Reopening Plan

Introduction

On Monday, July 13, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that school districts in New York can follow plans to reopen for in-person schooling in September if COVID-19 infection rates stay at 5% or lower in a given region.

Determinations will be made by region about opening and closing schools as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. If a region is in Phase 4 and has a daily infection rate of 5% or lower over a 14-day average, schools in that region could hold in-person instruction. If daily infection rates exceed 9% over a seven-day average, however, schools in that region would not reopen. Similarly, should a region see such an average after reopening, schools in that region would also be directed to close.

Based on the voluminous guidance, the district does not have the space or resources to bring back all students full time while practicing social distancing.  Because of that, the district is currently planning for a hybrid model that combines in-person instruction and remote learning.  While each district in the state has devised unique instructional delivery plans, we believe that we have put together the best plan that we can deliver with the resources of our district and community.

The plan outlined here is for the reopening of schools in the Rensselaer City School District for the 2020-21 school year, following the building closure related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan includes procedures that will be followed in both of our schools:

  • Van Rensselaer Elementary School
  • Rensselaer Junior Senior High School

The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school campuses. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

It is possible that we may need to alternate between this hybrid plan and remote learning throughout the year due to recommendations and guidance from our partnering agencies, and stay-at-home orders from the Governor. The level of infection, the spread of the virus and response to the disease in our community will be at the forefront of our decision making as we move to open our schools.  We all hope that the situation eventually no longer requires social distancing and we can safely fully return to in-school learning.

Joseph Kardash will serve as the district’s COVID-19 Coordinator.  Mr. Kardash will work closely with our local health department and will serve as a central contact for schools and stakeholders, families, staff and other school community members and ensure the district is in compliance and following the best practices per state and federal guidelines. Email Mr. Kardash at jkardash@rcsd.k12.ny.us or by phone at 518-465-7509.

 Content Outline

 


Subcommittees & Members

Health & Safety:
Athena Rozowicz – Chairperson
Jackie Schacht
Tricia Steck
Angela Jones
Michelle Belvedere
Will DeRuve
Bill Spath
Laura Frasco
Teri Hopper
Mike Toney
Tammy Slingerland

Transportation/Facilities/Nutrition:
Teri Hopper – Chairperson
Theresa Stasack
Bill Spath
Dave Martyn
Rhonda Greenway

Teaching & Learning:
Tricia Steck – Co-Chairperson
Laura Frasco – Co-Chairperson
Amy Mooney
Roberta Ryan
Pam Goodwin
Kim Mooney
John Curran
Andrew Higgs
Jeff Palmer
Dominick Pitaniello
Deb Sklar
Kelly Connor
Crystal Maxian

Digital Equity & Access:
Dave Howell – Chairperson
Jackie Schacht
Dave Martyn
John Curran
Mike McGough
Scott Beiter
Kelly Connor
Deb Sklar

Budget & Fiscal:
Meghan Heimroth – Chairperson
Dave Howell

Social-Emotional Needs:
Colleen Multer – Chairperson
Beth Whitney
Amy Mooney
Angela Jones
Will DeRuve
Athena Rozowicz

Special Education:
Ryan Debrosky – Chairperson
Roberta Ryan
Michelle Belvedere
Colleen Multer

Bilingual Education/MLL/ELL:
Charley Seagle – Chairperson
Pamela Goodwin
Megan Nahal

Staffing / HR:
Mike Toney – Chairperson
Ryan Debrosky
Kim Mooney
Andrew Higgs

Other Members:
Anna Balfoort
Heather Staszak
Holly Teal
Joseph Kardash
Patrick Paratore


Communication/Family and Community Engagement

To help inform our reopening plan, the district has sought feedback and input from stakeholders, including administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents/guardians of students, local health department officials and health care providers, employee unions and community groups. Engagement efforts included online surveys, virtual meetings and one-on-one conversations.

The district remains committed to communicating all elements of this reopening plan to students, parents and guardians, staff and visitors. The plan is available to all stakeholders via the district website at https://www.rcsd.k12.ny.us/reopening-plan/ and will be updated throughout the school year, as necessary, to respond to local circumstances. The link to the plan will appear on the website homepage and be shared on the district Facebook page.  Every effort has been made to ensure that the plan is accessible to all individuals in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A/AA. The plan can also be translated into other languages, via the translate features on the district website.

As part of its planning for the reopening of schools and the new academic year, the district has developed a plan for communicating all necessary information to district staff, students, parents/guardians, visitors and education partners and vendors. The district will use its existing communication channels – including email, phone, text, website, and social media – as well as appropriate signage and training opportunities to support the dissemination of consistent messaging regarding new protocols and procedures, expectations, requirements and options related to school operations throughout the pandemic.  The district will utilize our community partners and translation technologies to make communication available to our English Language Learners.

The district is committed to establishing and maintaining regular channels of communication and has reviewed and determined which methods have proven to be the most effective in communications with our school community. The district will regularly communicate news, requirements and updates related to reopening and in-person instruction, including social distancing requirements, proper wearing of face coverings and proper hand and respiratory hygiene. The information that we will share will be based on state guidance and input from our surveys and reopening team.

In support of remote learning, the district will make computer devices available to all students in grades 5 – 12 and any other students who request them. The district will provide students and their families with multiple ways to contact schools and teachers during remote learning, including email, ClassDojo, Seesaw, and Google Classroom.

The district will use existing internal and external communications channels to notify staff, students and families/caregivers about any changes in school schedules with as much advance notice as possible.

The district will follow its existing engagement and communication protocols with parents regarding the provision of special education services for their child.

In addition, the district will make every effort to ensure that communication to parents/legal guardians is in their preferred language and mode of communication by utilizing translation software, student leaders, and community partners.

The district is committed to ensuring that all of its students and their families are taught and re-taught new expectations related to all public health policies and protocols. As part of this continuous training, the district will assess the best approach to communicating the information for each students’ age group and will provide frequent opportunities for students to review these policies and protocols. This targeted education will help ensure that all students and their families know what is expected of them as they successfully return to the school setting. These trainings will cover:

  • Hand hygiene [Future link to training]
  • Proper face covering procedures (how and when to wear and remove) [Future link to training]
  • Social distancing [Future link to training]
  • Respiratory hygiene [Future link to training]
  • Identifying symptoms [Future link to training] [Indicate how parents/guardians will notify the school if their child develops symptoms, such as a dedicated email address or telephone line.]

The district will create and deploy signage throughout the district to address public health protections surrounding COVID-19. Signage will address protocols and recommendations in the following areas:

  • Proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Acceptable face coverings and requirements related to their wear
  • Hand washing
  • Adherence to social distancing instructions
  • Symptoms/prevention of COVID-19

In addition to signage, the district will encourage all students, faculty, staff and visitors through verbal and written communication to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DOH guidance regarding the use of PPE.

The district is committed to creating a learning environment that protects student and staff health, safety and privacy. Our district will operate under a standard procedure for addressing situations in which an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 or appears symptomatic. These procedures will be outlined in the Health & Safety section of our reopening plan.

In the event that a student or staff member is sick or symptomatic, notification to exposed individuals will occur pursuant to the state’s contact tracing protocols as implemented by the local health department. The district will not notify the wider community unless specifically directed to do so by local health officials.


Health & Safety

The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to our school campus. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

The following protocols and procedures will be in place in all district schools for the 2020-21 school year should in-person schooling resume. Anyone with questions or concerns should contact our COVID-19 safety coordinator at jkardash@rcsd.k12.ny.us or 518-465-7509.

For more information about how health and safety protocols and trainings will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

Health checks

The district has developed resources to educate parents/guardians and staff members regarding the careful observation of symptoms of COVID-19 and health screening measures that must be conducted each morning before coming to school. The resources include the requirement for any student or staff member with a fever of 100°F or greater and/or symptoms of possible COVID-19 virus infection to not come to school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list of Coronavirus symptoms was used to develop these resources.

