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CLCS celebrates 100 days of in-person instruction

Submitted Photos Students at Chautauqua Lake celebrated their 100th day. This year was extra special because they have been able to meet in person throughout the year.

MAYVILLE — There are 18 public school districts in Chautauqua County. Only one of them has been lucky enough to have met every day in person this school year with all of its students.

That school is Chautauqua Lake.

Last spring, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all schools to go to remote learning due to COVID-19. Schools continued to stay that way throughout the end of the school year. They were told if they wanted to open in the fall, they needed to create a plan and meet certain criteria.

Chautauqua Lake was at an advantage due to the relatively small number of students that attend there, as well as the newness of their building with larger classrooms. With this in mind, over the summer school board members, teachers, administrators and members of the general public began meeting to develop a plan to see if it was possible for them to meet five days a week.

Eventually a plan was created, shared with the public and approved by the state. In September, Chautauqua Lake opened its doors full time.

“Our staff, parents and community have been remarkable as I have consistently been impressed by their willingness to do whatever it takes to keep our students safe and our doors open. We have had utility workers, cleaners and mechanics step up to drive buses, teachers disinfecting and cleaning classrooms, bus drivers and secretaries substitute teaching and administrators doing whatever each day calls for,” shared Dr. Josh Liddell, school superintendent.

Liddell admits it’s been a bit of a battle at times, trying to figure out creative and safe solutions for students and staff alike. “Proactive planning, teamwork and a consistent drive to overcome obstacles has aided in our ability to stay open to full in-person instruction for this entire school year,” he said. “It is common to hear school administrators say we make decisions ‘in the best interest of our students’ and what Chautauqua Lake has realized this year was that opening up our school to full in-person instruction was the best student-focused decision we could have made.”

Schools often celebrate 100 day mark of instruction. This year that date was extra special. “I am very grateful and appreciative for all the hard work of our school and community. We have been in-person now for over 100 days! We are all working together for our students and each other to provide them the best educational opportunities we can during this challenging time,” said math teacher Stephanie Janicki.

Music teacher Jennifer Davis agrees. “We are continuously finding new ways to do everything from spirit weeks to making music and it’s been an opportunity to reflect and evaluate purpose and priority. The best part is being able to be doing that with the students, in person, five days a week,” she said.

Parents have appreciated the in-person learning as well.

“For our son, while virtual instruction was an acceptable short-term solution when COVID presented last spring, it clearly did not provide all of the services and comprehensive instruction that students receive while inside the classroom. It is imperative for all students to be in-person, especially those that may require extra services,” said Darin Schulz. “Chautauqua Lake should be outright commended for providing K-12 students a five-day-a-week, in-person instruction model for the entire school year. The creativity employed in using all spaces including the gymnasiums, auditorium, and cafeterias to keep students safe should be a model for all districts to follow.”

Heather Cofer has two children who attend Chautauqua Lake. She agreed that the school has done an amazing job. “Between the student drop-off/pick-up lines, spaced out classroom and cafeteria seating, re-vamped gym class curriculums, phone calls and letters sent home keeping families up to date on everything, just to name a few. We feel very fortunate to be a part of the Chautauqua Lake district,” she said.

Parent Leah Olson said remote learning was a struggle for her family. When the school announced they would try to meet five days a week in person, she had her doubts. “I am so glad I was wrong! The district has faced the challenge head on with clear goals, open communication and a positive attitude,” she said. “Teachers have stepped up in ways no one trained them for and in ways they may not have wanted to in order to provide our children with a little bit of normalcy. I am so grateful for the continued leadership creativity and teamwork of the entire CLCS community.”

Secondary Principal Rachel Curtin said they’ve all learned a lot this year. “Our biggest lesson as educators and students this year: for every ‘no’ or challenge that we encounter, we pivot, we adapt, and we do our best. With this in mind, our educators and students have worked together created special events, played sports, completed projects, and have served their community with gritty optimism. It hasn’t been easy, but the hard work is its own sort of joy,” she said.

Elementary Principal Megan Lundgren said she’s proud of the staff and parents who never gave up.

“Our doors opened in early September and haven’t closed since. I attribute this to teamwork. While this work has been exhausting at times, the reward of knowing our students are being taken care of and continuing to grow makes it all worthwhile,” she said.

School Board member Ken Shearer thanks those who were able to make in person learning happen.

“As a parent of two children that attend Chautauqua Lake Central School I am extremely proud of all of the planning and hard work the entire staff has put forth in order to open full time in person from day one to present. My children have felt safe while at school and their grades have continued to flourish. They have been able to participate in sports and maintain their network of friends. I appreciate and give thanks to every person that was willing and able to make this happen,” he said.

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