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Communication and Engagement

Back to Reopening Plan homepage | Communication with ELL Families | School Closures

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 forums/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 www.northcolonie.org, and will be updated throughout the school year, as necessary, to respond to local circumstances. The link to the plan appears on the website homepage and on the “Reopening Our Schools- Updates and Information” webpage. 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 G-Translate feature available in the upper right hand corner of the district website in the following languages: English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Ukranian, Urdu and Vietnamese.

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 continue to use its existing communication channels – including the district’s website, School Messenger emails, text messages when necessary, the parent portal, internal district email and written communication materials – 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. 

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Communication with families of English Language Learners and Language Access

  • In alignment with Principle 5 of the NYS Blueprint for ELL/MLL Success (“Districts and schools value all parents and families of ELLs/MLLs as partners in education and effectively involve them in the education of their children by… engaging parents as active participants”), the district will maintain regular communication with the parents/guardians and other family members of ELLs to ensure that they are engaged in their children’s education during the reopening process. All communication for parents/guardians of ELLs will be in their preferred language and mode of communication. As was the case during the spring, all district communication regarding safety protocols and/or potential closings will be sent to individual families in their preferred language, and will be available on the district website in the most frequently requested languages spoken in the district.
  • Interpretation and translation by a qualified interpreter/translator will continue to be provided for all ELLs and their families when needed, to include, but not limited to: online or on-site parent-teacher meetings, Language Proficiency Team meetings, ENL parent orientation, etc.
  • Links to NYSED informational videos, including the Parents’ Bill of Rights, will be shared with all families of ELLs via our North Colonie ENL Parent Resources Google site.
  • Our annual ENL Parent Orientation meetings will be held either virtually, or onsite in compliance with the Governor’s Executive Orders and Center for Disease Control (CDC) health and safety guidelines. Whether virtual or on-site, interpreters will be provided for all families as requested.
  • Important information and updates will also be available to families in multiple languages on our North Colonie ENL Parent Resources Google site.

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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 rely on the district’s website, School Messenger emails, internal district email, the parent portal and written communication materials 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 will share will be based on state guidance and our parents who attended three virtual town halls on July 15, 23, and 30, the Parents Advisory Council (PAC), the North Colonie Teacher Association (NCTA), the Administrators Association of North Colonie (AANC), the Instructional Support Administrators of North Colonie (ISAANC), the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), and our Board of Education

In support of remote learning, the district will make computer devices available to students and teachers who need them. All teachers will be assigned a district-owned laptop computer, and all students grades K-12 will be assigned a district-owned Chromebook. The district will provide students and their families with multiple ways to contact schools and teachers during remote learning, including teacher and principal email addresses, communications apps such as Bloomz and Remind, and district emails created specifically for remote learning questions, such as instruction@ncolonie.org; health@ncolonie.org; foodservice@ncolonie.org; athletics@ncolonie.org; HR@ncolonie.org ; PPS@ncolonie.org; facilities@ncolonie.org; transportation@ncolonie.org. All of these emails will immediately be funneled to a point person with expertise in the area.  Finally, since the closure in March, we have directed our parents to the COVID-19 dedicated section of our website. That section is now named Reopening Our Schools and will be the source of all updated information, as well as an archive of the superintendent’s weekly letters to members of our community.  

The district will use existing internal and external communications channels to notify staff, students and families/caregivers about in-person, remote and hybrid school schedules with as much advance notice as possible. This information will be shared throughout the district through its existing communication channels – including the district’s website, School Messenger emails, internal district email and written communication materials as needed. The district’s plan will be posted on the website by no later than July 31, 2020 and will be updated as needed.

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The district will follow its existing engagement and communication protocols with parents regarding the provision of special education services for their child. Through a contract with Frontline (IEP Direct), our school district works within the system to utilize interpretative services so that all documentation (e.g. – IEP’s, evaluations, Prior Written Notices) is in the student’s and family’s preferred language. 

The committee on special education (CSE) utilizes interpreters to attend meetings for students and families where needed. Our interpreters work with our families during meetings to ensure understanding of processes and services. 

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. 

  • In alignment with Principle 5 of the NYS Blueprint for ELL/MLL Success (“Districts and schools value all parents and families of ELLs/MLLs as partners in education and effectively involve them in the education of their children by… engaging parents as active participants”), the district will maintain regular communication with the parents/guardians and other family members of ELLs to ensure that they are engaged in their children’s education during the reopening process. All communication for parents/guardians of ELLs will be in their preferred language and mode of communication. As was the case during the spring, all district communication regarding safety protocols and/or potential closings will be sent to individual families in their preferred language, and will be available on the district website in the most frequently requested languages spoken in the district.
  • Interpretation and translation by a qualified interpreter/translator will continue to be provided for all ELLs and their families when needed, to include, but not limited to: online or on-site parent-teacher meetings, Language Proficiency Team meetings, ENL parent orientation, etc.

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. The district will provide video training as well as signage on a variety of topics. These trainings will cover:

  • Hand hygiene: Frequent hand washing, with soap and water, for a minimum of twenty (20) seconds. Bathrooms have been equipped with paper towels rather than hot air dryers, to reduce the risk of airborne spread. Signage on proper hand washing procedures will be placed in all bathrooms. Additionally, where hand washing is not practicable, hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout the district’s buildings.

