A comprehensive framework for re-entry amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the Greater Amsterdam School District, Mohawk Valley Region, New York State
GASD Plan Revised May, 2021
NOTE: If for any reason you have difficulty accessing this plan please contact GASD District Clerk [email protected] at 518-843-3180
Plan submitted by:
The Greater Amsterdam School District and the school district SAFER Committee
140 Saratoga Ave., Amsterdam, NY 12010
Phone: 518-843-3180 Fax: 518-842-0012
For information by category in this reopening schools plan please access the specific link on the right column of this web page.
On July 13, 2020 Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that school districts in New York could follow plans to reopen for in-person schooling in September, 2020. Determinations about opening and closing schools as the COVID-19 pandemic continues will be made based on the state’s strategy in consultation with public health partners. The Greater Amsterdam School District submitted its original School Reopening Plan (documented here) and opened school to in-person hybrid instruction in September, 2020. The schools also facilitated Remote Learning Only (ROL) instruction for any student who requires it due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, for those who are deemed medically vulnerable or for any family that choose this option . The GASD School Reopening Plan has been and will continue to be revised as the school district receives additional guidance from federal, state and county health officials.
Changes to the plan during the 2020-21 school year
School reopening underwent various changes during the 2020-21 school year as the district received new guidance from county and state health officials. This included:
- Classes, schools, grades and the entire district shifting to Remote Only Instruction for students as COVID 19 numbers spiked at various time or the need to quarantine staff arose.
- A shift in March for all in-person learning elementary school (Purple and Gold group hybrid) students from 2 days per week in-person to 4-days per week in-person instruction.
- The return of high school seniors (grade 12) and students who were struggling academically to 4-5 days per week in-person instruction in May, 2021.
- The return of grade 6-11 students to 4 days per week in-person instruction in May, 2021.
- A New York State COVID Data Dashboard was established for school districts to record all known/confirmed COVID cases. https://schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov/#/home
- Various changes and guidance for allowing return of high-risk athletics at the high school level. http://www.nysphsaa.org/COVID-19-Info
- GASD worked with Montgomery County health officials to schedule/offer vaccines to district staff, students and community members.
- New guidelines were established by health officials regarding mask requirements and social distancing requirements for vaccinated individuals. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
CDC and New York State health officials announce social distancing changes for school in April, 2021
In March, 2021, based on new science related to COVID 19, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced new social distancing guidance for schools reducing the social distancing requirements in classrooms from 6 feet to 3 feet. New York State followed in April by adopting this same guidance and GASD complied with these changes. The new guidance is as follows:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is updating K–12 school guidance to reflect the latest science on physical distance between students in classrooms. CDC now recommends that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings. CDC has updated its operational strategy to say:
- In elementary schools, CDC recommends all students remain at least 3 feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal — regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, substantial, or high.
- In middle and high schools, CDC also recommends students should be at least 3 feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal and in communities where transmission is low, moderate, or substantial.
- Middle school students and high school students should be at least 6 feet apart in communities where transmission is high, if cohorting is not possible.
- Cohorting is when groups of students are kept together with the same peers and staff throughout the school day to reduce the risk for spread throughout the school. This recommendation is because COVID-19 transmission dynamics are different in older students – that is, they are more likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and spread it than younger children.
- The CDC no longer recommends physical barriers for mitigation where physical distancing cannot be maintained. A preferred approach is enhanced ventilation and air filtration to dilute and remove any SARS-Cov-2 particles from the air as described below and in the CDC school guidance.
Exceptions Where A Minimum of Six Feet of Distance Must be Maintained
- 6 feet is always the required distancing between adults (teachers, staff, visitors) and between students and adults.
- 6 feet of distance is required when eating meals or snacks, or drinking, or other times masks must be removed. This may mean that meals cannot be eaten in classrooms that have been converted to three feet of physical distance during instruction time.
- Individuals participating in activities that require projecting the voice (e.g., singing) or playing a wind instrument must be six feet apart and there must be six feet of distance between the performers and the audience during performances and concerts.
- 6 feet of physical distance must be maintained in common areas and outside of classrooms (e.g. lobbies, auditoriums, gymnasiums, cafeterias, and hallways), where possible.
