Teaching and Learning

The 2020-21 school calendar included a Superintendent’s Conference Day before students arrived at school and various Staff Development Days throughout the school  year. Acknowledging the challenges that our teachers and staff faced in the spring of 2020 delivering remote instruction under stressful circumstances, the district focused these in-service days on providing support to staff in the areas of social-emotional health and technology integration.

As we entered the 2020-21 school year, teachers were encouraged to spend time building relationships, supporting students with the transition back to school, and teaching social distancing etiquette at developmentally appropriate levels.  

When a remote or hybrid learning model was necessary, certain groups of students were prioritized for in-person learning to the greatest extent possible. This included, but was not limited to, special education students, English language learners, students who did not engage in remote learning during the spring of 2020, and students with technology or connectivity needs.

Assessing student learning gaps or areas of need was critical. Formative assessment before a unit of instruction to assess student understanding of pre-requisite skills was common practice. 

Acknowledging that the typical content in a given grade level or course may need to be adjusted, content was prioritized to ensure that students receive instruction for the prioritized learning standards, key understandings, and skills necessary for students’ success in future study. 

Student Grading and Reporting Practices

  • Grading protocols will be contingent upon the model utilized and will be shared at the start of school.
  • The District will issue report cards based on the scheduled cycle (see GASD Calendar for exact dates). At the high school, grades will factor into student GPA’s.
  • Pre-Kindergarten progress reports/report cards will be issued two times per year.
  • Grade K – 5 report cards will be issued three times/year.
  • Grade 6 – 12 will be based on a standardized grading rubric (details forthcoming) with a traditional numeric grade issued on the quarterly report card.

GASD has measures in place to ensure eligible agencies with whom it contracts will follow health and safety guidelines outlined in the NYSED guidance and required by the NYSDOH. 

For information relating to teaching and learning in BOCES special education and Career and Technical Education programs, please see the BOCES website at https://www.hfmboces.org/

In-person Instruction

Upon reopening in September 2020, the number of students in each of our classrooms were reduced to adhere to CDC guidance regarding proper social distancing of 6 feet. Class size reflect the need to ensure that students’ desks/seats were positioned no less than 6 feet apart. 

Accommodating a 6-foot radius around students necessitated the identification of additional rooms and common-area spaces that could be converted into elementary classrooms. The spacing guidance changed in April 2021 when the CDC and New York State DOH decreased the social distancing requirements from 6 feet to 3 feet in classrooms.

All instruction continued to be aligned to the New York State Learning Standards.

Our schools also minimized the movement of students. This meant, in some cases, having students eat lunch in their classroom instead of the cafeteria and eliminating assemblies, field trips and other large-group activities. Special-area subjects (e.g., art, music, physical education) were pushed into the classroom.  Whenever possible, students have utilized outside space for physical education instruction. The district adheres to 12 feet between students when engaging in physical activity.

To the extent possible, students have remained in small cohorts if/when leaving the classroom, such as for recess or any necessary transition, so as to reduce their exposure to additional students.

For information on school schedules, visit the School Schedules section of our reopening plan at https://www.gasd.org/greater-amsterdam-school-reopening-plan-for-2020-21/school-schedules/

Remote Learning Only Option

The Greater Amsterdam School District offered parents the option of choosing a Remote Only Learning (ROL) at home model for their child(ren) for the start of the 2020-21 school year and beyond. Parents/guardians were asked to complete an online form to choose the ROL option and meet all procedures and requirements posted below. See the School Schedules section of this plan to learn more about the Remote Learning/In-Person Learning Model.

Procedures and Requirements for enrolling in Remote Only Learning (ROL)

