the deadline and trying to force this through without public input when we knew about this in 2016 since this grant was out there?”

Jankowski said his concerns centered upon the amount of money the city would be required to support the initiative through mentorships and homework assistance at the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool program and if it was really necessary since the school district is responsible for educating its pupils.

“How did we drop the ball on this especially, although it’s not your concern, (since) I get complaints from people all the time about why their taxes are so high and the school taxes are a major part of it,” he said. “And they’re expecting a service for the children of our community and I’m a little upset that we’ve not done anything for five years for these kids.”

Christian: What About Girls, Other Students?

Prior to Jankowski’s observations, Council Member Rose Mary Christian objected to the program’s targeted focus on boys and young men of color.

“How come girls aren’t included in this and all students?” she asked, directing her query to Julia Rogers, assistant principal at Batavia High School, who was in attendance. “You’re singling out a group.”

Rogers said the program is based on data that shows that students of color – children, young men – do not have the same opportunities as other groups.

“It would be one of those programs that is focused for students of color but a lot of the ideology … for instance, the mentorship – we would be continuing with other students,” she said. “My Brother’s Keeper is a program that is offered through many districts, and basically, it shows a partnership to help these students in Batavia.

"Our numbers in the UPK (Universal Pre-Kindergarten) program are low for students of color. And to work with families from birth to school age to encourage that education and teaching how to educate your children at home. There are a lot of components to that mentorship.”

Rogers said services would be provided throughout students’ school years and could “lead to educational opportunities at the college level and also to business opportunities.”

“So, it’s basically bridging that gap – interagency possibility – for students to have opportunities,” she added.

While acknowledging Christian’s viewpoint, Rogers said that “in reality, those students are the ones who are having difficulties, and there are major gaps for those students.”

“So, what we’re looking for is to have this program and to be able to bridge from it so that our students in all aspects of school … can have a better opportunity.”

Christian wasn’t persuaded, however.

“You’re going to allow anyone to participate because if not, I find it discriminating and it bothers me,” she said. “I’m not a racist person by no means, and this bothers me. So, otherwise, I am going call tomorrow to the Civil Liberties (Union) because I want to make sure that there’s nothing that anyone is denounced in here for any person.”

Tabelski: Municipal Support Required

Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski proposed the city join forces with the school district in a memo dated Jan. 22, and emphasized that the grant had to be submitted by the end of this month. That’s why it was on the agenda of both the Conference and Special Business meeting that followed last night.

She said that the district obtaining a municipal partner was one of the requirements set forth by the New York State Education Department.

“The program, from my understanding of it … is to support residents of color from birth to graduation of high school to achieve better outcomes through mentorship, through community involvement, through college preparation and all other aspects,” Tabelski said. “It is a targeted program; it’s new for Batavia. I don’t believe we ever had this before and we’re asking that the city sign on and say, ‘Yes, we support this and we think it’s a good idea.’ ”

Tabelski said that the city’s commitment would include advertising on its bulletin boards, introducing students to other community groups they might need to partner with, providing opportunities for students to meet with mentors at the Liberty Center for Youth and providing the homework assistance “that we do at our free afterschool program when it is running at Liberty Center for Youth.”

She also revealed that initial talks about the grant were between the school district and the Genesee County Youth Bureau.

“There was once a conversation with folks from the County Youth Bureau and the youth director. I came in last minute, so forgive me. I’m just trying to help them move this through,” she said. “But originally the plan was to partnership mainly with the county-run programs – the Youth Court and the Youth Leadership program … and to let them know that the city – we do direct programming, we don’t actually run those programs although we participate.”

Tabelski said the agreement was amended to highlight the city’s potential involvement.

“I am the one who suggested that these programs would be something that we would be willing – the City as we move forward, depending on COVID, depending on budget, depending on staffing -- to partner and to allow that center to be a place where the mentors and mentees, and homework can continue to happen.”

Bialkowski: Who Will Provide Homework Help?

Council Member Robert Bialkowski, citing the city’s role in the partnership that includes providing homework assistance, asked who would be providing this service.

Tabelski responded that the city already does this at the Liberty Center for Youth.

