2021-22 GASD School Reopening Plan

Plan submitted by:

amsterdam logoThe Greater Amsterdam School District
140 Saratoga Ave., Amsterdam, NY 12010
Phone: 518-843-3180 Fax: 518-842-0012

Richard Ruberti, Superintendent of Schools
Stephen Nolan, GASD Health Coordinator and COVID-19 Coordinator

Stephen Nolan, District Health Coordinator, is serving as the district’s COVID-19 Coordinator. Nolan continues to work closely with our Montgomery County Public Health Department and serve as a central contact for schools and stakeholders, families, staff and other school community members. He also works to ensure the district is in compliance and following the best practices per state and federal guidelines. Stephen Nolan may be reach at 518-843-3180, Ext. 1012 or emailed at [email protected].

Updated NYS Health Department/CDC COVID-19 guidance – as it relates to public schools – March, 2022

This school plan was updated in March, 2022 based on new COVID-19 protocols and guidance issued by the CDC and the New York State Department of Health as it relates to public schools.

The statewide universal mask mandate for schools was lifted as of March, 2022. This means that the majority of students, staff and school visitors are no longer required to wear a mask in our school buildings or school buses. Individual choice when it comes to mask use is to be respected.

Although things continue to evolve, the GASD administrative team has reviewed recent guidance from the New York State Department of Health.  While the mask requirement has changed, the following health and safety protocols remain in place:

  • Regardless of vaccination status, if a student tests positive for COVID-19 he or she must isolate for a full five days. Students may return to school after day five if they are asymptomatic or if symptoms are resolving. For days 6-10 following a positive test, students are required to wear a mask in school, including on the school bus.
  • If a student has been exposed to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, it is highly recommended they wear a mask for a full 10 days following that exposure.
  • State officials continue to recommend testing for COVID-19 following a possible exposure. COVID-19 tests are available at school for anyone who wants one. If you need a test, please contact your child’s school nurse.

Further COVID-19 guidance can be found in the documents below:

GASD remains committed to keeping our students in school, while providing a safe learning environment for all. We will continue to follow a tiered mitigation strategy to prevent the spread of illness in our schools and on our buses. This includes enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures and improved ventilation, social distancing and other safety protocols.

We will also continue to report positive COVID cases in our buildings on a weekly basis with a Parent Square notification. In most situations, this will involve a general notification alerting staff and families that there was a positive case in a particular class or school. In other cases, the identification of close contacts may be warranted. In these cases, we will provide the most up-to-date information related to COVID-19 testing, quarantine and isolation for those most closely impacted. 

As always, we remain in close contact with state and local health officials and are committed to providing staff and families with clear, updated information on the latest health and safety guidance.

Our Schools

The plan outlined here is for the reopening of schools in the Greater Amsterdam School District for the 2021-22 school year. This plan includes procedures that will be followed in the following schools:

Amsterdam High School

140 Saratoga Ave.
Amsterdam, NY 12010
Phone: (518) 843-4932
AHS School Webpage

Lynch Literacy Academy

55 Brandt Place
Amsterdam, NY 12010
Phone: (518) 843-3716
LLA School Webpage

Barkley Elementary School

66 DeStefano St.
Amsterdam, NY 12010
Phone: (518) 843-1850
Barkley School Webpage

Marie Curie Institute

9 Brice St.
Amsterdam, NY 12010
Phone: (518) 843-2871
Marie Curie Institute Webpage

McNulty Academy

60 Brandt Place
Amsterdam, NY 12010
Phone: (518) 843-4773
McNulty Academy Webpage

Tecler Elementary School

210 Northern Boulevard
Amsterdam, NY 12010
Phone: (518) 843-4805
Tecler School Webpage

Introduction – Original submitted plan in August, 2021 for the 2021-22 school year

For the 2021-22 school year, the Greater Amsterdam School District is planning for a full return to school in September. The district continues to partner with the Montgomery County Public Health Department as we plan the district’s reopening efforts based on the recommended guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics, the New York State Department of Health, and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

GASD is planning for a 100 percent in-person return to school in September, providing a full academic program and a wide range of extracurricular and athletic offerings for all students. Our priority is to have all students attend in-person instruction for the 2021-22 school year.  Please note that as we learned last year, circumstances may change without notice and we must be able adapt to those changes throughout the school year. Please remain flexible.

The district will employ a layered mitigation approach, including strategies ranging from masking and social distancing, to facilities cleaning and hygiene, to contact tracing and quarantining, to HVAC (ventilation) and the provision of food services, to surveillance testing and vaccination access. As a public institution, we must consider everyone in the community and minimize the risk for our students and staff. By individually doing our part to keep everyone safe and healthy, we will ensure academic, social, and emotional growth of our students.

Over the past year, we have learned how to manage the virus effectively by using layers of mitigation aimed to prevent infection and transmission in our schools. This layered mitigation plan is a measured approach based on the transmission or rate of infections, ranging from Low Community Transmission>>Moderate Community Transmission>>Substantial Community Transmission>>High Community Transmission (see chart below). It is important to understand that this is a fluid document and whenever possible and appropriate, adjustments to mitigation strategies will be made according to the most current data available and in coordination with DOH.

