‘This is not something we’ve ever experienced in our times’ – Holley school superintendent

Photos by Tom Rivers: Kim Harrington, a Holley kindergarten teacher, retrieves a packet for a student on Monday evening. Holley teachers, administrators and staff prepared packets for 520 students in the elementary school, with homework assignments for the next three weeks.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 March 2020 at 10:15 am

Holley school district providing meals for more than 500 students and educational assignments during shutdown

HOLLEY – The school district on Wednesday will begin providing meals for more than 500 students.

Holley Central School will provide meals and have them available for pick up at the Holley Elementary School bus loop and four other locations in the community – Clarendon Town Hall, Thomas Estates (bus stop loop), County Line Trailer Park (Gulf Road & County Line Road) and the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray Fire Hall.

Brian Bartalo, Holley Central School superintendent, said closure of schools across the state is unprecedented and also a very emotionally taxing time for students, teachers and staff.

Sharon Zacher, Holley’s assistant superintendent, was able to secure approval from the State Education Department on Sunday for the district to provide the program free of charge for students and their families. As of Monday’s Board of Education meeting, 512 students were signed up to receive the meals, which represents about half of the school enrollment.

Robin Silvis, Board of Education president, praised the district for working quickly to get the program in place.

She also praised teachers and administrators for working over the weekend to have an educational plan in place for students while school was shut down due to a pandemic. Gov. Cuomo on Monday announced on Monday school districts across the state would be closed for at least the next two weeks.

Brian Bartalo, the district superintendent, said staff have been working hard to serve students during a very difficult situation.

“The emotion of this is overwhelming,” he said during Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting.

That session was moved from the board room to the elementary school cafeteria, so board members and anyone in the audience could sit farther apart.

Bartalo said future board meetings in the short-term might be livestreamed to reduce the chance of the virus spreading.

He said teachers and administrators are trying to stay connected with students. Elementary school staff prepared packets with school work for students the next three weeks. Those were available at the school Monday and today for parents to pick up.

The Board of Education met in the elementary school cafeteria on Monday, instead of the smaller board room. That allowed board members to be more spread out and gave more spacing for the chairs in the audience.

Bartalo observed one teacher reading a book in a video message to be sent to her students. But the teacher only got halfway through the book before getting choked up and having to stop.

Susan Cory, the middle-high school principal, also is planning to send students a daily message to help them stay connected to the school and not feel so isolated.

“This is not something we’ve ever experienced in our times,” Bartalo said at Monday’s BOE meeting. “It’s just unbelievable. It’s figuring it out as we go.”

Bartalo said the district still needs to conduct other business, including preparing its 2020-21 budget, which is scheduled to go for a public vote in May.

He is waiting to hear from the state about the state assessments for grades 3-8.

The district is waiting out the pandemic, just like the rest of the state.

“If we get back to regular school we hope to have concerts, sports, the musical and graduation,” Bartalo told the board.

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