District planning for 2020-21 moves forward

A head-and-shoulders photo of Superintendent Adams

Protect yourself from COVID-19 and stop the spread of germsThe City School District of Albany is continuing to move forward with planning for the start of the 2020-21 school year following updated guidance from Governor Cuomo and the New York State Education Department on Monday. 

The New York State Department of Health and the governor’s Reimagine Education Advisory Council, on which I had the honor to serve, also released guidance for schools Monday. This guidance provides the framework of criteria that allows school districts and school facilities flexibility to serve their students and families.

The governor indicated that schools in New York will be able to reopen in September as long as the COVID-19 infection rate in their region remains below 5%, a threshold that the Capital Region is well within at the current time. 

While no decisions have been finalized and districts across the state have until July 31 to submit their plans, the full scope of reopening and what it may look like may take one of the following models: distance learning, in-person learning or a hybrid model. 

The State Education Department presented reopening guidance at Monday’s Board of Regents meeting. The guidance covered a broad range of areas, including instruction, student attendance, health and safety, nutrition, social-emotional well-being, facilities and much more. 

This guidance from Governor Cuomo and the State Education Department reaffirms that as a district we are having the right conversations internally and focusing on the right questions and preparations as we look to the new school year. However, it also remains vital that we all remain committed to health and safety guidelines this summer, including social distancing and wearing masks in public.

The district has been planning for the 2020-21 school year since early May, with a district-wide reopening committee supported by subcommittees at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Planning has included options for in-person instruction, continued virtual instruction and a combination of the two, depending on the circumstances allowed due to COVID-19. 

I presented an update on the 2020-21 Reopening Discussion, which provided an initial overview of the current status of the district’s planning, at the July 9 Board of Education meeting. Another update is planned for the board’s July 23 meeting.

District employees are participating on all committees and also have provided input through a Thought Exchange survey through Capital Region BOCES as well as an internal district survey. Additional opportunities for all faculty and staff to have their voices heard (surveys, focus groups, etc.) will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. 

The district’s reopening plans also will be informed by virtual forums later this month for students, parents and guardians, and community members, as well as feedback from a survey that will remain open through Friday at 4 p.m.

All New York school districts have until July 31 to submit their plans for reopening to the state. Based on those plans, Governor Cuomo will then provide final guidance during the first week of August. 

The first day of the 2020-21 school year is currently scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8. 

Kaweeda G. Adams