“So, whether we contract with the contracting agency in the (proposed) RFP (request for proposal) or we have our own city staff there, it’s already going on. It’s a continuation of what we already are doing,” she said.

Bialkowski then mentioned that city youth services are on hold at this point, and suggested language in the contract that shielded the city from financial obligations if the money wasn’t there.

“We could certainly add that language in there,” Tabelski said, but City Attorney George Van Nest disagreed, saying he didn’t think it was necessary because any private sector agency (or an entity such as a school district) would be subject to any government restrictions in place.

Jankowski said he thought it was “odd” that the school district is the fiscal agent but was asking the city for in-kind support.

Rogers replied that the district already has a “multi-care system approach” to education and mentioned its “great graduation rates.”

“This is another program that we felt would assist us as a school district and as a community to bridge that gap and offer more opportunities to students,” she explained. “It is a program that helps bridge the gap and enhance and cultivate those educational, workforce opportunities for students.”

Jankowski: Why is This Being Pushed Through?

Jankowski noted the school’s budgetary shortfall and, again, questioned why this was “getting pushed through tonight and we haven’t even done our budget yet. We’re voting on this resolution to partner in a grant and these things might not be here.”

Council Member Al McGinnis called it an important issue and encouraged public input before voting to support it.

““We need public input on this. I don’t think we can proceed without having public input, and I’d like the language changed to say all children,” he said.

Again, Jankowski voiced his displeasure with the last-minute notification that put Council on the spot.

“The timing is the problem here,” he said. “We don’t even know what our budget is like. As far as supporting it and moral support … I’m comfortable with that part of it. I don’t know where we’re going to end up from here (with the budget). I don’t what them to apply for that grant and then something comes up beyond our control, and now we’re not able to meet our obligations.”

Council Member John Canale asked Tabelski if there would be any additional cost to the city once the youth center gets up and running. Tabelski said there wouldn’t, prompting Canale to urge his colleagues (Jeremy Karas and Paul Viele were absent) to vote to support it, contingent upon available funding.

That seemed to change Jankowski’s mind as he then commended the program’s priorities and benchmarks, while noting that “people of color” encompasses a larger group of people than just those of African-American descent.

Pacino: If We Can Help, Then Let's Help

Then Council Member Patti Pacino, a longtime educator, spoke in favor of the initiative.

“For all this time, before this came along, we take care of kids who come from families who are Muslim, kids that come from parents who only speak Spanish, kids that come from Black families that have no money. That’s all been going on,” she said. “Now, we can say wait, here’s another program that we can add to our programs.”

“Yes, this one belongs to Black young men that happens to be one where these kids are having problems and these kids are getting into trouble. That does not mean that other kids aren’t. It’s an expansion – one more great thing to do for kids. I’m all for saying we support it and we’ll come up with the money if we can come up with the money. It’s not that we’re taking it over, and it’s not that they haven’t been doing it.”

After Jankowski asked how many students would participate in the program (Rogers said she estimated around 100), Canale said this was an opportunity to “invest in our youth to improve our youth in Batavia -- some of these underprivileged, underserved youth that will stay in Batavia, (and) will be more productive community members as they become adults.”

The resolution was then moved to the Special Business meeting where Christian tried to proposed an amendment to include girls and any students of any color.

That was dismissed, however, due to the parameters of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

A vote to support the school district was taken with all Council members except Christian voting in favor of it. McGinnis said he was voting yes, “with reservations.”

In other action, Council:

  • Forwarded resolutions concerning the 2021-22 budget ordinance and tax levy; establishment of new water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees, and amendment of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District Plan to its Feb. 8 Business meeting, with expectations that public hearings for all these measures by scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 22.

Currently, the budget calls for a 1.38-percent increase in the property tax rate, from $9.59 to $9.73 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value, with a tax levy of $5,864,597.

A budget workshop took place following last night’s Business meeting and another is scheduled for 6 p.m. next Monday.

Water rates and quarterly meter service fees are projected to increase by 3.5 percent, with quarterly capital improvement fees increasing by 10 percent.

