This page contains a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding our 2020-21 Reopening Plan, sorted by the overall category of the question. We will update the FAQs regularly, and will note the date and category of new items each time we add information.
Originally published: Aug. 6, 2020
Q: Will all schools require students and staff to wear masks?
A: All students and employees will be required to wear masks except during authorized time for meals and specific instructional requirements.
Q: Will children without masks be provided masks or will they be refused entry without?
A: We are asking families to send their students to school with a mask each day. If a student arrives at the bus or at school without a mask, the district will provide one for them.
Q: What happens when a positive case shows up?
A: There are very clear procedures that have to occur. That is not a decision at our level. The Albany County Department of Health takes the lead in those cases. Our district medical director, Dr. Laura Staff, works in collaboration with the health department and under their guidance. There are explicit guidelines about contact tracing, cleaning and disinfecting and notifications that the district must follow, and those steps are guided by the county health department. For more information about this process, please visit the Addressing Symptoms/Positive Results of COVID-10 section of our reopening plan.
Q: How will face shields will be an option for employees? These will not provide protection for people around the staff member as face shields are not a replacement for masks.
A: Face masks will be required for all employees except: during their meals, during those times when the performance of their job entails having their mouths seen and in the rare case of a bona fide medical reason of why they cannot be masked. Face shields will be required in those cases. For all other times, a face shield can be worn in addition to a face mask if they wish.
Q: How will screening be handled – process, frequency, etc. – for all students, employees and building visitors?
A: Staff will complete a self-screener questionnaire on a daily basis, prior to reporting, to confirm they are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Staff will be expected to wear a mask on property and complete a temperature check before entering our buildings. Temperature assessment will be completed by machine or designated staff person when staff arrive at a work location.
Parents and guardians will be required to screen their children at home before leaving for school each day for any signs and symptoms. If any symptoms are present they will need to keep the child home and call the school nurse.
District staff will take the temperature of students entering the building multiple entries at the start of the school day. Students with temperatures over 100.0 will be brought to the nurse to determine if the child needs to be put in the isolation room with supervision, and the parent or guardian will be called for transport home. Nurses will conduct a daily follow-up with the student and family. In the event of a positive case of COVID 19, the district will notify and engage its medical director and NYS Department of Health protocols will be followed.
If a student presents with any COVID-19 symptoms during the school day, the child will be sent to the school nurse’s office for assessment and to determine if the child needs to be put in the isolation room with supervision and the parent or guardian called for transport home.
Visitors to the building will be limited and screened for symptoms and temperature prior to entry.
Q: What procedures are in place to ensure that adequate supplies of hand sanitizer, soap, paper towels and PPE are available to students and staff in buildings? How will you assure that students can easily access sinks for handwashing during the school day?
A: The district is continuing to purchase PPE supplies on a revolving basis and using guidance from the NYS Department of Health and Office of General Services to inform that purchasing. We are utilizing different purchasing options to address concerns about delays or interruptions in supply. Additionally, the district has continued to maintain a central supply of hand soap, cleaning and disinfecting supplies, paper towels, Kleenex, etc., which is dispersed to each of our buildings. We also are ensuring that the inventory levels are looking at 60- to 90-day supplies of these items, which will be essential to maintaining overall building cleanliness.
Each cohort of students will have scheduled times to wash their hands throughout the day, coordinated at the building level to ensure classes do not overlap.
Q: What will be done to enforce social distancing, handwashing and other safety protocols during the school day, including arrival and departure? What consequences will individuals face if they intentionally refuse to comply?
A: We will use multiple assigned entrances to reduce the number of students entering, exiting and gathering in one space. Hall monitors and other staff will be used to support students in maintaining appropriate distance in addition to signage and markings to help indicate 6-foot spacing. Students will be required to wear masks. Masks will be made available to students who arrive at school without one. Students will use hand sanitizer as they enter the building and will have scheduled time for handwashing throughout the day.
