FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
This FAQ page will serve as a resource to students, teachers, and families as they make plans for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year at New Hartford Central School District (NHCSD).
This page will be regularly updated to reflect and incorporate the newest official guidance from state and health department officials. Readers will also find details on the implementation of our district reopening here as well.
Updated October 23, 2020
Decisions on Reopening
Is the decision to reopen school a local or state decision? The decision to reopen New York State schools is a state decision. Based on guidance from the New York State Education Department (SED) and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) every school district in New York State submitted individual reopening plans to New York State.
NHCSD submitted reopening plans, but what happens next? After reviewing all reopening plans, SED, NYSDOH and Governor Cuomo will decide if schools will reopen by August 7, 2020. SED, NYSDOH, and Governor Cuomo will also approve or disapprove individual school district reopening plans. The plan submitted by NHCSD is subject to change based on official guidance by state and local officials. Governor Cuomo and SED could approve a reopening plan as submitted, alter a reopening plan or issue more uniform guidance to be followed across the entire state or in specific regions. We expect to know more by August 7, 2020.
Will there be opportunities for child care? NHCSD has reached out to local child care providers to inquire about child care availability this coming fall. NHCSD is not a licensed child care provider and is unable to provide care for children when not attending schools. NHCSD has been informed that child care openings are available from the following local child care providers: St. John's Church (firstname.lastname@example.org or 315-724 - 4347) and YMCA (email@example.com). Parents may contact either of these providers individually to arrange child care or may seek other arrangements based on their individual family needs.
Will students be required to wear masks all day? Yes, students will be required to wear masks all day. Our district is requiring everyone in our buildings to wear masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This includes wearing a mask, mask breaks and maintaining proper social distancing. Our staff believes that this is one of our greatest obligations when we return this fall. This decision to require students to wear masks is in accordance with the recommendations from the CDC, the medical advice of our school physician, and the growing body of evidence that face-mask coverings reduce the spread of illness in public settings and when social distancing is difficult. Students will be given periodic mask breaks and will not be required to wear a mask while eating. Social distancing while eating will still be required. Students must submit medical documentation verifying that a student cannot tolerate a mask for medical reasons. Masks should not be worn by anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face-covering without assistance.
Teaching, Learning, and School Schedules
What is the plan for instruction? While we await the ability to fully open schools, families have two immediate options available to choose from for the fall: in-person and fully online instruction.
- In-person: Our proposed ‘3-2 model’ divides students into two main groups, or cohorts, and invites students for in-person instruction twice a week and every other Friday on a rotating basis. Some special education programs will offer students a different schedule. When not attending school in person, students will attend class and complete assignments online using Google Classroom to manage their learning.
- Fully online: Students may attend school fully online this fall, and return to school when families choose to do so. Students will attend classes and complete assignments through a variety of learning technologies including Google Classroom and Zoom.
All instruction will be standards-based and embody the values of NHCSD’s guaranteed and viable curriculum.
How has the District prepared for a fully remote opening? By the first day of school, teachers will have all of the technology tools and professional development they need for a fully remote opening. All technology for teachers and support staff to utilize for remote learning includes teacher laptops, video conferencing cameras, monitors, and training on the use of learning applications. Additional training will be held on the Superintendent’s Conference Days.
What will special education classes look like for the fall? Some special education students, such as those in 12:1:1, 12:1:14, and English Language Learners, will be provided in-person instruction in a ‘5-4’ scenario, with five days of in-person instruction provided one week and four days of in-person instruction the next week/one Friday of remote learning.
How do I notify the school of our family’s plans for the fall? NHCSD will soon send a letter home to families asking for their instruction and transportation preferences for school reopening this fall.
What will class sizes look like for the fall? Beneficial class sizes have always been a hallmark of NHCSD as dictated by educational best practices. Class sizes this fall will be even smaller to accommodate social distancing guidelines. In-person classes will not reach beyond 50% of normal class sizes. Classroom space is being reconfigured to ensure maximum social distancing for students and teachers.
Can my child be an exclusively online student? Yes, families may choose to send their children to school this fall fully online. School districts must provide remote learning instruction that requests such instruction. Exclusive online learning may also be appropriate to accommodate families regarding specific circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The online school day will resemble the in-person school day as much as possible.
