Communication/Family and Community Engagement

To help inform our reopening plan, the district has sought feedback and input from stakeholders, including administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents/guardians of students, local health department officials and health care providers, employee unions and community groups. Engagement efforts included online surveys for parents/students, virtual forums/meetings for GASD staff, parents and the community, building-level staff meetings, Board of Education meeting presentations, website and social media news postings, emails and one-on-one conversations.

Specifically, virtual informational forums (presentation and  live question and answer sessions) were held for the community and GASD staff on the dates listed below. All forums were recorded and can be viewed anytime on the GASD YouTube channel at:

In addition, two special email addresses have been set up to take continuous questions from GASD parents, families, students and staff. To date, hundreds of questions have been submitted and answered both directly and through a Frequently Asked Question page set up on the district website which is continually added to. A special FAQ newsletter on school reopening is also being produced and mailed to GASD families before the start of school. The email question accounts are:

Community Forum Dates

  • July 29, 2020, 4 p.m.
  • August 12, 2020, 5 p.m.
  • August 18, 2020, Noon
  • August 19, 2020, 5 p.m.

Staff Forum Dates

  • July 29, 2020, 2 p.m.
  • August 18, 2020, 2 p.m.

The district remains committed to communicating all elements of this reopening plan to students, parents and guardians, staff and visitors. The plan is available to all stakeholders via the district website at https://www.gasd.org/greater-amsterdam-school-reopening-plan-for-2020-21/ and will be updated throughout the school year, as necessary, to respond to local circumstances. The link to the plan appears on the Special Alert banner of the GASD website – top of the homepage. Every effort has been made to ensure that the plan is accessible to all individuals in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A/AA. The plan can also be translated into other languages, via the G-Translate feature available on the district website homepage. Translation languages include English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, German, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish and Urdu.

As part of its planning for the reopening of schools and the new academic year, the district has developed a plan for communicating all necessary information to district staff, students, parents/guardians, visitors and education partners and vendors. The district will use its existing communication channels – including the district website, School Messenger, parent/student portal and social media such as Facebook (when appropriate)  – as well as appropriate signage and training opportunities to support the dissemination of consistent messaging regarding new protocols and procedures, expectations, requirements and options related to school operations throughout the pandemic. The district will also use it’s Parent Liaison on staff to translate materials into Spanish (where appropriate) for the district’s large Spanish speaking population.

The district is committed to establishing and maintaining regular channels of communication and has reviewed and determined which methods have proven to be the most effective in communications with our school community. The district will rely on the district website, School Messenger, parent/student portal and social media such as Facebook (when appropriate)  to communicate news, requirements and updates related to reopening and in-person instruction, including social distancing requirements, proper wearing of face coverings and proper hand and respiratory hygiene. The information that we will share will be based on state and county guidance as well as the research and work being implemented by the district SAFER Committee.

In support of remote learning, the district will make computer devices available to students and teachers who need them including the dissemination of Chromebooks and iPads for student learning and Wifi Internet spots where needed. The district will provide students and their families with multiple ways to contact schools and teachers during remote learning, including email, Google Classroom, Google Meet, phone calls, etc.

The district will use existing internal and external communications channels to notify staff, students and families/caregivers about in-person, remote and hybrid school schedules with as much advance notice as possible through teachers and the school principals, student and parent portals, district website, School Messenger and social media such as Facebook (where appropriate).

The district will follow its existing engagement and communication protocols with parents regarding the provision of special education services for their child. 

In addition, the district will make every effort to ensure that communication to parents/legal guardians is in their preferred language and mode of communication. 

The district is committed to ensuring that all of its students and their families are taught and re-taught new expectations related to all public health policies and protocols. As part of this continuous training, the district will assess the best approach to communicating the information for each students’ age group and will provide frequent opportunities for students to review these policies and protocols. This targeted education will help ensure that all students and their families know what is expected of them as they successfully return to the school setting. These trainings will cover:

Hand hygiene

  • On the first day of school, students will be trained on proper hand hygiene practices and social distancing.  
  • Buildings will have hand sanitizer in each classroom/office, and will encourage students to use it upon entering and exiting the room. 
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be located in all common areas with signs indicating appropriate use.
  • If hands are visibly soiled, students and staff members will be provided with means to clean their hands with soap and water.
  • Additional receptacles will be located in common areas and restrooms to collect soiled items.
  • PPE and hand sanitizer will be located at each entrance point of the building.