- New guidance on Athletics was also released in March, 2021. http://www.nysphsaa.org/COVID-19-Info
As part of these social distancing changes, the CDC developed four levels of indicators and threshold for community transmission of COVID-19. The CDC also provided recommendations for physical distancing and cohorting for elementary, middle, and high schools at each level of transmission. These recommendations are summarized below and are required to be adhered to by any responsible parties when implementing physical distancing of less than six feet in classrooms:
- In counties with low and moderate risk of transmission, elementary, middle, and high schools can maintain physical distancing of at least three feet between students in classrooms.
- In counties with substantial risk of transmission, elementary, middle, and high schools can maintain physical distancing of at least three feet between students in classrooms and cohorting is recommended when possible.
- In counties with high risk of transmission, elementary schools can maintain physical distancing of at least three feet between students in classrooms and cohorting is recommended when possible. However, in middle and high schools three feet between students in classrooms is recommended only when schools can use cohorting. When schools cannot maintain cohorting, middle and high schools must maintain physical distancing of at least six feet between students in classrooms.
Community/School involvement on social distancing changes
Prior to making any change to reduce physical distancing to less than 6 feet between students during academic instruction, the new guidance required that all decisions be made with community input. School districts were required to include opportunities for feedback from parents, community members, teachers, staff and local departments of health. Ultimately, the school/district’s decision to move to shorter physical distances will come down to a local community’s risk tolerance based on its unique circumstances.
During the spring of 2021 the district conducted a survey of all parents seeking input on their feelings about the new 3 foot social distancing guidance. Parents were asked if they would send their children to school if the distance was shortened from 6 to 3 feet. Some 400 parents responded to the survey, with the overwhelming majority of respondents supporting this change. A public informational meeting was held on this subject as part of the Board of Education meeting on April 21, 2021.
School districts were also required to update the plan and post online. It must also be sent to the Montgomery County Department and the State Education Department.
- GASD completed these three tasks in May, 2021 when this school reopening plan was revised
Developing of the GASD School Reopening Plan – Spring of 2020 to Summer of 2020
In the spring of 2020, several members of the GASD staff participated in regional meetings to discuss relevant issues related to reopening schools in September, 2020. Additionally, the district’s SAFER Committee, made up of stakeholders from all segments of the organization, met regularly to review all available and emerging resources form the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the NYS Department of Health, the NYS Education Department, and the Governor’s Office. The SAFER Committee also reviewed reopening plans from several other states to be informed. The main committee and its sub-groups assessed school building capacity to comply with social distancing, food service, and transportation protocols. Building administrators met with sub-committees in their respective buildings to consider scheduling and staffing for instructional delivery, regardless of the evolving circumstances that may occur throughout the coming year. And, finally, the district conducted three surveys of parents and/or staff to gain understanding of needs as decisions have been made in pursuit of complying with all Department of Health expectations.
While districts were instructed to prioritize efforts to return all students to in-person instruction, the district also made plans for remote/distance learning as well as a for a hybrid model that combines in-person instruction and remote learning.
Parents were advised that Remote Only Learning is NOT the preferred and recommended learning model for the Greater Amsterdam School District Instructional Program during the COVID-19 reopening. The recommended plan combined hybrid part-time, onsite, in-person classroom instruction with face-to-face, proper socialization opportunities for students/teachers two days per week combined with remote learning from home three days per week. For Special Education students who were part of a special class (ie. 12:1:1, 12:1:2, etc), attendance under this plan would be onsite daily. For those special education students who received Consultant Teacher services, these students would attend two days a week with their cohort. While onsite, all students and staff were instructed to follow social-distancing school protocols and were expected to wear masks with the exception of designated times such as scheduled lunch breaks and various classroom mask wearing breaks.
The plan outlined here is for the reopening of schools in the Greater Amsterdam School District for the 2020-21 school year, following the building closure related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan includes procedures that will be followed in the following schools:
Amsterdam High School
Lynch Literacy Academy
Barkley Elementary School
Marie Curie Institute
Tecler Elementary School
The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school campuses. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).
It is possible that we may continue to need to alternate between in-person and remote learning throughout the year due to recommendations and guidance from our partnering agencies, and stay-at-home orders from the Governor. The level of infection, the spread of the virus and response to the disease in our community will be at the forefront of our decision making as we move to open our schools.
Stephen Nolan, District Health Coordinator and Chairman of the GASD SAFER Committee, 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].