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North Colonie Reopening Plan Introduction

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On Monday, July 13, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that school districts in New York can follow plans to reopen for in-person schooling in September if COVID-19 infection rates stay at 5% or lower in a given region. 

Determinations will be made by region about opening and closing schools as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. If a region is in Phase 4 and has a daily infection rate of 5% or lower over a 14-day average, schools in that region could hold in-person instruction. If daily infection rates exceed 9% over a seven-day average, however, schools in that region would not reopen. Similarly, should a region see such an average after reopening, schools in that region would also be directed to close.

While districts have been instructed to prioritize efforts to return all students to in-person instruction, the district is also planning for remote/distance learning as well as a hybrid model that combines in-person instruction and remote learning. Parents will always have the choice to remain in the remote learning model.

The plan outlined here is for the reopening of schools in the North Colonie Central School District for the 2020-21 school year, following the building closure related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan includes procedures that will be followed in the following schools:

The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school campuses. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

It is possible that we may need to alternate between in-person and remote learning throughout the year due to recommendations and guidance from our partnering agencies, and stay-at-home orders from the Governor. The level of infection, the spread of the virus and response to the disease in our community will be at the forefront of our decision making as we move to open our schools.

Jenna Bongermino, Director of Human Resources will serve as the district’s COVID-19 Coordinator. Mrs. Bongermino will work closely with our local health department, the district’s medical director and the district’s nursing department. She will serve as a central contact for schools and stakeholders, families, staff and other school community members and will ensure the district is in compliance and following the best practices per state and federal guidelines. Mrs. Bongermino can be contacted at Jennabongermino@ncolonie.org and her contact information will be posted on our website.

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A Message from the Superintendent 

Dear North Colonie Community:

Our experience under COVID-19 has been difficult and stressful. As a school community, we have been called on to step up to challenges and respond to a crisis we could not have anticipated in our wildest imaginations. I want to congratulate the entire North Colonie community, students, families, faculty, and staff for their hard work, engagement, flexibility, and compassion in meeting the demands of this unprecedented and historic event. Quite simply, we pulled together and faced our challenges with a strong and positive collective will. We could not have done this work without each other and our gratitude to our community is boundless.

Our plan is predicated on two important pillars, the safety of students, faculty and staff and quality educational programming. To ensure the safety of our staff, the district has relied on guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), and the Albany County Department of Health ACDOH). Guided by best practices in public health and science, we seek not only to meet the minimum required in reopening guidance, but in most cases to exceed such guidance. First and foremost, preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19 is fundamental to our process. We will be proactively implementing steps referenced in Guidance with regard to cleaning protocols, personal hygiene, social distancing, air quality and all other proactive measures recommended in the guidance to ensure the safest possible environment for educating our students.

The second pillar, providing quality educational programming, will be a vital and important task for our entire school community. While we cannot fully replace the quality of the educational experience that existed pre-pandemic, our instructional staff led by Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Skeals have designed a program that fulfills our mandated requirement to provide teaching and learning in three platforms, virtual, hybrid (blended on-line and in-person learning), and fully in-person learning. As such, our elementary students in grades K-6 will be in school daily for five hours of direct instruction. Students in grades K-3 will remain in their local elementary schools while students in grades 4-6 will attend at Shaker Junior High School. 

Grades 7-12 will be educated in a hybrid model. Grades 7-12 will attend Shaker High School for their in-person instruction. Grade 7 and 8 will attend daily for 3.5 hours and complete the rest of their day in on-line learning. Grades 9-12 will be divided into two cohorts, Cohort A and Cohort B. One cohort will attend school in-person two days consecutively for 3.5 hours and complete half their schedule each day while the other cohort works two days consecutively in on-line learning. This alternating two days in-person and two days on-line will be repeated throughout the process. The 3.5 hours in school will be supplemented with scheduled on-line learning as part of the hybrid model.

Critical to this multi-platform design process has been the debriefing done with our administrators, faculty, parents, and students. Through this process, we received valuable input on areas that worked well and on those that were in need of improvement. These lessons learned have been incorporated into our existing plan as we have worked this summer and will continue to work until the start of school to improve upon our delivery of our virtual learning. Thus, students and parents will see a system in place that will include improvements to the following elements:

  • Attention to mental health/social-emotional well-being 
  • Structure and accountability
  • Consistency
  • Accountability
  • Consistent and regularly scheduled in-person instruction 
  • Educating children with special needs
  • Educating English as a new language (ENL) learners
  • Provision for special areas: art, music, athletics, career and technical education (CTE)
  • Establishing opportunities for socialization

We have also been and will continue working toward improvement of our online platform. Our teachers did a remarkable job last spring when they were asked with less than 24 hours notice to “pivot” and develop an on-line platform. They did such and continued to work to improve on this model throughout the mandated closure. Throughout the summer and up to the beginning of the school year, work will continue to improve the virtual experience. Guiding this work are the following:

  • Setting an organized platform for delivery and a more consistent format
  • Providing guidelines for social emotional growth 
  • Creating grading guidelines
  • Establishing synchronous/asynchronous delivery expectations
  • Identifying best practices for remote instruction

One critical facet of our experience during this global pandemic has been the need for flexibility. A constantly changing environment forced all to modify, readjust, and recalibrate. We will continue to be in this environment of change and as a result will continue to modify, update, and improve this reopening document as needed.

Navigating this crisis and establishing this plan has been a testimony to our collaborative North Colonie community. We are grateful for the involvement of our parents who, at the time of this writing, had participated in three virtual town halls on July 15, 23, and 30, the Parents Advisory Council (PAC) who has been meeting weekly since June 4, 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 dedicated members of the Board of Education. Truly, we are all in this together.

Sincerely,

D. Joseph Corr
Superintendent

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