Proper face covering procedures

  • Staff members will undergo training at the beginning of the year on proper use of PPE, recognizing symptoms of COVID-19, and proper hand hygiene techniques.  
  • Students and or their parents/guardians will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining reusable masks for their student(s).
  • Students/staff who have forgotten their mask, will be provided with a disposable mask upon entry to the school.  
  • Faculty/staff will be required to wear masks at all times in which a minimum of six feet of social distancing is not possible. The district will provide masks and other PPE to faculty/staff members who do not possess their own.
  • For instruction that requires clear vision of the face or mouth, alternate PPE will be provided.

Social distancing

Social distancing- 6 feet of space in all directions between individuals or use of appropriate physical barriers between individuals that do not adversely affect air flow, heating, cooling, or ventilation, or otherwise present a health or safety risk 

  • 6 feet markings in hallways and entrance/ exit routes.
  • Classrooms will be marked to indicate 6 feet of space between desks and work spaces.
  • Separate entrance/egress points will be clearly labeled to prohibit bidirectional flow of traffic at doors.
  • Each building will provide signs indicating appropriate social distancing for the environment and the importance of wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible.

Respiratory hygiene

The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. Therefore, the district will emphasize the importance of respiratory hygiene.

Students and staff must carry out the following respiratory hygiene practices:

  • Cover a cough or sneeze using a tissue. If a tissue is used, it should be thrown away immediately. 
  • If you don’t have a tissue when sneezing or coughing, sneeze into your elbow.
  • Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.
  • Face coverings are protective. Wearing a face covering will keep the respiratory droplets and aerosols from being widely dispersed into the air.

Identifying symptoms

The Greater Amsterdam School District will implement the following practices to conduct mandated health screening:

  • Screening will be conducted using an online management tool and a manual screening method. Students and staff will complete a pre-designed screening tool before leaving home. Students will be further screened upon boarding of buses (infrared screening tool) and upon entrance to school buildings (infrared tool and or manual touchless thermometers).
  • Staff and students not able to complete screening at home will also have manual screening tools and documentation available upon entrance to each school building. Screening documents will follow local Department of Health guidelines. Records will remain private and will be released to DoH upon request for contact tracing.
  • Those individuals who are found to be showing signs of COVID-19 will be assigned to an alternate location in their particular building until they can safely leave the school. Parents and DoH will be notified and school personnel will follow DoH guidance.
  • Staff assigned to assist with screening will be provided training by school nurses and or DoH representatives.
  • Staff/students who exhibit signs during the school day will be provided a comfortable alternate location in the school and will be supervised by school personnel.
  • The school nurse, administration and other designated staff will be assigned the daily assignment of reviewing screening materials.
  • Staff or students who experience symptoms during the school day or at other times should inform the school nurse and the principal of their school building.
  • School administration will designate who will contact parents regarding a possible COVID case. In most cases that person will be the school nurse.

The district will create and deploy signage throughout the district to address public health protections surrounding COVID-19. Signage will address protocols and recommendations in the following areas:

  • Proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Acceptable face coverings and requirements related to their wear
  • Hand washing
  • Adherence to social distancing instructions
  • Symptoms/prevention of COVID-19

In addition to signage, the district will encourage all students, faculty, staff and visitors through verbal and written communication to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DOH guidance regarding the use of PPE through additional means such as regular announcements in the morning, reminders on the school website, School Messenger, Google Classrom and the district Facebook page (as appropriate).

The district is committed to creating a learning environment that protects student and staff health, safety and privacy. Our district will operate under a standard procedure for addressing situations in which an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 or appears symptomatic. These procedures are outlined in the Health & Safety section of our reopening plan at https://www.gasd.org/greater-amsterdam-school-reopening-plan-for-2020-21/health-and-safety/

In the event that a student or staff member is sick or symptomatic, notification to exposed individuals will occur pursuant to the state’s contact tracing protocols as implemented by the local health department. The district will not notify the wider community unless specifically directed to do so by local health officials.

School Closures

The district is preparing for situations in which one or more school buildings need to close due to a significant number of students or staff testing positive for COVID-19 or a considerable regional increase in COVID-19 cases in the Mohawk Valley.

The district will continue to collaborate with Montgomery County health officials to determine parameters, conditions or metrics, such as increased absenteeism or increased illness, that will serve as early warning signs that positive COVID-19 cases may be increasing beyond an acceptable level.

The district may choose to modify operations in one or more schools prior to closing to help mitigate a rise in cases. The district will consult with the Montgomery County Department of Public Health when making such decisions. 

School building administrators will communicate with each other regularly and, if needed, will consider closing school if absentee rates impact the ability of the school to operate safely.