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Families will have a choice with Dunkirk schools reopening

OBSERVER Photo by Natasha Matteliano Dunkirk School Superintendent Michael Mansfield said student health and safety remain top priorities as reopening plans are discussed.

Families in Dunkirk will have a choice this year when it comes to their kids returning to school amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Health and safety are No. 1,” Superintendent Michael Mansfield said at Dunkirk’s school board meeting Tuesday. “We’re trying to work through all our guidance to have the safest plan possible.”

Mansfield said any student should be able to fully participate in their program, so if remote learning is the way and that may require internet devices or some kind of support at home the district has to provide that and make sure that all students get their services and their supports that are mandated by the state.

Child care of working families is also an issue that the schools are looking at addressing.

“A fully in person school day under the safety and health guidance is not really feasible for us to do,” Mansfield said. “So we are looking at other options. We are working on, how do we help our working families and our staff with school age child care? We’re looking at our different options with that.”

Mansfield shared that in-person learning and transportation screening will be implemented with temperature checks for students and staff; masks and social distancing will also be required.

“The testing and contract tracing for students and staff has been a controversial issue over the past couple of weeks,” Mansfield said. “That will be in connection with the Department of Health.”

Mansfield also took the time to share the most important highlights of the recent family survey. The district had 1,094 responses.

Right now with what parents know from the survey, 63% said their children will return for in person instruction, 29% of those will come back with whatever safeguards are in place; 37% of families said they won’t return at all or until there is a vaccine; and 22.8% indicated that they will need child care during the school day to help maintain their employment.

“Not that it overrides health and safety, but part of this is to keep the economy going and have people working,” Mansfield said. “If we can help I think that we should.”

Mansfield said, in regards to full in-person instruction, the issue is that the school does not have the space to do it safely.

“We’ll try to do in-person learning as often as we can we’ll try to prioritize some students to try and have here as many days of the week as we can and we’ll be looking at the access to remote learning so if people don’t have it home, we’ll have to provide it,” Mansfield said. “We’ll try to have a space here, but if that still doesn’t work then we’ll have to do something at the home.”

Dunkirk is looking at moving their Inservice Day from October to Sept. 3 so no students will be brought in before Labor Day and then considering a phased reopening after Labor Day.

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