Reopening Our Schools – Updates and Information

As we work toward the reopening of schools, stay up-to-date on the most recent important updates and information.

Reopening Our Schools Homepage | Stillwater CSD Reopening Plan

Academic Continuity

Attendance | Connectivity | Teacher Certification | Learning Plans | Emergency Closure Days | Communication | English Language Learners | Evaluation

During the course of our discussions with stakeholder groups, a number of different educational models were explored and the feasibility of each model was considered based on the resources available to us, our regional health metrics, and the guidance that we received from the New York State Department of Health and New York State Education Department. As a result of these different factors, we will be focusing on a hybrid modelf that will provide face-to-face education for all students. Depending on grade level, all students will have a full day of in-person learning (grades UPK-1, all self-contained and elementary special education students, all ELL and displaced students), and a blended education model for students in grades 2-12. Social distancing requirements put forth by New York State directly affects the amount of students that we can provide face-to-face learning to at any given time. In order to promote safety, our planning will also cohort students together to the extent that is practicable in order to limit the potential spread of the disease should anyone become infected. 

Given the highly contagious and opportunistic nature of COVID-19, our school district will provide accommodations to individuals who are at a high risk or who live with a person who is at a high risk of complications as a result of COVID-19. Each case will be approached uniquely depending on the individual situation, but potential solutions for these vulnerable populations includes remote learning or telework, modified educational and work settings, or by providing additional PPE to individuals with underlying health conditions. In addition to this, we understand that certain student and staff populations may require modifications to social distancing or PPE based on hearing loss or impairment; receipt of language services, or because they are young students in an early education program. In these scenarios, we may utilize specialized clear face coverings, desk shields, face shields and increased distancing when possible and ensure that any modifications would minimize COVID-19 exposure risk for students, faculty, and staff to the greatest extent possible. 

The school district has given special consideration to the way that we will perform safety and emergency drills throughout the course of the school year while we are required to socially distance. We will still complete our eight evacuation drills and four lockdown drills, but the way that we conduct our drills shall be modified for the upcoming school year. Due to the hybrid nature of our school schedule, we will need to ensure all of our students receive instruction in emergency procedures and participate in drills. In order to ensure the safety of our evacuation drills, we may conduct our drills on a “staggered” schedule by having classrooms evacuate separately rather than all at once to ensure appropriate distancing. To ensure the safety of our lockdown drills we may conduct them in several different ways to enforce social distancing – whether this be through the use of a “staggered” schedule with smaller numbers of students which allows us to maintain social distancing or by conducting a lockdown drill through verbal and visual instruction and providing students an opportunity to ask questions and receive answers about lockdowns. 

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Attendance

We will continue to utilize our student management software system (SchoolTool) to take attendance using the daily attendance feature. Daily and period attendance will be used, depending on the grade level and student schedules. Teachers will also take attendance for remote learning sessions to ensure student engagement. Attendance issues will be addressed immediately to limit lost instruction. 

Connectivity

The district had already completed a staff and student needs inventory for access to reliable internet prior to the spring of 2020. While we knew we had a 97% connection rate, we continued to support staff and students so that all were connected for teaching and learning. This will continue. We will also re-survey to assess high-speed connectivity. All students and staff were provided with a Chromebook in the spring, if they were in need. This fall we plan to provide all students with a District-owned device so that applications can be consistently supplied across devices/ platforms.

Strong communication in the spring provided immediate response to any staff or student in need of devices and/ or internet. This included: multiple pick-up days and home deliveries of devices. Free internet information was provided often to ensure students and staff had access. 

Students will participate in learning in-person, via Google Meet, Zoom and approved other video-conferencing platforms, through recorded videos, 1:1 teacher sessions and office hours, the flipped-classroom model, Google classroom assignments, completion of formative/summative assessments, etc. The district will ensure that training and support materials will be provided for all new platforms used for learning. students, parents and teachers have access to training and support materials. 

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Teacher Certification

In order to assure that all teachers are properly certified, all certified positions are posted on our website, www.scsd.org, and via the Online Application System for Educators (OLAS). Other advertising and recruiting avenues may include print ads through the Times Union or other local papers. Each candidate to be hired is screened, references are checked and verification of certification is ensured. In the unusual event that we are unable to find a properly certified candidate, we would file for a waiver, hire a certified teacher with a related certificate as a substitute teacher and assign them as permanent once they have met the certification criteria.

Learning Plans

In-person continuity of learning plan: We will provide daily, in-person instruction to all students when permissible. This is dependent upon guidance from the NYSED as well as the DOH and all executive orders. 

Remote continuity of learning plan: All students will use either personal or district- provided devices to engage in remote learning, delivered by appropriately certified teachers. Synchronous and asynchronous instruction will be encouraged. Engagement through daily contact, progress and attendance will be monitored. The District will continue to provide rich professional development to enhance teacher capacity for remote instruction.

