School Reopening Task Force Work is Underway

While schools across the country face significant uncertainty and a range of potential scenarios for the fall, one thing is for sure in Niskayuna: Reopening our schools will be a community-wide undertaking. Upwards of 385 members of the school community—teachers, parents, residents, staff and students—responded to the invitation to participate in the Niskayuna Reopening Task Force.

These volunteers make up the membership of 23 subcommittees focused on all aspects of the reopening process in light of COVID-19, from transportation and disinfecting procedures to student scheduling, instructional planning and classroom setup. The complete list of subcommittees can be found below and the listing of subcommittees with the definition/charge and names of the chairs can be found on the district website.

More than 280 task force members attended a virtual kickoff meeting earlier this month. At the meeting, Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said that while state guidance around reopening is not yet available, the district needs to be prepared for multiple scenarios for how school will take place in September. 

Given the nature of the COVID-19 situation, this will be a fluid process, with the direction based on the latest available information and state and federal guidance. No decisions about how school will reopen in the fall have been made. At this time, there has been no change to the school calendar for 2020-21, which includes the teacher year beginning on September 1 and instruction will begin on September 8.

The district developed the five stages below as a way to help everyone understand potential operating conditions for the 2020-21 school year. 

  • Full Virtual Learning: Buildings are closed and all learning occurs remotely from home.
  • Partial Opening: Certain student groups/grades/levels are in classrooms (e.g. social distancing, cleaning, masks) while others are fully virtual.
  • Full Opening Blended with Virtual Learning: Buildings are open with restrictions in place. All students will attend school part-time, potentially on rotations or a staggered schedule, and participate in virtual learning part-time.
  • Full Opening with Restrictions: All students are in buildings full-time with restrictions (e.g. social distancing, cleaning, masks)
  • Full Opening Without Restrictions: All students are in buildings with no restrictions due to vaccine/CDC guarantees. 

It is entirely possible that given the fluidity of the COVID-19 situation, schools will spend time in more than one of the above stages during the year.

Communications: How Can You Stay Updated? 

The school district has established a Reopening Our Schools Web Page where all informational updates will be found. 

Additionally, we will use our School Messenger system to send updates via e-mail, text and/or phone as needed through the summer. (If you do not receive updates from the district, please contact techsupport@niskyschools.org to make sure we have the correct contact information on file.)

Reopening Task Force Structure and Process

The chairs of the reopening subcommittees will meet with members of a Reopening Steering Committee every other week this summer. In the near future, many subcommittees will be looking at the feedback provided through the student, family and teacher virtual learning surveys that were recently conducted to inform future plans.

The Reopening Steering Committee will make recommendations related to how schools reopen, as well as practices and protocols designed to mitigate risk, provide for the safety and health of all, promote equity and ensure the best possible academic experience for students. Final decision making on many matters rests with the Board of Education. 

It is expected that all reopening considerations through the summer will be shaped by state and federal guidance, consultation with local health departments and the effort to have the greatest possible coordination among the region’s schools.

“There is nothing we want more than to have our students, teachers and staff members together at school,” said Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. “We know that we must look toward reopening in a way that mitigates risk and provides for best practices in health, safety and instruction and student support. We are thrilled to have the involvement of so many people in this process, and we do believe that this can be a moment where we strengthen our school community despite the challenges and uncertainty ahead. We are all focused on what’s best for students.”

Reopening Subcommittees

  • Athletics
  • Building Supply & Equipment Needs (COVID-19 Supplies)
  • Classroom Setup: Reduce Shared Materials, Common Spaces/Lunch & Recess, Personal Belongings
  • Clubs/Extracurricular
  • Communications & Outreach
  • COVID-19 Employee Procedures: Health Screenings, Employee Attendance Procedures, PPE and Social Distancing Procedures
  • COVID-19 Health & Safety Training
  • Family & Guest Visitation Guidelines
  • Food Distribution
  • Instructional Equity
  • Instructional Planning, Design & Professional Learning
  • International Students
  • Isolation Protocol/Tracing
  • Medically Vulnerable Students/Staff
  • O & M Disinfecting Protocols
  • Planning For SWD and ELLs
  • Policy
  • Scheduling & Student Attendance
  • School Events/ Activities/Calendar
  • Social/Emotional Support & Student Engagement (including staff mental health) 
  • Technology Deployment/ Support
  • Transportation
  • Use of Building Space by Staff