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BH-BL gives parents choice to keep students home or send back to school

BH-BL gives parents choice to keep students home or send back to school

District also says it's considering delaying kindergarten start to January
BH-BL gives parents choice to keep students home or send back to school
Art teacher Christine Layden waves to students during the BH-BL reverse parade at the high school, Monday, June 1, 2020.
Photographer: Stan Hudy

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake families will have the choice to keep their students home for “fully virtual school” or send them to school for what would likely be a combination of in-person and remote instruction this fall, according to plans outlined on the district’s website.

The district highlights that students who opt for in-person instruction may have to do some schooling remotely, depending on how many actually opt for in-person school.

While the district also said it is “considering delaying the start of kindergarten to January 2021” and asks parents of incoming kindergarten students to offer input into the idea on a parent survey, it did not provide any other details about its kindergarten plans.

As the state finalized and released guidance this week for school districts planning for the new academic year, the first tangible details about what the school year will look like in the Capital Region have started to emerge from districts looking to keep parents appraised of their ongoing planning efforts.

The Shenendehowa Central School District on Thursday released a “reopening framework” that outlined plans to offer the district’s K-6 students daily, in-person instruction in school, while splitting older students to alternate between two days in school and two days working remotely. The framework also detailed numerous precautions the district plans to take to monitor student health and maximize social distancing.

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The initial details of BH-BL's plan give families in the district the broad outlines of how the district is thinking about the new school year.

“We know that all parents have unique circumstances and strong feelings about what is best for their child,” Superintendent Patrick McGrath said in a message on the district website. “We are trying to develop a plan that is responsive to each family’s needs.”

The district refers to the two options – fully virtual or in-person – as “two parallel choices” for the first part of the school year.

For families that select in-person instruction, the district said it plans to limit class sizes to no more than 12 to 14 students to maintain social distancing and allow students to remove face coverings while in classrooms. In order to maintain the small classes, instruction may rely on a hybrid model “whereby students are physically in school one day and learning virtually on another." The plan indicates the district will prioritize daily, in-person instruction for elementary students, while likely utilizing an alternating schedule for middle and high school students.

Families opting for fully virtual school would commit to a full trimester – for elementary students – or a full semester – for middle and high school students. While the district said the semester would conclude on Jan. 29, a date for the last day of the trimester was not indicated. 

The fully-virtual format would include full instruction in core classes covering the same material as in-person classes and would include “live classes on a schedule that students must adhere to.” Virtual students would be held to the same academic requirements as in-person students. The instruction would be paced so that the students could transition back to in-person school in the future.

BH-BL not only continues to its plans next week, targeting the last of week of July to finalize and share a draft with the school board. The district plans to host a virtual forum July 29 to present the plan to the community. Ultimately, the district’s plan, which is due to state officials on July 31, can only go into effect if the Capital Region stays within benchmarks of positive testing rates used to determine if schools can reopen in regions across the state.

“There is still plenty of work that needs to be done and feedback that must be gathered before we finalize our reopening plans for submission to the state,” McGrath said. “However, we want to keep our community informed and let parents know the big picture options we are considering and what it all means for families.”

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