Students will be split in ‘cohorts,’ but how will those cohorts be determined? For families choosing in-person instruction, children will be divided into two separate cohorts based on the beginning letter of their last name. At the senior high school each cohort has been established alphabetically A-K and L-Z. At the elementary level each classroom is divided alphabetically so only 50% of the students will attend any given time on the established days according to the assigned cohort. All students who reside in the same household will attend school on the same days.
When will students know what cohort they belong to? Building principals are currently building class schedules. Final cohort assignments will be communicated to families the week of August 10, 2020.
What will students be responsible for when they are not receiving in-person instruction at school? While learning from home, students will be participating in online instruction, participating in Zoom sessions, or working independently on teacher assigned classwork. At the secondary level, class interactions and instructional methods may vary based on department and subject.
What will students be doing when they are home from school (i.e. will they be
logged on all day, will they have paper learning material)? When students are at home they will be learning synchronously and asynchronously. Teachers will engage with students who are learning remotely thorough Zoom. In some cases, paper copies will be provided. It is important to note that our teachers have been trained on several
applications that allow students to respond and complete work electronically through Google
Will normal grading policies and other school policies still apply? Yes. Normal grading policies and other school policies, including NHCSD’s Code of Conduct, will still apply for students in grades K-12. This applies to students learning in-person or fully online.
Will the normal attendance policy still apply? Yes. Student attendance, whether in-person or remote, will be taken each day. Students are still expected to attend school 180 days a year and receive a minimum of 900 hours of instruction at the elementary level and 990 hours of instruction at the secondary level during the 2020-2021 school year. Students absent for more than 10% of the attendance days will be considered chronically absent.
Does the live streaming of a class present major privacy issues? No, not based on educational best practices. Students will not be included in the live streaming of classes. Federal guidelines do not prohibit the use of videoconferencing technology for distance learning, nor does it prohibit the recording of lessons. It is important that the camera is focused on the teacher in front of the classroom, that non-students do not attend live or recorded classes, and that students and parents do not share or record any portion of class videos on their own.
Will children attend specials? Yes. Students will still attend specials such as art, music, and physical education classes. Teachers may modify traditional specials instructions to meet the demands of social distancing, class sizes, and remote learners. The elementary schools will continue to implement their six-day specials schedule. Special area teachers have been adapting and prioritizing curriculum in order to provide rich learning experiences for all students while maintaining a safe environment.
Will students leave classrooms (i.e. travel to specials, switch classes at secondary
level)? At the elementary level, most specials will be held in the classroom. Physical education classes
will be held in the gymnasium or outside depending on the weather. At the secondary level, students will be traveling to all of their classes. Students are required to wear masks and practice social distancing when in hallways. Students will follow directional arrows in the hallways. Additionally, hallways and stairways will be split in half with one way
traffic on each side.
What will school lunch look like? New Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will be established and shared among foodservice and support staff. There will be additional cleaning and sanitizing requirements. All food service staff will wear face masks while in the building. Students will no longer self-select items; all items will need to be pre-ordered or requested by students with food service staff placing items on trays. NHCSD will include measures to protect students with food allergies if providing meals in spaces outside the cafeteria. Allergies and special diets will be accommodated with allergen safe meal options. When entire cohorts need to remain allergen-free, entire cohorts will be offered allergen-free choices. We will follow standard cross-contamination and allergy protocols. NHCSD will include protocols and procedures for how students will perform hand hygiene before and after eating, how to promote appropriate hand hygiene, and how to discourage the sharing of food and beverages.
Is school lunch available for fully remote students and on alternate days when other students are learning from home? Yes, NHCSD will provide grab-and-go meals for students on the days they are not in school. Students will sign-up or pre-order and pick up meals for days they will not be in school or on their way out of the building. Fully remote learners will have one or two meal options available, and meals will be distributed to homes via bus routes and/or pickup locations. All meals and/or snacks will be charged to the student’s account based upon eligibility status (i.e., free and reduced vs. paid status).
Will Senior High students still be able to leave campus during lunch? Yes, NHCSD will maintain its open campus lunch policy.