Supervisors will be tasked with ensuring staff are maintaining safety precautions as it relates to the above. Staff will be trained and provided appropriate PPE so they may comply with those expectations. Any staff member who does not comply with these expectations will be subject to coaching. Individuals who do not have a medical exemption may be subject to disciplinary action after successive failures to adhere to guidelines.
Q: What are the district’s specific plans for social distancing in the hall and in classrooms?
A: We are working with the Operations and Maintenance Department on desk markers in the classroom that are the required 6 feet apart. There will also be signage to ensure social distancing in hallways and classrooms, one-way traffic in the hallways, and building entry points that are one-way in and one-way out.
Q: How will the district handle it if a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19?
A: The district is monitoring all cases so we can take appropriate steps to ensure that all staff, students and families are safe. Employees that are experiencing flu-like symptoms, those that have a concern about possible COVID-19 exposure or those that pursue a COVID-19 test to rule out exposure are required to report their concern to their supervisor immediately. Supervisors then will review cases with the district's medical director, the respective assistant superintendent for instruction and the human resources administrator. The medical director will evaluate the concern, and share all positive cases with the Albany County Department of Health to determine next steps.
The district will follow a similar process when a student is experiencing flu-like symptoms, if they or their parent or guardian has a concern about possible COVID-19 exposure or if their family is pursuing a COVID-19 test to rule out exposure. The district will partner with the district physician to evaluate each case, and share all positive cases with the Albany County Department of Health to determine next steps.
The student or employee will be isolated and sent home (if the concern arises at school), and asked to provide the district with regular health updates before they are scheduled to return. The district will then partner with the county health department to make any necessary notifications.
Q: What is being done to ensure the air isn’t contaminated? Many windows don’t open and the vents are not cleaned. Have ventilation systems been deemed compliant with Department of Health guidelines?
A: The district is working to make sure vents are cleaned and disinfected in alignment with the New York State Education and Health departments. We are changing filters, and cleaning will occur regularly throughout the year. The ventilation systems in all the buildings have been set to SED guidelines for fresh-air intake. Air quality will be tested to make sure it meets the standards, and each building will be cleaned and sanitized daily per DOH guidelines.
Q: How will security work to limit contact and risk? Also, what about drills and crises?
A: The recommendation is that students only bring their Chromebook to school – that will limit what has to be checked on the way in.
School safety drills will be conducted on a staggered schedule where classrooms evacuate separately rather than all at once, and appropriate distance will be kept between students to the evacuation site. Staggering by classroom will minimize the contact of students in hallways, stairwells and at the evacuation site. Based on this staggered schedule, the drill would be conducted with all students in the building on that school day.
In addition, in a hybrid model all students will receive instruction in all emergency procedures and will participate in drills while they are in attendance in-person.
Schools also will modify lockdown drills in the classroom setting while maintaining social distancing and using masks. Lockdown drills will be conducted on a staggered schedule with smaller numbers of students present to maintain social distancing. Based on this staggered schedule, the drill will be conducted with all students in the building on that school day.
Lockdown drills will be conducted in the classroom without hiding or sheltering in place, but teachers will provide an overview of how to shelter or be secure in the classroom.
Q: What if a student fakes symptoms in order to get out of attending school in person or virtually?
A: A building administrator and the parent or guardian will need to discuss solutions to situations like this on a case-by-case basis.
Q: How will we address the needs of students who may have fallen behind since the closure and the importance of differentiated instruction?
A: We have looked at delivery of quality instruction in a virtual environment, looked at the curriculum and instructional component, and how we can differentiate instruction. We are still developing all of those components, but know that we are working on how to deliver hands-on instruction and engagement virtually. How do we deliver rigor and accountability within instructional programming? It is absolutely being looked at and that is a priority. How do we scaffold that instruction at the beginning of the year for students who may have fallen behind so we move students forward and embed items and standards they should have learned and mastered? How do we close gaps while still moving students ahead is definitely something we are looking at and focusing on.
