“It is with the utmost care that we prepare and plan for the upcoming school year, taking into account the many needs of our families, students, and staff,” said Berlin Elementary School principal, Tracy Kent, while on a virtual meeting with Berlin Central School District’s Teaching and Learning Committee.
The Teaching and Learning Committee is one of six subcommittees the BCSD has set up as part of its Reopening Task Force. Those subcommittees are Health and Safety; Fiscal, Food and Transportation; Social and Emotional; Special Programs; Teaching and Learning; and Communications.
“Our top priority is the smoothest transition possible during this time of uncertainty,” said Committee member Jodi Sullivan, Berlin CSD Middle-High School principal. “All the task force committees are one hundred percent committed to accomplishing this task in a way that will do more than ‘just work,’ but will work for the families and students of Berlin.”
Meeting regularly, these committees and their members have been helping to bring expertise and insight to the development of the BCSD reopening plan in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Committee members have been building upon what administrators have been tirelessly working through since the initial school building closure this past March.
The six subcommittees of the task force comprise 58 total members: 36 teachers; 7 parents; 6 administrators; 2 School Nurses; 2 School Psychologists, 2 School Counselors, 1 Student Assistance Counselor; and 2 Questar III staffers. To find more details about these subcommittees click here.
Berlin CSD also has opened a survey to hear parents’ and guardians’ concerns about how to reopen school in the fall, the challenges of remote learning and transportation during the current pandemic.
The results of the survey will help guide the work of the task force’s subcommittees and will assure the concerns and suggestions from families are heard and addressed at every stage.
Berlin CSD Superintendent Dr. Stephen Young, emphasized that including the community and the Board of Education in the planning process is critical to its success: “As we continue to plan on reopening schools we must rely on all members of the Berlin community for input and guidance. The Board of Education has always placed the safety of students and staff as the top priority in decision-making, and this critical point applies for our reopening plans.”
The mission at hand for the BCSD Reopening Task Force is to work with the three options laid out by the New York State Education Department:
- a full in-person return to school with modifications to include the guidance set forth by the Education Department;
- remote learning exclusively;
- a hybrid of online and in-person learning with modifications to include the guidance set forth by the Department.
BCSD’s Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Fred Hutchinson, spoke about the importance of the parent survey along with having a large and diverse reopening task force: “We are confident in our staff, in the ideas we’re developing, and in the process we’re following.
“Working like this to create circumstances that are safe for children, comprehensive enough to cover every aspect of education, and inclusive of teachers and parents—it’s just strengthened our resolve.”
The BCSD Reopening Task Force will post its preliminary plans by the state’s deadline, Friday, July 31, on the district’s website, www.berlincentral.org. The preliminary plans will be subject to change based upon feedback and further guidance from the Education Department.
Governor Andrew Cuomo will announce, during the week of August 1, a back-to-school decision based on New York State’s schools’ plans for reopening.
Principal Sullivan added, “Every day, I am excited to see how the stakeholders pull together to creatively accomplish yet another seemingly impossible task. I think we’re in great shape.”
Considering the times we find ourselves in as parents, teachers, administrators and community members, the community’s emotional wellbeing is also at the forefront for the BCSD task force. School Psychologist Rachel Teplitsky, who facilitates the Social Emotional subcommittee spoke to this:
“The subcommittee is focusing on ensuring that the mental health needs of students, families, and staff members are supported no matter what form instruction will take in the fall. We’re using the opportunity to build up social-emotional learning and resources for everyone, with in-person and virtual means.”
When it comes to health and safety, Michele Corsey, BCSD school Nurse and task force facilitator, believes in the mission: “We are all working extremely hard in our task force meetings sharing ideas on how to provide the best education possible while at the same time considering the health and safety of everyone.”
“One thing I am certain of,” said Principal Kent, “and that is my belief and trust that we will rise to the occasion to provide the best possible education for each student.”
Mr. Hutchinson agreed. “The dedication of our staff and our community illustrates that we are fully committed to this important mission.”
“I’m really proud to be a part of this team,” Ms. Sullivan added. “The teachers, staff, parents, and administrators working on this project are driven by the big picture—keeping in mind what is educationally best and physically safest for everyone involved.”
“The BOE and I are working with the reopening committees to determine the optimal approach to ensure the majority of our students will be prepared for full-time instruction in September,” said Dr. Young.
“We are all in this together,” Nurse Corsey said, “and together we will get there!”