Tuesday night’s Google Hangout Town Hall meeting, held by Charlotte Central School administrators, soothed some fears, answered some questions, and left a lot up in the air as the new school year approaches. The message of the evening, as it seems to be across much of the state as far as education and the return to school, trended toward emphasizing that there’s still a lot to figure out, and it’s not without a lack of trying.
Co-principals Stephanie Sumner and Jen Roth, along with Director of Special Education Cassandra Townshend and Dr. Elizabeth Hunt, a pediatrician and Charlotte parent, answered questions and laid out plans for the 2020-21 school year—at least to the best of their abilities. Practical questions and answers eased some concerns, but a lot remains for the school district to figure out in the next three weeks before the doors open to students for hybrid learning.
A lot of changes will be physical: plexiglass to create barriers on student worktables is on order; personal belongings and comfortable reading areas were removed from classrooms; and music lessons will be held either remotely or outdoors. Many classroom changes will be on the social-emotional end of the spectrum, too. Teachers will focus, Roth said, on connection, and will “develop and maintain supportive relationships and a sense of belonging.”
As far as rumors and statewide news stories about a teacher shortage, Sumner responded to an inquiry about whether or not CCS has enough teachers with, “The short answer is, yes, right now.”
One point of concern for parents was sick kids—not with COVID-19, but with the regular childhood illnesses like asthma, allergies, colds, and stomach bugs. Though students with fevers will not be allowed in school, and doctor’s notes are required for ailments such as asthma, not all students will automatically be sent home for a two-week quarantine as soon as they exhibit any sign of sickness. If a student ends up under quarantine with his or her family, Sumner said he or she will not be forced to just “hang out” at home for two weeks, and that teachers across the hybrid and remote models are considered teams that will work with whatever student educational needs should arrive.
In the 90-minute meeting, administrators also touched upon learning plans for special education students, recess protocols, and the daily schedules of all CCS students. All of that information, and the meeting itself, can be found on the CCS web site.
One other major topic that was addressed, and not totally figured out yet, was the parent-dreaded drop-off line. With a limit of 30 students per school bus and the district asking parents to drive if they can, the already unwieldy, slow, and sometimes confusing morning drop-off line is anticipated to be somewhat of a mess. What the beginning of the school day looks like will be unpredictable for the first few weeks of school, with the goal of doors opening at 7:45, and Roth said that several entrances will be used, perhaps with assigned doors for different grades. The line is an apt metaphor for what the rest of the school year and even the school day will look like, perhaps: the kids have to get into school, and it’s going to happen, even if it’s a little confusing and parents and administrators have to think on their feet and roll with the punches.