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BOE talks about reopening in fall, bandwith a challenge

WEBUTUCK — The Webutuck Board of Education (BOE) held its reorg meeting for 2020-21 on Monday, July 6, via Zoom (for more, go to www.tricornernews.com). After 15 minutes, it moved to its regular meeting and plans for reopening following this year’s COVID-19 statewide closure. 

Business Administrator Robert Farrier gave an update on those plans. With his team focused specifically on facilities and maintenance, food service and transportation, Farrier’s group met and is preparing a draft plan; it will meet with the other groups and draft a plan that the district will review before submitting to the state.

Seeing as the BOE awarded the septic system construction bid to OCS Industries, Inc., for its capital improvement project at the BOE’s June 29 meeting, Farrier said the district will have a kickoff meeting once the company has everything in order and submit their submittals of insurance. Construction was anticipated to begin on-site by mid-July.

Director of Student Services and Curriculum and Instruction Jen Eraca said her team is focused on technology, which she said was at the crux of how the district is going to function in September. Working with the instruction team, she shared her plans to meet with administrators to come up with a preliminary roll out. She added plans to meet with the district’s health services about transportation and getting students into the building. 

Eraca gave an update on a grant with Harvard University, focusing on rural school districts. She spent time recently with Webutuck Elementary School Principal Jennifer Hengen and Eugene Brooks Intermediate School teacher Amanda Simon discussing the project.

The Extended School Year just startedy; Eraca will contact staff to see how it went and how students’ needs were met. After reaching out to Webutuck High School Principal Katy McEnroe about failures for the 2019-20 school year, she reported that 16 students failed. She plans to do further analysis on the subject.

Superintendent of Schools Ray Castellani reported there will be no new hiring this year. He added Governor Andrew Cuomo is waiting for school districts to turn in plans on reopening to his task force. Castellani said the district has a number of options. So far, it’s running into many issues regarding rotating students in the building, transportation needs, food service needs, class sizes and schedules, etc.

“The good news is I think we can accommodate any plan that we come up with,” Castellani said. “We have enough space and we’re small enough that we can accommodate K through sixth every day; we have enough staff to accommodate smaller class sizes… We have lots of ideas.”

The biggest issue the district is facing is, Castellani said, is the amount of bandwidth if the district were to do everything virtually. According to www.webopedia.com, “bandwidth” refers to both “a range within a band of frequencies or wavelengths” and “the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time.” 

This is especially important if the district brings in students in grades seventh through 12th on a rotating basis or does virtual instruction. For students in K through sixth, the district has the capacity to bring students in person, though it’s noted that they are still working on what that schedule would look like.

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