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Many schools eye hybrid reopening plan | News, Sports, Jobs

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School districts across New York submitted their plans to return to school to the state Department of Education on Friday.

However, according to Dr. Kevin Whitaker, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, districts did not have to have their full plans in detail to the state by July 31 — just different assurances that guidelines released on July 13 would be met and communicated to school communities.

“In the ensuing two weeks, the state was reasonably responsive to superintendents who said we could effectively give them a plan but it will be a fake plan, it will be a hollow plan because we’re probably going to modify it over the course of August as we get ready to do this,” he said. “They changed it from “upload document here” to “insert the webpage where your plans will be.” Now, they can just review straight to the webpage and get their materials as they are updated.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ultimately has the final call, however, but districts are to proceed as though their plan is approved.

“At some point, he’ll look at everything and say, ‘Thumbs up, thumbs down,’” Whitaker said. “They also told us to assume that our plan is approved unless you hear otherwise. Everybody who submits is approved and starting to roll.”

Dunkirk City School District Superintendent Michael Mansfield said Friday that the district will release their reopening plan in the coming days.

“We’re still putting the finishing touches on our official submission,” he said. “It will go to the state later tonight with the link on the website. We’ve had all of our committees and they have worked to get and do the assurances and have gotten us ready over the next two or three weeks for a detailed plan. It’s going to take us that long to have a solid plan in place.”

Like other districts across Chautauqua County, Dunkirk is looking toward a hybrid model, utilizing elements of both in-person and remote instruction.

“We don’t know how much in-person instruction we can offer yet,” Mansfield said. “We did a parent survey, had a very good response and had over a half of our families responding. Now we need to find as many of the other half as we can and find what their thoughts are to get an idea of what our students and parents are thinking in terms of in-person and if people are going to send their kids.”

The “assurances” do require a lot of attention to detail and the district is doing its due diligence in addressing them, he said.

“Some of them, when you start talking about your schedules, your instructional plans and the health and safety is so large,” he said. “Even though we have a lot of the work done, there’s still more to do. Those are the ones that are still more detailed. … We want all of that information before we put a finalized plan out. We want to provide for every family as best we can to make sure that we get the best educational opportunities for every student. That takes time.”

Pine Valley Central School is one of the schools planning to adopt a hybrid approach, according to its superintendent, Bryna Moritz Booth. Students will be in the classroom from Monday through Thursday. On Friday, the district will do a deep clean of the building.

“We had at least 12 stakeholder groups based around different topics and surveyed communities, staff and teachers,” she said. “We met with administrative group and met with the board of education.”

Of larger concern to her district is the fact that 31% of the student population is unable to get internet.

“It’s not a question of if they can afford it, it’s a question of if they have access,” she said. “There are parts of the district that there’s no access to Verizon or AT&T or Windstream.”

To address that during the remote learning that took place from March to June in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the district gave each student two jump drives.

“We already have a one-to-one device ratio,” Booth said. “Teachers loaded videos and assignments and lessons onto a folder and delivered them by bus so students could have assignments to work on. Then the students would turn in assignments that way.”

This year the district will provide three jump drives per student.

“It’s been quite a process,” she said. “Right now, we’re working on coming up with a better plan in case we have to close for this year. For our four days on, print-based materials will be available for students on that Friday off and then teachers will have office hours where they can call teachers. We just want to give students enough guidance and keep them safe.”

Booth was also grateful to the stakeholders that worked with the district to help them come up with this plan.

“They’ve had a student-first focus and so supportive and the board has been wonderful and brainstormed ideas and asked a lot of questions,” she said. “Everyone came together and rallied and been very supportive. We’re excited about this coming school year and to hopefully have students in-person again.”

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Minot Public Schools Reintegration Plan to be presented Wednesday | News, Sports, Jobs

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Mark Vollmer, superintendent, will present the Minot Public Schools Reintegration Plan on Wednesday, Aug. 5, at three different times; 12 noon, 3 p.m. and 6:30 p,m. These meetings will be done virtually. There will be an opportunity for people to provide input and ask questions on this link: https://forms.gle/ifmNL3ZbDcKJRuSV6 when the presentation begins.

MPS School Reintegration Virtual Meeting – 12 p.m. Aug. 5, https://youtu.be/N9HQ4LalMOo

MPS School Reintegration Virtual Meeting – 3 p.m. Aug. 5, https://youtu.be/QDhXLfO6xOk

MPS School Reintegration Virtual Meeting – 6:30 p.m. Aug. 5, https://youtu.be/fKEd56kX6J0

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Toronto police background checks cost two Black safety inspectors their jobs at Metrolinx: they had no criminal records – Toronto.com

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Volunteers needed as in-state tourism sees boost | News, Sports, Jobs

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Volunteer Docent Carol Steinhagen gives a tour of The Castle museum in Marietta Monday to individuals visiting from Illinois. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Out-of-state travel may have fallen off the 2020 vacation plans due to coronavirus, but as local museums continue scheduling tours with travelers coming from around Ohio, the need for volunteers has increased.

“We’ve had a lot of (inquiries) from Ohio; Dayton, Akron, Cincinnati, Circleville, Medina, Middletown, Cleveland,” said Shannon Folts, visitor experience director for the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau as she read through this week’s records. “Then also Virginia, Illinois… We’re hearing from a lot of people that are just more comfortable driving to a small town rather than a big city, or are making day trips and calling ahead and asking what the health regulations are here, asking when are the busy days and the light ones and what the protocols are for scheduling tours.”

Folts said the silver lining amid the pandemic is that there is more focus in Ohio tourism on the small town, shop local/support local movement.

“A lot of people want to stay in the state because they feel safer in the state or a lot can’t leave the state because their jobs (would) require them to quarantine (upon return),” she explained.

But while this means an uptick in tour scheduling at places like Campus Martius and The Castle, it also means there’s a greater need for volunteers.

“We already see some drop off when the college isn’t in session in a regular summer when more people are usually traveling, but now, too with the majority of individuals who were regularly volunteering that are in that most at-risk age group, businesses and museums need you to rethink volunteering,” said Scott Britton, executive director for The Castle.

Working in the welcome center at The Castle Monday, Hattie Clarke explained that visitors are asked to call ahead to schedule a tour on any of the six days the museum is open, The Castle is closed Wednesdays.

“That way we can make sure one of the docents we have is here during the time to take the tour or if one of the staff needs to give the tour,” she said. “Six is the maximum for families or travel groups and we’re not putting groups together.”

That separation, Britton explained has increased the reliance on cross-training and the volunteers still giving tours.

But, he noted, there are other ways to volunteer.

“Whether that’s sewing masks for your museums or working on landscaping and keeping a distance, these are all resume builders too,” Britton said, noting that the museum will take volunteers as young as high-school-aged students.

One perk, he also noted for students participating in online courses through a college or full-remote high school academies, would be the opportunity to still gather work experience while at home or unable to work in more restricted areas.

“When you go into the workforce, they’re looking for these skill sets, too,” he said. “Can you be dependable and show up reliably, can you have those conversation skills.”

Other skills able to be highlighted, depending on how one volunteers, could include compliance measures with health recommendations and training skills.

“I still get past volunteers from five or six years ago that will then call asking for a letter of recommendation,” Britton added. “Employers look for that, too, this is work experience.”

Britton recommended contacting R.S.V.P., the senior volunteering group coordinated out of the O’Neill Center on Fourth Street, or programs like the McDonough Leadership Center at Marietta College to determine which nonprofits and businesses may need volunteers due to decline in the availability of others during the pandemic.

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