Lancaster Central School District

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Centers of Learning and Growth


  • Update on In-Person Instruction for Grades K-6

    April 13, 2021

    Hello LCSD Families,

    Over the summer, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) in concert with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Governor’s office, mandated “schools must ensure that appropriate social distancing (i.e., six feet) is maintained between individuals while in school facilities or on school grounds.” That decision forced us to implement a hybrid learning model.

    Thank you to the best students, community, faculty, staff, and administration in all of New York, as together we were able to overcome the challenges that mandate presented. Although it has not been easy, together we were able to navigate an every-other-day hybrid model that maximized learning and the student experience. On November 23, 2020, when we were forced to go 100% remote instruction by Governor Cuomo’s “orange zone” designation, together we transitioned to fully remote instruction. And then again on December 14, 2020, together we were leaders in WNY as we were one of eight districts who transitioned back to hybrid learning prior to winter break.  This demonstrated what we have said all along, we want our Lancaster students safely in classrooms with our teachers as much as possible.

    Most recently, on Friday evening, Dr. Howard Zucker, NYS Commissioner of Health, finally responded (NYSDOH Guidance) to the changes issued by the CDC on March 19, 2021 (CDC Guidance) and changed the physical distance guidelines to allow three feet of distance between students in NYS. The Erie County Department of Health quickly responded Saturday (ECDOH Response). We have spent the past several months planning and preparing for this change, but awaited the details from the NYSDOH and the ECDOH. Please review the full documents linked above or the highlights of the NYSDOH guidance and its potential impact on Lancaster students below:

    • Schools/districts may choose to reduce physical distancing to no less than three feet between students during academic instruction; however, school/districts must follow CDC recommendations for physical distancing depending upon community transmission rates and grade levels. 
      • In counties with high risk of transmission (i.e., Erie County), elementary schools (grades PK-6) can maintain physical distance of at least three feet between students in classrooms.
        • We are targeting Monday, April 26, 2021 as the date for students in our K-3 buildings and William Street School to return to school upon fulfilling the requirements of the guidance.
      • In areas with high levels of community transmission (defined as greater than 100 new cases per 100,000 person), such as Erie County, middle schools and high schools must maintain 6 feet of distance between students unless students are cohorted. Cohorting involves creating groups of students that are separated from other groups by at least 6 feet throughout the entire day.
        • Students at LMS and LHS will have to remain in the current hybrid model until the levels of community transmission decrease below 100 new cases per 100,000 people. 
    • Students in the elementary grades must maintain six feet of distance while eating, participating in aerobic activities, and certain music classes.  
      • Due to these regulations, physical education, meals, and some music classes may take place in alternative settings.
    • Schools/districts moving to physical distancing of less than six feet should strongly consider implementing screening testing protocols to ensure monitoring.
      • COVID-19 testing consent provided by parents earlier in the year will remain in effect. Please send an email to if you would like to change your consent.
      • Additional details will be forthcoming when the NYSDOH or the ECDOH provides guidance.
    • School districts must follow all quarantine protocols, as it relates to contact tracing, set forth by the Erie County Department of Health.
      • The decrease in physical distancing to three feet coupled with the current contact tracing protocols (i.e., close contact, per ECDOH, is defined as being in contact with someone closer than 6 feet for more than 10 minutes) could result in the quarantining of additional students.  We must watch this closely as we move closer to April 26th.  
      • Please review the information from ECDOH (Isolation and Quarantine Documents).
    • Modified plans must be posted online and opportunity for stakeholder input and feedback must be provided. 
      • Please email with input and feedback to help as we continue to refine our plan.
      • Once the plan is placed online we will provide opportunities for additional input from stakeholders.
      • A video presentation will be made available later this week to further detail some of the highlights and challenges while addressing frequently asked questions.

    K-6 families who selected the hybrid learning model for the second semester will transition to fully in-person instruction. Those K-6 families who selected 100% remote learning for their child for the second semester will maintain that learning model. It should be noted that another surge or spike in COVID-19 cases at the district or regional level could cause another transition to fully remote instruction like we experienced in November 2020. We do not foresee such an event; however, we are planning and preparing for that possibility.

