Teaching & Learning
The school calendar typically includes one or more staff-only days before students arrive at school. Acknowledging the challenges that our teachers and staff have faced this spring delivering remote instruction under stressful circumstances, the district will focus these in-service days on providing support to staff in the areas of social-emotional health and technology integration. North Colonie is currently considering how many days we will need to use prior to students starting in-person, as the transition back to school will necessitate a great deal of coordination, meeting, learning and preparing for all involved.
These days will also be utilized for student orientation. This time will allow small groups of students to meet with their new teacher and begin to establish the relationship necessary for a successful school year.
As we enter the new school year, teachers will be encouraged to spend time building relationships, supporting students with the transition back to school, and teaching social distancing etiquette at developmentally appropriate levels.
When a remote or hybrid learning model is necessary, certain groups of students will be prioritized for in-person learning to the greatest extent possible. This includes, but is not limited to, special education students, English language learners, students who did not engage in remote learning during the spring of 2020, and students with technology or connectivity needs.
Assessing student learning gaps or areas of need will be critical. Formative assessment before a unit of instruction to assess student understanding of pre-requisite skills will be common practice.
Acknowledging that the typical content in a given grade level or course may need to be adjusted, content will be prioritized to ensure that students receive instruction for the prioritized learning standards, key understandings, and skills necessary for students’ success in future study.
Grading practices will follow a standards-based framework designed to provide direct feedback regarding students’ mastery of course content.
If parents are not comfortable sending their child to school, they will have the option to keep their child home for remote learning. This remote option may be staffed by North Colonie employees, by other Capital Region educators through a Capital Region BOCES collaborative, or a combination of the two. The district intends to send to all families a summary of our K-12 school reopening plan, the terms and conditions for the remote learning option and a survey asking them to select the in-person (elementary)/hybrid (secondary) model or remote model. We will send this communication both electronically and hard copy through the mail to ensure that we reach all households. For those who prefer to complete the hard copy, they may mail it back or drop it off at one of our specially designed mailboxes throughout the district.
Once a family has made their decision, students will be required to follow that plan for an entire semester. Parents who are choosing the remote option will need to notify the district by August 21 in order for us to plan accordingly.
In-person Instruction (including school schedules)
Upon reopening, the number of students in each of our classrooms will be reduced to adhere to CDC guidance regarding proper social distancing. Class size will reflect the need to ensure that students’ desks/seats are positioned no less than six feet apart.
Accommodating a six-foot radius around students will necessitate the identification of additional rooms and common-area spaces that can be converted into elementary classrooms.
We plan to utilize all corners of each of our buildings to ensure that we provide the necessary social distancing. In this scenario, our teachers will move whenever possible, rather than our students. Our need to create smaller groupings will potentially impact the number of adults a student will see during the day, in particular at grades K-6. For example, the classroom teacher will split his/her day between two groups, rather than remain with one. As a result, part of the student day will be spent with additional faculty/staff who will be responsible to teach and supervise.
All instruction will continue to be aligned to the New York State Learning Standards.
Our schools will minimize the movement of students. This potentially means having students eat lunch in their classroom instead of the cafeteria and eliminating assemblies, field trips and other large-group activities. Special-area subjects (e.g., art, music, physical education) may be pushed into the classroom. Whenever possible students will utilize outside space for physical education instruction. We will adhere to 12 feet between students when engaging in physical activity.
To the extent possible, students will remain in small cohorts if/when leaving the classroom, such as for recess or any necessary transition, so as to reduce their exposure to additional students.
Below you will find a synopsis of our K-12 scheduling:
- Elementary students (K-6) will have 5 hours of in-person instructional time daily.
- 7th and 8th graders will have 3.5 hours of in-person instructional time daily. (Students will have additional remote work responsibilities with teacher support.)
- 9th-12th graders will have 3.5 hours of in-person instructional time, with a 2 days on and 2 days off rotation. (Students will have additional remote work responsibilities with teacher support.)
In broad terms, please refer to the synopsis below to see how the blocks of time break down at our different levels, K-12, in an effort to better understand our student experience:
- Elementary classroom cohorts (no larger than 15), grades K-3, will receive 2.5 hours of direct instruction daily. In the 2.5 hour block students will receive instruction in ELA, math, science and social studies. In the second half of the school day students will have special area classes, small group instruction and independent work time
- Elementary classroom cohorts, grades 4-6, will receive instruction in three, one hour blocks. In the three blocks students will be learning ELA, math, sci/ss. Students will have special area classes over the course of their school week
- In grades 7-8 students will complete a full day over the span of two half days. For example, on one half day a student may attend math, world language and an exploratory class and the following half day the student may attend English, social studies and an additional exploratory class
- In grades 9-12 our high school students will attend a full eight period day over the course of two half-days. For example, a student would attend periods 1-4 one day and attend periods 5-8 the following day
Given the possibility that communities may experience spikes in COVID-19 cases at any point during the school year, which may prompt short or long-term school closures, our district has developed a hybrid/blended learning model and schedule that can continue as is in a fully remote environment.
Instruction will not only focus on “core” subject areas to the exclusion of elective courses. Consideration has been given to prioritizing hands-on and lab-based activities while students are onsite in school buildings. All instruction will continue to be aligned to the New York State Learning Standards.
As noted previously, student schedules will remain the same whether instruction is in person or remote so that students do not encounter conflicts wherein synchronous lessons for different subjects are offered simultaneously.
Remote learning opportunities for secondary students will include a greater emphasis on synchronous instruction, with teachers finding ways to provide live instruction and lessons to students. While recording of live lessons is still essential for students unable to attend at a scheduled time, teachers will ensure that their students are directly engaged with them and their class peers in experiential learning on a regular basis.
To ensure high-quality remote learning experiences, we will standardize the use of a single online learning platform, to the extent possible, and develop a common, coordinated set of guidelines for teachers to follow when using the platform with students.
Grading practices for K-6 will follow our previously established standards-based framework designed to provide direct feedback regarding students’ mastery of course content. As has been our practice, we will use a four point scale grading rubric based to report to parents on a trimester basis.
Grading practices for 7-12 will follow our previously established framework with letter grades used for grades 7 and 8 and number grades used for grades 9-12. Parents will receive reports on student progress every five weeks and will receive the aforementioned letter or number grade report every ten weeks. Both the progress update and the grade report will be a means by which teachers communicate to parents their child’s mastery of course content.
North Colonie will be using one platform for our remote learning, Google Classroom. We have developed short videos to aid families who need support in how to best navigate the platform. Teachers will also be available during ‘office hours’ should there be questions about an individual teacher’s classroom.
For our K-8 classrooms we will be utilizing the Google Classroom Calendar that is a part of their Google Classroom(s) to ensure that families, along with each student, will be able to see what is due and when. The Google Classroom Calendar will take the place of the daily planner that students have taken back and forth to school for years for organizational purposes.
K-3 elementary classrooms will use a common template (Google Slides) where all subjects can be viewed in one location within each teacher’s Google Classroom. Furthermore, our plan is to have links to special areas in the same location for one single point of access for families.
For grades 4-8 we will look to have a grade level team website that will guide and inform families of the activities for the week and to provide a direct link to their teachers’ Google Classrooms. This site can also include special areas such as music, physical education library and art.
At grades 9-12, with so many different classes/electives involved, students will continue to need to communicate with their teachers by navigating individual Google Classrooms, set up by each teacher.