Chautauqua Lake School has successful opening week

MAYVILLE – The head of one of the only schools in Chautauqua County to be going full time in person five days a week is reporting a strong opening week.

Chautauqua Lake Central School Superintendent Josh Liddell said the first week of school has gone smoother than expected. “Throughout the entire summer, our leadership team worked to develop a reopening plan that allowed us to have any student K-12 that felt comfortable to come back full in-person five days a week,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Even though the school offers full-time in person classes, not all students are on campus. “We understood that each Chautauqua Lake family situation is different and the full-in person model may not be the best option so our plan also provided students and families the ability to have live remote instruction from home. We only had around 12% of our students taking advantage of that option,” he said.

Before the school year began, the school board and the teachers union came to an agreement that any teacher that didn’t feel comfortable teaching was given an option to take the year off. However, no one took that option. “All our teachers are here, teaching in class,” he said.

They also added a fourth kindergarten classroom teacher. “At the elementary school, it’s been working really well. We have really small classes,” he said.

Some of the challenges Liddell said they expected included when students arrive and depart, as well as keeping social distancing when the older students change classes. “From busing to hallway traffic flow patterns, to cafeteria and classroom seating, we had to be constructive and creative in our thought process to ensure that we followed all of the required social distancing guidelines. We are proud to report that our hard work and effort has thus far paid off and we are cautiously optimistic that we can continue the five days a week full-in person model,” he said.

Stephanie Janicki, an algebra and geometry teacher, said the students in her classes have adopted well. “I am so happy to be back in the classroom with my kids! The students have been doing a great job with their masks and seem happy and excited to be back,” she said.

After teaching for 25 years, Janicki knew this year would be quite different. “I will admit to being very nervous about the technology at first — teaching my in-class students while trying to also include my remote learners was very daunting. It has gone remarkably well so far — its not perfect but every day gets easier,” she said.

Leigh-Anne Hendrick, a high school social studies teacher, agrees.

“Even though I have been a teacher at CLCS since 1999, in some ways it feels like I am a first-year teacher again. We are re-imagining and re-designing curriculum for our students. While this can be challenging, it is also an opportunity for us to think creatively about education and what really matters most for our students,” she said.

Hendrick noted the students have adjusted well. “I am so unbelievably proud of our students who are quickly adapting to their ‘new normal.’ While some of the guidelines are challenging for students, they are doing a wonderful job following them. They realize the new guidelines have been put in place for their safety; and they are truly grateful to be here at CLCS,” she said.

Board of Education President Amy Webb said as a board member and a parent of a child who attends Chautauqua Lake, she couldn’t have hoped for a better opening. “As a board, we continue to be proud of our faculty, staff and administration for working collaboratively to overcome the challenges that COVID-19 presents in education today. We are thankful to our supportive Chautauqua Lake community as we navigate through this experience,” she said.

Liddell thanked the school employees for their hard work making this year a success so far. “Our cleaners, nurses, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, leadership team, parents and teachers have all worked together and put in a lot of extra effort to make our first week a success,” he said. “We talk a lot about working as a team and making sure we put our students first and that’s we did this first week … and the reward has been watching the students excited and back in-class learning with their friends,” he said.

He also adds that teachers and administrators alike are trying to stay flexible. “We don’t know what could be coming our way but we do know that at Chautauqua Lake we will face any future challenges working together and with a student first mindset,” he said.


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