The Rensselaer City School District will implement the following practices to conduct mandated health screening:

For students:

Prior to utilizing district provided transportation, students will have their temperature taken by district staff and may be asked screening questions.  Any student who has a temperature of 100.0F or higher will not be permitted to enter the school bus.  

Similarly, student’s who utilize self transportation (e.g. walking, biking, driving) will have their temperature taken by district staff  prior to entering the building and may be asked screening questions.  Any student who has a temperature of 100.0F or higher will be relocated to an isolation room, at this time the school nurse will conduct an oral temperature check to confirm. If the student’s temperature is still 100.0 or higher, the student’s parent or guardian will be contacted and the student MUST be picked up.     

For Staff & Visitors: 

Staff and visitors will enter the building and be asked to complete a series of screening questions, including that they have not traveled to an identified area that requires quarantine, they have not been in contact with a known positive COVID-19 case, do not present any COVID-19 symptoms and have their temperature taken upon entering the building. 

Social distancing, face coverings & PPE

The district has developed a plan with policies and procedures for maintaining social distancing of all students, faculty, and staff when on school facilities, grounds and transportation.

  • Hallways will be marked with arrows to direct traffic
  • Cafeterias and classrooms will be equipped with desks set 6 feet apart to establish maximum capacity under CDC guidelines  

If social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained, proper face coverings must be worn in common areas such as hallways or school buses. Those medically unable to wear face coverings need to contact the school health office to confirm the condition and to arrange appropriate accommodations.

Students, staff and visitors to our schools will be expected to wear face coverings in school facilities and on school grounds, including on the school bus, when six-foot physical distancing is not possible. Students will be allowed to remove face coverings during meals, instruction, and for short breaks so long as they maintain appropriate social distance.

All students and staff will be required to wear a mask or cloth face covering when social distancing of six feet cannot be maintained. Examples of this include but are not limited to: in hallways, in restrooms, school buses and the Health Office.

Students and staff are expected to bring their own masks daily, however, the school will have masks available in case one is forgotten, lost, soiled or otherwise unusable.  Acceptable face coverings for COVID-19 include, but are not limited to, cloth-based coverings and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose.

Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear all-day, so there may be periods of time when masks are not worn, such as when seated to eat a meal utilizing proper social distance, when seated to receive instruction utilizing proper social distance. 

The district will instruct students, parents/guardians and staff, contractors and vendors on:

  • The proper way to wear face coverings
  • Washing hands before putting on and after removing their face covering
  • Proper way to discard disposable face coverings

Facility Alterations and Specifications

  • Hallways and highly trafficked areas, such as offices and bathrooms, will be equipped with hand sanitizer stations. 
  • Offices will limit most visitors to the vestibules and dividers will be used at office desks at points of high contact.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting of the building will continue daily, with a day for more extensive cleaning at the end of each week prior to the switch in cohorts.
  • Classrooms and Cafeterias will be set up with desks that maintain proper social distance prior to the having students enter for instruction or meals.
  • The district will continue to follow building code and regulations in regard to numbers of toilet fixtures, water fountains, and other fixtures while applying social distancing rules with signage, markers, and reduced occupancy.
  • Rensselaer City School District is a newly built facility with a modern filtration and ventilation system utilizing merv 11 filters as recommended by New York State.  The district will follow a regular maintenance schedule,  as well as any updated guidelines in response to COVID-19, to change and maintain filters and system.
  • Teachers are encouraged to have classroom windows open when weather permits, and to use outdoor space, whenever possible, to conduct lessons.

Management of ill persons

The district requires students, faculty, or staff members who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to report to the nurse’s office. If there are several students waiting to see the school nurse, students must wait at least 6 feet apart. The district has designated areas to separate individuals with symptoms of COVID- 19 from others until they can go home or to a healthcare facility, depending on severity of illness. One area will be used to treat injuries, provide medications or nursing treatments, and the other area will be used for assessing and caring for ill students and staff. Both areas will be supervised by an adult and have easy access to a bathroom and sink with hand hygiene supplies.

PPE requirements for school health office staff caring for sick individuals includes both standard and transmission-based precautions. In areas with moderate to substantial community transmission, eye protection (e.g., goggles or face shield) should be added. When caring for a suspect or confirmed individual with COVID-19, gloves, a gown, eye protection, and a fit-tested N-95 respirator will be used, if available. If an N-95 respirator is not available, a surgical face mask and face shield will be used.

School health office cleaning will occur after each use of cots, bathrooms, and health office equipment (e.g., blood pressure cuffs, otoscopes, stethoscopes). Health office equipment will be cleaned following manufacturer’s directions.

Disposable items will be used as much as possible (e.g., disposable pillow protectors, disposable thermometers, disposable thermometer sheaths or probes, disposable otoscope specula).

Aerosol Generating Procedures

Respiratory treatments administered by nurses generally result in aerosolization of respiratory secretions. These aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) potentially put healthcare personnel and others at an increased risk for pathogen exposure and infection. The district requires the following PPE to be worn during AGPs: gloves, N-95 or a surgical mask with face shield, eye protection and a gown. PPE will be used when: suctioning, administering nebulizer treatments, or using peak flow meters with students who have respiratory conditions.

Treatments such as nebulized medication treatments and oral or tracheostomy suctioning will be conducted in a room separate from others with nursing personnel wearing appropriate PPE. For nebulizer treatments, if developmentally appropriate, the nurse will leave the room and return when the nebulizer treatment is finished.

Cleaning of the room will occur between use and cleaning of the equipment should be done following manufacturer’s instructions after each use.

If Students or Staff become Ill with Symptoms of COVID-19 at School

Symptomatic students/staff should be immediately placed in a separate ‘isolation’ area, that is separate from students that visit the HO regularly for care of chronic conditions [such as Asthma preventive treatment, Diabetes, and other chronic syndromes], as well as being kept separate from students that require 1st aid treatment for injuries or bleeding-type wounds.  The Nurse will don the appropriate PPE to assess the ill student/staff in the ‘isolation’ area, attending to appropriate hand hygiene, and donning techniques, as well as doffing PPE and hand hygiene upon exiting the isolation area [see separate PPE Procedure]. The ill student, if not already wearing a mask, may need to now don a facemask [“the use of facemasks for persons with respiratory symptoms and fever over 100.0 is recommended if available and tolerated by the person and developmentally appropriate”], per the NASN, ‘Considerations for School Nurses Regarding Care of Students and Staff that Become Ill at School or Arrive Sick’, and per CDC ‘Coronavirus Disease 2019, Using PPE, Who Needs PPE’- “patients with confirmed or possible SARS-CoV-2 infection should wear a facemask when being evaluated medically”.  Likely, the Nurse may determine the student with symptoms of illness will need to be dismissed to home, and will contact the parent/guardian for prompt pick up of the student. Staff who are ill/symptomatic will also be encouraged to contact their Supervisor and go home.  Students with illness awaiting pick up from school will remain in the ‘isolation area’ until parent/guardian arrival. Administration may need to assist with coordination of gathering student belongings and students exiting the building. Parents will not be allowed to enter the Health Office for pick up unless deemed necessary by School Nurse or administrators.  Isolation area will need to have cleaning and disinfection after every encounter of students requiring assessment, and staff will need to ensure that PPE supplies and cleaning supplies are kept stocked.

Return to School after Illness

The district has established protocols and procedures, in consultation with the local health department(s), about the requirements for determining when individuals, particularly students, who screened positive for COVID-19 symptoms can return to the in-person learning environment at school. This protocol includes:

  1. Documentation from a health care provider following evaluation
  2. Negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result
  3. Symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation

The district will refer to DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Public and Private Employees Returning to Work Following COVID-19 Infection or Exposure” regarding protocols and policies for faculty and staff seeking to return to work after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or after the faculty or staff member had close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19.

