NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — While many schools here in Western New York will remain closed through at least April 20, other districts point out that a shutdown could be in place until further notice. And with public officials predicting many more cases of the virus running into April and perhaps beyond, more and more educators now realistically expect they won't have students in the classroom again for some time to come.
That is why they are looking ahead with planning options for an extended period of remote or online instruction.
"All we can do is work day to day, plan three weeks at a time and think and know we're probably going to have to deliver beyond April 20," said Niagara Falls School Superintendent Mark Laurrie. "So while all the materials and plans and preparations may not be ready today, by April 20 we'll be ready to deliver the next round of learning packets, food, daycare and all the necessities."
Educators who were trained to think of the in-person classroom experience are becoming more creative in their approach to students. Joseph Cantafio is a history teacher and president of the West Seneca Teachers Association.
"We have teachers that are reading to their students through YouTube," Cantafio said. "We have teachers that are using all the latest technologies out there from Remind, and Zoom, and Google Classroom. But our priority is just staying in touch with our students."
Cantafio says they are also encountering some challenges to remote instruction. Some parents with larger families who are working from home say it can be difficult to find enough computer time for them and their children.
Cantafio says he expects to hear similar concerns when he takes part in a conference call Tuesday evening with other leaders of teachers unions around the state.
Another element that may have to be extended is feeding students while schools are not open. District food service managers are looking at options involving preparation of meals and more storage for food supplies. The state has provided guidance with testing but much more planning is going on behind the scenes as districts try to navigate through these turbulent times.