Hamburg Central measuring desk placement for safe in-school learning

"Helping people feel comfortable"
Posted at 6:09 PM, Aug 18, 2020

HAMBURG, NY (WKBW) — “Just today measuring out desks in classrooms to see which classrooms can accommodate,” explained Michael Cornell, superintendent, Hamburg Central School District.

Desks spaced out six feet apart inside an Armor Elementary classroom.

The Hamburg School District is preparing school buildings for the safe return of its students.

School leaders, teachers and community members helped shape a plan that includes three potential instructional scenarios:

  • 100 percent of students for on campus learning
  • 100 percent of students engaged in off-campus learning remotely
  • Hybrid model combining both on and off campus learning.

“We may well have to go from the hybrid model that we are going to open in to either fully on campus or fully off campus depending on what direction we might get from the state,” remarked Cornell.

Superintendent Cornell tells 7 Eyewitness News no matter what plan is put into place, they will work to “keep equity” for all students.

Hamburg School Superintendent Michael Cornell discusses reopen plan.

“We’ll be ready to open our doors on September the 10th. As far as we know, the governor has given all schools in New York State the go ahead for in person instruction,” Cornell said.

But returning to school for 3,500 Hamburg students will look different for in-person learning days.

“There will be far fewer people walking in the building at any given time when they arrive — far less then what they've ever seen before,” Cornell described.

Cornell said they will begin with how students arrive at the buildings and a new way of heading to class.

“At the secondary level we're not using lockers — they won't go to their locker right away, they'll go to their first period class,” said Cornell.

For students in K through 5 at Armor Elementary School off Abbott Road, class sizes will shrink.

Armor Elementary first grade classroom.

In a first grade classroom at Armor there are normally between 17 to 22 desks, but now to just seven spaced six feet apart.

Students will also be required to wear face masks through out the day.

“Mask wearing is one of the many mitigation efforts that we'll undertake — de-densifying, distance, masking, cleaning, hand hygiene — health checks," Cornell replied.

Hamburg school parents will be required to check their child's temperature at home.

Hamburg Central Middle School
Outside Hamburg Middle School

Hamburg school mom CaSondra Wierzba responded to our request for comment on the district’s reopen plan in a Facebook message.

Wierzba is the mother of three children boys, three, six and 15 years of age. The two youngest attend Hamburg schools.

“I will be sending my children back. I think with all the precautions, they will fined,” said Wierzba. “My six year old has disabilities, so he needs school and structure to thrive. The youngest has speech delay, so school and his peers will be a necessity.”

The six year old will attend two days a week and then virtual the other days. Wierzba's three year old will be starting preschool at Charlotte School in Hamburg. She’s waiting to hear if he will be attending a full or half-day.

Inside Armor Elementary classroom.

As for the days of in-home, virtual learning, Wierzba said she’s lucky to be a stay-at-home mom who will be able to assist her children.

“I’m thankful I am a stay-at-home mommy because teaching them is definitely a full-time job, especially because I have to teach and learn three different grade levels,” wrote Wierzba.

Wierzba’s 15-year-old son attends the West Seneca School District. West Seneca announced it will be conducting virtual learning for students through Thanksgiving break before reevaluating a return to in-classroom learning.

“Geometry will be interesting,” Wierzba remarked as she wrote about assisting her teenager with his school work.

At Hamburg High School, the gym will be used for lunch.

Outside Hamburg High School.

“It looks like the cafeteria would look if we were doing examines, but it's set up it's set up for lunch and the desks are a lot farther apart,” noted Cornell.

Cornell says about two-thirds of school families have already agreed to bring their child to school to help the district cut back on the number of students on school buses.

“Having 50-percent of your students going on any given day that certainly helps limit density on buses,” Cornell stated.

That means in-person school days would be staggered for students.

Outside Hamburg High School.

The deadline for parents to decide if they wanted remote learning only for their child was this past Sunday, but Cornell would not tell us how many families took that option.

Cornell said his biggest challenge is "helping people feel comfortable" because everyone has had a different COVID experience.