  • Students enrolling in ROL will be assigned to online only learning. This includes online only participation in any clubs and/or extracurricular activities, if so offered for in-person attendance. Students in the ROL program will not be eligible to participate in onsite interscholastic activities should they be offered, with the exception of interscholastic athletics as per Section II guidance.
  • Parents must notify the Greater Amsterdam School District of their intent to enroll their student in the Remote Only Learning (ROL) program.
  • Students enrolled in ROL will remain in the virtual classroom to which they are assigned, minimally for the entirety of the first trimester at the elementary level (through November 20, 2020) and the first quarter (through November 13, 2020) at the middle school and high school levels.
  • Parents of elementary students who would like to shift their child to the onsite/combined remote learning option for the start of the second trimester must notify their child’s elementary school office of the intent to shift from ROL to the in-person/hybrid model no later than November 1, 2020. This will provide time for the district to reassign teachers between ROL and in-person instructional assignments as student enrollments shift.
  • Parents of middle school and high school students who would like to shift their child to the district’s onsite/combined remote instruction model for the start of the second quarter must notify their child’s school of the intent to shift from ROL to the in-person/hybrid model no later than November 2, 2020. This will provide time for the district to reassign teachers between ROL and in-person instructional assignments as student enrollments shift. 
  • Instruction and instructional materials will be provided both through synchronous and asynchronous means.
  • Parents of younger students will need to be engaged in supporting instruction from home.
  • Student attendance will be taken. Student work must be returned to the teacher(s) completed. Students will receive grades and progress reports. 
    At the elementary level: instruction will be provided in ELA, math, science and social studies for each grade level. Students will also have access to weekly lessons for PE, art, and music. PE, art and music lessons will be designed for multiple grade levels (i.e., K-5, 6-8, 9-12), will not be grade level specific, and are likely to be asynchronous.
  • In the event onsite instruction is suspended and the students who had been participating in onsite instruction shift to an entirely virtual setting, students enrolled in the ROL model will remain in the ROL program unless the district needs to make a change due to staffing needs.
  • Due to social distancing requirements and the assignment of staff to in-person and virtual classrooms, students returning to the onsite/combined remote schooling may be assigned to schools other than their home-school if the home-school is at maximum capacity for social distancing requirements.
  • The ROL assignment will stay in effect for the 2020-21 school year unless COVID restrictions are lifted or families provide required notice of the intent to re-enroll their child in the onsite program. Return to onsite schooling will take effect at the start of the next trimester at the elementary and semester at the secondary level.

Special Education Services for Students Receiving Entirely Virtual Instruction (ROL Option)

The delivery of Special Education services to students who are participating in ROL ensured that students have access to a free and appropriate public education. Special Education services include both synchronous (live online) and asynchronous (not live, pre-recorded lessons) instruction. This is achieved by using a variety of resources provided in collaboration with general education teachers to ensure educational materials are accessible, adapted, modified and appropriate in accordance with students’ IEPs.

Lessons, tasks and activities have focused on student’s IEP goals and include pre-recorded lessons, synchronous teaching and teacher-designed learning activities. Students have access to daily contact with their special education case manager. If a student receives related services, these are provided virtually as outlined on students’ IEPs. 

English as a New Language (ENL) Services for  Students Remote Only Learning (ROL Option) 

After a case-by-case review, each English Language Learner were assigned to an ENL class that fit the student’s schedule and instructional needs. Students were assigned a specific time to log on for ENL instruction with an ENL teacher. 

Shift to Virtual Learning in the event of school building closure due to COVID-19

  • In the event school buildings are compelled to close, school will resume virtually.
  • Grades K-5 students will follow the in-school schedule at home with a combination of synchronous (live-online) and asynchronous teacher lessons (not live, pre-recorded lessons), online group work or small group instruction. Time spent on instruction will vary by grade level, however, students will engage with learning daily.
  • Grade Pre-K-12 students will follow the in-school schedule when at home with live, virtual instruction (most common method), blended with recorded teacher lessons, online group work, and small group instruction. Students will be engaged in learning activities when classes would have been in session.
  • Student and staff attendance will be taken daily.

Technology and equity for students/families during remote learning

The district is committed to providing access to technology and connectivity for both in-person and remote learning models. This includes:

  • Providing Chromebooks or iPads to students for use at home during remote learning model. Research on families in need of devices was conducted during remote learning under school closures in the spring of 2020 and continues to be updated. Some 2,100 Chromebooks were distributed to students in March 2020 for remote learning during the 2019-20 school year, and redistributed in August, 2020 for the 2020-21 school year.
  • School principals continue to communicate with students and families to ascertain need for computer devices and Internet access for learning. District Parent Liaison is made available to help with translation for the district’s Spanish speaking population.
  • Offering Google Classroom Meet sessions provide both a video chat and a call-in feature for students without Internet access.  
  • In the event of full remote learning, the district deploys Internet hotspot locations throughout the district for use by students and staff who do not have home Internet access.
  • The district continues to supply information to families in need about free Internet services offered during COVID-19 by local providers such as Spectrum.
  • The district website continues to offer video and narrative step-by-step technology resources to students and families regarding use of remote learning platforms and programs from home.