The district requires that individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus complete quarantine and have not developed symptoms before returning to in-person learning. The discharge of an individual from quarantine and return to school will be conducted in coordination with the local health department.

Contact Tracing

The district will notify the state and local health department immediately upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 diagnostic test result by an individual within school facilities or on school grounds, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors of the district.

To assist the local health department with tracing the transmission of COVID-19, the district has developed and maintained a plan to trace all contacts of exposed individuals in accordance with protocols, training, and tools provided through the New York State Contact Tracing Program.

The districts will facilitate contact tracing by:

  1. Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members
  2. Ensuring student schedules are up to date
  3. Keeping a log of any visitor which includes date and time, and where in the school they visited
  4. Assisting the local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual in accordance with the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYS Contact Tracing Program

If/when COVID-19 cases are discovered in the school, in consultation with the local health department, the district will immediately contact the Rensselaer County health department and follow all guidance on how to proceed.

For more information about how contact tracing will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

School Closures

A closure refers to contingency plans, protocols, and procedures for decreasing the scale or scope of in-person education and/or closing the school. The district will collaborate with the Rensselaer County health department to determine the parameters, conditions or metrics (e.g., increased absenteeism or increased illness in school community) that will serve as early warning signs that positive COVID-19 cases may be increasing beyond an acceptable level.

    • Rensselaer City School District will close if the regional infection rate rises over 9% after Aug. 1. or if the 7-day rolling average of the infection rate is above 9% unless otherwise directed from the Rensselaer County health department.
    • Schools will remain closed while infection rate remains above 9%, until the 14-day average is below 5%

For more information about how school closures will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

Health hygiene

The district will emphasize healthy hygiene practices for students and staff by providing initial and refresher education in hand and respiratory hygiene, along with providing adequate supplies and time for frequent hand hygiene. Signs will be posted throughout the school (e.g., entrances, restrooms, cafeteria, classrooms, administrative offices, auditorium, custodial staff areas) and regular messaging will be shared with the school community. Signage will be used to remind individuals to:

  1. Stay home if they feel sick.
  2. Cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering when unable to maintain social distance from others or in accordance with any stricter policy implemented by the school.
  3. Properly store and, when necessary, discard PPE.
  4. Adhere to social distancing instructions.
  5. Report symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.
  6. Follow hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection guidelines.
  7. Follow respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.

Hand Hygiene

Students and staff must carry out the following hand hygiene practices.

  • Wash hands routinely with soap (any kind) and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Dry hands completely after washing. Use paper towels to dry hands if available instead of a hand dryer if they are available.
  • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.  Hand sanitizer should be rubbed on the hands until it is completely absorbed. DO NOT dry hands if sanitizer is used.

Hand washing should occur:

  • Before and after eating (e.g. snacks and lunch).
  • After going to the restroom or after assisting a student with toileting.
  • After using a tissue.
  • Before and after using shared materials.
  • Before and after putting on or taking off face masks.
  • After coming in from the outdoors.
  • Anytime hands are visibly soiled.

Respiratory Hygiene

The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. Therefore, the district will emphasize the importance of respiratory hygiene.

Students and staff must carry out the following respiratory hygiene practices.

  • Cover a cough or sneeze using a tissue. If a tissue is used, it should be thrown away immediately.
  • If you don’t have a tissue when sneezing or coughing, sneeze into your elbow.
  • Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.
  • Face coverings are protective. Wearing a face covering will keep the respiratory droplets and aerosols from being widely dispersed into the air.

For more information about how hygiene information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

Cleaning and disinfecting

The district will ensure adherence to hygiene and cleaning and disinfection requirements as advised by the CDC and DOH, including “Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection of Public and Private Facilities for COVID-19,” and the “STOP THE SPREAD” poster, as applicable. Cleaning and disinfection logs will be maintained that include the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection.

Students, faculty, and staff will be trained on proper hand and respiratory hygiene, and such information will be provided to parents and/or legal guardians on ways to reinforce this at home.

The district will provide and maintain hand hygiene stations around the school, as follows:

  • For handwashing: soap, running warm water, and disposable paper towels.
  • For hand sanitizing: an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol for areas where handwashing facilities may not be available or practical.
  • Accommodations for students who cannot use hand sanitizer will be made.

Regular cleaning and disinfection of the facilities will occur, including more frequent cleaning and disinfection for high-risk and frequently touched surfaces. This will include desks and cafeteria tables, which will be cleaned and disinfected between each individual’s use. Cleaning and disinfection will be rigorous and ongoing and will occur at least daily, or more frequently as needed.

The district will ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of restrooms. Restrooms should be cleaned and disinfected more often depending on frequency of use.

For more information about how cleaning and disinfection information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

Vulnerable populations/accommodations

We recognize that some students and staff members are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, live with a person who is at an increased risk, or simply do not feel comfortable returning to an in-person educational environment. It is our goal that these individuals are able to safely participate in educational activities.  Parents/Guardians/Employees with concerns should contact Joseph Kardash at jkardash@rcsd.k12.ny.us or 518-465-7509.

Visitors on campus

No outside visitors or volunteers will be allowed on school campuses, except for the safety and well-being of students. Parents/guardians will report to each building office and not go beyond the vestibules unless they have previously arranged a meeting with an administrators approval. Essential visitors to facilities will be required to wear face coverings and will be restricted in their access to our school buildings.

Visitors must follow all safety protocols as listed above.

School safety drills

The district will conduct fire (evacuation) drills and lockdown drills as required by education law and regulation and the fire code without exceptions. Schools must continue to conduct mandatory fire and lockdown drills according to the existing statutory schedule. Drills will be conducted in a manner that requires masks and encourages social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students to respond in emergencies.

Fire Code Section 404 requires that schools maintain Fire Safety, Evacuation, and Lockdown Plans and these plans include how lockdown and evacuation drills are conducted.  Education Law § 807 requires that schools conduct eight (8) evacuation and four (4) lockdown drills each school year.   Modifications to promote and provide for social distancing during the drills are:

  • Students will utilize directional hall markers to increase distance.
  • All students will be required to wear a mask during each drill.
  • Students will be positioned at least 6 feet apart while outside waiting for signal to return to building.
  • Classes will return to building in a staggered fashion to increase distancing.
  • Drills will be conducted at times that allow for each cohort of students to practice equitably when in attendance in person.
  • Lockdowns will be conducted in classroom without “hiding”/ “sheltering” but provide an overview of how to shelter or hide in the classroom.
  • Students will be instructed that if it was an actual emergency that required evacuation or lockdown, the most imminent concern is to get to safety; maintaining social distancing in an actual emergency that requires evacuation or lockdown may not be possible and should not be the first priority.

 


Child Nutrition

A successful nutrition program is a key component to every educational environment. School meals protect the most vulnerable children against hunger. A child cannot focus on learning when they feel hungry. School meals boost learning and studies show that students perform best academically when well nourished. Therefore, ensuring a child has access to healthy and appealing meals in schools is extremely important.  Our district will provide all enrolled students with access to school meals each school day whether school is in-person or remote.  We will continue to follow all applicable health and safety guidelines and ensure compliance with Child Nutrition Program requirements.

The district will ensure social distancing between elementary students while eating in all three school cafeterias. Each class will be grouped and separated from other classes while also maintaining individual social distancing.  Meal periods will be staggered to ensure social distancing and proper cleaning and disinfection between students.  Jr/Sr High students will be served lunch in classrooms.  Individuals will maintain social distancing throughout the meal.

The following adjustments will be made:

  • Breakfast will be Grab & Go and lunch will be served to ensure appropriate social distancing, including allowance for eating in classrooms, cafeterias and offsite. The process for food stations/delivery is being developed.
  • Alternate locations will be provided for students with severe food allergies, as needed.
  • Students will be supervised during meal times and prohibited from sharing food and beverages unless members of the same household.
  • Condiment stations will be removed.
  • Cafeterias will be cleaned and sanitized after each serving period as well as clean and sanitize high contact surfaces frequently.
  • All necessary PPE (gloves, masks, aprons, hairnets) will be readily available.
  • Staff will be trained in proper usage of ppe, cleaning and sanitizing procedures.
  • Appropriate signage to promote social distancing; floor markings and assigned seating will be provided.
  • Lunch times will be staggered to allow for social distancing. Clean and disinfect between groups.
  • Individuals must wash their hands after removing their gloves or after directly handling used foodservice items.

