This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.

Transmission electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2. Credit: NIAID-RML

COVID-19 at Sweet Home: Superintendent Day

“This is a once-in-a-hundred year event. So, you can’t run it the same way you do every other year.” Read about our interview with Superintendent Day.

TL;DR

  • COVID-19, better known as the Coronavirus, is a widespread virus with over 145,000 cases worldwide.
  • Coronavirus has closed schools all over the country and has put countries like Italy in lockdown.
  • Online classes could start as soon as 2-3 days after closing.
  • Governor Cuomo has waived the 180 school day requirement, allowing schools to dismiss students for periods of time without state penalties.
  • We believe that school should end in June as scheduled.
  • Buses could double as WiFi hotspots and local food distributors for students in need.
  • All events, including athletic games and practices, will be canceled in the event Sweet Home closes school.
  • Keep personal and low use school items at home.
  • There is uncertainty surrounding AP and Regents exams.

This is a once-in-a-hundred year event. So, you can’t run it the same way you do every other year.

Superintendent Anthony J. Day

SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19. 2019- nCoV. Novel Coronavirus. Coronavirus.

Whatever you might call it, the World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic and across the world, people and organizations are responding.

In an interview with the Sweet Home Superintendent of School, Anthony Day, we examine the broad measures the district is taking to deal with this crisis. Due to its fast-moving nature, some information has changed between the interview and now. This has been marked with italics.

When we asked Mr. Day what he would make him change his earlier statement, “Sweet Home Schools are not closing or engaging in any mass dismissal of students.” He reminded us that he was not a health expert and that the experts with the Erie County Department of Health were responsible.

Considering there is a high likelihood of the virus already being here but having remained undetected. He shared that “I am expecting that at some point we will be told to close operations.” The CDC came out with new guidance on the impact of school closings in controlling the spread of disease that may change the opinions of health officials.

The main goal behind school closures is flattening the curve as most students have a low fatality risk from the virus. However, they can easily carry it to someone who may be at a far greater risk of dying and turn schools into the “one of the biggest hubs for transmission to the community at large.”

Editors note: According to the CCDCP & Statista, there is a one in five hundred death rate among those aged 10-19 as opposed to one in twelve among people 70-79 and 0.9% among people with no existing conditions.

Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention via Statista

If schools close, it’s expected that it would be two to three days before “instructional experiences” are provided to kids. Mr. Day said that the likelyhood of extending school into the summer is low and would be caused by the 180-day state requirement. Governor Cuomo has waived that requirement and so the Eye believes that school will end in June as normal.

Academics

I always try to see opportunity, opportunities in different areas, in times of difficulty. That’s where you get breakthroughs. Being able to have a better system where students don’t have to rely on a human being to learn, I think there’s an opportunity to build that system. For kids to be able to learn things that they’re interested in rather than just what’s on a test.

Superintendent Anthony J. Day

Schoology has video conferencing features that the district would use for remote learning. However, “we’ve never done this before so we don’t have all the answers.” He also suggested a form of office hours where students could check in with teachers instead of all live content delivery. At the end of the day, the iPads provide a tool “most districts don’t have” which allows Sweet Home to weather this crisis more smoothly. Nevertheless, Mr. Day cautions that it “will not be perfect.”

He also communicated that “it’s gonna be very difficult to teach new content. There’s some courses where… it’s gonna be pretty tough to do so, at this juncture, we’re really thinking about trying to review content that’s already been taught.” The plan is to swap the general class timeline, teach content then review, and review now and teach new content at the end of the year when students resume normal schedules.

It’s not expected that lab requirements will affect science courses as virtual labs and POGILs should be able to substitute. There was no guidance provided to the district on modified or rescheduled Regents or AP exams at the time of the interview. Nevertheless, “hopefully, whatever happens shouldn’t prevent a kid from graduating.”

The district believes that, based on the results form the District’s technology survey, the “vast majority of kids have access to internet if they want it.” The survey was still being administered at the time of this interview but was mostly completed before this article. The district would find it unfeasible to provide hot-spots for every student but it could try to use buses, equipped with hot-spots, as mobile working locations across the district. Some private companies have begun offering to provide internet access to students in the event schools close.

It is expected that while students will not come to school, the staff still will, to some degree. Regardless of closings, the district does have an appropriate amount of supplies.

Food

If the Sweet Home way is ever gonna work, it’s gotta be here. You all have to have strength of body and mind. We gotta rely on the relationships we have. We’re gonna have to have enough courage to do the right thing, even though it might be hard. And we’re gonna have to be accountable to each other. Everybody’s gonna count on each other.

Superintendent Anthony J. Day

The buses may have a second use as well, food stations. The district is assessing the possibility of delivering food to students or setting up stations across the districts for students to pick up food. The stations would need low person counts to prevent them from becoming hubs of transmission themselves. There is a lot to consider but the district is working through those questions.

Athletics

If the closings end by spring break, athletics might be able to run a shortened spring season with non-league events eliminated. If the closings go beyond spring break, there could be irreparable harm to the season.

It is expected that school will resume on Monday and that we will have some day’s advanced notice of any closure. Students are advised to keep any items they might need at home, not in school. To be clear, there cannot be athletics if in-person instruction is canceled.

Regardless, the idea is to go from “home to first, first to second”, just as in baseball, and to see what happens before making concrete decisions on the future.

NYSPHSAA has said that winter championships are indefinitely postponed but spring practice schedules are left to county health officials. Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director, said “One thing that I have learned in the past 72 hours, is not to attempt to predict what will occur with this rapidly developing situation.  As information becomes available, decisions will be made in the best interests of the student-athletes we serve.”


New York state says there are no cases in Erie County as of the last updated before this article, 3pm March 13, 2020, and that its “healthcare system is the best in the world, and our agencies are prioritizing testing, containment tracking and quarantine protocols to keep New Yorkers safe during this period.”


If you have further questions, please fill out Superintendent Day’s Corona Virus Survey. The Eye will follow up with the College Board as it regards AP examinations and with NYSPHSAA.

Want more information? Visit coronavirus.gov or Erie County’s webpage. The Panther Eye will continue to deliver rapid updates by Twitter and Instagram on this crisis and the district will update the school community on its webpage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *