Champ discusses school reopening at Manor Club virtual event


On Thursday’s Manor Club meeting, Superintendent of Schools Cheryl Champ spoke about the process behind reopening Pelham schools. 

The meeting was open to the public, and was moderated by Maggie Klein. Champ opened the event by speaking about the updates to the learning plan in place for the current school year. 

Taking what was learned in the Spring, Summer committees and surveys were put in place to determine how to best move forward with opening schools. The main points that drove this work were that people wanted more face time with teachers and a more structured and dependable schedule. The need for a consistent schedule led the Pelham Union Free School District to decide on cohort grouping with a hybrid model, said Champ.

Although the first week of in-person learning was disrupted due to concerns over a social gathering, Champ reported that everything has since gone as plan and there have been no concerns with potential spread thus far. Speaking to this, she commended the students for their efforts. “Our elementary as well as our secondary students have accepted and embraced all the safety measures we have asked them to take on,” said Champ. “Whether it’s mask wearing, carrying barriers to school, using their barriers in the classroom, you name it; they have been just amazing students.” 

Champ continued, saying that efforts are being made to attend to the social and emotional needs of students, as well as allowing certain groups of learners who need extra support to get more in-person days in school. Additional support is being offered for teachers so that they can improve their technological proficiency and abilities to interact with both in-person and at-home students. 

“We have really worked to try to prioritize how we use our time with teachers and what our focus of work is. I tried to distill that down to its simplest form for our administrators, so that we can stay focused this year”, said Champ. “The phrase that I keep using as our goal of focus is to create physically and emotionally safe spaces for our staff and students where they can be their authentic selves.” 

Due to lack of crisis in the first few weeks of school, Champ stated that the district is beginning to rethink some restrictions and implement changes as necessary. The fall athletic season has begun with an abbreviated season, and there have been no issues with it thus far. Although conservative with their approach, Champ discussed how this has been beneficial in avoiding any new risks of spreading the virus. 

When speaking on enrollment, Champ said there was a large group of 14-15 students shifting to homeschooling, exceeding numbers in prior years. Due to the large graduating class and a small entering kindergarten class, enrollment across the district has seen a decrease, said Champ. 

In the questions segment of the event, some parents expressed concern in the lack of interaction with  younger learners. In response, Champ explained that due to the space constraints in the schools, it would not be feasible for more young learners to attend in-person learning while maintaining adequate distancing between students. The school will continue with the current model, and continue working to improve the at-home learning for elementary students. 

Champ commented on the guidance the district has been receiving from the State, and admitted that they have been difficult to receive guidance from. The New York State Department of Health has failed to give superintendents clear answers on certain metrics on closing schools or phasing into more in person learning. 

A recording of this meeting is available on the Manor Club website.