  • Proper face covering procedures (how to wear and remove): All staff and visitors will be required to wear an appropriate face covering. Face covering must cover the nose and mouth and extend to the ears. In addition, face shields may be worn overtop of a face mask. Staff are encouraged to supply their own mask but disposable masks will be provided if needed. Students are required to wear a face mask. Exceptions will be made for those students who cannot tolerate wearing a mask due to his/her/their IEP or medical condition. Students will be afforded mask breaks throughout the day. Upon completion of the day, reusable masks should be laundered and disposable masks should be discarded in the appropriate waste receptacles. Training about the proper wearing of masks and their removal/disposal will be provided along with signage throughout the buildings.

  • Social distancing: Social Distancing of six (6) feet is recommended for all faculty, staff and students. Classrooms will be set-up with the appropriate distance between each desk and all desks must face in the same direction. Floor signage will mark the one-way directions in the hallways and clustering of individuals will not be permitted. Student time leaving a classroom will be staggered, as well as arrival and dismissal times, to avoid clustering of a large number of students. Social distancing will also be maintained on the school bus and the playground. Students will be spaced apart on the bus, alternating every other seat. On the playground, students will be instructed to maintain social distancing and physical education instruction will focus on non-interactive activities. Signage reminding students and staff to maintain appropriate social distancing will be posted throughout the buildings.

  • Respiratory hygiene: All students and staff will be trained on appropriate hygiene with regards to coughing and sneezing. When available, students and staff should cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue, discard it immediately in the appropriate trash receptacle and wash his/her/their hands or use hand sanitizer. If a disposable tissue is not available, he/she/they should use the crook of their elbow to cover the sneeze/cough and immediately follow proper hand hygiene procedures.

  • Identifying symptoms: Staff will be trained on how to identify symptoms of a student or staff member who is ill. These include: flushed cheeks, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, fatigue, irritability/extreme fussiness or frequent use of the bathroom. Students who exhibit these symptoms will be sent to the nurse’s office immediately for a health assessment. The student will remain in a separate room where he/she/they will be assessed by a medical professional and then sent home.

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Parents will be provided information on how to appropriately assess their child(ren)’s health condition prior to the student being sent to school. This includes the identification of symptoms and temperature checks. Students who display symptoms must remain out of school until such time that the symptoms are no longer present or he/she/they have a negative COVID test.

Parents/guardians will be responsible for taking the temperature of their student(s) before they come to school. The parent/guardian will also have to attest on an app. that they have taken the temperature and that they have no symptoms. If families are in need of a thermometer, they can email health@ncolonie.org and we will provide them with a thermometer prior to the start of the school year.

All students, staff and visitors will have their temperature checked prior to entering the school building. Temperature readings of over 100°F will be cause for the student or staff member to be sent home. Individuals responsible for conducting the temperature screenings will wear appropriate PPE and will be trained on the use of the contactless thermometers. Individual temperature readings will not be recorded, only the “pass/fail” result.

All staff and visitors will be required to complete a daily “self-attestation” form, preferably prior to their arrival at school. The self-attestation will require the answering of several questions related to their personal health, contact with a COVID positive individual and travel outside of NYS. Any “yes” answers on the self-attestation will require the employee to remain out of work until such time as he/she/they can attest “no” to all questions. For staff without the ability to complete the attestation electronically at home, kiosks stations will be available for their use prior to reporting to their work area. Parents, on behalf of the student(s) will be required to perform the daily self-attestation. 

Parents/guardians of ill students should report the absence to the building secretary per usual procedures. Periodically, parents/guardians will be reminded about assessing the health of their child(ren) prior to sending them to school via the district’s website, School Messenger and the parent portal.

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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 through additional means such as the district’s website, school messenger and the parent portal.

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 are outlined in the Health & Safety section of our reopening plan

The district will post on the district’s website, School Messenger emails and in the parent portal information about our safety measures and containment. 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.

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School Closures

The district is preparing for situations in which one or more school buildings need to close due to a significant number of students or staff testing positive for COVID-19 or a considerable regional increase in COVID-19 cases.

As we did in March, we will monitor daily building, grade level, and staff attendance. The families of all students who are absent from school will be called by our attendance secretaries to confirm the reason for absence.  Any report of absence is potentially COVID-19 related will be  shared with the District’s COVID-19 Coordinator.  

All staff will complete a daily attestation which will alert us to any possible interactions with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.  Our COVID-19 coordinator will report all spikes in absences as well as all possible exposures to COVID-19 to the Albany County Department of Health. The District will follow all advice provided by the Albany County Department of Health.  Additionally, the District Communication’s Team will follow Albany County Executive Dan McCoy’s daily press conferences as well as any press conferences by Governor Cuomo in order to stay apprised of regional metrics.

The district may choose to modify operations in one or more schools prior to closing to help mitigate a rise in cases. The district will consult its school physician and local health department when making such decisions. 

School building administrators will communicate with each other regularly and, if needed, will consider closing school if absentee rates impact the ability of the school to operate safely. The District Chief Information Officer will compile daily student attendance reports by building and grade level while the District’s HR office will compile daily staff attendance reports.  Each will be reviewed daily by the District’s COVID-19 coordinator.  Any spikes in absences or anomalies will be reported to the Superintendent of Schools who will work in consultation with the Albany County Department of Health to determine whether a closing or closures are warranted. Should a closing of a building or a district closure be advised by the Albany County Department of Health, the district would rely on our Communications team to get the information to our families immediately.  This notification will be accomplished through a letter and video message from the Superintendent, a posting on our district website, an announcement made through the School Closings Network, and direct messages through our School Messenger communication system.

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