Holley looks to bring back more students for in-person learning 4 days a week

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 March 2021 at 8:23 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: The school district has recently welcomed more students back for in-person learning, from 2 to 4 days a week.

HOLLEY – The district started the school year on a hybrid schedule with students able to take two days of in-person classes a week. The students were split into two different groups in each grade level and those groups alternated days of in-person school with everyone going remote on Wednesdays.

That was done to reduce the number of students on buses and in the school buildings, to allow for social distancing and reduce the chances for spreading Covid.

The district early in the school year increased the in-person days to four days for students in prekindergarten, those in self-contained special education classes and the alternative high school, which is held in a wing of the elementary school.

Those groups are all smaller classes of no more than 12 students where the district can meet the social distancing requirement, keeping desks 6 feet apart.

The district has recently pushed to bring back more students for four days of in-person learning. That includes about 100 students with IEPs who have a learning disability and need some additional educational services.

This week the district also allowed students at the WeMoCo in Spencerport to attend in-person classes four days a week. That started on Monday.

Holley wants to bring back more students for four days a week of in-person learning, but the district needs to ensure it can meet the state mandates for social distancing on buses and in classrooms, said Brian Bartalo, the district superintendent.

Or, the state needs to provide some relief to the 6-foot distance for social distancing to allow more students to be in class. Bartalo said students have been wearing masks inside classrooms which should allow them to be closer together than the 6 feet.

‘I want our families to know we’re working on it. We’re looking at our options. We want the kids to come back but we have to do it in a way that abides by the rules.’ – Brian Bartalo, district superintendent

Paul Pettit, the public health director in Orleans County, said the state is expected to make an announcement soon about the 6-foot buffer between desks and what districts must do to allow students to be closer together.

Some districts have set up Plexiglass barriers between desks. Bartalo said that would be a big expense for the district to go with the barriers.

If the state doesn’t allow desks to be closer than 6 feet, Holley still may be able to bring more students for in-person classes. Holley has about 20 percent of its students fully remote who don’t attend in-person classes this year. That gives the district some room to bring students back for in-person classes four days a week.

“At this time, I want everyone to know that we expect some changes soon regarding how to increase our in-person opportunities for students at school,” Bartalo said in a message to school community on Monday. “As we await new guidance on safety protocols, we’re working diligently at the district to consider all options for transportation and classroom limits to have students return more fully. It’s likely, just as we’ve done with other aspects of our phase-in approach, that we start bringing our younger (elementary) students in more at first, then move to the middle/high school.”

Bartalo said the district would like to keep pushing to have more students in-person by April 19, which is the start of the final quarter when students will be gearing up for final exams and state assessments.

The district will be reaching out to parents and guardians to see if they would support four days of in-person instruction. Bartalo also wants to know if the students who are fully remote would stay that way if they had the option for four days.

The district could find out some families would be uncomfortable with more in-person days and would rather stay with two in-person days or be fully remote.

“I want our families to know we’re working on it,” Bartalo said. “We’re looking at our options. We want the kids to come back but we have to do it in a way that abides by the rules.”