It appears summer has flown by and the fall weather is slowly creeping in on us. By now, all of our parents and students should be back in school mode and are getting accustomed to all the adjustments for the 20’-21’ school year. It’s been six months of change within the educational setting and a new normal is forming. Many of our local districts have chosen a hybrid model for attendance. Some students are back in the classrooms, some are being taught virtually, and some are doing both. The school re-opening plans were developed to support social distancing, between students and teachers in the classroom. This allows for students to be in attendance for two days a week, learn remotely for two days and take one non-instructional day for schools to deep clean school buildings. The hybrid model also helps to lower the number of students being transferred to and from school; and meets NYS Department of Health regulations for social distancing on school buses. I would like to encourage parents to continue to support your young learners in every way possible, no matter how they are receiving their education. Just as this pandemic has made life more difficult for all of us adults and parents, it has also made school life very difficult for our kids. The Seneca Nation Education Department is currently working on plans to support students by developing on-territory learning centers, as well as virtual tutoring for those families whom have opted for full remote learning. More details will be announced once the planning is complete and the sites are ready to be accessed. Please have patience with the transformation the education process is experiencing. Current school administrators, nor our education department staff, have ever had to create solutions during a global pandemic. It can’t be easy for them, either.
On a brighter note for our western New York students, as of September 21st, many fall sports have been approved to start back. This includes soccer, cross country, swim, tennis, field hockey, golf, and gymnastics; while football, volleyball, and competitive cheerleading are still being postponed for competition. Our kids are very excited about the return of sports, and I know that our communities want to see them compete once again. Although this may be difficult for parents; we must all continue to remain dedicated to the safety of everyone involved, so our students continue to feel as protected as possible. Let’s all continue to do our part to help keep everyone healthy and safe.
I would like to share an update on the progress of our broadband installation project on the Cattaraugus Territory and Steamburg community. In early 2019, the Executives and Council created the Broadband Task Force to identify the needs of our communities, research costs and funding sources; and to submit grant applications for the project. Project scope for Cattaraugus: a 52-mile fiber broadband network to provide high-speed Internet access to 1,200 residences, plus government buildings, community buildings and various businesses. Project scope for Steamburg Community: a 10-mile fiber broadband network to provide high-speed internet access to 97 residences and various other government, community and commercial buildings. For a project of this size, it requires several phases to complete the project from beginning to end. We have applied for and received grant funding to assist with the engineering and design phase, as well as a feasibility study. We have moved past the discovery and evaluation phase and into the pre-construction phase of the project. The project is currently in what is called the “make-ready” process. This requires an independent third party to survey our existing utility poles and make a recommendation for any construction, which may be needed. The project, although multi-phased, is moving along and making progress. Anthony Giacobbe and his crew at Seneca Energy are working hard to get our territories fully connected.
Please continue to stay informed about any updates on Seneca Nation travel ban states. Continue to practice social distancing, wearing face coverings and applying hand sanitizer often. These measures will also help all of us with the impending flu season.
Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr.