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South Country Central School District Board Notes - July 22, 2020 Business Meeting

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Board trustees returned to meeting virtually during the July 22, 2020 business meeting. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani explained that the trustees met during the July 1 meeting to reorganize for the 2020-2021 school year but will return to virtual meetings pending future Executive Orders from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Board will continue to accept questions and comments from the public via the District Clerk.

On July 20, 104 participants attended a districtwide virtual parent meeting in which parents had the opportunity to ask questions regarding school reopening. Dr. Giani noted the District will schedule another such meeting when the concept and structure of the reopening plan is confirmed. It will also be held in the evening.

Parents can view details on the District website about the condensed fall middle school and high school fall sports season, which was delayed by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. The Association has canceled the fall 2020 regional and state championships and is prepared to implement a condensed season schedule in January 2021, if high school sports remains prohibited throughout the rest of 2020.

Dr. Giani discussed potential plans for reopening under a hybrid model based on a 145-page guideline document from the New York State Education Department and a compilation of guidelines from Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey. In examining plans for reopening, the District developed five committees to examine various reopening matters and comprised of faculty and staff. These committees considered general health and safety guidelines, social distancing solutions for elementary and secondary schools, remote teaching and learning and facilities, cleaning and disinfecting. Committee recommendations were submitted to the District on July 24.

Dr. Giani noted that with NYS social distancing requirements in place, the District is strongly considering reopening under a hybrid model with general education and inclusion for in-school teaching and learning two days per week and remote learning two-days per week. Students in special classes would be in-school for in-person teaching five days per week. The District is exploring a fixed schedule model of Monday/Tuesday for one cohort of students and Thursday/Friday for the other cohort. Wednesday would be designated as a day of planning, remote learning, and deep cleaning. The District is in the process of determining the best split of student-cohorts, using last name and household. This way, older siblings could assist with younger sibling childcare. Having a fixed schedule would also assist parents with arranging outside childcare. Dr. Giani also noted that the plan needs to be flexible, having recognized that about 60% of families are prepared to send their children back to school while wearing a face covering, while 20% are not. Additionally, 20% are currently unsure. The plan will also allow for smooth transitions to and from Hybrid, Remote or In-school/In-person learning and teaching.

During the week of July 27-31, 2020, the District’s advisory committees will meet with the sole purpose of reviewing committee recommendations and to provide feedback to the Administration. Administration will then develop a draft preliminary plan to be submitted and posted as per the NYSED deadline by July 31, and for the Board’s review on August 5. The draft preliminary plan will detail the reopening model so families can plan appropriately. Being a fluid document, much work will follow regarding details and implementation protocols, which will occur between now and opening. The District will begin to formalize the plan through the established committees, which may expand in membership or through new committees that need to be developed.

The Board also discussed comprehensive education plans for the District, Brookhaven Elementary School and Bellport Middle School. These improvement plans are a result of Bellport Middle School and Brookhaven Elementary School being designated as NYSED Comprehensive Support and Improvement schools during the 2019-2020 school year. The designation was carried over to the current school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the District is in its second year of designation. Dr. Giani said there are three plans of action available for Board review and each plan was developed by district and/or building teams in accordance with NYSED requirements and “tenets of effective school systems,” of which the District will be measured. After approval, the Board will send the plans to the NYSED by August 1. NYSED will subsequently review the District’s plans and provide feedback and edits prior to acceptance and finalization.

Due to a recent Transportation Efficiency Study by School Source Technologies, the District made efficiencies and route changes that could yield a cost avoidance of between $500,000-$600,000 in transportation services. This budget savings now allows the District to provide One-to-One devices to students in grades kindergarten through second grade. This way, every student in the District will have access to a personal Chromebook for in-school and remote instruction and learning. Dr. Giani explained that most of the study’s efficiencies were realized as a result of schematic route changes, but other efficiencies included discontinuing service to two students outside of the District’s 25-mile limit and home-to-school pickups and drop-offs for 21 students attending St. Anthony’s High School located in Melville. Dr. Giani noted that while these students are entitled to transportation, they are not entitled to “home-to-school” pickups and drop-offs. A central pickup will be created instead.

The Board appointed trustee Cheryl A. Felice as Advocacy Liaison to the New York State School Boards Association.

The Board also discussed reviewing and updating Policy 3170-Correspondence to School Board to address email and social media. This policy will be reviewed by the Strategic Planning Committee.

The final item for Discussion scheduled the annual Board Retreat for October 21, 2020 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and to be held at the Post-Morrow Foundation.

The next Board meeting will be held virtually on August 5 at 7:30 p.m. Residents can tune into the District’s YouTube channel from the Board of Education webpage on
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