    Please understand that it is our greatest hope to have all students back in our buildings full time and we are and will continue to work diligently to enable that to happen within the framework of this new guidance.

    Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools

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  • Dear Lancaster Parents and Guardians,

    Our goal since the beginning of the year has been to maximize student learning and the overall student experience. The former has been and is being accomplished by the hard work of our students, teachers, families, staff, and administration. Thank you. In Lancaster, we believe the latter, the student experience, is equally as important. We pride ourselves in offering opportunities, activities, programs, and events that all of our nearly 6,000 students can participate in. This year, despite the challenges facing our faculty, staff, students, and families, has been no different. 

    As in years past, one theme continues to resonate -- the importance of the student experience and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Last summer and in the beginning of this school year, that vital part of K-12 education in Lancaster was in jeopardy as we were unsure about whether musical performances, club participation, sporting events, and holiday celebrations would occur at all. As always, the students, families, faculty, and staff stepped up. Through their hard work, dedication, innovation, and passion, the students of Lancaster have conducted performances, participated in clubs and organizations, competed on the field (court, ice, lanes), and celebrated holidays.

    Lancaster student-athletes strive for excellence in and out of the classroom. Our winter sports teams just concluded their abbreviated seasons and, for the first time in school history, the Lancaster Boys Varsity Ice Hockey team won the Section VI Championship. In their senior spotlight, many of the players did not focus on wins or awards as their favorite memory. Most of the boys said they will remember the experiences with their teammates such as having fun and hanging out with friends in the locker room. Senior Jonah Ahrens said it best, “Finding out that I was going to get one more season with my teammates.” 

    In addition to our athletics programs, many of our clubs and organizations have continued through persistence and innovation. Each year, the Lancaster High School Model United Nations (UN) Club participates in several competitions to simulate the UN General Assembly and allow students to perform as ambassadors tackling some of the major topics facing our world leaders today. The Lancaster Model UN Club participated in its second virtual competition held by St. Bonaventure University. Our students represented Lancaster well and earned multiple awards as individuals, which culminated in a first-place award for the school.

    Our students who participated will certainly remember the preparation and hard work that helped them earn success. In addition to their excellence displayed, our students will remember the collaborative environment of the event, confidence gained through arguing a perspective, and the relationships formed with students from other schools. 

    During a typical school year, our teachers create engaging and hands-on activities that allow students to flourish as learners while impacting them for years to come. The extraordinary teachers of Lancaster have tapped into their innovative skills and collaboration to overcome some of this year’s challenges. Two second-grade teachers at Hillview Elementary and Como Park Elementary utilized Google Meet to provide their students an opportunity to collaborate on an egg drop STEAM challenge. Students from both classes were tasked with creating a container that would not only safely hold an egg, but also protect it from breaking when it was dropped from a five-foot height. Students “met” virtually through Google Meet and took turns sharing their designs with the classes. Then, the students competed as each individual dropped their egg in the designed container with a real egg. They all enjoyed having an opportunity to interact with students not only from another class, but from another school. Some students enjoyed the activity and competition so much, they recreated the activity with their families over spring break.

    Some of our Court Street teachers have started an “Adopt-a-Desk-Puppy Program” for our smallest students. Students who effectively complete their daily writing assignments have an opportunity to “adopt a stuffed puppy.” Students are allowed to keep their “puppies” in class and they will take them home in June. One of the teachers noted students will sometimes hug their puppies while she is teaching. Students love their “pets” as they provide some company while students are at their desks.

    Students at John A. Sciole Elementary have started a Tournament of Books, which will become a new tradition.  I’ve only highlighted a few examples, but could go on and on with extravagant virtual musical performances, athletic events that are live-streamed, service projects to benefit families in need, and fundraisers that have all continued because of our students, families, faculty, and staff. The list is long, but the theme remains the same. In short, just like in years past, our students have created memories!


    Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.



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