Offsite meals will be provided.  The details of how these will be delivered or made available will be communicated as the new school year approaches.

For more information about how meal information will be communicated to students, families and staff members, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.


Transportation

The district will conduct transportation activities that are consistent with state-issued public transit guidance and NYSED School Reopening guidelines. Students and school staff must wear acceptable face coverings at all times on school buses (e.g., entering, exiting, and seated) and should maintain appropriate social distancing to the extent practicable.

Students who are able will be required to wear masks and social distance on the bus to the extent practicable.  Only members of the same household may be seated in the same seat. Students whose physical or mental health would be impaired are not required to wear a face covering, but must be socially distanced.  Parents and legal guardians are encouraged to drop off or walk students to school to reduce density on buses.

All buses that are used every day by districts and contract carriers will be cleaned/ disinfected once a day. High contact spots will be wiped down after each run.

School buses shall not be equipped with hand sanitizer due to its combustible composition and potential liability to the carrier or district. School bus drivers, monitors and attendants must not carry personal bottles of hand sanitizer with them on school buses.

Wheelchair school buses will configure wheelchair placement to ensure social distancing of 6 feet.

Whether school is in session remotely or otherwise, pupil transportation will be provided to nonpublic, parochial, private, charter schools or students whose Individualized Education Plans have placed them out of district if and when those schools are meeting in-person.

School Bus Staff

School bus drivers, and aides must wear a mask at all times while transporting students.  If either the driver or aide will have direct physical contact with the student, they must wear gloves.

Transportation staff will be trained and provided periodic refreshers on the proper use of personal protective equipment, disinfectants and proper cleaning strategies, as well as the signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

When weather permits school buses will transport passengers with roof hatches or windows opened to provide air flow.

When students embark/disembark from transportation vehicles:

  • They will follow social distancing protocols. This will increase the time required to load and unload buses at schools in the morning and afternoon. 

Routing procedures:

  • Students are encouraged to utilize other means of transportation to arrive at school such as walking, biking, drop off etc. if at all possible 
  • Bus routes will be created to minimize contamination by keeping families together, assigning seats, and reducing time on buses.

For more information about training protocol for students and staff and how transportation information will be communicated, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

 


 

Social Emotional Well-Being

We recognize that the social emotional well-being of our students and staff during these challenging times is critically important. The district has made available resources and referrals to address mental health, behavioral, and emotional needs of students, faculty, and staff when school reopens for in-person instructions.

  • The district will utilize the opening professional development days to have Pupil Personnel Services support members train staff on trauma informed care, resilience and self care.
  • When students return, Pupil Personnel Services will utilize Tier 1 support to push in classrooms to educate students on coping skills, resilience and self care.
  • Created content as well as existing websites, videos, resources and brochures will be made available to staff, students and families.
  • The district will partner with community agencies and stakeholders to support our students and families during this public health crisis.
  • The district will connect a Pupil Personnel Service member with each teacher and/or grade level for support throughout the year.
  • The district will provide information for teachers and students regarding the pandemic.

For more information about how social emotional resources will be communicated, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

 


School Activities

Extracurriculars

Note: Interscholastic sports are not permitted at the time of publication of this guidance, and additional information on athletic activities is forthcoming.

Any activities that are eventually allowed to happen will follow the  DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency”.

The school district will consider the creation of extracurricular activities that can be continued remotely in the event of another shut down.

Due to the 2020-21 contingent budget, no outside entities will be allowed to utilize the facility.

 


Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism

Attendance is an important factor for students to take full advantage of their academic, physical and social growth. It is the goal of Rensselaer City School District to require continuity of instruction and active classroom participation, whether learning is in-person or by remote means, unless there is an excuse. Excused absences are defined as absences due to personal illness, illness or death in the family, impassable roads or weather, religious observance, quarantine, required court appearances, attendance at health clinics, approved college visits, approved cooperative work programs, military obligations, any other absence excused at the discretion of the Superintendent, or such other reasons as may be approved by the Commissioner of Education.  Improved school attendance generally increases student achievement and reduces dropout rates. School attendance is a right, obligation and responsibility in New York State. 

As such, the following are the district’s goals:

  • Ensure compliance with Board of Education Policy #5100, Attendance, and the provisions of Education Law Sections 3205 and 3210
  • Work to gain the cooperation of all school community members, students, parents, guardians, teachers, support staff, and administrators regarding the importance of student attendance 

In addition, the district’s objectives are presented:

  • Chronic absences and tardiness, whether legally excused or unexcused, are disruptive to the educational process.  Therefore, the District has developed the following procedures to encourage and support better attendance:
    • Anytime the school is not notified of a student’s absence by a parent/guardian, a phone call will be placed to the parent/guardian.
    • A 5‐day, 10‐day and 15‐day notice will be mailed home to the parent/guardian to inform them about the student’s absenteeism/tardiness and the steps the School District will take.
    • Child Protective Services (CPS) may be called for educational neglect for excessive absences.
    • PINS (Persons In Need of Supervision) Petition may be filed with Family Court when a student is chronically absent.
    • If a student leaves the school grounds without permission, the parent/guardian will be immediately notified.  The local police may be contacted as well.
    • Chronic absences will be referred by the Attendance Assistant, Building Principal and Instructional Support Team who will review each individual case and develop strategies to remedy the chronic absentee issue.
    • Chronic tardiness at the secondary level will result in disciplinary actions.
    • Students must be in attendance in order to participate in all after-school and evening activities
  • Continue Board policy and develop appropriate record-keeping mechanisms to ensure that the attendance of all students is tracked and analyzed by reporting entity
  • Develop mechanisms for intervention when an individual student’s attendance record demonstrates a pattern requiring a need for improvement, including instances of chronic absenteeism (when a student misses ten (10) school days)
  • Develop a district-wide program to encourage regular attendance
  • Ensure that all district schools accurately report information on students considered to be chronically absent and implement effective strategies and interventions to prevent and reduce the incidences of chronic absenteeism among students
  • Student attendance will continue to be required and recorded on all days
  • On days when students are learning remotely, attendance will be taken by the teacher during any live session or via Google Classroom if no live session occurs.
    • The RCSD hybrid approach addresses one of the biggest deficiencies noted from the spring of 2020 which was the lack of connectedness with faculty, staff, and peers. In addition, this approach increases accountability for all stakeholders which was also a concern voiced from the spring of 2020. 
  • Excused and Unexcused Absence/Tardiness – The student and parent/guardian are responsible for providing credible written notification of the reason for any absence upon the student’s return to school. A note from a medical professional is required should a student be absent for five (5) consecutive school days. In addition, the parent/guardian should contact the school personnel on the date of the student’s absence.
  • For incidents of a student illness beyond a total of ten (10) days over the course of the school year, medical documentation will be provided to the building principal so as to determine that extenuating circumstances exist.
  • Attendance shall be taken at the beginning of each period of scheduled instruction. Each classroom teacher shall record the presence or absence of students in a classroom [In-person as well as virtual] and shall report all absences or tardies to the building office either electronically or in paper form during the instructional period.
  • In the event that a student is absent from school without notification to school personnel, school personnel will contact the student’s home to confirm the student’s absence. If no contact with a parent or person in parental relation is made at the home, such contact will be made at the place of employment of the parent or person in parental relation. If, in either situation, no contact is made, a message will be left requesting that the parent or person in parental relation call the school to verify the student’s absence.
  • The District recognizes the relationship between class attendance and student performance.   The success of the District’s educational programs is based upon the principle that regular class participation and contact between students is an essential part of the educational process.    Consequently, as outlined in BOE Policy #5100 and #5290, a portion of a student’s final grade will be based on classroom participation, while the remainder of the student’s final grade will be based on the student’s performance on tests, papers, projects, and all teacher assigned work.    For core subjects, the classroom participation grade will be no less than 10 percent and no more than 40 percent.