Q: Will students receive related services as a priority, or only if those staff members aren’t supervising a classroom?
A: We initially had speech therapists in our core rotation process but realized the weight of their IEP requirements. It’s a group of staff members that we’ve taken out so they can have intentional time with their students. We are still working out the details as to what that will look like and what equipment they need to deliver that successfully. The same goes for our resource room teachers and service providers, and identifying space and ways to sanitize so students can safely receive services. It is a priority for our special education population to be on-site every day and that is something we will continue to work through.
Q: Will students be held more accountable for grades and participation than in the spring?
A: Yes, the model is currently being developed. The State Education Department plan requires districts to have a plan for daily attendance.
- At the elementary level it will focus on standards-based grading where teachers grade students progress toward the mastery of the standard. We believe with Google Classroom and Nearpod students will be able to submit work and demonstrate understanding for feedback to support student grading.
- At the secondary level, we are considering taking attendance in all virtual classes as well as in the on-site classes. In regards to grades, students will complete a variety of formative and summative assessments including benchmarks and unit tests. The Grading Committee is exploring the ways in which we can conduct assessments, whether it is on-site or online. The district currently uses e-Doctrina, which is a powerful web-based assessment platform that could be used for this purpose. Additionally, we will examine other kinds of alternative assessment depending upon content area. For example, essays that could be submitted online, projects, labs, etc.
Q: What percent of instruction will be online and what will be in-person?
A: The elementary model is currently proposed as a fully on-site model with a virtual component for students who need to remain at home. If we had to go to a partially on-site model, we would bring half the students on-site for two days a week and be virtual three days a week. At the secondary level, we are planning for general education students to be on campus one (high school) or two (middle school) days per week. Special education students and English-language learners would attend school in-person five days a week.
You can read more about this topic in the School Schedules section of our 2020-21 Reopening Plan.
Q: How many students will receive instruction at a given time?
A: At the elementary level, students may be in cohorts of 12 or they will remain together as a full classroom if their class size and assigned space (i.e., gym, cafeteria, library, etc.) allows for them to remain 6 feet apart. It is a priority that students have daily contact with their classroom teacher and routine contact with academic and social-emotional service providers in the safest manner possible.
At the middle level, in the hybrid model currently proposed students will be on campus two days per week and will be scheduled into cohorts of 12-15. They will remain in their cohort for both on-site and virtual instruction. Instructional or supervisory staff will rotate into the classroom.
At Albany High, while on campus one day per week students will be in the pod/advisory period and attend virtual classes. This structure will allow students to receive support in the protocols of online learning, and in-person support from the pod teacher for all classes. The model also affords other time and space when a teacher might ask students to come in for an in-person class due to the hands-on nature of the class; students would likely be divided to come in one of the two scheduled classes for that week in order to maintain social distancing.
For more information, please use the following links to visit the relevant sections of our 2020-21 Reopening Plan:
Q: How are virtual and in-person instruction balanced?
A: We still have some work to do around information-gathering to determine how many families will opt for virtual instruction, and to pair them with an instructor who can provide virtual instruction. It is not our intent at this time to have teachers who are providing in-person instruction to also provide virtual instruction. We have had conversations around whether we could live-stream instruction for students who are virtual. The virtual instruction would align with what the students are learning in-person.
Q: Will school provide materials for students who attend virtually?
A: Yes, our intent is to provide curriculum models and instruction for virtual instruction. Virtual instruction is not the same as homeschooling, where the parents provide and design the instruction. Students enrolled in virtual instruction will be provided the curriculum and direct instruction.
Q: What type of online strategies will be used, and how will students work in groups and online activities?
A: Virtual experience will build on on-site learning. We will provide students with materials for online learning, including Chromebooks and other resources that they can bring home to complete work. The district’s goal is to provide interesting and exciting learning opportunities that will get students away from the screen as well.