During the school closure this past spring, Regents were canceled but students earned Regents credit when applicable. Will that happen again, particularly if January 2021 Regents exams are canceled? This decision is left to the discretion of the Board of Regents, and they have not shared any information in this regard.
Will there be extracurricular activities? No, at this time extracurricular activities are canceled until further notice as the guidance indicates we should limit or cancel these activities. However, some of these activities might have virtual opportunities. We recognize that extracurricular opportunities are extremely important and look forward to having them back in a traditional format as soon as possible.
Will there be interscholastic athletics? The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has permitted a selection of fall sports to begin September 21, 2020.
Can I homeschool my student? Homeschooling is an education distinct from what NHCSD provides. Please contact our Department of Student Services at 315-624-9313 for resources to get started if families are interested in homeschooling.
What should faculty and staff do if they feel that they cannot return to school to work? NHCSD will notify all staff by mail, requesting notification from the staff of their intentions regarding a return to work this fall. NHCSD will evaluate each staff member's intentions on a case-by-case basis so that the district may provide reasonable accommodations for staff members based on their individual needs.
Can faculty and staff members request leave with respect to the reopening of school this fall amidst the pandemic? There are circumstances in which an employee may request leave related to COVID-19 that may require certain obligations on behalf of NHCSD. The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act provides for emergency paid sick leave under certain circumstances and for a certain period of time. The New York State Paid Leave law also requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. It is up to the employee to alert NHCSD if they would like to take a leave under one of these federal or state laws. Please review both laws to determine your individual circumstance.
Will science students still be able to complete laboratory requirements? New York State has given leeway in the lab requirements. Students are still required to complete the 1200 minutes of lab work but students can utilize is virtual lab simulations. The current plan is to have a variety of virtual simulations and hands-on experiences. In many cases, teachers will display a lab set-up and have the class (remotely or in-person) collect the data. The ultimate focus will be placed on the analysis of data as opposed to the actual collection, which will meet the 1200 lab minute requirements.
Can elementary students play at recess and in the classroom? Classrooms have been reconfigured to allow for the maximum social distancing of students and teachers/staff. Principals and teachers will work together to provide opportunities for outside play and recess to the extent possible. Elementary students are permitted to use playground equipment during recess while following established safety protocols. The use of shared toys and equipment will be discouraged and limited. Green cleaning solution/alcohol wipes will be available in every classroom to assist with cleaning shared equipment and furniture.
What will bathroom procedures look like? Maximum occupancy signs have been posted in all multi-person bathroom locations to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Principals will work with classroom Teachers to only allow for one student at a time to leave the classroom to use the restroom. Hall monitors will be available to assist with
ensuring social distancing and also to assist with the cleaning of high touch surfaces in the restrooms and
hallways throughout the school day. Restrooms will be cleaned at least one time during the school day
and cleaned and disinfected each night. Signs will be posted regarding proper handwashing and
hygiene, social distancing reminders, and the wearing of proper face covering.
Can K-6 attend every day? At the elementary level, students are assigned to either Cohort A or Cohort B. Each cohort will attend school on the ‘3-2’ model or twice per week and alternate Fridays. Due to limited space
and classroom capacity in our elementary buildings, students will follow the hybrid model. This
scenario further allows our students in grades 7-12 to attend school using the ‘3-2’ model as
Will NHCSD help families with technology needs? Yes, NHCSD will support families with technology needs as they arise as it did last spring. For example, NHCSD will loan families Chromebooks for a child’s exclusive use for online instruction. A virtual help desk will be provided to answer student, teacher, and parent questions concerning learning technology. Please contact 315-624-1099 with technology-related questions.
Are there resources available to assist families with remote learning?
In addition to the virtual helpdesk, families are encouraged to utilize learning resources available on our website at: https://www.newhartfordschools.org/Page/151
How will teachers and students manage learning, in-person and online? Google Classroom will be used as the main online resource to manage all aspects of the instructional day which include daily lessons to support new learning, parent-to-student/student-to-student collaborations, and as a vehicle to share feedback on student learning.
How will students attend class remotely? Google Meet and Zoom will be the primary tools for students to receive instruction while at home. Teachers may still choose to use a variety of interactive learning technologies through Meet and Zoom, such as SMARTboard lessons or online educational video resources.
