Penn Yan school board discusses reopening plans
PENN YAN-- Superintendent Howard Dennis informed the Penn Yan Central School District Board of Education during their monthly meeting Wednesday, July 8 the district has been working on three separate plans for reopening in the fall. This includes the possibility of further virtual learning. However, after the meeting, Dennis said there are many decisions out of the district's control that could impact how schooling looks next year.
"Currently we have three plans that include live, virtual and a hybrid learning," Dennis stated. "But we don't want to spend too much time working on them without guidance from the state, which we are eagerly awaiting."
As it stands state guidance was due to be made public Monday, July 13, but had not been issued before press time. Dennis added he wasn't surprised by how long it has taken for the state to issue reopening guidance.
"We were told it would come out Monday, so we are hoping," Dennis said. "But I am not surprised that it is not out yet, or if it doesn't come out until late tonight."
Key as to whether or not the district schools reopen will be how stringent reopening regulations will be and how much flexibility they allow, Dennis said.
"If the state gives us some flexibility then I am confident that we will reopen," Dennis mentioned. "The more specific the guidance gets the more worried I get."
Once districts have state guidance they must have a district plan for reopening finished and submitted to the state by July 31.
"It's a very short turnaround and doesn't give us a lot of time," Dennis said. "But we have been working on reopening plans for months without guidance."
During the meeting, Dennis handed out a packet from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services or BOCES that he said details issues districts should discuss when formulating reopening plans.
"It's not specific, just general categories for things we should discuss," Dennis said of the packet.
At the end of the day, Dennis said the final decision as to whether schools reopen will fall to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, something he said he fears could lead to Penn Yan being caught in political crosshairs due to the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"My fear is that there will also be, based on what we heard Friday, money coming from the federal government, but only if we totally reopen," Dennis said. "That would put us between the back and forth between the federal and state government."
While the administration of President Donald Trump does not have the authority to force schools to reopen, it can withhold federal funding in many cases if they do not do so.
Dennis also updated the board on timelines for evaluating and updating curriculums and other student-related services such as homework evaluation. Included in that list was a new committee being formed on diversity and inclusivity.
"We want to make sure every student feels included," Dennis said to the Board.
Dennis added the committee is expected to be formed over the summer and will bring an update to the board on its progress by October.