Hybrid continuity of learning plan: The following hybrid model allows for in-person instruction for every student. The number of weekly in-person instructional minutes varies by grade level. Once the plan is launched in September, building-level instructional teams will monitor the model with the goal of increasing contact time as feasible, given the limitations of space, time and logistics. Families will be provided with a survey regarding intent to follow the hybrid continuity of learning plan as described below or to opt for a fully remote experience. 

Please note that choosing the option for fully remote learning over the District’s hybrid model removes the opportunity for your child to have in-person instruction, thereby impacting the learning experience and direct instructional minutes provided. Additionally, if the fully remote model is chosen, families will be required to commit to a full semester (through January 2021).

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Alignment to the NYS Learning Standards

All models (in-person, hybrid or remote) provide educational programming that is aligned to the New York State Learning Standards. Professional development, in a variety of formats, is planned to enhance teacher efficacy, specifically in the areas of: blended learning, flipped classrooms, social/ emotional support strategies and block scheduling.

*Grade level specifics can be found in Appendix III of this plan. Student schedules and additional information will be sent to families by the end of August. 

UPK through Grade 1: Daily in-person instruction/learning

Grade 2 through Grade 5: In-person instruction/learning on an A/B schedule by cohort while following the guidance as outlined by DOH and NYSED. This allows for five in-person instruction/ learning days for grades 2-5 and five remote instruction/ learning days in a two-week cycle. 

Elementary Special Education Students and ELL Students: Daily in-person instruction/ learning

Grade 6 through 8 Regular Education/ SWD Consultant Teacher/ ELL Students: In-person instruction/learning two days per week. Grade 6 will follow a regular period by period schedule, including specials in the classroom by cohort. Grades 7 and 8 will attend in-person by cohort for core classes (English, math, social studies, science). Remote instruction/ learning three days per week, with allocated periods for foreign language and special area classes. 

Grade 9 Regular Education/ SWD Consultant Teacher/ ELL Students: In-person instruction learning every Monday in an 80-minute block schedule by cohort for each core class (English, math, social studies, science). Remote Instruction/ learning four days per week, with allocated periods for foreign language and special area classes. 

Grade 10 Regular Education/ SWD Consultant Teacher/ ELL Students: In-person instruction/ learning every Tuesday in an 80-minute block schedule by cohort for each core class (English, math, social studies, science). Remote Instruction/ learning four days per week, with allocated periods for foreign language and special area classes. 

Grade 11 Regular Education/ SWD Consultant Teacher/ ELL Students: In-person instruction/ learning every Thursday in an 80-minute block schedule by cohort for each core class (English, math, social studies, science). Remote Instruction/learning four days per week with allocated periods for foreign language and special area classes.

Grade 12 Regular Education/ SWD Consultant Teacher/ ELL Students: In-person instruction/ learning every Friday in an 80-minute block schedule by cohort for each core class (English, math, social studies, science). Remote Instruction/ learning four days per week with allocated periods for foreign language and special area classes.

Grades 6 through 12 Special Education Special Class Students: Daily, in-person instruction four days per week. Remote instruction on Wednesdays.

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Emergency Closure Days

Emergency closure days due to unusual weather or natural/man-made disasters, as needed, may be repurposed as remote learning days for all students grades UPK through 12. Emergency closure procedures will be communicated to students and families so that continuity of instruction occurs on such days.

Communication

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 to 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 share is based on state guidance. 

The District recognizes that open lines of communication are paramount for all instruction/learning to occur. Whether we are providing in-person instruction, a hybrid or remote model, we will consistently provide means for students, families and care-givers to connect with teachers and administrators regarding their needs and/or concerns. The District will rely on regular telephone calls, emails from teachers, counselors and principals, home visits as necessary, virtual meetings. The Communications Team will meet regularly to assess the most practical and effective means of communication.

If we are able to return to school, the first two days of school will be spent on reacclimating students to school. This will include an orientation about safety protocols, personal hygiene, the new school schedule, and expectations to ensure the continuity of their education.

The Stillwater CSD Office of Pupil Personnel Services collaborates with parents, providers, general education and special education teachers and all administrators in planning for students’ IEP programs and services. This is done in a variety of ways including phone conference, virtual and online meetings, email communications, phone calls, and secure online data tracking and communication of student progress, parent concerns, and instructional progress from teachers and providers. Google classrooms of all teachers, providers and the Director of Pupil Personnel Services provides a consistent platform for ensuring all guidance, and updates from the office are communicated consistently and efficiently. This platform is available to all support staff who are supporting students whether in-person, remote and virtual instruction occurs. Where technology itself imposes a barrier for families, an alternative means of communication, typically a home visit and/or phone call. 

Stillwater CSD will ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided with the special education services and related services identified in the IEP. FAPE will be provided consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities by ensuring that all protocols are followed according to the Department of Health, first and foremost, and then supports provided in a manner in which students will receive the services according to their IEPs. In-person services will be provided on a daily basis for students programmed in the most restrictive setting. Therapy will be provided within the special classes, to the best of the district’s ability, and when not able to be provided in-person, therapists are well experienced and knowledgeable with provision of teletherapy services. 