 


Technology and Connectivity

In order to ensure students have access to appropriate devices and adequate internet access, the district will do the following:

  • Expand our 1:1 program to include Chromebooks for all students in Grades 5 through 12.
  • Expand the use of Google Classroom to include Grades 1-3.
  • Partner with community resources to provide socially distanced, supervised locations that students can utilize for internet access and remote learning.
  • Partner with the public library to make Wifi hotspots available.
  • The District will communicate with families via phone and internet surveys to determine the availability of adequate internet access at students’ primary and secondary residence as well as any other location they may need to conduct remote learning (e.g. Daycare). District registration forms have also been modified to request this information.
  • Create a mechanism for teachers and staff to report known or suspected unreported households with no or inadequate internet access or device availability.
  • For students not part of the District 1:1 device program, ascertain via the survey and teacher reports  the availability of an appropriate device for their use. The District does not have enough devices to issue 1:1 devices to students in Grades 4 and below, but based on need determined during remote learning from the 2019-2020 school year, it is believed that enough appropriate personal devices are available to these students to make up the shortfall. The district does have a pool of available devices and will make every attempt to issue a device to anyone in need.
  • The district currently has WiFi access for students available outside the building, extending into parking lots, athletic fields and bleachers, and outside major building entrances. The district will provide furniture and shelter to the extent possible to allow students to connect and learn during off hours and weekends.The district will also encourage the use of outdoor learning spaces during the school day when  weather permits.
  • Standardize the software and services used by faculty to conduct remote learning.
  • Develop a series of online videos for parents and faculty with instructions on how to access and use District supported online learning programs and resources.
  • Provide a comprehensive list of our software tools to teachers which contains links to self-led training and a basic overview about the software tools that are available.
  • Provide teachers with professional development on the Student Information System, Learning Management Systems and online Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms the district uses to provide remote learning.

 


Teaching and Learning

The New York State Learning Standards are essential in ensuring that students have a strong command of the skills and understandings associated with the critical areas.  These skills and understandings are critical to building the foundational knowledge needed for the success of students.  While all the New York State Learning Standards are important to educating the whole student, the current health crisis and the manner in which instruction must continue, necessitates the need for RCSD to examine where the learning gaps exist due to the extended school closures in the 2019-2020 school year.  

In order to properly deliver a quality educational experience to all students during these challenging times of Covid-19, students’ social/emotional needs, special accommodations, off-site training via CTE/Questar III, and individual needs must be considered.  These considerations also include:

  • Teachers must maintain a positive mindset about student learning loss during the 2020 school closure.
  • Allow ample time for students to readjust to the school setting.
  • Before assessing students, spend time on socialization and creating a climate of safety, comfort and routine.
  • Use a locally-determined assessment to establish student needs and target extra help to ensure both students’ academic and social-emotional needs are addressed.
  • Offer training and support for students and families/caregivers to ensure comfort and ease with instructional programs and any technological platforms and devices used to deliver instruction.

Continuum of 2020-2021 Reopening Models

Return without restrictionsIn-person learning with new safety requirements
(not possible under current social distancing requirements)
Hybrid learningRemote learning
Students return in person and restrictions are liftedAll students return in person; classrooms, schedules, protocols modified to meet health requirementsStudents learn both in-person and remotelyAll Learning takes place remotely

In-person Instruction

Upon reopening, the number of students in each of our classrooms will be reduced to adhere to CDC guidance regarding proper social distancing. Class size will reflect the need to ensure that students’ desks/seats are positioned no less than six feet apart.

Accommodating a six-foot radius around students may necessitate the repurposing of classroom spaces.

All instruction will continue to be aligned to the New York State Learning Standards.

Our schools will minimize the movement of students.  Jr/Sr High students will eat lunch in classrooms.  Cafeterias will be redesigned and repurposed to provide social distancing. Assemblies, field trips and other large-group activities will be eliminated. Special-area subjects (e.g., art, music, physical education) may be pushed into the classroom.  Whenever possible students will utilize outside space for physical education instruction. We will adhere to 12 feet between students when engaging in physical activity.

To the extent possible, students will remain in small cohorts if/when leaving the classroom, such as for recess or any necessary transition, so as to reduce their exposure to additional students.

For information on school schedules, visit the School Schedules section [provide link] of our reopening plan.

Hybrid Instruction

Given the possibility that our community may experience spikes in COVID-19 cases at any point during the school year, which may prompt short or long-term school closures, our district has developed a hybrid/blended learning model and schedule that can continue as is in a fully remote environment.

Instruction will not only focus on “core” subject areas to the exclusion of elective courses. Consideration has been given to prioritizing hands-on and lab-based activities while students are onsite in school buildings. All instruction will continue to be aligned to the New York State Learning Standards.

As noted previously, student schedules will remain the same whether instruction is in person or remote so that students do not encounter conflicts wherein synchronous lessons for different subjects are offered simultaneously.

Remote learning opportunities for secondary students will include a greater emphasis on synchronous instruction, with teachers finding ways to provide live instruction and lessons to students. While recording of live lessons is still essential for students unable to attend at a scheduled time, teachers will ensure that their students are directly engaged with them and their class peers in experiential learning on a regular basis.

To ensure high-quality remote learning experiences, we will standardize the use of a single online learning platform, to the extent possible, and develop a common, coordinated set of guidelines for teachers to follow when using the platform with students.

Grading practices will follow a standards-based framework designed to provide direct feedback regarding students’ mastery of course content. We will use a five-scale grading rubric based on levels of competency/mastery, which can then be aligned to numeric bands (for GPA purposes).

For information on school schedules, visit the School Schedules section [provide link] of our reopening plan.

For more information about how remote/hybrid instruction will be communicated, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.

Remote Instruction

Given the possibility that our community may experience spikes in COVID-19 cases at any point during the school year, prompting short or long-term school closures, our district has developed a remote learning model and schedule.

Remote learning opportunities for secondary students will include a greater emphasis on synchronous instruction, with teachers finding ways to provide live instruction and lessons to students. While recording of live lessons is still essential for students unable to attend at a scheduled time, teachers will ensure that their students are directly engaged with them and their class peers in experiential learning on a regular basis.

To ensure high-quality remote learning experiences, we will standardize the use of a single online learning platform, to the extent possible, and develop a common, coordinated set of guidelines for teachers to follow when using the platform with students.

Schools will be prepared to convert into a full remote learning model should any health issues or weather related safety issues rise.

Grading practices will follow a standards-based framework designed to provide direct feedback regarding students’ mastery of course content. We will use a five-scale grading rubric based on levels of competency/mastery, which can then be aligned to numeric bands (for GPA purposes).

For information on school schedules, visit the School Schedules section [provide link] of our reopening plan.

For information about how remote instruction information will be communicated to students and families, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section [provide link] of our reopening plan.