Q: How is the district handling the overall scheduling of students?
A: Our Pupil Personnel Services Department is working with our school guidance counselors to build a Master Schedule B – Master Schedule A is a traditional schedule. A Master Schedule B would provide the same opportunities for students to participate in the classes they chose. We will also be grouping students via “learner characteristics” (i.e., World Language for grades 7-8). We are also taking a look at Living Environment and Algebra so we can easily rotate teachers to student cohorts.
Q: What is the plan for the non-instructional half of the day for students?
A: The entire time that we have students on-site the focus will be instructional and principals are working hard to create staff pairings so that we are pairing core teachers with other certified adults who can support learning. The learning students will do when not with the classroom teacher will be supporting the work they have done with the classroom teacher, and they will return each day with the classroom teacher. We are still focused on ELA, Math, Social Studies and Science, and still working on encore classes to determine if that will be done virtually or in-person so students still have access to Art, PE, Music and Library to provide a well-rounded experience.
Q: How are you planning to include subjects like Music, Art and PE for students?
A: We’ve tried a couple models of how we get to those subject areas and right. At this time, we are trying to rotate so teachers see every classroom in a building during a designated time while respecting the frequency of contact that they have for safety reasons. There is a concerted effort – students have emphasized they want to see these teachers – to incorporate those subjects, so we are working diligently in a way that is safe for all.
Q: How can we ensure instruction for PK-1 is developmentally appropriate? Will they be able to move around the room, and will there be manipulatives available? I’m concerned my child will begin school by not enjoying it, but I also want her to be safe.
A: We are working on the safest models that provide authentic experiences with as many individualized materials so students still get that play-based experience with respect to where they are developmentally. We’ve also given a lot of thought to social-emotional needs and the retraining we will need to do. So there will be a lot of teaching about how to safely social distance and how to not handle or better maintain your masks. There will be a lot of teaching into what it means to be in school now, for all of our students, but most importantly our PK-1 students.
Q: Why is the district currently planning to send all New Scotland Elementary School students and students in the Dual Language Program at Delaware Community School to Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School for the start of the 2020-21 school year?
A: Because of the space in those two buildings, one of the current configurations proposed to allow for us to socially distance and keep students 6 feet apart that we move all New Scotland students to Myers so we can house the entire school in one location. The reasoning is the level of staffing for various programs, especially special education, and trying to make that as coherent as possible.
The Dual Language move from Delaware resulted in the least amount of siblings being separated. If we move grades 4-5 from Delaware, that would result in more splitting of families.
We are continuing to evaluate these options and will have further information later this summer about our final plans for where we can accommodate students in the safest possible model.
Q: Will middle school preserve access to honors classes, and will students be placed in cohorts of honors classes or will all classes be taught at one level? Will on-site core classes include honors offerings?
A: We are currently working on that model and what that will look like because we have to group students in cohorts of 12-15. We are trying to preserve access for eighth-grade students who meet criteria for Algebra and Living Environment. We will offer those honors classes in September regardless of virtual or blended learning model. We will have more information on this subject as our plans develop later this summer.
Q: How do you decide which sixth graders attend which school and how are you addressing concerns of sixth graders interacting with middle school aged kids?
A: We made the decision to move sixth-graders from the four elementary schools that are still PK-6 to the middle school so they would have a more consistent experience similar to all the other sixth-graders in the district. The majority of our sixth-graders in the district already attend middle school and that is our long-term plan for all sixth-graders once our facilities project at North Albany is completed for the start of the 2023-24 school year.
Q: Will there be a transition camp for new middle school students, and will there be orientation for all students?
A: We are considering an August opportunity for new students (likely virtual) as well as a September orientation for cohorts that we would like to be in-person, if allowable by New York State at that time. We will have more information about these opportunities later this summer.
Q: Can you explain more about the pod environment that is being planned for Albany High School?