Health and Safety
How is NHCSD best-ensuring student and staff health and safety? Over the course of the last few months, workspaces, classrooms, offices, and other school spaces have undergone a process of reconfiguration to allow for maximum social distancing. In addition, specific purchases have been made to limit the spread of infectious diseases. Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) will be available to staff, students, and visitors. NHCSD will provide reasonable accommodations to students and staff who are identified as high risk or live with a person of high risk by providing PPE such as face masks, face shields, sneeze guards, and encourage social distancing as needed. Social distancing will be encouraged as needed.
What ventilation safeguards are New Hartford schools equipped with? NHCSD has consulted with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning engineers and equipment contractors to improve the airflow in our systems. We are ensuring ventilation systems are bringing in the maximum amount of fresh air. All equipment was thoroughly cleaned following the school closing in March, and we will be installing higher efficiency filters. We will meet code requirements for fresh air by mechanical and natural means.
How will students be kept healthy and safe while learning in school? Time will be allowed for students and staff to wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. In addition, schools will make available alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Frequently touched surfaces and objects will be cleaned several times a day to further reduce the risk of germs on surfaces and objects. To the amount practicable, touching of shared objects and surfaces is discouraged, and every effort will be made to limit the use of certain shared tools/equipment to one student. Cleaning/disinfecting alcohol wipes will be available in every classroom to clean shared equipment and furniture.
What steps is NHCSD taking for cleaning and disinfecting schools? NHCSD will utilize products identified as effective against COVID-19 and that are registered with the EPA. Cleaning supplies will be made available to all staff along with instructions for proper use should they desire to clean their workspace more frequently. Cleaning/Alcohol wipes will be available in common spaces (i.e., copier rooms, break rooms, and classrooms) along with signage instructing staff to wipe down equipment before and after use. In addition, there will be several alcohol-based hand sanitizer stations throughout the facilities, including, but not limited to, all entrances, common areas, and classrooms. Signs regarding proper hand hygiene before and after the use of common areas will be posted.Will my child have an assigned seat in the classroom?There will be socially distanced assigned seating in the Elementary classrooms and socially distanced seating at both Perry Junior High and Senior High level. In addition, alcohol cleansing wipes will be available in all classrooms to allow for more frequent cleaning of surfaces. This will also allow for the cleaning of tables/desks to occur by staff and/or students at the secondary level between the block schedule periods.
Will NHCSD take steps to encourage proper hygiene? Yes, NHCSD will take several steps to ensure community health through appropriate hygiene. Such actions will be especially encouraged before and after mealtimes. NHCSD will provide information and training on proper handwashing techniques to all employees and students, and schools will allow time for handwashing throughout the course of the day, specifically before and after meals. Each school building will provide access to hand sanitizer. Sharing of food and beverages will be discouraged using signage and training of students and staff.
What should a family do if a child is ill? If a child has any illness-related symptoms, families will have to keep the child home. In previous years, families may have sent a child to school with mild illness symptoms. However, students or staff exhibiting illness symptoms will need to stay home until they are symptom-free without a fever (with no fever-reducing medication) for 24 hours. Teachers will be flexible with families in the event of illness to assist with classwork and assignment deadlines.
Will there be regular COVID-19 testing of students and staff? No, but NHCSD will provide regular screening. Per CDC and DOH guidance, students and staff will participate in a COVID-19 screening on a daily basis. Schools are strongly recommended to comply with CDC guidance and not conduct COVID-19 testing or require testing or antibody testing of students or staff members (see p. 41 of New York State guidance). Students and staff will need to pass the screening in order to be allowed to attend school. NHCSD is in the process of securing a third-party application in order to complete the screening at home. The application will alert designated school officials upon a failed or insufficient screening.
What does a family do if it wants a COVID-19 test? Schools do not have the ability to test for COVID-19 at this point in time. Testing locally is driven by the Oneida County Department of Health and performed by medical professionals at DOH determined sites, hospitals, Urgent Care, or at your local provider.
What should a family do if a child displays any COVID-19 symptoms? Please refer to the latest guidance provided by New York State Department of Health here.