The intent of the layered, tiered approach is to find and maintain a balance between prioritizing health and safety of students and staff, supporting the social, emotional, and mental health of students and staff, and keeping as many students and staff in school as possible. This tiered mitigation plan will be fluid, and strategies will change if the data indicates they should change. If the data indicates lower infection or transmission, restrictions could be loosened. If the data indicates the virus is spreading, adjustments may become more restrictive. It is important for students and families to know that there could be changes in strategies based on the data, and so, the plan is not an either/or document, but rather a guiding document in a shifting and changing environment. We will consistently review practices to ensure we are meeting our objectives.

These are challenging times and we are all similarly focused on the best interest of our students, staff, and families.

Key Takeaways from CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools

  • Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority.
  • Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.
  • Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
  • In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as screening testing.
  • Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
  • Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
  • Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) to protect students, teachers, staff, visitors, and other members of their households and support in-person learning.
  • Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies (e.g., physical distancing, screening testing).

Communication and Notifications

The Greater Amsterdam School District will continue to keep our community updated on items related to COVID-19 news, health information and guidance from New York State. Beginning with the start of school, COVID-19 communication updates will be shared through Parent Square with special messages/stories posted on this district website as needed.

The district will continue to communicate to staff and/or families that may have a child that is determined to be a close contact to a positive COVID-19 case within the school. Impacted families and staff will always be notified as soon as possible once contact tracing is completed if there is a need for a student or staff member to quarantine. Initial communication will come from the Montgomery County Public Health Department.

Parents and staff will be notified directly by their school about possible exposures and the need to quarantine under Montgomery County COVID-19 guidelines/regulations. It is possible that complete schools, grades or classes may need to quarantine and shift to remote instruction at any time. In addition, New York State, once again this school year, has prepared a COVID-19 state dashboard to report cases in schools. We will communicate the status as warranted by sending a mass message to the community through Parent Square and posting regular updates (as needed) on the district website.

Remote Only Learning Model Will Not Be Offered

The district will NOT be offering a Remote Only Learning (ROL) option. Remote learning is only available to those who have a significant medical issue, as documented by a physician and will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Students will also have the opportunity to engage in an alternate learning environment if they are placed under mandatory quarantine by the Department of Health. If families do not want to send their children to school for in-person learning, their option is to home instruct their children. For more information on home instruction visit the following link:

http://www.nysed.gov/nonpublic-schools/home-instruction

Tracking COVID-19 Numbers

The following links can be accessed to review county transmission rates.

The chart below was introduced during the start of the 2021-22 school year and describes the mitigation protocols that were utilize in each area of focus. This layered mitigation strategy is fluid and may be adjusted as conditions warrant. Protocols were adjusted in March, 2022 no longer requiring masks be worn in school buildings and on school buses.

chart1

chart2

chart3

Surveillance COVID-19 Testing for High-Risk Sports

Regular COVID-19 testing will be instituted for high-risk sports that may consist of random or regular testing based on the conditions as they exist in the area. A 10 percent random sample will be pulled each week from high-risk sports from the modified level to the varsity level. Student-athletes will be tested by qualified medical personnel. If a student presents proof of vaccination, they do not need to partake in the random testing. Agreeing to random testing is a condition of an individual’s ability to participate in a high-risk sport and parents must sign a consent form.

Temperature and Questionnaire Screenings

Per CDC guidance, temperature and questionnaire screenings (the Parent Square attestation app) will not be required for entry into GASD school buildings. However, students and employees should self-monitor daily, take their temperatures and stay home when they are showing signs of infectious illness, including COVID-19. They are also encouraged to get tested before returning to school.

Mask Wearing

On August 27, 2021 the New York State Department of Health instituted a statewide mask requirement for all schools. The CDC, in its guidance, also recommends mask wearing in schools. 

Any person over the age of 2 (including all students, personnel, teachers, administrators, contractors, and visitors) must wear masks at all times indoors in UPK-12 school buildings, regardless of vaccination status. People with medical or developmental conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask may be exempted from mask requirements, as documented by a medical provider. People do not need to wear masks when eating, drinking, singing, or playing a wind instrument; when masks are removed for these purposes, individuals must be spaced 6 feet apart.

As of March, 2022, the New York State Department of Health, per CDC guidance, no longer required masks be worn by students/staff in school or on school buses.

Social Emotional Well-Being

We recognize that the social emotional well-being of our students and staff during these challenging times is critically important. The district has made available resources and referrals to address mental health, behavioral, and emotional needs of students, faculty, and staff when school reopens for in-person instructions.

GASD has established a Social-Emotional team in the school district. The group was created and first met in the summer of 2017 to develop a district-wide SEL curriculum for K-12. The team is comprised of teachers, social workers, behavioral specialists, and administrators. The framework developed is based on CASEL’s five competencies: self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision making, relationship skills, and self-management.