A: The pod is likely to be scheduled from 9:30-10:30 a.m. every day; this is the first “class” of the day for students. For most students, there will be one in-person pod period each week and four virtual pod periods. For grade 9, English-language learners and students from the Tony Clement Center for Education, there will be two in-person pod periods each week and three virtual. There will be 12-15 students in the pod with their advisory teacher. The advisory teacher will be assigned to a group of students that will be their caseload for check-ins during virtual learning, thus providing small group support to all students at the high school level. During the check-ins, teachers and students will discuss challenges and needs for student success. The teacher will connect the student to tutoring or enrichment during the pod period, social-emotional support and general overall support for navigating virtual learning, especially in the beginning as we establish norms and protocols. The advisory teacher will take attendance in a designated “homeroom” time during the pod period (in-person on the on-site day[s]; virtually all other days). The pods are located in the hubs of Albany High School when on-site.
There will be five hubs at the school: one on each floor of building 2, one in Citizenship Academy in building 1, and one at Abrookin Career and Technical Center (likely to be the hub for Clement students). Teachers in all content areas will be assigned to each hub. If we can move to more in-person support, those teachers can provide in-person tutoring, enrichment and guidance, but to begin, all of this support will be virtual. Students can connect to hub teachers or their own teachers during this period every day. All teachers will be available during the advisory period, with the exception of the day the teacher is working 1:1 with their own advisory students. Additionally, as we are able to phase-in to more in-person support, the advisory period can be one of two ways for students to engage in hands-on activities associated with particular classes such as Art, Music, Technology, Science labs and Career and Technical Education (CTE) labs. The second way is in the actual class time already scheduled to be conducted virtually. Students can be asked to attend in-person, if on campus, to engage in the hands-on activities. To further support this model, every effort will be to assign students in grades 11-12 specialty classes such as Art, Music, CTE, etc., with a pod advisory teacher connected to that interest. For example, a student scheduled for two music classes will likely be assigned to a music pod/advisory teacher; a level 3 CTE student will be assigned to the pertinent CTE area for pod/advisory time.
Q: How will the pods be determined? Will students be in a pod with others who have very similar schedules? Will you allow for study groups and peer-to-peer help?
A: Students in grades 11-12 will be assigned a pod advisory teacher based on their specialty classes, if in place, in the areas of Art, Music, Tech, and Career and Technical Education (CTE) to support access to hands-on instruction in those classes. Other students will be assigned based on their other classes, with a focus on the cores for grades 9-10. The advisory teacher will have all 15 of their advisory students on their academic caseload, although perhaps not in the same section of that content area.
Q: Will there be weekly music classes and weekly music lessons for Albany High School students? Will there be concerts?
A: Music is scheduled into our projected schedule like any other class – five times in a 10-day cycle. The question is identifying enough space so students can practice with each other safely. With wind instruments and chorale students, social distancing guidance is not 6 feet apart, it’s 12 feet apart. Can we do this outdoors? Not instruments but perhaps chorale? We are looking at room space, and because kids are not coming every day there are small groups, which could work. But music classes are multi-grade.
So this is illustrative of the kind of brainstorming we are having to do. But we are committed to hands-on learning: Career and Technical Education (CTE), Engineering, Technology, Art and Music. We are committed to finding a way to get there. We need to find the right balance of keeping kids healthy and safe, and accommodating their interests.
Q: Please provide more information on automotive and construction courses when you can.
A: Level 3 students in automotive and construction will likely be placed with their teacher in the pod/advisory period, allowing time and focus on the requirements of those programs.
Q: Will there be a better opportunity to consolidate the platform/technology so parents are aware of the high-value assignments with enough information to support the students at home? Assignment, rubric, due dates?
A: Yes, both the Google Classroom protocols and assessment will be streamlined as we enter 2020-21. The creation of a Google Classroom handbook for teachers, students and families is underway. Additionally, the Grading Committee has reconvened and will meet in mid-August to explore robust options for assessments, rubrics, etc.