Amendments to the BID Plan focus on three capital projects in the pipeline for 2021-22 -- downtown marketing banners ($9,000), downtown music equipment ($30,000) and downtown Christmas decorations ($38,000) – and the amount of the BID’s assessment charge to its members.

  • Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 to apply for a 2020 New York State Community Development Block Grant through the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal. Applications are due by March 5 for public infrastructure, public facilities and planning.

Tabelski said the city is looking at obtaining grant funding for “several infrastructure projects,” specifically mentioning rehabilitative work at the fire station and bureau of maintenance, and a water line project.

  • Appointed Lydia Schauf, a former city youth bureau employee, to the City Youth Board advisory group for a term extending through Dec. 31, 2023.
January 23, 2021 - 9:17am

Update: Jan,. 25, 2 p.m.

Please be advised that Batavia City Council will be holding the 2021/22 budget work sessions on the following dates:

Monday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m. -- Conference Council Meeting, Special Business Meeting &  Budget Work Session (Department of Public Works)

Monday, Feb.  1, 6 p.m. -- Budget Work Session (General Gov’t, General Admin Services, Fire & Police)

Wed., Feb. 3, 7 p.m. --If needed – 3rdBudget Work Session

Monday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m. --- Business meeting, introduce budget ordinance

Monday, Feb 22, 7 p.m. -- Conference Meeting, (Last opportunity to make budget amendments)

Monday, Mar 8, 7 p.m. -- Adopt Budget and Related Resolutions.

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

The process of achieving a 2021-22 spending plan for the City of Batavia is expected to move forward on Monday night with the introduction of resolutions to schedule public hearings on the budget ordinance and establishment of new water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees.

City Council is scheduled to meet in Conference and Business sessions at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the City Hall Council Board Room.

In a memo to City Council dated Jan. 14, Interim Manager Rachael Tabelski indicated that public hearings are necessary prior to any execution.

Tabelski is proposing that the budget and water rates resolutions, along with a third resolution dealing with amendments to the Business Improvement District Plan, be considered at Council’s Feb. 8 Business Meeting and that public hearings be set for 7 p.m. Feb. 22 – the date of Council’s next Conference Meeting.

Earlier this month, Tabelski proposed a 2021-22 tentative budget – a $27.7 million all-funds spending plan – that calls for a 1.38-percent increase in the property tax rate (from $9.59 to $9.73 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value). According to a resolution on the table for 2021-22, the amount to be raised by taxes is $5,864,597.

Tabelski has said that a combination of revenue losses due to COVID-19 and decreased sales tax and state aid have resulted in a $1.2 million gap compared to the previous fiscal year.

In the area of water and meter fees, the resolution introduces a local law to establish new rates, with water rates and quarterly meter service fees going up by 3.5 percent and quarterly capital improvement fees increasing by 10 percent.

Changes to the BID Plan, outlined in red in Council’s packet of information, indicated that the BID has about $260,000 in its capital infrastructure fund to be used for capital projects. Three such projects earmarked for 2021-22 are downtown marketing banners ($9,000), downtown music equipment ($30,000) and downtown Christmas decorations ($38,000).

Other amendments show that the BID’s district assessment charge (a revenue source) – excluding debt service – can’t exceed 20 percent of the total general municipal taxes levied in a year against the taxable property in the BID. Thus, it is currently estimated that that figure is $58,000, and the BID’s assessment is estimated at $1.810873 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Other items of note on this Monday’s Conference Meeting agenda:

Tabelski is suggesting that Council look over the plan and issue it for public comment, and then move it forward to the March 8 Business Meeting where she and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch will review the public comments with Council, prior to the board adopting the plan and sending a certified copy to the New York State Office of Management and Budget.

  • A request by the City of Batavia School District for the City to support the district’s application for funding that the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, a NYS Education grant program.

In a memo dated Jan. 22, Tabelski wrote that the partnership is designed “to increase the academic achievement and college and career readiness of boys and young men of color.”

The memo indicates that the City will support the program, provide “parent engagement and education, mentorship, college and career pathways, and other evidence-based strategies,” provide display space on bulletin boards and brochure racks, provide ADA-accessible public meeting room space, provide mentors at the City’s Liberty Center for Youth afterschool program, and provide homework assistance at the Liberty Center for Youth.

