SARATOGA SPRINGS — Parents of students in city schools can choose to keep their children at home this fall as the district plans for a mix of in-person and online education, Superintendent Michael Patton said Tuesday.
“Parents will be given that choice to keep children home and continue with online learning,” Patton said during a virtual forum about the district’s plans for the start of a new school year in September.
Some of the viewers’ questions, though, did not receive definitive answers as Patton indicated district officials were still ironing out details around school schedules, grading policies and what would happen to a class of students if one tested positive for COVID-19.
As parents decide whether to keep their students home, district officials still haven’t specified whether parents would have to commit to a certain amount of time – the entire fall semester, for instance – or could decide to return to in-person school after a few weeks of staying home.
The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District last week also outlined plans that allow parents to choose to keep their students home and would receive dedicated virtual education, but those parents had to commit to keep their child learning virtually through the semester.
Patton said officials were still working out the details of online learning but said it would not be possible to let families choose on a day-to-day basis whether they wanted their children at home or in school.
He said the district was still deciding how best to assess student learning in the different educational formats: whether the district would continue to grade students based on completing work or would return to traditional numerical grades.
Patton also promised forthcoming information on what school schedules will look like in the fall, suggesting officials were outlining what the school day would look like for teacher and students under the different models. He also said the district was considering adding a second day of training and preparation for teachers returning to work after the summer break, which would push the first day of school for students back one day.
Saratoga Springs and districts across the region and state are working to quickly detail how they plan to overcome a litany of logistical challenges in getting students back to school in September. Patton said parents would be enlisted to support the district’s efforts to monitor student health and take daily temperature checks. He promised the district would work to make accommodations for individual students’ special health needs.
District officials have solicited input from families and community members with online surveys, including one that received around 2,500 responses, and plan to host another virtual forum to present more concrete details of the reopening plans. They also said they would take questions from Tuesday’s events and include answers in a document they are preparing to address common concerns and questions in the community.