Grading

Given the flexible instructional models of in-person, hybrid and remote learning, while encouraging and supporting all teachers to integrate alternate assessments that would alleviate concerns regarding academic integrity associated with each model, these policies will be clearly communicated and transparent to students, parents, and caregivers:

  • Grading is considered a positive tool to indicate achievement and development in each class or subject in which a student is enrolled. The district recognizes that the classroom teacher has the primary responsibility to evaluate students and determine student grades.
  • The district will continue to use a uniform grading system. Classroom teachers will evaluate students and assign grades according to the established system of  SchoolTool.
  • Grading shall be based upon student improvement, achievement, and participation in classroom discussions and activities regardless of the instructional delivery model (In-Person, Hybrid, or Remote).
  • Parents/guardians will be provided a written report card regarding their child’s progress as indicated on the district’s 2020-2021 academic calendar RCSD Academic Calendar (to be updated)
  • The use of marks and symbols will be appropriately explained on all report cards.
  • Grading will not be used for disciplinary purposes, i.e. reducing grade for an unexcused absence, although a lower grade can be given for failure to complete assigned work or for lack of class participation.
  • All students are expected to complete the assigned class work and homework as directed by their assigned teacher(s) during both in person, remote, and live virtual instruction.
  • Students are also expected to participate meaningfully in class discussions and activities in order to receive course credit.
  • If work is missed due to absence, the student is expected to make up the work. Every effort will be made to provide students with the opportunity and assistance to make up all work missed as a result of absence from class. Students who are absent shall be given reasonable time to make up assignments missed during their absence.
  • Students whose misconduct is directly related to the student’s academic performance (e.g., plagiarism) may be denied the opportunity to make up work.

School Schedules

Week A

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
Student Cohort #1
Student Cohort #2

 

Week B

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
Student Cohort #1
Student Cohort #2

 

In-Person Instruction     Remote Learning

Van Rensselaer Elementary School

Per the New York State Commissioner’s regulations Part 100.3 students in grades one through four, must receive instruction in the following areas to a point in which the students knowledge reaches or exceeds New York States standards: mathematics, including arithmetic, science, and technology; English language arts, including reading, writing, listening and speaking for purposes of information and understanding, literary response and expression, critical analysis and evaluation, and social interaction, with attention given to comprehension, vocabulary, word study, spelling, grammar, usage and punctuation; social studies, including geography and United States history; languages other than English, the arts, including visual arts, music, dance and theatre; career development and occupational studies; where student need is established, bilingual education and/or English as a second language; and health education, physical education and family and consumer sciences, Instruction in health education, and physical education. 

However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, RCSD must plan for various contingencies that may make it impossible for in-person instruction between teachers and students.  Therefore, RCSD has set forth three (3) scenarios below that address in-person, hybrid and remote models that take into consideration the instructional requirements while ensuring that students have equitable access to high-quality, rigorous, instructional opportunities and experiences provided by highly-qualified teachers.  These experiences might include but are not limited to:

  • Completing online modules or tasks
  • Viewing instructional videos
  • Responding to posts or instructor questions
  • Engaging with other class participants in an online or phone discussion
  • Conducting research 
  • Doing projects
  • Meeting with an instructor one-on-one via an online platform or by telephone

Grading practices will follow a standards-based framework designed to provide direct feedback regarding students’ mastery of course content.

In Person:

Teachers in grades 1-6 will be using Google Classroom as the main instructional platform to post assignments during remote instruction. Teachers in grades 5&6 will use Google Classroom to post assignments during live instruction because all of their students have devices. All classroom teachers will also use Seesaw or Class Dojo to communicate with parents. Additionally, these will serve as the main instructional platforms for teachers in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. 

Students will have individual “kits” of “high touch” supplies that will be maintained in school. The amount of supplies to be brought in at one time will likely be reduced to minimize the quantity of materials to be stored in school.  Extra materials included on the supply list should be stored at home to support remote learning if it is needed and should be sent in as needed. Possible materials for the kits and other supplies:

  • Kits – scissors, tape, highlighters, markers, pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, glue sticks, pencil sharpeners, etc. 
  • Other Potential Supplies – notebook(s), folder(s), earbuds or headphones 

Backpacks will be maintained in classrooms instead of lockers. As the year progresses, we will explore the possibility of using lockers for the sole purpose of storing coats, boots, hats, gloves and other materials that would be challenging to maintain in the classroom. 

Hybrid:

Students would alternate between in-person and remote learning.  The first half of students will report to school for four (4) full days each week, while the remaining second half will participate in remote learning at home.  Students would follow a calendar of assigned days to ensure access to live instruction. Teachers will post daily mini-lessons and assignments for students participating in remote instruction. The goal of the mini-lessons and assignments will be to expose those participating in remote instruction to many of the same concepts being covered with the students participating in live instruction. Students participating in remote instruction would be expected to complete and submit all of their assignments.  

Potential Daily Schedule

  • Students will attend school for in-person instruction for four (4) days each week on an cohort A and B rotating schedule
  • Art, Music, Library, and Health instruction will take place in the classrooms to limit transitions through the hallway. It is anticipated that Physical Education classes will take place in the gym with structured activities while maintaining appropriate social distancing. 
  • A staggered lunch schedule will be implemented to ensure that students are able to eat lunch while being socially distanced. 
  • A structured recess will be provided whenever possible. 
  • On the “off” week of the rotating schedule, during remote instruction days, students will be required to participate in classroom work remotely and complete assignments.
  • On the fifth (5th) day of instruction (remote for all):

Teachers will provide remote learning opportunities for all students.

Instruction will be aligned with the outcomes in the New York State Learning Standards.

Teachers will work with the cohort that participated in person that week to prepare them with the skills and knowledge they will need when working remotely the following week.

Students will have individual “kits” of “high touch” supplies that will be maintained in school and brought home  for remote instruction. The amount of supplies to be brought in at one time will likely be reduced to minimize the quantity of materials to be stored and brought home each week. Extra materials should be stored at home to support remote learning and should be sent in as needed.  Possible materials for kits and other supplies:

  • Kits – scissors, tape, highlighters, markers, pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, glue sticks, pencil sharpeners, etc. 
  • Other Potential Supplies – notebook(s), folder(s), earbuds 

Backpacks will be maintained in classrooms instead of lockers. Students will need to be prepared to take home their materials at the end of each week. Teachers will work to minimize the amount of materials that will need to be transported back and forth. As the year progresses, we will explore the possibility of using lockers for the sole purpose of storing coats, boots, hats, gloves and other materials that would be challenging to maintain in the classroom.

Remote:

In the event school buildings are compelled to close, school will continue instruction through remote learning. 

This model must also be available for individual students who cannot yet return in-person, and for all students in the event of future classroom or school closures due to Covid-19. 

Parents will ensure that there is a working computer/device and WiFi/hotspot available to them for the day. They will reach out to the school if we can provide additional support to help ensure there is access to remote instruction. 

Teachers must prepare for remote learning by planning individualized projects and tasks that can connect and reinforce in-person classroom learning.

Teachers will a plan for how a student is to go about his/her day in attending remote classes, completing assignments, receiving feedback and tracking progress. The goal will be to have clear expectations for students in each grade level. 

Instruction will be aligned with the outcomes in the New York State Learning Standards.

*Starting the School Year with Remote Instruction:

Teams of classroom teachers in grades 3-6 will meet virtually with small groups of families and students to introduce themselves and to help with the transition to remote instruction. 

Each classroom teacher in grades PK-2 will reach out to each student’s family to introduce themself and to help with the transition to remote instruction. 

Other teachers will be introduced to families and students once the families have had the chance to meet the classroom teachers for the year. 

A plan will need to be developed to distribute devices to students and families that need them for remote instruction

School Schedule:

In-Person Instruction:

  • All students will follow the regular schedule 
  • Specials will be included in the day’s instruction, in class
  • Lunch and recess will be staggered to ensure social distancing

 

Hybrid Instruction:

  • All students will follow a Week #1/Week #2 schedule
  • Students will stay in classroom.  When applicable, teachers will change rooms for content areas specialties.
  • Priority will be given to Special Education students, ENL students, and students with other disabilities where possible.  
  • Students who are in-person will 
    • attend class, including specials.  Art, Music, and Library will come to the classroom.
    • Eat lunch in designated seats in the the cafeterias with appropriate social distancing
  • Students who are remote will log into class at scheduled times using Google Meet for instruction

 

Remote Instruction:

  • On “off” weeks, students will extend learning that has occurred “in-person” and continue with projects and additional practice.
  • Students are expected to log into their classes for Google Meet sessions where teachers are teaching the “in-school” sessions
  • Students are expected to upload all completed work to Google Classroom when due and to maintain attendance and passing grades as if they were in attendance on an in-person basis.

