By Deb Everts

As with most schools in this country, COVID-19 has brought on a different kind of challenge for faculty and staff at Ellicottville Central School (ECS) to educate their students.

The way the district’s students received their instruction took a twist March 16 when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order directing all schools in New York to close by March 18 for two weeks, ending April 1. However, on March 29, he extended that order until April 15 to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

Superintendent Robert Miller said the first day of no school for students was March 16 as per a directive from the Cattaraugus County Department of Health. 

“I am impressed with the way the faculty and staff at ECS have responded to this situation,” he said. “Everyone is eager to help in any way they can. I feel the first week went as well as could be expected.”

Miller said the majority of families in his district were ready to receive curriculum instruction packets when buses delivered them on March 18, or they picked them up at one of several drop-off locations. 

“As of March 19, only three packets had not been delivered or picked up,” he said. “This means 99.5 percent of the students received their packets within 24 hours of starting deliveries. The district would like to say ‘thank you’ to all the families that helped us accomplish this.”

On March 25, Miller provided district residents clarification about some of their questions regarding that day’s deliveries. He said all resident student packages are being placed on buses regardless of whether the student normally rides the bus. 

“Packages for resident students have been organized by home address,” he said. “All parents should be on the lookout for the buses in order to get their family’s package.”

Several people asked if one family could pick up the packages of other families at non-resident drop-offs. In his superintendent’s letter on the school’s website, Miller stated they could not allow this for safety reasons. It said each family may only pick up their own package. Also, for non-residents, their pickup location was to be determined by their home district, not their home address.

The pickup and delivery schedule for homework, laptops, and instruments can be found on the district’s website at ellicottvillecentral.com. Information posted on the website said buses are departing from the school between 2 and 2:30 p.m. for resident deliveries. When buses depart from the school, a robo call will be made to notify parents. 

According to the school website, West Valley and Franklinville families have been instructed to pick up their items in the Ellicottville BOCES parking lot from 3 to 4 p.m. Cattaraugus-Little Valley families, as well as families from all other districts not listed, were instructed to pick up at the Ellicottville elementary school entrance from 3 to 4 p.m. Salamanca families were told to pick up their items in the Green Gables parking lot from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

A video posted on the district’s Facebook page, March 25, showed the curriculum instruction packets, laptops, and musical instruments being loaded on the buses and delivered. Miller said instrument cases and folders were disinfected before being delivered. He said parents were advised via robo call to disinfect the instrument once received. Additional instructions for disinfecting the instruments were posted on the district Facebook page by a music teacher.

“To make it less confusing, every student in grades 7-12 received a memory stick that included information, assignments and required materials,” he said. “We are still working on plans for the return of assignments.”

Miller said instructional delivery is being completed in a variety of ways. This includes hard copy packets, memory sticks and links for supplemental materials/instruction via online platforms such as Schoology, Classtag or Google Docs.

According to Miller, the lessons are not necessarily done on the computer using the internet. He said students throughout the district have varying degrees of access to the internet. Teachers are using it where they can, but internet use is not required.  

“All students in grades 7-12 have district-issued laptops so, while they may not have access to the internet, they can use their computer in conjunction with the memory sticks that were delivered for their assignments,” he said.

The food service crew has been hard at work preparing meals that are delivered separately in school vans. Miller said a number of people have offered to volunteer with food prep and delivery, and they are very grateful for them, but they currently do not have volunteers assisting with the meals.

“On behalf of the district, I would like to thank the entire ECS Community on their response to this crisis. From the cafeteria staff and drivers delivering meals, to the teachers providing instructional packets and the cleaners and office staff working to keep the school running — they are all doing a great job meeting the challenges head-on,” he said. “The response from students and families has been amazing. We are so grateful for their patience and cooperation as we work through this experience. It has been a true team effort. I can’t say thank you enough.”

To learn more about what the school district is doing, visit ellicottvillecentral.com and Facebook.