  • A resolution to schedule a public hearing for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 to apply for a 2020 New York State Community Development Block Grant through the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal. Applications are due by March 5 for public infrastructure, public facilities and planning.

In a memo dated Jan. 22, Tabelski explained that proposals must meet at least one of two national objectives – at least 51 percent of the persons who would benefit from implementation of the plan are low- or moderate-income persons or the plan addresses a slum or blighted area in the community.

She wrote that the City is reviewing possible projects that align with its strategic plan, primarily infrastructure ventures related to water, wastewater and facilities.

Tabelski is suggesting that both the My Brother’s Keeper and the CDBG resolutions be moved to the Business Meeting this Monday night due to timing issues.

January 16, 2021 - 12:12pm

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.

December 8, 2020 - 12:52pm

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” have taken on a new meaning for Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., who has had to make the difficult decision of implementing 100-percent virtual learning at all four district buildings prior to the holiday break.

“I think these 12 school days off (Dec. 7-22) will allow us to get a little bit of the staff back and hopefully limit the number of people needing to quarantine since there are no kids in the building and there are no additional staff members needing to congregate or walk by each other or be in the same place,” Soler said today. “We should be able to have our staffing back to the levels that they need to be to and be able to reopen Jan. 4.”

Soler said that the inability to adequately staff the classrooms drove him to shut the schools down, adding that 81 teachers, aides and other employees have had to quarantine since the start of the school year.

“The issue is not so much students, it’s the staff members,” he said. “If a teacher has to quarantine at home for 14 days, then I need another adult to cover the class for the in-person kids because the teacher is now home. It makes it extremely hard knowing that we already struggle with the substitute teachers, so it also makes it hard to deliver a quality program. We gratefully have some of our teachers who are willing to tele-work, but we still needed another adult to supervise the kids in front of them.”

The superintendent said he was not under any statewide pressure to enforce all distance learning, but pointed to a couple variables – the rolling seven-day average for positive cases in Genesee County at around 8 percent and the daily calls from students and staff needing to quarantine.

He said that 21 staff members and 21 students have tested positive “and every single one of those positives results in a group of people that have to quarantine for 14 days.”

“It becomes unmanageable and we’re at a breaking point. Definitely 50 percent of our buildings would have been significantly impacted,” he said. “By having kids home, we wouldn't have to worry about substitute coverage and teachers could still teach remotely during these next 12 days.”

Soler said that most students will miss five in-person days (due to a schedule that features a mix of in-person and remote learning).

“That was a heartbreaking thing because we prided ourselves on being able to offer at least some in-person learning to our students, unlike other communities that have been shut down all year,” he offered.

He also mentioned that people continue to gather socially, which makes it even tougher to provide in-person learning.

“As we work with the Genesee County Health Department on contact tracing, we find out that people did go to somebody’s house for Thanksgiving or kids did have a sleepover at someone’s house,” he said. “We know these things are occurring, unfortunately, but when they do occur, they come back into the building and make it hard for us to staff the building.”

Only about 20 students – those who have special needs -- are being allowed in school buildings, he said.

Soler said he believes strongly that Gov. Andrew Cuomo should classify school personnel as “essential workers.”

“If the governor were to label all school staff members as essential employees then they wouldn’t need to quarantine if they don’t have any symptoms. We’d really like to see that rule changed because then we could have had in-person learning – keep school open,” he said. “We should be able to designate them as essential and not make them quarantine if they don’t have any symptoms. As it stands now, that seems pretty harsh.”

He said Cuomo has said on multiple occasions that schools are the safest place … “so why not give us some additional leverage and leeway with the guidelines?”

Soler said he expects that the buildings will reopen on Jan. 4 unless there is a resurgence and the governor deems otherwise.

“Right now, we’re working on increasing the number of parents to give us consent to do the Binax rapid testing in school in case that is required for us to stay open,” he said. “And we’re also focusing on delivering a high-quality virtual experience for the next 12 days.”

December 6, 2020 - 1:20pm

Submitted photo and press release:

City of Batavia Firefighters Local 896 has teamed up with Batavia city schools to assist in a holiday toy drive for the 2020 holiday season.

