The Shenendehowa Central School District plans to bring primary grade students back to school for daily, in-person instruction in September, while splitting its secondary students to alternate between in-person and remote instruction.
The different grade level plans – with K-6 students at school daily and 7-12 students alternating between two days in school and two days at home – was part of a “reopening framework” released Thursday and appears to mark the first major district in the region to specify the form its planned fall return would take for students – assuming the region stay with reopening benchmarks.
The district plans to repurpose “all school spaces” for instructional use, including cafeterias, in order to maintain social distancing with students and educators back in school buildings. In a nod to the staffing challenges of reducing class sizes for social distancing, the district suggested its planning some time for primary students to conduct independent or remote learning under the supervision of a non-teacher while in school.
“The traditional instructional program will be modified with students learning from classroom teachers and at other times supervised by school personnel during times of independent or remote/livestream instruction from within the school building,” according to the framework.
Students in 7-12 grades will come to schools for two consecutive days while other students learn from home and vice versa, under the framework. In the secondary grades, the district is planning to provide instruction using longer periods than usual and potentially staggering passing times to minimize student interaction and maximize social distancing.
When learning virtually, students will be expected to complete assignments or log in for remote lectures, depending on the subject being taught. Students in an English class may be assigned independent reading or writing, while students in a math class my be asked to watch the lesson live from home, according to an example outlined in the framework.
The district’s plan calls for daily in-person instruction for students in self-contained, special education programs, which are typically smaller than other classes, and the continuation of other special services like English language support or speech therapy.
Shenendehowa did not make a district official available for an interview Thursday, but in response to a question about why younger students are targeted for more in-person instruction, district spokeswoman Kelly DeFeciani highlighted the difficulty of keeping young students at home and getting them to work at home. She also said it is more feasible to have elementary students in school because they remain in one class throughout the day.
“The provision of a quality education while maintaining a safe and healthy environment for students and staff is the objective of the district,” she said in a statement.
The district will continue to detail is reopening plan over the coming weeks and has scheduled a slate of livestreamed panel discussions on what the fall will look like. Parents are guardians are welcome to join events schedule for July 21 and July 22, both running from 6:30-8 p.m. Separate panel discussions are also planned for district teachers and staff.
Shenendehowa’s framework draws on school reopening guidelines released by the state Department of Health earlier this week, indicating secondary students will not use lockers, hallway traffic will be limited to one direction as much as possible, filed trips will be prohibited and other precautionary measures.
The district’s framework comes as state officials this week laid out guidelines for districts as they make plans for the new school year, including whether and how to bring students back to school for in-person instruction. State Department of Health guidance suggests district consider prioritizing younger students for in-person instruction and includes many of the measures and precautions outlined in the district’s framework.
Other districts have started to plan for the fall and many district officials have started to communicate the different options under consideration, including in-person, remote and mixed instruction models, but few have laid out specifics differentiating grade-level plans yet.
But the scramble to finalize plans in time for a July 31 deadline to submit to state officials can begin in earnest after the state Education Department on Thursday afternoon released a 145-page guidance document outlining what districts must include in their own plans.
The guidance outlines best practices and requirements – like social distancing and face coverings – for districts as they look to reopen schools for the fall but also aims to offer districts enough flexibility to plans for district-level circumstances. The broad outlines of the guidance were presented at Monday’s Board of Regents meeting.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week also spelled a formula he intends to use to determine if schools can open in September. The decision, which will be made region by region, depends on the rate of positive test results within a particular region. If the region’s 14-day average for positive Covid test results is 5 percent of less, schools can reopen; if that rate increases to 9 percent or more on a 7-day average, schools cannot reopen or have to close. Cuomo said he plans to announce those decisions about fall reopening during the first week of August.