Q: What will the students do on the days they are not on campus? Will they be offered synchronous learning on those days?
A: Yes, the virtual classes will take place whether a student is on-campus or at home, and they will be the same. We are exploring making these all live classes.
Q: Is the district considering virtual live classes – sticking with the master schedule and having the teachers teach their classes live via the Internet.
A: Yes, we are exploring live classes that follow the students’ eight-period schedule.
Q: Will the virtual teaching be live classes 8 a.m.-3 p.m.?
A: Students will attend all of their classes in a two day period. The classes are 40 minutes, just as they are regularly. The school day begins at 8 a.m., but students are not expected to attend their first class until 9:25 a.m. This leaves an hour and a half every morning for asynchronous (pre-recorded, not live) learning. Students will be in four or five classes each day, but please recall that one of those periods is lunch, if we were in ordinary times – that period is now time for asynchronous learning. All period classes that are scheduled in the day will be live and attendance will be taken, along with attendance in the POD/Advisory period. The POD/Advisory period also represents time for student to engage in independent learning. Students may choose to do their asynchronous learning later in the day which is fine, but there is time built into the school day to engage in independent work as well that may not be computer dependent. We are mindful of screen time also.
Q: Will the virtual classes be live classes? How are you going to make sure that the student is engaged in that environment for a whole school day?
A: Yes, the POD/Advisory class will be in-person once a week and virtual all other days; on the virtual days, the contact will be live so that the Advisory teacher can do the check-in. All period 1-9 classes will be live (synchronous). We split the 1-9 schedule up over two days for many reasons and one was student engagement. It would be challenging for students to run through all of their classes in a single day on a computer.
Important to note that the model requires a shift in approach – we are not so much reducing the time in half, as setting expectations for students to do their learning independently when not in class—there is independent time built into this schedule. It is not homework, but work required in order to meet the learning standards of the course. It may be like a flipped classrooms where students do some of the original work and then come to class ready to engage in discussion about that work. The expectation is that students will engage with complex work when working independently.
Q: For scheduling, why would schedules not be 8 a.m.-3 p.m., nine periods a day, with a class everyday not every other?
A: The High School Reopening Committee established as a priority to not over-burden students in an environment where they could be expected to work far more independently than they do in a regular school day. We also wanted a schedule that allowed us to increase or decrease in-person teaching as possible without over-stressing the system. Ultimately, we could return to a nine-period schedule every day if the COVID-19 situation improves to the degree that would allow that.
Q: Was block scheduling considered at all to limit movement and contacts?
A: Yes, we did discuss block for some time and had a model. We ran into road blocks, though, largely because the Albany High schedule has not been set up into blocks before. It became unmanageable from a logistics standpoint.
Q: Do you plan to take attendance for each class to keep students accountable?
A: Yes, the New York State Education Department will require that we take attendance; we will likely take attendance in the pod period and in all virtual class daily.
Q: In regard to virtual learning, will there be consistent and frequent use of Google Meets so that the students can connect with one another and their teachers?
A: Yes, live teaching will be a component of the high school plan.
Q: Assuming the hybrid model, does five times per day every 10-day period mean every class will meet five times – some in-person, some virtual? Will every class meet in person at least one time ever two weeks?
A: The schedule will likely have periods 1-5 on A day and 6-9 on B day. Thus, students will have some classes three times per week and some two times per week, and then rotating through the 10-day cycle to ensure equity in access of all classes. The model calls for all classes being virtual following the daily pod/advisory period. Students would be on-campus for periods 1-5 one week, and 6-9 the next week. The schedule allows for in-person learning as follows:
- During the pod/advisory period, hands-on classes could be phased-in as we monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the return to school, or in-person learning could take place during the scheduled virtual class period as the teacher determines. This, too, would be phased-in.
