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Gowanda ready for start to ‘unique’ school year

Superintendent Dr. Robert Anderson

GOWANDA — In order to further clarify Gowanda’s impending return to school, Superintendent Dr. Robert Anderson held a Facebook live event recently to answer any questions parents or students may have had.

“I believe this school year will be unique,” Anderson said. “The last couple have been unique to say the least. We’re in our third school year of pandemic conditions.”

Anderson said this school year will open similarly to how the last one ended in terms of regulations and guidelines related to COVID-19, with a couple caveats attached.

The changes come in the form of having all the students back five days a week, while last year ended with four days of in-person instruction. There will be no remote option to students, meaning all students are expected to be back in person, unless they have profound medical conditions.

“All our students are coming back and I think everybody’s excited about it,” he said. “Those are the only real changes.”

Anderson said as conditions change in the surrounding areas, the school is prepared to pivot to other instructional models, whether they be remote or hybrid, but the plan is set at having kids in person five days a week.

To make the full return possible, the district has to manage a few certain conditions. These precautions include monitoring community transmission, mandatory face coverings for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status. Students will be given mask breaks as appropriate, and the school will attempt to be outdoors as much as possible. Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties all came out with mask mandates, which the school is abiding by. The school will continue to use the LiveSafe App to pre-screen students and staff before coming into school. There will also be temperature checks as people enter the building.

“We don’t want sick people knowingly coming to the school,” Anderson said. “And that’s one of our important strategies.”

Bussing for Gowanda will be similar to how it would be for a normal school year, which did cause some problems. The CDC has allowed the district to allow all the students on the bus, provided everyone is masked, including the drivers. And while vaccinations are not mandatory for the school district, Anderson encourages all eligible individuals to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s certainly not mandatory, but it’s a very helpful precaution for you to do,” said Anderson.

In regard to extracurricular activities, Gowanda is planning on sports and other events. Universal precautions will be necessary indoors, but outdoors things are going as normal. Fans will be allowed in attendance for sporting events, but that is subject to change should transmission rates go up. Because of vaccinations, this year’s pause will be different for sports teams.

Unlike last year where they had to stay away from the team for 10 days, this year vaccinated students and coaches will not have to pause. Those who are unvaccinated do have to pause from the activity. Should two positive tests happen on a team, that team would be on pause, per Erie County guidance. Meanwhile, the school looks like it’s under construction due to the Capital Project, but the school will be ready for the opening, though the construction will not be fully completed.

“We’ll be ready for children on the 7th of September,” Dr. Anderson said. “Construction will be happening internally throughout the school year, so we’re not done yet.”

The entire reopening plan for Gowanda is on the school website.

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