President Cheri introduced Dr. Bret Apthorpe, a member of our Club who is presently on leave of absence due to the heaping number of issues on his plate.
Bret attended Mayville High School and worked on the Sea Lion Project for 10 years. After college he taught Social Studies at Southwestern High School and continued his education eventually earning his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Rochester.
Dr. Apthorpe noted that we are at week eight of the governor's charge to deal with the Covid 19 virus in the public schools. The Governor's mandate while the physical schools are closed included:
1) continue to educate students;
2) feed the students;
3) provide childcare.
All of the High School students have been provided with laptops and Junior High Students have been provided with iPads for distance learning. So while the school buildings are closed, education continues.
Apthorpe noted than none of the teachers were taught how to teach from home and are under great pressure and stress managing the students in their classrooms while many have children of their own who need help with their new learning tasks. He gives great credit to the staff of Jamestown Public Schools.
Seventy percent of Jamestown's school children live below the poverty level. They may not have had access to internet, their parents maay be employed in essential positions and are not in the home to help their children and other parents are also working their own jobs from home, so they are stressed with demands on their time as well.
Feeding the children has been a monumental task as well. Breakfast and lunch packs amounting to over 200,000 meals are prepared every week day by essential worker staff members that work extremely hard for some of the lowest remuneration in the school system. The food is dropped off at convenient places throughout the city for daily pickup and the schools also provide a weekend package of food for the children.
Childcare is provided for children between 3 and 11 of essential worker parents at no cost. The school has also arranged for care of newborns and the very young with partnership agencies if necessary.
Apthorpe noted how blessed we are in this community to have leaders of non-profit agencies working together for the common good with no competition between them other than to solve problems and tasks at hand.
The Superintendent of Schools noted that there will be no graduation ceremony at Chautauqua Institution this June. He has requested the senior class members to submit their best practices ideas for a ceremony by June 1st, Then they will meet with Apthorpe to decide what form graduation with take - his only caveat is that it be safe and meaningful. Even though the students are disappointed now, over time, he hopes they will remember the uniqueness of this time period.
As to the question of reopening the schools, he noted that Chautauqua County is grouped with Erie County (Buffalo area), who cannot consider opening until there are 14 straight days of downward numbers of Covid patients.
How do you reopen the schools?
According to CDC recommendations - social distancing of 6  feet is a must! How do you do this with a five year old child who loves to touch, explore and hug their teacher? The tasks are monumental, especially in the cafeteria and in our old schools. If you are to participate in sports or music - how are you going to do it?
PPE Personal protective Equipment would call for 6,000 masks for students and staff. Should they be disposable or reusable - how many children would forget to bring them back each day? Drinking fountains would need to be banned; children need to be hydrated. Think of all the water bottles!
Would we be able to stagger start times?
Questions were asked of Apthorpe regarding costs, budgets, state aid and assessments of returning students to determine where they stand. The Superintendent indicated that plans are being made for additional summer programs to augment LEAP which is a literacy program. LEAP offers 600 students, 2 meals each day, 2 hours with teachers each day and physical and intellectual activities. This has been underwritten by United Way, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and various organization such as our own Rotary Club. The School system is looking toward a K through 8th grade math and literacy camp as well.