Effective March 2020, all teachers and providers documented these programs and services in an individual log provided by their supervisor in addition to individual documentation in the SchoolTool system. This information is shared with the Director of Pupil Personnel Services on a weekly basis in order to ensure collaboration between all members of the CSE. 

When conducting committee meetings, the parent of a student with a disability and a school district may agree to use alternative means of meeting participation requirements, such as video conferences and conference calls. The parent and the school district may agree not to convene a committee meeting for the purposes of making changes to a student’s IEP after an annual review, and instead may develop a written document to amend or modify the student’s current IEP. In addition, when conducting committee meetings, the parent and school district may agree to use alternative means of participation, such as video conferences and conference calls with parent and school district written consent. If a committee member’s area of service will be discussed or modified at a meeting, but the individual is not able to participate in the meeting, the parent and the district may consent in writing to excuse the individual from all or a portion of the meeting, provided the parent and school district agree. Under federal and State law and regulation, parents may elect to receive prior written notices, procedural safeguards notices, and due process complaint notices by electronic mail communication, if the school district makes that option available. Nothing would prohibit the use of electronic mail to carry out IEP notices, so long as the parent of the student with a disability and the school district agree. School districts may also use electronic or digital signatures for consent, provided they take the necessary steps to ensure that there are appropriate safeguards to protect the integrity of the process. A parent must understand and agree to the carrying out of the activity for which consent is sought. Written consents were sought from parents in the Spring 2020 when in-person instruction ended in March. 

When considering how and when to monitor student progress toward continuous learning goals during an extended school facility closure, IEP teams and educators will identify flexible data collection strategies. In September, all teachers and providers will be trained to monitor progress in a remote manner. This might include having the student take an informal performance assessment, sending an assessment home for the student to complete and return, or having the student send assignments/work samples to the educator (via mail, email, or online platform such as Google docs). Gathering input and information from families is also important.

Students with disabilities provide a unique opportunity for educators to discover flexible and innovative means of instructional delivery. The individual needs and ability (i.e., cognitive, mobility, adaptive) levels of the students are an important factor in instructional design. Educators (with support staff support) may deliver instruction and/or coach families and students using a number of technology platforms, Google, Zoom, etc. For students and families who have access to technology, supplemental activities may include a mix of online activities and handouts. For students and families who lack technology, printed learning materials may be needed. Educators can give students and families instruction via phone, pre-recorded video, email, etc. Providing services itinerantly may also be an option for educators, if families approve, in accordance with current social distancing guidelines. Educators might deliver instruction directly and/or coach the family. Educators should focus on the most salient IEP goals for students with disabilities, and, as case managers, coordinate instruction and lessons with related service providers. Serving students with significant disabilities during an extended school facility closure necessitates ongoing collaboration. Staff may need to provide families with visual schedules, task analysis checklists, and communication pictures/boards that are similar to those used in the classroom when providing services for students with disabilities.

Accessible technology may afford students with disabilities an opportunity to have access to high-quality educational instruction during an extended school closure, especially when continuity of learning is provided through distance learning. For those students with IEPs that include the use of assistive technology in school and home, it would be appropriate to continue to utilize assistive technology as part of continuity of learning. Care should be taken to ensure that school websites are free of barriers that make accessing content and materials difficult for some students with disabilities, including English Language Learners with disabilities. The Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities has posted a statement on its website indicating that it is working on tips and strategies to support teachers, parents, and the students in a virtual environment in light of the shift to increased K-12 online instruction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. 

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English Language Learners

Provisions for providing ELL students meaningful learning is outlined above. It is paramount to ensure lines of communication remain open with parents. As such, the District will provide communications in the parents’ preferred language or mode of communication regarding the provision of services to their child(ren) in order to meet the requirements of IDEA. Coordination with the Office of Bilingual learning allows for all resources to be provided in the parents’ preferred language. CSE/CPSE meetings held online and/or via phone include a person who can interpret all meeting information, student progress, recommendations in the parents’ preferred language. During the past school year, Stillwater CSE held one meeting with a family whose primary language is Spanish; the family was provided an interpreter who is a Spanish-speaking special education teacher in the district. This teacher continues to provide consistent communication on all matters related to the student’s IEP. This teacher has also been able to visit the family’s home to provide technology resources/support, as needed and to ensure the student is able to receive all supplemental aids and services according to his IEP.  The District will use the ELL identification process within 30 school days of the start of the school year for all students who enrolled during COVID-19 school closures in 2019-20, as well as all students who enroll during summer of 2020 and during the first 20 school days of the 2020-21 school year. After this 20 day flexibility period, identification of ELLs will resume for all students within the required 10 school days of initial enrollment as required by Commissioner’s Regulations Part 154. The school district will provide the required instructional Units of Study to all ELL’s based on their most recently measured English-language proficiency level during in-person or hybrid instruction. 

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Evaluation

Our school district’s plan ensures that all teachers and principals will be evaluated pursuant to our currently approved APPR plan, including any variance applications approved by the New York State Education Department. All teachers in our school district shall hold valid and appropriate certificates for their teaching assignments, except where otherwise allowable under the Commissioner’s regulations (e.g., incidental teaching) or Education Law.

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