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MASSENA — Massena Central pre-kindergarten students won’t be joining the rest of the students when classes for the 2020-21 school year begin on Thursday.

District officials announced on Friday that, because of a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in Massena, all students would be taking part in remote learning beginning Thursday and running until Oct. 13. Classes had been scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Faculty and staff reported on Tuesday to prepare for all remote learning.

“There really isn’t a good way to do distance learning with pre-kindergarten. Pre-K is not a required program under New York state,” Superintendent Patrick Brady said.

Their plan is to start bringing pre-kindergarten students back on Oct. 13, along with other students who have selected in-person learning, if conditions allow after a reevaluation of the situation.

“It’s going to depend on the infection rate in the community,” he said.

Students who are attending Seaway Tech or Board of Cooperative Educational Services special education classes off campus will also begin the year with remote learning.

Mr. Brady said they were hoping to bring back a select group of students as soon as possible — “special needs students who need significant support” or they would see a regression in their learning.

“They are spread out across several of our buildings. They’re largely contained to parts of our buildings. Staff will have additional PPE (personal protective equipment) available to them for those programs,” he said. “We’re still working on that piece for those students who we send to BOCES for significant special needs. There will be more discussion in that area.”

Administrators are reaching out to those families for more information and coordination.

“They’re concerned about the regression there as well,” Mr. Brady said.

The original schedule called for pre-kindergarten students to be assigned to an A or B group and attend school for half a day, resulting in every-other-day face-to-face instruction. Mondays would have been at home extension activities.

Kindergarten students were scheduled to have a digital day on Monday, and would have attended half-day sessions Tuesday through Friday, with Group A in the morning and Group B in the afternoon.

Students in grades one and two were set to attend in-person instruction Tuesday through Friday, with Monday as a digital day. Students in grades three through 12 would have also had digital instruction on Mondays, and face-to-face instruction in school every other day, while attending remotely on opposite days.

Parents could have also opted to have their students stay home for complete remote instruction. Mr. Brady had said about 24 percent of the district’s families had opted for remote instruction.

He said they had been watching the number of COVID-related cases last week and had a conference call with officials from the Public Health Department on Friday. They discussed the number of cases and the fact that the investigation was still ongoing to find other contacts who may have been exposed.

“Just as we were getting ready to open the doors, we were starting to see a significant cluster of cases in the community,” Mr. Brady said.

That’s when they decided that the best course of action was to keep students at home for remote learning.

“It was a decision that had to be made at the last minute because of those circumstances. There was a great deal of nervousness that was starting in our whole community,” he said.

The change in instruction meant changing the game plan again for teachers who were preparing for the new school year.

“It is unfortunate that due to this unexpected rise in the virus they are forced to once again change plans quickly to meet the needs of students including keep them safe,” Mr. Brady said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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