- Additionally, the entire schedule could be converted to an in-person model, allowing students one time a week to change classes and attend their classes with their teacher in-person. This could be phased-in as the situation with COVID-19 improves, or easily transitioned to an all-virtual environment (even the pod/advisory) if the COVID-19 situation worsens.
Q: Will there be adequate staffing for teacher and student ratios?
A: Yes, given the staff we have this model can be implemented.
Q: So outside of the pod teacher, they are basically virtual learning at school?
A: Yes, except that the pod/advisory provides a platform for the in-person teacher for hands-on courses. It is also a phase-up to more in-person learning if the COVID-19 situation improves.
Q: How will teachers manage virtual instruction as well as their advisory pod?
A: Teachers will only be in the advisory pod for the advisory period and can provide supervision during the period schedule if they are free. We are seeking to establish partner teachers for supervision so that the cohort model can be maintained as best as possible.
Q: If a regular class will meet five times in a 10-day period, can we expect a half-credit class (e.g., Foundations classes, PE, Health, Theory of Knowledge, etc.) to meet five times in 20 days?
Q: Will there be orientation for freshman?
A: We are discussing a way, in the first few days, to get kids into the building in small groups to orient to the environment. So, yes, we are working on that.
Q: Will parent choice be expected for the entire school year? If a parent decides to have their child attend virtually, will that child be locked in to attend virtually for the entire year?
A: We are in the process of gathering feedback from families through a survey tool about whether parents and guardians would be willing to commit to their decision for the full first quarter, through Nov. 13, with an option to review that decision at the start of each grading period. We will have more details later this summer.
Q: Has thought been given to equity issues for students who need remote instruction due to a high-risk family member? Remote instruction facilitated by a parent or guardian is not equivalent to learning at school with a teacher. How will the district ensure that all students get the same education with parent choice?
A: We are committed to developing a process where there is family choice and designing a virtual model that is more robust than the spring and more engaging. We are evaluating what is needed when we provide live instruction and looking at strategies to have students not just in front of a computer. We recognize that we have a lot of working families and that has been a prevalent part of the conversation as well.
Q: If a family chooses 100% virtual, can we create an in-person getting-to-know-you meeting with their teacher? Perhaps small groups or outside?
A: Yes, the district is in the process of thinking about orienting all K-12 students to this environment. In planning for the possibility of having to go virtual and to accommodate families who would choose a fully virtual model for their children due to health concerns, we want to make sure they have all their materials and resources. So we are in the throes of planning that in the beginning days, and we will have more information about that as those plans are finalized later in August.
Q: Do students who choose virtual learning retain their seat in a magnet program once school returns to normal?
A: Building enrollment status does not change depending on the selected instruction model for the first quarter (or longer, if necessary).
Q: How will social distancing be maintained and enforced on buses, and how frequently will buses be cleaned and sanitized?
A: First Student (elementary and special education students)
- Following Department of Health guidance, the district is considering operating yellow buses for general education students at a maximum of 50% capacity. This would mean one student per seat on all large buses, with students from the same household allowed to sit two-to-a-seat.
- The district would adhere to strict social distancing protocols on buses serving students with special needs, and is considering a limited capacity of four students on a small bus and one student on a wheelchair bus.
- All students and employees on all First Student buses would be required to wear a mask or other face covering unless there is an underlying medical condition.
- All buses will be cleaned and sanitized in alignment with CDC guidance. Drivers will wipe down all high-touch areas after each run, and First Student also will implement an additional deep-cleaning protocol for all buses.
A: CDTA (middle school and high school students)
- CDTA is planning to limit student ridership on tripper and all regular-service buses to a maximum of 20 (approximately one-third of the normal tripper capacity) to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Middle school and high school students eligible for transportation can use their swiper card/student ID to ride any CDTA bus and must follow all CDTA guidance.
- CDTA strongly recommends that all riders, including students, wear a mask or other face covering, in alignment with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order requiring masks in public when social distancing guidelines of 6 feet or more cannot be observed.