We are asking for new toy donations from members of the community and businesses for kids of all ages and families.

We look forward to a successful campaign.

Toys can be dropped of at City Fire Headquarters on 18 Evans St. now -- until Monday Dec. 21.

December 2, 2020 - 4:20pm

From the Twenty-five Neediest Children's Fund Committee:

With the chill in the air and the hours of sunlight diminishing each day, it is a reminder that the days of winter and the Holiday Season are nearly here. But this is a far different year in so many ways. And no doubt, but that for many of us 2020 is a year far different from any that we have ever experienced. With these thoughts in mind the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. makes its annual appeal to the many good people in our community and beyond.

The Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. came into existence during another very difficult time -- the days of the Great Depression, about 1933. It was then when Batavia City School District physician, Dr. Dexter Pierce, saw a need that was the inspiration to the founding of the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. The intent of the fund was to help the 25 most needy children in the Batavia City School District.

At that time, the cost of having tonsils removed involved an overnight stay, which cost families $7.50. The physicians graciously waived their fee but the cost of the overnight stay still proved too much for some families. It was then that the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. came into existence.

While the original intent of the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund was to help the 25 “most needy” students, over the past 80-plus years we have always helped as many as possible. There are no efforts made to apportion the funds equally among the schools. We simply help when a child’s need exists.

Traditionally our fund has assisted with medical and dental care, eye exams and glasses, prescription drugs, clothing, shoes and sneakers, counseling, and other educational needs. However, this year has challenged the fund to stretch ourselves beyond our usual assistance and we have additionally helped with food, air mattresses, beds, and educational toys to help children who are in need throughout this coronavirus pandemic. The purpose of this fund remains to provide for the needs of children in the Batavia City School District when no other means are available.

As students’ needs are identified by teachers, their school nurse, or Julie Wasilewski, the district’s social worker, the concerns are conveyed to Mrs. Nancy Haitz, R.N., C.P.N.P., Batavia City School District’s Office of the Coordinator of Health Services. Mrs. Haitz contacts the child’s parents and if it is determined that they aren’t able to provide what it is that their child needs and if the family does not qualify for any special services or assistance that is available, the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. steps in to help.

The parents then select what care is to be provided, and by whom, in order to provide a remedy. Bills are then submitted to the Twenty-five Neediest Fund for payment. There is no red tape, no publicity, and there are no strings attached, as the only purpose is to serve the child in need. No one helped by this fund is ever identified by name, it is strictly confidential, and the name of the child receiving services is not known by the Twenty-five Neediest Children's Fund.

This fund has been dubbed “the Quiet Fund” as we only make one annual appeal at the Holiday Season and it seeks no public acknowledgment or fanfare for the work which is done for the children of the Batavia Public School system. The Quiet Fund is a true charity in every sense of the word. There are no administrative costs! 100 percent of the donations received are used for the benefit of children in need.

We are fortunate that this good community continues to remember the Quiet Fund during the season of giving, and some kindly remember us throughout the year. Every gift is a gift of love and is an affirmation that no child should go without.

Anyone interested in contributing to the Quiet Fund may make their check payable to the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. to be sent to:

Nann K. Zorn, 12 River St., Batavia, NY 14020

To assist a child, and their parent, in this way is a wonderful and immeasurable gift. On behalf of the children, and their parents, helped by your generosity and gifts of love, we extend to you a most sincere thank you and warm holiday wishes, and blessings to you and yours in the hope of a better 2021! Stay Safe and Stay Strong!

Twenty-five Neediest Children's Fund Committee,

Sara Zorn Schroeder, Chairperson,

Nancy Arras,

Benjamin J. Bonarigo, Esq.,

Nancy Haitz,

Virginia Tiede,

Nann K. Zorn

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.

Subscribe to

Calendar

S M T W T F S
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
13
 
14
 
15
 
16
 
17
 
18
 
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
 
23
 
24
 
25
 
26
 
27
 
28
 
29
 
30
 
31
 
 
 
 
 
 

Copyright © 2008-2020 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
 

blue button