Massena still plans in-person learning

There’s still a month before school doors open for the 2021-22 academic year and, as of the end of July, Massena Central School officials are still planning to have all students back in the classrooms, knowing those plans could change between now and Sept. 3. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — There’s still a month before school doors open for the 2021-22 academic year and, as of the end of July, Massena Central School officials are still planning to have all students back in the classrooms, knowing those plans could change between now and Sept. 3.

“We are planning for all students to be in school five days a week in the fall. That is our plan,” high school Principal Alan Oliver said in a video message to parents. “We are also simultaneously keeping an eye on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and New York State Department of Health and we’re paying attention to all that information. But as we’re working through our plans right now, we’re intending for all kids to be back and we’re intending for school to be five days a week.”

He said they were monitoring recent conversations regarding masking and other pandemic-related topics.

“We continue to await further guidance from the New York State Department of Health for the opening of schools in the fall,” Superintendent Patrick Brady said in his latest board of education update. “My concern is that with stalled vaccination rates and the increase in cases, we may be back to mask wearing, social distancing and periodic remote learning. That will not be good for kids. We ask all eligible people to get vaccinated to help keep our schools open to in-person learning.”

Mr. Oliver said, “We’re paying attention to all of that, but as of right now, we’re planning full speed ahead for regular school in the fall, which is good news, so fingers crossed. Let’s hope that’s the way things continue over the summer. If it changes, I’ll obviously be in communication with you.”

To that end, they’ve scheduled link crew leader training for Aug. 19 and 20. Link crew leaders are groups of selected juniors and seniors who act as mentors for incoming freshmen during the year.

The freshman orientation with the link crew leaders is Aug. 30.

“This is the day when the kids will come into school,” Mr. Oliver said. “They’ll have link crew leaders and the staff here to kind of talk to them about the high school — what to expect, basic sort of rules, procedures, protocols at the high school. And it’s some degree of team-building activities and just an opportunity for everybody to get to know each other and get re-acclimated to school.”

School begins on Sept. 3, then they take a three-day break before returning on Sept. 7.

“We all know that the last year-and-a-half has been less than ideal. But the start of this new school year gives everybody a chance to sort of hit the reset button and be whoever they want to be in school,” he said. “If they’ve been successful, then they can continue that success and build on it. If it’s a student that’s been less successful over the last two years, there’s a great chance to sort of hit the reset and start fresh in the fall.”

He said the first day of school would be “a lot of teaching and reteaching sort of basic procedures at the high school” following a year in which some students attended class in person, others attended remotely, and some attended both in person and remotely.

“We’re going to spend some time on that first day of school reviewing everything basically from lockers and when we use them and how we use them because we didn’t use them at all last year,” he said.

Mr. Oliver said there would also be discussion about the hallways and cafeteria, behavioral expectations, “and all the rest of the things that students love to hear, things like dress code and cell phone policy.”

He advised families to visit the Massena Central High School News Facebook group for the latest updates.

“I post frequently in there throughout the school year,” he said. “I share important updates and important information.”

“There might be a class or two where they would like a notebook or that kind of thing, and the teachers will say that on the first day of school,” Mr. Oliver said. “But what will be on our supply list will be the majority of everything they will need for the high school.”

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