School Reopening Update: Virtual Town Hall Planned for July 29; Summary of State Reopening Guidance

The Reopening Task Force will hold a virtual town hall on Wednesday, July 29, at 6 p.m. to provide an update on our reopening planning, gather feedback, and answer the questions we can at the time. More details about how to access the town hall will be shared via e-mail and on the website by the end of this week.

The Niskayuna Central School District School Reopening Task Force continues to work on the District’s plan for the fall of 2020. School district reopening plans are due by July 31. This week, the New York State Education Department and New York State Department of Health released guidance including the required elements of school reopening plans. We are sharing some highlights below so that our school community can begin to become familiar with the parameters that will shape the 2020-21 school year.

Summary of State Reopening Guidance

The following information is from the New York State Department of Health Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and the New York State Education Department’s Guidance to Reopen New York State Schools.

Face Coverings/PPE & Social Distancing

  • Face coverings are strongly recommended to be worn by all individuals at all times and must be worn any time appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained and in common areas (e.g. hallways, cafeterias) and on school buses.

  • Students are allowed to remove their face coverings during meals, instruction, and for short breaks so long as they maintain appropriate social distance.

  • Districts must take steps to ensure social distancing for any activities on-site. The DOH defines appropriate social distancing as six feet of space in all directions.


Health Screening

  • Anyone who enters a building must have their temperature checked daily and the Department of Health is encouraging remote screenings at home prior to students departing for school. Anyone who has a temperature greater than 100.0 degrees will need to stay home.

  • The screening process will include additional questions to help identify individuals who may have COVID-19 or may have been exposed to it.


Instruction

  • Schedules included in plans must address in-person instruction, remote instruction, and hybrid instruction. Plans must provide for continuity of learning despite instructional method, including substantive daily interaction.

  • In planning for various approaches and models, school plans should indicate if certain students will be prioritized to return to in-person instruction first or more frequently based on educational or other needs.

  • School officials should make every effort to “cohort” students to limit potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Cohorts, particularly for younger students, should be self-contained, preassigned groups of students with reasonable group size limits.

  • The district will need to make provisions for internet access for those who need it. Note: Our Returning Student Registration process taking place later this month will ask families about internet access. It is critical that you complete this form as soon as it is available.


Mental Health & Social and Emotional Support

  • Reopening plans will include details on how the district will support students with transitioning back to the school setting
.

Transportation

  • On the school bus, students will need to wear face coverings and social distance (unless members of the same household).
  • The Department of Health Guidance states that districts should encourage parents to drive students to and from school or have them walk in order to reduce density on buses. Note: Our Returning Student Registration process taking place later this month will ask families about transportation plans. It is critical that you complete this form as soon as it is available.

Food & Nutrition

  • Districts must provide for on-site and remote food services for students.

  • Food and nutrition plans must also identify how students will wash hands before and after eating and how the sharing of food will be discouraged.

  • Students, faculty, and staff must observe social distancing while eating meals in school


Hygiene, Cleaning & Disinfecting

  • Districts will follow and promote hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection guidance set forth by DOH and CDC. 


Athletics, Events, Extracurriculars

  • Reopening plans must also address policies regarding field trips, special congregate events, and visitors, as well as extracurricular and interscholastic athletic programs and which activities will be allowed. (As a note, interscholastic sports are not permitted at this time; however, additional information on athletic activities is expected. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced on July 16, 2020 that it was delaying the start of its fall season to Sept. 21, 2020.)