Rensselaer Junior/Senior High School

Per the New York State Commissioner’s regulations Part 100.4 and 100.5, all students are required to achieve the State’s learning standards via 180 minutes per subject per week or the equivalent as set forth in the framework of these regulations. The intention is to provide the opportunity to master a body of content in a certain subject.  Under normal circumstances, during an in-person teaching environment, the State requires that school schedules be built in adherence to this time requirement.

However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, RCSD must plan for various contingencies that may make it impossible for in-person instruction between teachers and students.  Therefore, RCSD has set forth three (3) scenarios below that address in-person, hybrid and remote models that take into consideration the time requirement of 180 minutes per subject per week while ensuring that students have equitable access to high-quality, rigorous, instructional opportunities and experiences provided by highly-qualified teachers.  These experiences might include but are not limited to:

  • Completing online modules or tasks
  • Viewing instructional videos
  • Responding to posts or instructor questions
  • Engaging with other class participants in an online or phone discussion
  • Conducting research 
  • Doing projects
  • Meeting with an instructor one-on-one via an online platform or by telephone

The science laboratory requirement, per the Commissioner’s regulations, for courses that culminate in a Regents examination in science must include 1,200 minutes of laboratory experiences for the year’s course.  Due to the possibility of a hybrid or remote learning model as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, this 1,200 minutes can be met through:

  • Hands-on laboratory experiences
  • Virtual laboratory experiences
  • A combination of hands-on laboratory experiences, coupled with satisfactory lab reports for the 2020-2021 year

This laboratory requirement is in addition to the science course requirement and entitles a student admission to a culminating Regents examination.

It is mandated that students continue to follow the New York State Standards path toward completion of coursework that culminates in the New York State Grades 7 and 8 Proficiency Exams, as well as the high school Regents exams in those courses that require them.  Teachers and students will continue instructional experiences that build into their curriculum which may include but not be limited to:

  • Blended learning
  • Digital technology
  • Meaningful and frequent interactions with students and teachers
  • The need for consistent academic expectations
  • Methods of tracking student engagement

As schools are reopened and consideration is made to meet the needs of social distancing, the following are some scheduling options that might be considered. These options are presented in conjunction with the need for teachers and staff to meet for training, support and to discuss individual needs and to share best practices with in-person, remote or hybrid models of learning.

Grading practices will follow a standards-based framework designed to provide direct feedback regarding students’ mastery of course content.

For information relating to teaching and learning in BOCES special education and Career and Technical Education programs, please see the BOCES website [provide link].

In-person:

Teachers will use Google Classroom to post assignments, and advise students of their upcoming news.  It will be the primary means of communication with students and parents, along with the secondary means of school email and SchoolTool email, to keep families abreast of the current classroom academic environment and expectations of accomplishments, i.e. homework, short and long term assignments.

Students will maintain individual “kits” of “high touch” supplies which include but are not limited to:

    • tape, staplers, paper clips
    • highlighters, markers, pens, pencils, erasers

Students will keep these “kits” with them at all times, and if the school returns to remote learning, they will already have their supplies on hand.

Backpacks are to be used at all times; no lockers are allowed.

Hybrid:

Students would alternate between in-person and remote learning.  The first half of students will report to school for four (4) full days each week, while the remaining second half will participate in remote learning at home.  Students will be responsible for logging in to virtual classes and will be provided with assignments to support their learning on the days that they do not report to school.  It will be expected that the remote population would complete all assignments on their ChromeBook and submit through Google Classroom.  

Potential Daily Schedule:

  • Students attend school for face-to-face instruction four (4) days each week on an A/B rotating schedule
  • Instruction will be provided using longer periods (block schedule model) to reduce the number of instructional spaces and student contact exposures each day. 
  • On the “off” week of the rotating schedule, during at-home instruction days, students will be required to participate in classroom work remotely and complete assignments.
  • On the fifth (5th) day of instruction teachers will provide remote learning to all students.

Instruction will be aligned with the outcomes in the New York State Learning Standards.

During in-person instruction, prepare students with the skills and knowledge they will need when working remotely.

Students will maintain individual “kits” of “high touch” supplies which include but are not limited to:

    • tape, staplers, paper clips
    • highlighters, markers, pens, pencils, erasers

Students will keep these “kits” with them at all times, and if the school returns to remote learning, they will already have their supplies on hand.

Backpacks are to be used at all times; no lockers are allowed.

Access to other RCSD City partnerships, including but not limited to city library, community centers, and religious centers, that have WiFi or hotspots for students to complete online assignments or engage in remote learning activities.

Remote:

In the event school buildings are compelled to close, school will resume remotely. (This model will be available for individual students who cannot yet return in-person.)

Parents and students will ensure that there is a working computer and WiFi/hotspot available to them for the entire school day.

Teachers must prepare for remote learning by planning individualized projects that can connect and reinforce in-person classroom learning.

Teachers will plan for how a student is to go about his/her day in attending remote classes, completing assignments, receiving feedback and tracking progress.

Instruction will be aligned with the outcomes in the New York State Learning Standards.

Access to other RCSD City partnerships, including but not limited to city library, community centers, and religious centers, that have WiFi or hotspots for students to complete online assignments or engage in remote learning activities.

School Schedule:

In-Person Instruction:

  • All students will follow the regular bell schedule 
  • Specials and Science & Math Labs will be included in the day’s instruction
  • All class periods during the day – Periods 1 through 8
  • Lunch/Restroom Breaks with staggered times to ensure social distancing
  • Passing in hallways to other classes staggered to ensure social distancing

 

Hybrid Instruction:

  • All students will follow a Week #1/Week #2 schedule
  • Regular bell schedule will apply
  • Two (2) to Four (4) class periods per day
  • Cohorts will comprise a single period class size that are able to be socially distanced
  • Priority will be given to Special Education students, ENL students, and students with other disabilities where possible.  
  • Students who are in-person will 
    • attend 1-2 classes in the morning with staggered passing in the hallway and appropriate breaks
    • Eat lunch in classrooms or designated smaller areas (no cafeteria) with appropriate social distancing
    • Attend 1-2 classes in the afternoon with appropriate breaks
  • Students who are remote will log into their regular classes during regular meet times using Google Meet for instruction.  Attendance will be mandatory.

 

Remote Instruction:

  • On “off” weeks, students will extend learning that has occurred “in-person” and continue with projects and additional practice.
  • Students are expected to log into their classes for Google Meet sessions where teachers are teaching the “in-school” sessions, ensuring instruction that occurs on both A & B weeks
  • Students are expected to upload all completed work to Google Classroom when due and to maintain attendance and passing grades as if they were in attendance on an in-person basis.

Potential Schedule #1 – Two (2) Classes Per Day

  • Breakfast
  • Morning – Class 1
  • Staggered Passing and Lunch
  • Afternoon – Class 2
  • Dismissal

 

Potential Schedule #2 – Four (4) Classes Per Day

  • Breakfast
  • Morning – Class 1 and 2
  • Staggered Passing and Lunch
  • Afternoon – Class 3 and 4
  • Dismissal


Special Education

The Rensselaer City School District Committee of Special Education (CSE) is committed to providing students with disabilities a high-quality free appropriate public education in alignment with a learner’s Individual Educational Plans (IEPs). As a district we are committed to addressing the individual needs of students with disabilities and will provide training, resources and tools to support the CSE in determining the needed services. For families choosing Remote Learning,  special education teachers will ensure that the district’s online program is individualized for each student in the Remote Learning environment. Special education and related services as identified in the IEP during Remote Learning may be provided in a variety of ways including the use of telephone calls, instructional support materials, internet based or virtual lessons and/or virtual therapies, and other available distance-based learning approaches. 

