July 22 update: Message to parents about reopening, upcoming forum

The following letter was sent on July 22, 2020 to DCS parents, guardians, staff and board of education via the district’s One Call Now email and text messaging system. 

July 22, 2020
 
Dear Duanesburg Central Schools Community:
 
In order to reopen our schools safely in the fall, some procedures and environments at DCS will undoubtedly look different than you have come to expect. Please know that while things may be a little different, our goal to provide a high-quality educational experience in an engaging environment remains unchanged. We are committed to making the 20-21 school year a positive experience despite any obstacles. To do this, we will continue to rely upon our partnership with you and other DCS families. We thank you in advance for the increased role that we are asking you to play in these challenging times. In the days to come, please watch our School Reopening & COVID-19 Updates & Resources webpage for more detailed information and important news at: https://www.duanesburg.org/coronavirus-covid-19-updates.
 
Also, please mark your calendars: I will be hosting another online forum to discuss reopening on August 12 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. via Google Meet at meet.google.com/ogm-ssri-oia.
 
Logistics:
1:1 Devices
We will continue with the practice of assigning electronic devices to each student so they are prepared if phasing in and out of remote learning becomes necessary. Distribution of devices will take place on the first day of school.
 
Students requiring internet access will also be able to obtain Mi-Fi hotspot devices. To accommodate all who need these devices, we ask that any family with the ability to get online refrain from requesting one so there are enough for those who need them. Students who used Mi-Fi devices during the 19-20 school year will be contacted regarding pickup times by school staff. If you requested a Mi-Fi device and no longer need one, or did not need a device last year but need one this year, please contact Joe O’Neill, our Management Information Systems Director.
 
Daily Screening:
All students and staff members will be required to submit a self-screening questionnaire through an online web application each morning before coming to school. This application can be found at: https://entry.neric.org/dcs. Any students or staff members who exhibit any of the symptoms of COVID-19, have been with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, or have been in areas designated as COVID-19 hotspots should stay home and quarantine until documentation has been provided showing evidence of a negative test.
 
Mask Wearing:
Cloth masks should be worn whenever keeping a 6-foot social distance is not possible, and we also suggest that they be worn as much as tolerable. Staff will be required to wear masks throughout the day. Specifically, we will require all students in grades PK-12 to wear masks when traveling on the bus, in the hallway, or to the restroom. Two cloth masks will be provided to each student. Students who are medically unable to comply with this direction should provide documentation from a doctor. Students unwilling to comply with social distancing or mask-wearing measures will be unable to attend school because of the risk this behavior may pose to others. 
 
Personal Protective Equipment Supplied:
Two cloth masks, hand sanitizer, and other necessary personal protective equipment will be provided to students. Supplies will be replenished as needed.
 
Transportation: 
Though we will be able to transport all students who need to ride buses in the morning, we encourage parents who are able to do so to transport their children to school to decrease density. Students will be picked up in two runs. Frequently touched areas will be cleaned between runs, and buses will be cleaned and disinfected in the morning and afternoon.
 
All students must complete the online screening tool prior to boarding the bus. We are requiring all students to wear masks on buses. Only one student will be allowed to sit in each seat, except in the case of siblings. Students will be assigned seats based on their order in the bus run to minimize contact when passing through the bus. 
 
Run 1: Jr./Sr. High School students requiring bus transportation will arrive at the building at approximately 7:45 a.m. High School students not requiring transportation should arrive at the High School in time to begin class at 7:55 a.m. Dismissal time for High School students will be 2:00 p.m.
 
Run 2: Elementary students will arrive at school at approximately 9:00 a.m. and dismissal time will be 3:00 p.m. Before-school care will be available and will be managed by the YMCA.
 
Nutrition:
As always, breakfast and lunch will be available for all students. We strongly encourage all parents to utilize the MySchoolBucks program to keep cash transactions to a minimum. DCS will be absorbing the cost of transaction fees this year so there will be no additional fee to add money to your child’s account. Any cash used for meal purchases must be in exact change and in an envelope labeled with the student’s name. This year, all students will sign up for breakfast and lunch in the morning with their first teacher and meals will be catered to them in their classrooms. The cafeterias and other congregate spaces will not be used. In addition, students will not have access to microwaves or vending machines.
 
Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Ventilation:
Bathrooms, main entrance doors, elevators, water bottle fillers, and high-contact surfaces will be cleaned hourly. Classrooms, halls, bathrooms, offices, handrails, surface areas and all other rooms that have been occupied will be cleaned and disinfected nightly. All cleaning supplies will be EPA/DEC approved cleaners for COVID-19. In addition, building ventilation and air filtering will be maximized.
 
