The challenges that school districts, students and families, and entire communities have faced due to the COVID-19 crisis have been unprecedented.
However, while we are awaiting official COVID-19 guidance for the 2021-22 school year from the New York State Department of Education, the City School District of Albany, like school districts across New York and the nation, is planning for a return to school for the new school year that prioritizes a return to in-person instruction for all students.
Our school district has prioritized resources, including our one-time federal COVID-19 relief funds, to be prepared to serve all of our students in alignment with the required COVID-19 guidelines that will be in place for schools in September.
This has included a plan, informed by community input, to prioritize our American Rescue Plan funding.
Extended Learning, Enrichment Programs RFP
In July, the district issued a Request for Proposals seeking submissions from community partners for extending learning and enrichment programs that will be supported through one-time ARP funding. Proposals should focus on K-12 evidence-based opportunities for summer, afterschool, during school, Saturdays or school breaks.
The RFP deadline is Friday, Aug. 6 at 2 p.m.
American Rescue Plan update
The City School District of Albany will receive a total of approximately $32.7 million in one-time ARP funds through September 2024.
On April 21, the U.S. Department of Education issued Interim Final Requirements that include examples of ways in which an LEA may use its ARP funds for activities related to educating students during the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing the impacts of the pandemic on students and educators.
The federal ARP guidelines require school districts to use this one-time funding to measure and address the academic impact of lost instructional time on all students through the implementation of evidence-based interventions. These include, but are not limited to, interventions implemented through summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive after-school programs or extended school year programs.
The federal guidelines also require school districts to ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social-emotional and mental health needs, and address the impact of COVID-19 on groups of students that the pandemic has disproportionately affected.
The 2021-22 New York State budget also included language requiring all school districts to publicly post, by July 1, a plan for how each district will prioritize the use of its one-time ARP funds.
School districts are required to prioritize ARP spending on non-recurring expenses in the following areas:
- Safely returning students to in-person instruction
- Maximizing in-person instructional time
- Operating schools and meeting the needs of students
- Educational technology
- Addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on students, including the impacts of interrupted instruction and learning loss, and the impacts on low-income students, children with disabilities, English-language learners and students experiencing homelessness
- Implementing evidence-based strategies to meet students’ social-emotional, mental health and academic needs
- Supporting early childhood education
The district has engaged in a comprehensive planning process to determine how best to prioritize the use of these funds in these areas.
This planning process included a community engagement survey from May 26-June 7, as well as a series of three virtual community forums in June to provide information and gather additional feedback from all stakeholders.
The district received 540 responses from all stakeholders in the ARP survey this spring. Respondents identified the following four areas as the top priorities:
- Social-emotional and mental health supports – 76.44%
- Educational technology – 69.73%
- Safety and security – 68.05%
- HVAC (ventilation/air filtration) – 68.36%
You can check out our ARP presentation from the June 21 virtual community meeting for more detailed information regarding our survey feedback.
In alignment with the feedback from that community engagement process, the district currently is planning to allocate ARP funding in the following areas.
Social-emotional and mental health supports
Multi-Tiered System of Support:
- Social-emotional learning curriculum (Second Step, RULER)
- Trauma-informed care
- Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
- Therapeutic Crisis Intervention for Schools (TCIS)
- Restorative practices
- Comprehensive attendance plan
- College- and career-readiness curriculum
- Preventative strategies
Staffing to support social-emotional learning:
- 3.0 district-wide behavior specialists
- 11.0 school-based behavior specialists
- 33.0 social workers
- 22.0 psychologists
- 17.0 school counselors
- Upgraded teacher workstations in all classrooms
- Enhanced, full-room Polystudio video/audio conferencing in all classrooms
- HoverCam/document camera in all classrooms
- Promethean interactive panels in all middle and high school classrooms
- Requisite supporting peripherals such as cabling, licensing, wireless mouse/keyboard capability
- Secondary display/monitor in all classrooms
- New interactive HD panels in all elementary classrooms (after review and selection process)
Administrative support upgrades:
- Upgraded laptops for staff
- Upgraded Chromebooks for teachers/instructional staff
- Robust Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) array to deliver the entirety of district applications to an Internet-connected device
- Server layer to support VDI application layer
- Network visibility, management and threat-detection/mitigation tools
- Enhanced network storage and recovery infrastructure
Safety and security
- 44.0 hall monitors
- 1.0 assistant director of safety and security
- 3.0 school campus/neighborhood security
HVAC (ventilation/air filtration)
- Building needs assessments
- System inspections, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities
- Facility repairs and improvements to school mechanics and operations
- Mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems
- Enhanced filtering, purification and other air-cleaning systems,
- Repair and enhance control systems, windows/door repair and replacement
Accelerated learning and academic support
- Before- and after-school tutoring and mentoring
- Support the social and emotional learning of students
- Academic support clubs and activities
- Saturday educational and enrichment programs
- Intramural and extracurricular activities
- Bridges Math Intervention Program for dedicated Response to Intervention (RtI) time at the elementary level
- Bridges Training for instructional coaches and other staff to turnkey and support implementation
- Discovery Ed: Mystery Science for elementary, an engaging and robust Science supplementary program
- Discovery Ed: Standards-aligned digital resource for secondary Science and Social Studies classes
- Discovery Ed for all teachers: Expansive video library and lessons to supplement all academic programming
Content digital resources:
- VOCES (World Language)
- Gizmos (Science)
- CommonLit (ELA)
- WeVideo (Art)
Instructional digital tools:
- Seesaw (K-5)
Professional development to address strategies and program implementation:
- Kendore Training (early literacy)
- DOK3/DOK4 (delivery of instruction)
- Project-based learning
- Blended learning
Safely returning students to in-person instruction
Governor Cuomo announced in June that New York could return to normal operations due to high levels of COVID-19 vaccinations among those 18 and over. However, that guidance did not include school districts, which continue to operate with COVID-19 precautions in place.
This includes wearing masks inside all district buildings, and social distancing of 3 feet in all classrooms. The district will continue to follow these guidelines this summer and in preparation for the 2021-22 school year, and is prepared to respond to changing direction from state and federal health officials during the summer, if it is forthcoming.
Additional COVID-19 precautions the district will continue to follow during the summer include:
- Cleaning and sanitizing all spaces in use on a daily basis
- Pre-arrival symptom and temperature screening for students and staff
- Hand hygiene
- Additional health, hygiene and safety precautions in alignment with our 2020-21 Reopening Plan
Employees and students did an excellent job following these protocols throughout the 2020-21 school year. We will continue to emphasize the importance of all of these safeguards. Our communication procedures will continue to align with Albany County Health Department guidelines.
Maintaining ARP-funded supports in 2024-25 and beyond
The district will evaluate the impact of its ARP investments throughout the three-year period that the federal funding is available. Decisions on which programs the district will sustain in the 2024-25 school year and beyond will be made in alignment with the district's needs and priorities at that time, and again in partnership with our community.
At this time, the district plans to sustain instructional programs through anticipated new state aid, while reducing COVID-19-specific programming by staff attrition where possible.
The state has indicated that it plans to fully fund foundation aid for all New York schools by 2023-24. However, the state still must appropriate funds in each year’s adopted state budget moving forward.
Fully funding foundation aid would mean an additional $26 million for the district by the 2023-24 school year.