PORTVILLE, NY (WKBW) — While many school districts are waiting to return students to full, in-school learning, there is a district in the Southern Tier that has been fully reopened since September.
“The biggest challenge is every single adult and child in the building had to come ready to make some big changes,” Thomas Simon, superintendent, Portville Central Schools.
When COVID hit, the Portville Central School District in Cattaraugus County re-imagined what the school day would look like and how to reuse building space.
Portville has a smaller student population of 1,000 in pre-k-through 12th grade — all on one campus — all in class five days a week since September.
Superintendent Simon says they made the decision to return last fall based on “equity” for students.
“We decided really the best thing is for ever kid to be here every day,” Simon explained.
Here's how it works; two-thirds of the students are in classroom, lie a science lab, while the other third are in another part of the school with a live feed to that classroom to lower capacity.
“When we're doing a lab like this right here the students do Zoom with each other so they can communicate show them everything that's happening,” responded Robert Stives, science teacher.
Stives and his students were working on a chemical reaction in the lab.
“Have you been concerned about health issues — being back?”, asked Buckley.
“Not really because so many precautions are taken every single day in the school,” Stives replied.
“It’s definitely been different than any other school year,” described Sophie Kellogg, 11th grader.
"Oh, it's amazing — get to see my friends every day,” responded Kevin Eberth, 11th grader.
Eberth and Kellogg say for their mental wellbeing it is better to be back in class each school day.
“It’s much more better to be in school where the teachers can directly talk to you,” Eberth said.
“We’re you ever worried about coming back just for safely — not getting COVID?”, Buckley questioned.
“Yeah, there has been worry about that just I have to make sure to stay safe, social distance and keep my mask on,” answered Kellogg.
Students must wear masks and social distance.
Still, despite those measures the district hasn’t been immune to the virus.
Both the elementary and high school were shut down in mid October for about two weeks.
“The minute you walk in the door — you have to be prepared to go back out and every day's kind of a gift,” Simon reflected.
A first grade teacher described feeling blessed to be able to be in person each day in a job she love.