Update on This Summer’s Special Education Extended School Year Program

June 16, 2020

Dear Families,

After careful consideration and review of the New York State Department of Health Guidance for Extended School Year (ESY) programs, as well as CDC guidelines, and in consultation with local public health authorities, I want to let you know that the District has decided that we are unable to offer an in-person ESY program this summer. I know that this is not the news that many of you had hoped for, and I am sorry that the circumstances are not different. However, based on the guidance we have and the short timeline for planning, we did not believe we could meet the minimum health standards for operation. The health and safety of our students and staff is not something that we are willing to risk.

In particular, the guidance calls for a maximum group of 10 students in a classroom; however, we know that this would also involve having multiple adults in the room. As of this time, we have unresolved questions about the appropriate total number of people in a classroom. We have determined that we cannot satisfy both the guidelines and our overall responsibility to maintain a safe setting with as few people in one room as possible.

The guidance further states that student and adult groups should be static to the extent possible. Given that any in-person summer program would rely on staff rotation and substitute teachers, and one or two related service providers generally work with students from all classes, we concluded that it was simply not possible to maintain static groupings. There are also challenges related to meeting personal protective equipment expectations and cleaning and disinfecting protocols, as well as numerous unresolved questions about transportation guidelines, screening procedures for staff and students and other safety procedures.

Given these issues, the risks to our students and staff members and their families, and the limited amount of time available to the District, we have concluded that we are unable to meet the required standards and that the safest course of action at this time is to have a remote program

We are dedicated to using the three weeks ahead to continue our planning to make the remote program the best it can be for our students. This involves learning from our experience this spring and taking steps to increase engagement and connections for students. (Please note that a Special Education family survey about this spring’s virtual experience will be coming out this afternoon.) For the ESY program this summer, each student will be provided a Chromebook and a go-bag with manipulatives so that the online sessions are as interactive as possible. There will be a mix of whole group and smaller group class meetings, academic and social skills and team-building, as well as related service sessions based on your child’s IEP.

We know that being together at school has advantages that the remote setting does not. However, we do believe that this summer session, even virtually, will provide an opportunity for learning and growth.
I again want to emphasize that I know that this is disappointing news for many. There is nothing that I want more than to welcome Niskayuna students back to our schools to work with our teachers and staff members.

I very much appreciate you taking the time to review this letter and your ongoing patience and partnership. Our Special Education Department will be sending you more detailed information about the remote ESY program in the very near future.

I wish you all the best as the school year ends and summer begins.

Sincerely,

Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools