Holley welcomes back students 4 days a week in grades K-2

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 March 2021 at 11:05 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: Karri Schiavone, Holley Elementary School principal, tells the Board of Education on Monday that the school had a great first day with students in grades K through 2 back this week without the hybrid schedule.

HOLLEY – It felt like the first day of school at Holley Elementary School on Monday for students in kindergarten through second grade.

It was the first day without the hybrid schedule, where students were in-person for two days a week, alternating with half their class to keep the capacity down in the classroom and on buses.

Holley school officials did the calculations and found they could bring students in those grade levels back for four days of in-person a week. Wednesday will remain a day for remote learning.

“It was so smooth,” Karri Schiavone, the elementary school principal, told the Holley Board of Education on Monday evening. “It was happy kids and happy teachers everywhere.”

Students were able to meet some of their classmates in person for the first time this school year. Some of those students were only known as faces on a computer screen for Zoom video conferencing.

The district needs to work out details for the student drop-off because there was a line out to Perry Street.

“We need to tweak the arrival and dismissal times for cars,” Schiavone said.

Otherwise, she said the shift to bringing more students back has gone “fantastic.”

She praised the Buildings and Grounds staff for rearranging desks and tables to meet the 6-foot social distancing guideline from the state. The food service, transportation, district office, teachers and support staff “all made it work,” Schiavone said.

Holley wants to bring back more students for in-person each day but Schiavone said the social distancing guideline would need to be lowered. Brian Bartalo, the district superintendent, said school officials around the state are expecting the guideline to be reduced to 3 feet, as long as students are wearing masks. That change would allow for more students on buses, more in classrooms and more in the cafeteria.

“We expect the changes will come,” Bartalo said.

This elementary classroom has plastic barriers on the desks as an added protection against the spread of Covid-19.

If the distancing isn’t lowered from 6 to 3 feet, Bartalo said the district will still try to bring back more students, but may not be able to do more full grade levels.

The district wants 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.

Bartalo noted that Monday was very close to the one-year anniversary of when schools last year were closed to in-person learning due the Covid-19 pandemic. March 13 was last day for in-person learning in 2020.

“Today was our youngest students and we will start working are way up,” Bartalo told the Board of Education.  “We can all agree that having 5- and 6-year-olds at home on a computer being supervised in very challenging.”

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 also brought back for four days of in-person learning about 100 students with IEPs who have a learning disability and need some additional educational services.

Holley on March 1 also allowed students at the WeMoCo in Spencerport to attend in-person classes four days a week.

“Our goal is to get all of the hybrid kids back for the fourth quarter,” Bartalo said.

That will depend on the state changing the social distancing to 3 feet. He said he is encouraged by the number of new cases in the county being the lowest since October, while more people are getting vaccinated from Covid.