The district will communicate with the preschool providers on a regular basis and will be aware of which instructional method the provider is using to provide programming and services to  the preschool students with disabilities. The preschool providers will continue to progress monitor and send the district the progress monitoring reports quarterly following the already established procedures, a copy is also mailed by the preschool provider to the parents.

Our district will take the following actions to ensure the needs of students are addressed: 

  •  Teachers and administrators will review students’ baseline data in order to determine present level and learning gaps.
  • Educators will review student’s progression toward IEP goals and objectives.
  • Students with Disabilities who participate in less restrictive programming such as integrated co-teaching, consultant teacher services, and a period of the special class will follow the same hybrid model as their general education peers, supported by their special education teacher/case manager daily.
  • Amend current IEP’s  if needed for additional supports or services.
  • Ensure delivery of related services and supports (speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, school counseling).  When and if possible, these services will be scheduled with students during in-person days and will occur in accordance with each student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
  • Progress monitoring assessments may be conducted utilizing diagnostic assessments and curriculum-based measures.
  • Schedule and hold all meetings and complete all evaluations that were postponed due to requirements of social distancing for in-person meetings.
  • Provide ongoing communication and collaboration with parents.
  • Hold CSE/CPSE meetings, including parents and all appropriate IEP team members to conduct annual reviews. These may take place utilizing Google Meets, Zoom or telephone conference calls. Teams may meet in-person if CDC guidelines allow.

Social Distancing:

Students will be socially distanced to the greatest extent possible. When it is not possible to socially distance, students should engage in more frequent hand washing and wear masks/face covering. 

Personal Protective Equipment:

Understanding that there may be students, due to the nature of their disabilities, who will not be able to wear a mask/face covering, staff in those cases may wear a mask and face shield. Therapists, teachers and other staff working with students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing, will need to wear a shield and not a mask to ensure proper communication. Shields will also be used by Speech and Language Therapists when providing speech therapy. 

Student Instructional Components:

Social narratives, a tool for teaching a skill that presents information in an understandable and repeatable way, and visuals will be provided to staff upon return to school and will be included in instruction. These social narratives will be focused on developing an understanding of social distancing and safety protocols. Visuals will be provided for lining up, washing hands, and wearing a mask/face covering. These routines will be practiced during the school day.

Equipment and Material Cleaning:

Where possible, students should have individual sensory items and classroom tools (e.g. pencils, crayons, etc.) These items should be in separate containers. If items or equipment must be shared, cleaning of equipment must occur between students. Time for cleaning must be planned for between activities. Students should also have seperate supplies for remote instruction times. Supplies will not be traveling to and from school.

Sensory/Cool Down/Therapy Spaces:

Anything that cannot be thoroughly cleaned, between students, must be removed and/or not used (e.g. ball pits, tunnels, playdough, etc.).  If more than one student is in the room, students must be socially distanced. Refrain from sharing equipment to the maximum extent possible. Equipment including exercise/stability balls and other devices must be cleaned between students following the proper cleaning protocol.

Transportation:

The transportation of special needs students may be a concern because some students will have issues with spitting, screaming, biting and other behaviors that spread COVID-19.

  • Transporting of special needs students will be important to ensure that there will be no violations with IDEA (IEP and 504 students)

Remote Learning Parental Guidance:

Communication is paramount between home and school.  It is even more important when working with students with disabilities.  Therefore it is imperative that parents are involved in their child’s education, especially when it comes to Remote Learning.  Below are some suggested guidelines to ensure routine and structure:

  • Make sure your student understands the work expectations Remote Learning
  •  Maintain a daily routine around school and schoolwork.
  • Keep in touch with your teacher(s) on a regular basis and let them know if your child is experiencing specific challenges.
  • Talk to your child regarding how they are feeling during this stressful time.
  • Perform check-ins with your child regarding academics, this includes checking their SchoolTool online gradebook to ensure they are current with their assignments.
  • Seek assistance from school staff for emotional or mental health if needed.
  • Reach out to your child’s teacher or student services staff with any changes that may impact your child’s success. This way we can develop supports for your child prior to the first day of school.
  • Parents may be required to pick up instructional materials (textbooks, etc.) Remote Learning. Schools will contact parents if this is the case for their student

For more information about meaningful parent engagement regarding the provision of services to a child to meet the requirements of the IDEA, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.


Bilingual Education and World Languages

During the 2019-2020 school year English Language Learners and their families were faced with extreme challenges during COVID 19. Families struggled with understanding the procedures and requirements of remote learning. The goal for the Rensselaer City School District is to make any form of instruction a success for English Language Learners. Not only does this include support for families, but also for that of teachers and administrators. Formulation of a plan for the students in any required or mandated type of learning, should help increase success and growth for these learners.

Goals:

  • Provide support for students and families in their home language based on requirements of Part 154.
  • Provide teachers with continued support in Professional development and classroom assistance and support to enrich ELL learning.
  • Use ELL Blueprint for Success to support teachers with hybrid instruction and best practices when working with ELLS.
  • Support ELL learners in all aspects of learning (In-person, hybrid, remote instruction) to ensure growth in the area of English Language acquisition.
  • To assess and support Newcomer ELLs through the use of NYS Testing requirements (NYSITELL), and SIFE screening.
  • To assist families through the use of interpretation and translation when needed to better understand the school procedures and requirements during the COVID- 19 school closures or procedures.

Objectives:

  • Use proper identification to ensure all new ELLs are screened upon entering the school year as needed.
  • To screen incoming Kindergarten students during the Summer 2020, to ensure proper placement and supports will be ready for the upcoming school year.
  • Use all available resources and support to translate and interpret information to families through the use of translators, interpreters and community volunteers.
  • Use satellite locations to support ELLs during remote or hybrid instruction as need to continue their mandated supports and promote growth.
  • To develop a strong list of interpreters to directly help teachers and administrators to communicate with families as needed to increase success and understanding.
  • To have an accurate schedule to best support each student’s needs and mandated time requirements.

Procedures:

  • Administer NYSITELL to any new student entering the district during the COVID 19 closures or new school year.
  • Compile a list for teachers and administrators as a resource for professional development in regard to ELLs to better support their teaching efforts. (RBERN, local PD, NYS Professional Development Opportunities).
  • Provide written translation for families in regard to their child’s current ELL status, providing them information of the services that their child will receive during the instructional school year.
  • Provide teachers and administrators with a current ELL schedule for Instructional time needed for each student.
  • Develop a district-wide list of current ELLs, preferred languages, and other pertinent information for teachers, administrators and staff to better support students and families.

Measures of Success:

  • NYSITELL completion for possible ELLs that enter the district during the current school year or during the COVID 19 closure.
  • Translated documents for families
  • Use of other forms of district- approved assessments for ELA to increase success and growth.
  • To provide schedules that accurately meet the mandated requirements for each ELL.

For more information about regular communication and engagement with parents/guardians of English-language learners, visit the Communication/Family and Community Engagement section of our reopening plan.


Staff

Teacher and Principal Evaluation System

All teachers and principals will continue to be evaluated pursuant to the district’s approved APPR plan.

Certification, Incidental Teaching and Substitute Teaching

All teachers will hold valid and appropriate certificates for teaching assignment, except where otherwise allowable under the Commissioner’s regulations (e.g., incidental teaching) or education law.

 

Key References

·         State Education Department Issues Guidance to Reopen New York State Schools (July 16, 2020)

·         State Education Department Presents Framework of Guidance to Reopen New York State Schools (July 13, 2020)

·         Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, NYS Department of Health (July 13, 2020)

Additional References

·         Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (June 26, 2020)

·         Interim Guidance for Food Services during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. (June 26, 2020)

·         Interim Guidance for Office-Based Work during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. (June 26, 2020)

·         Interim Guidance for Public Transportation Activities during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. (June 26, 2020)

·         New York State Department of Health Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

·         New York State Education Department Coronavirus (COVID-19)

·         Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus (COVID-19)

·         Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 Website