Communication/Family and Community Engagement

To help inform about the school reopening plan, the district, in the summer of 2020, 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 were set up to take continuous questions from GASD parents, families, students and staff. Hundreds of questions were 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 was also produced and mailed to GASD families before the start of school in September, 2020. The email question accounts are:

  • reopeningpublicquestions@gasd.org
  • reopeningstaffquestions@gasd.org

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.

Social distancing requirement changes as of 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.

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

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 is 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 2020-21, the district developed a plan for communicating all necessary information to district staff, students, parents/guardians, visitors and education partners and vendors. The district uses its existing communication channels – including the district website, Parent Square, 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 also uses its 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, Parent Square, 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 has made 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 continues to 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 uses 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, Parent Square and social media such as Facebook (where appropriate).

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

In addition, the district makes 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 assesses the best approach to communicating the information for each students’ age group and provides frequent opportunities for students to review these policies and protocols. This targeted education helps ensure that all students and their families know what is expected of them as they successfully return to the school setting. These trainings covers:

Hand hygiene

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

Proper face covering procedures

  • Staff members have undergone training at the beginning of the  school year on proper use of PPE, recognizing symptoms of COVID-19, and proper hand hygiene techniques.  
  • Students and or their parents/guardians are responsible for cleaning and maintaining reusable masks for their student(s).
  • Students/staff who have forgotten their mask are provided with a disposable mask upon entry to the school.  
  • Faculty/staff are required to wear masks at all times in which a minimum of 3 or 6 feet of social distancing is not possible. The district provides 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 is provided.

Social distancing

Social distancing- 3 feet  or 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 are marked to indicate 3 feet of space between desks and work spaces (as of May 2021)
  • Separate entrance/egress points are clearly labeled to prohibit bidirectional flow of traffic at doors.
  • Each building provides 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 emphasizes 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 has implemented the following practices to conduct mandated health screening:

  • Screening are conducted using an online management tool (Parent Square) and a manual screening method. Students and staff must complete a pre-designed screening tool before leaving home. Students are further screened upon entrance to school buildings (infrared tool and or manual touchless thermometers).
  • Staff and students not able to complete screening at home also have manual screening tools and documentation available upon entrance to each school building. Screening documents follow local Department of Health guidelines. Records 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 are 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 are provided training by school nurses and or DOH representatives.
  • Staff/students who exhibit signs during the school day are provided a comfortable alternate location in the school and are 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 has created and deployed signage throughout the district to address public health protections surrounding COVID-19. Signage addresses 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 encourages 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, Parent Square, Google Classroom 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 operates 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 has prepared 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 continues to collaborate with Montgomery County health officials to determine parameters, conditions or metrics, such as increased absenteeism or increased illness, that has served 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.