What happens if a student displays COVID-19 symptoms while in school?
School staff must immediately report any illness of students or staff to the school nurse or other designated school staff members. Such reports should be made in compliance with FERPA, and Education Law 2-d. Students suspected of having COVID-19 awaiting transport home by the parent/guardian will be isolated in a room or area separate from others, with a supervising adult present utilizing appropriate PPE.
What should a staff member do if they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms? Please refer to the latest guidance provided by the New York State Department of Health here.
Will visitors be allowed in school buildings?
In an effort to minimize the number of non-employee adults on campus, NHCSD will limit visitors to its facilities to the extent possible. Individuals will be encouraged to consider the reason for their visit and when possible conduct their business via email, telephone, video, or other remote means. When visitors do enter NHCSD facilities they will be required to have their temperature checked and answer the screening questions asked of employees.
What is the District’s role in contact tracing?
Upon notification that a student and/or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the NHCSD Head Nurse will immediately notify the Oneida County Department of Health (OCDOH). The District COVID-19 Safety Coordinator will assist with contact tracing efforts by providing the OCDOH contact information with respect to potential contacts, such as workers or visitors who had close contact with the individual, while maintaining confidentiality required by state and federal law and regulations.
Will safety drills be practiced in school buildings? Yes, according to guidance from the New York State Education Department, schools will still need to complete their annual safety drills. However, social distancing practices will be incorporated during the drills. For example, classes could be staggered (if necessary) when leaving the building during a fire drill. Additionally, the district will ensure that drills take place for each cohort.
Are students allowed to bring their own hand sanitizer to school? Yes, students are allowed to bring their own hand sanitizer to school.
Will my child still be able to ride the bus to and from school? Yes, and students will be expected to wear face coverings during transit and sit one child per seat, with the exception of siblings and those living in the same household. Face coverings will be mandated for all riding on a school bus and will be provided if needed. Students should board the bus and move to the back and fill in seats from the back to the front, first, when appropriate. In the afternoon, the bus will be loaded where the first student off will be in the front seat and so on. To decrease the time on school buses, students will exit the bus upon arrival to school, maintaining a social distance between one another as they exit the bus and enter the school building.
Will bus schedules change given cohort groups and social distancing guidelines? Busing schedules will make slight adjustments to accommodate the transportation of students during the pandemic. The District utilizes a computerized routing system to design routes that limit the number of students on the bus. We will be able to generate a staggered pickup and drop off schedule that will not impact the instructional day.
Staggered arrival/dismissal schedule*
- Ralph Perry Junior High and New Hartford Senior High School: Pick up times beginning at 7:00 a.m. and ending at 7:50 a.m. with multiple staggered drop-offs at both schools during this allocated time period.
- Myles, Bradley, and Hughes Elementary Schools: pick up times beginning at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 8:50 a.m. with multiple staggered drop-offs at each school during this allocated time period.
*subject to change based on enrollment and capacity restrictions
There will be a staggered dismissal procedure following instruction each day that will follow the same routes as in the morning. Dismissal will begin at 2:20 p.m. at the secondary schools with multiple/staggered dismissal times for students. Dismissal at the Elementary Schools will begin at 3:00 p.m. with multiple/staggered dismissal times for students. The first bus to drop off in the morning will be the first bus to leave in the afternoon. Please know that some afternoon arrival times at home may be later than in previous school years given the nature of the staggered schedule. Parents will be provided with their child’s approximate transportation schedule prior to school opening.
This procedure will maintain instructional time for the day, and will likely entail additional staff to guide students and ensure social distancing during drop off and dismissal times.
How will NHCSD ensure buses are safe to transport students? NHCSD will take numerous steps to ensure buses are safe to transport in-person learners this fall. Such steps include cleaning and disinfecting all buses used every day. High contact spots must be wiped down after each morning and afternoon run depending upon the disinfection/cleaning schedule. School bus drivers, monitors, attendants, and mechanics must wear a face-covering along with an optional face shield or non-prescription protective eyewear.
May families transport their children to school? Yes. Families are encouraged to do so to assist during the pandemic. Campus drop off/pick up maps will be provided to students and parents prior to the opening of school.