Infection control strategies:
Generally, students will remain in cohort pods of approximately 15 students. Travel in the building will be minimized to reduce cross contamination and large congregate spaces (i.e. cafeteria, gymnasium, library, auditorium) will only be used by small groups. Classrooms will be at approximately 60% capacity with desks spaced six feet apart. Any space used by multiple groups will be cleaned between groups. In addition, all staff and students will be trained in proper health hygiene protocols.

Instruction:
We expect the governor to determine whether or not schools may open in the fall during the first week of August; however, we have been preparing for any decision. We also know that the complex nature of the pandemic may require a combination of these scenarios over the course of the year. In all cases, we know that this has been a stressful time for children and we will be devoting a great deal of planning to making sure that our school cultures remain joyful and nurturing.
 
In-Person or Hybrid Instruction:
The following scenarios will be used if schools are allowed to reopen in the fall for in-person education until such time as guidelines around social distancing relax.

Grades UPK-6: In Person:
Student classrooms will be able to accommodate approximately 15 students. For example, a grade consisting of 45 students will require three rooms instead of just two. In order to provide maximum support and supervision, two classroom teachers, a support staff member and a special education teacher will separate duties and rotate between these three classrooms. All three rooms will also be connected via distance conferencing technology. We hope that having access to these additional staff members will help students learn and succeed in this different environment.
 
Students will be assigned work spaces within the classrooms, and travel between different parts of the school will be minimized to avoid cross contamination. In addition, students will eat in classrooms. Special classes (art, music, library, and PE) will typically meet in students’ classrooms, though students may travel with special area teachers to other locations which will be cleaned and disinfected between groups using these areas. Recess is an important part of the school day and will still take place, though in smaller groups than in the past and with practical distancing and hygiene considerations. Students need not wear masks during recess.

Grades 7 and 8: In Person:
We anticipate all students in grades 7 and 8 attending school in person every day with the following period schedule:
Period 1 – 7:55-8:52
Period 2 – 8:55-9:52
Period 3 – 9:55-10:52
Period 4 – 10:55-11:52
Period 5 – 11:55-12:52
Period 6 – 12:55-1:55
Students in 7th and 8th grade will take all core classes and specials. As in the Elementary School, students will be assigned workspace in socially-distanced classrooms, kept in cohort groups of approximately 15 students, and travel will be minimized. In some instances, teachers may be connected to two or more rooms via distance conferencing technology, though we will always have teachers in rooms live with students to provide extra support and supervision.
 
Grades 9-12: Hybrid:
Senior High School students in grades 9-12 will be on the following rotating schedule of in-person and remote instruction:
Grades 9 & 10
Monday – In-Person Instruction
Tuesday – Remote
Wednesday – In-Person Instruction
Thursday – Remote
Fridays with Odd Numbered Dates – In-Person Instruction
Fridays with Even Numbered Dates – Remote
 
Grades 11 & 12
Monday – Remote
Tuesday – In-Person Instruction
Wednesday –  Remote
Thursday – In-Person Instruction
Fridays with Odd Numbered Dates – Remote
Fridays with Even Numbered Dates – In-Person Instruction
 
Period Schedule (whether in person or remote):
Period 1 – 7:55-8:50
Period 2 – 8:50-9:45
Period 3 – 9:45-10:40
Period 4 – 10:40-11:35
Period 5 – 11:35-12:05
Period 6 – 12:05-1:00
Period 7 – 1:00-1:50

When in school, students in grades 9-12 will be assigned workspace in socially-distanced classrooms, kept in cohort groups of approximately 15 students. While travel will be minimized, students may be going to other locations for classes. In addition, students will eat in classrooms. In some instances, teachers may be connected to two or more rooms via distance conferencing technology, though we will always have teachers in rooms live with students to provide extra support and supervision. In-person instruction will primarily center on core area classes such as ELA, math, social studies, foreign language, and science. Remote classes will primarily focus on elective areas.
 
Individual student schedules with both classroom numbers and Google Meet links will be sent home in August.
 
Remote Learning:
There may be the need to phase into and out of remote learning during the course of the year.  Though we encourage all students who are able to attend in person classes when they are offered, we know that some students may be medically unable to attend school. We also know that some parents may be uncomfortable allowing their children to return to school at this time.

Elementary School: 
While students electing to stay home may stream instruction during the day following their grade’s in person schedule, recordings of classes will also be made available upon request. If the entire school needs to transition to remote learning, core classes will be streamed at the following schedule:
ELA – 9:00 a.m.
Math – 10:15 a.m.
Social Studies/Science – 11:30 a.m.
Support Services – 12:15 p.m.

Jr./Sr. High School:
Because all classes will be streamed, students who are not in school may also connect to them from their homes remotely. The same period schedules will be followed whether instruction is in person or remote. Recordings of instruction will also be made available upon request. Schedules with both Google Meet classrooms and physical classrooms will be provided to students in August.
 
We  will continue to keep you updated about reopening, and I thank you again for your patience and partnership.

Sincerely, 
James Niedermeier, Ed.D.
Superintendent