- CDTA also is following guidance from the Department of Health and CDC to keep employees and customers safe.
- CDTA has modified bus and facility cleaning processes, using a deep-cleaning liquid that contains a hospital-grade sanitizing agent.
- Bus operators have access to face masks, disposable gloves and sanitizing wipes to do additional wipe downs of their work areas.
- CDTA also has cleaners in the field doing wipe-downs of buses at layover areas multiple times throughout the day.
Q: Where will students eat their meals, and how will you enforce social distancing while students eat and are not wearing masks?
A: For elementary students in an on-site model, breakfast and lunch will be served in the classroom. At the secondary level, breakfast also will be eaten in the classroom and the cafeteria may be an option for students in small groups. In every case, all schools will ensure appropriate social distancing between individuals while eating. The sharing of food and beverages (e.g., buffet-style meals, snacks) is prohibited, unless individuals are members of the same household.
You can read more about this topic, including information about meals for off-site students, in the Child Nutrition section of our 2020-21 Reopening Plan.
Q: What is the district doing to provide a laptop to every student and internet access to every home that doesn't have it?
A: Within five days of the closure of school buildings in March, the district mobilized an effort to identify households in need of technology and connectivity. Using data gathered from in-person outreach, the district provided more than 3devices,200 Chromebooks to student homes to meet the need. The district did not have the necessary to provide a device to every individual student, so a device per household model was used.
On March 26, we submitted a Smart School Investment Plan to acquire an additional 4,900 devices in order to provide a device for every student and instructional staff member. Additionally, we began an effort to acquire 600 mobile Internet hotspots to address the connectivity need. We deployed the hotspots to all households in need by the end of April.
The state approved our Smart Schools Investment Plan submission in late July. We are in the process of ordering devices to meet the remaining need. There is a strong likelihood that we will be able to take delivery of new devices by the end of September and have them deployed to students shortly after. Until we are able to meet the 1:1 model, we are prioritizing deployment of devices to students who will be participating in exclusive or majority remote instruction.
Q: What safety precautions will the district implement and enforce to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among student-athletes, coaches and spectators during the fall season?
A: The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced July 16 that the start of the fall athletic season will be delayed at least until Sept. 21, and possibly until the late winter-early spring of 2021 due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19. The association is committed to continuing to monitor and follow all health and safety guidance from the state, and will work collaboratively with state officials to ensure that modified and high school athletics are following all required protocols when they are allowed to resume. Our school district will align with those recommendations as we all work together to ensure a safe and responsible resumption of athletics at an appropriate time.
Q: If sports resume, how will middle school students participate safely in varsity-level sports, and will there be PE or will that be a waived requirement?
A: Middle school-high school connection details are still being worked out in athletics as well as in general. As far as PE, it is not waived. One of the things we are talking about at the high school level is a personal fitness plan and personal fitness goals – exercises for flexibility, for example – and how students can achieve those goals along with monitoring with quick lessons. We are still in the planning process, but we are looking for students to have their eight-period schedule – honoring the scheduling process they went through – because those were the courses they either needed or wanted to take, or are required to take.
Q: If I choose remote learning (all virtual) for my student, is s/he still allowed to participate in athletics?
A: According to the New York State Education Department, "A pupil shall be eligible for interschool competition or inclusive athletic activities in a sport during a semester, provided that he is a bona fide student, enrolled during the first 15 school days of such semester, is registered in the equivalent of three regular courses, is meeting the physical education requirement, and has been in regular attendance 80 percent of the school time, bona fide absence caused by personal illness excepted.
Given that schools will be implementing various flexible and hybrid schedule models this year, a student who is registered for at least 3 courses and PE during each semester, even if those courses may be meeting at different intervals during a semester would meet this requirement. As districts examine student enrollment in their determination of athletic eligibility, regardless of the manner in which the courses meet, if the student is registered for a minimum of 3 different courses and PE each semester s/he should be considered a bona fide student.