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All Ithaca City School District schools are closed until April 15, 2020. Learn more>>

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FAQs: School Closure

Updated March 21, 2020 (all updates are in red)

Thank you to our entire Ithaca City School District community for the outpouring of support and kindness toward our children, staff, families, and greater Ithaca community as we navigate the effects of COVID-19 on our world. All schools are closed until April 15, 2020.

Please see below for often-updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding our closure, and always reach out to us via email (icsdcommunications@icsd.k12.ny.us), phone (607-274-2101), or Let’s Talk! with any additional questions.

 
Questions
 

Will meals be provided to children?

Yes, our dedicated staff are providing free meals to all children for the duration of the school closure.

In order to help support travel and social distancing restrictions, beginning Tuesday, March 24, the ICSD will move to only home delivery for school meals. Meal pickup locations will no longer be operational.

Meals (breakfast and lunch) are available Monday through Friday from March 16th through April 10th. Meals will be delivered to families' homes on a daily basis.

Any ICSD family can arrange for daily meal delivery by completing our online delivery request form: http://bit.ly/2U55Q5p. Families should complete one form per week for all children in the household and submit the form at least 24 hours in advance.

If you do not have access to the internet, or otherwise need assistance completing the meal delivery request form, please call 2-1-1. The call center is available 24/7 and is also locally staffed Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

All meals will be delivered to homes only and will be left outside. Please do not meet the delivery person at the door.

Menus can be found on the ICSD Child Nutrition webpage (ithacacityschools.org/nutrition) or the Ithaca School Food Facebook page (facebook.com/IthacaSchoolFood).

If you have any questions, please call (607) 274-2302, email beth.krause@icsd.k12.ny.us or icsdcommunications@icsd.k12.ny.us, or use the Let’sTalk! Portal.
 

What about the Food Bank's BackPack Program?

Backpacks will be sent out on Fridays to all sites and on the deliveries to homes. Backpacks normally contain a shelf-stable protein, grains, and canned fruits or vegetables. 

 

Are there resources for families and students that help with understanding COVID-19 and dealing with anxiety surrounding it?

We know our community continues to navigate this situation with continued updates from our county health department and the Centers for Disease Control. Below is a selected list of resources for your reference.

 

Will the teaching staff be providing distance learning to students?

Yes. During the closure, we will provide students with access to instructional activities through digital and non-digital distance learning approaches. Our goal is to ensure that all students have digital and/or non-digital resources that allow them the option to engage in the content they had been learning while at school. Our union and district leadership have developed the following plan to support our young people and staff.  

Given our commitment to equity and inclusion, a unified approach to alternative instruction will begin on March 25, 2020. We all want our children and families to have equal access to common learning experiences. In that vein, here’s what you can expect:

PreK through 5th grade (primarily non-digital approach)

  • One time per week, classroom teachers will provide
    • 2 ELA activities
    • 2 math activities 
These activities will be printed and mailed to you if you would like, and they will be available on our district website (www.ithacacityschools.org) beginning March 25. 
  • One time per week, special area teachers will provide
    • 1 differentiated activity/video/resource per grade level on our website
Elementary families, please fill out this form by the evening of Sunday, March 22 so that we can learn:
  • your preferences regarding mailed activities; and 
  • whether your child needs their instrument from school. 
Don’t worry, we’ll call you if you don’t fill this out, as we understand access is not uniform.

Sixth through 12th grade (digital approach)

  • One time per week, teachers will provide
    • 1 activity per course  
These will be provided through Google Classroom. Teachers will be sure to share classroom codes with students. 
  • School Counselors and Deans will provide resources on social and emotional supports and shall continue to work on scheduling, as well as virtual course selection meetings.
Secondary families, please fill out this form by the evening of Sunday, March 22 so that we can learn whether:
  • your 6-12 child needs a Chromebook and does not have one for any reason;
  • you need access to the internet (click here to learn more about Spectrum’s free offer); and
  • your child needs their instrument from school. 
Don’t worry, we’ll call you if you don’t fill this out, as we understand access is not uniform.

It is important to note that many students will be receiving work that is tailored just for them (“differentiated”) in accordance with individual plans, and may not be posted publicly due to privacy reasons.

 

Why will the current distance learning plan not look just like a regular school day? 

While some expect our approach to mirror college and university experiences with distance learning and/or professional work-from-home arrangements, educating PreK-12 students in a print and digital environment requires much different planning and preparation, in that it must include specifically-designed, developmentally-appropriate curriculum, materials, and activities, based on using digital platforms (a novel experience for younger learners). This is why we are differentiating our approach in partnership with our trusted educators and administrators.

Our current focus is on review until spring break (April 3, 2020) and we are in the process of developing approaches that will support longer-term distance learning if we are not permitted to return after this break. 

In collaboration with union leadership, we have carefully considered a number of factors as we designed the current plan, and we will continue to consider them as we craft additional plans. These include:

  • Equity and access: There is uneven student access to additional materials, internet, and adult support, PreK-12, at this time. Although we will rather quickly provide full device access and internet hotspots to students, issues of equity and access will take time to assess and attempt to equalize across our district’s 5,400 learners.

  • Family stressors: Families throughout our community (and world) are struggling with the necessity of going into work because they will not be paid otherwise, sickness, trauma, and other significant life experiences in the wake of COVID-19, and they can not facilitate the same level of learning that teachers provide in school.

  • Students as childcare providers in their homes: We know that many older students are currently providing childcare for their younger siblings while their caregivers are working.

  • Professional development for educators: Our staff do a phenomenal job. We also need to provide professional development to turn a centuries-old tradition of in-person instruction into a print-based and/or online endeavor, PreK through 12th grade.

  • Educators’ family needs: Many of our teachers are at home caring for their own families, and experiencing their own challenges, while also working to create educational experiences for our students. 

 

Why is the ICSD talking about equity and inclusion in terms of the distance learning plan? 

Given our commitment to equity and inclusion, a unified approach to alternative instruction will begin on March 25, 2020. We all want our children and families to have equal access to common learning experiences. Given our nation's current inequities and oppressive systems, our district, and districts throughout the United States, have much work to do as organizations to ensure that the education students receive across the thousands of our homes is equitable.

We fully understand that every student’s situation is unique, and we cannot expect that every child has the same level of support at home. Each family is experiencing its own challenges in the midst of COVID-19. We know that some caregivers must continue to work full time, may be enduring their own sickness, are experiencing trauma in relationship to this pandemic, and/or have varied family support structures. Thus, while these activities aren’t required for students to complete, we encourage you to leverage these resources to offer our young people regular opportunities to learn and grow, even outside of school.
 

Will 6-12 students have access to Chromebooks or the internet?

Yes. Secondary families, please fill out this form by the evening of Sunday, March 22 so that we can learn whether:

  • your 6-12 child needs a Chromebook and does not have one for any reason;
  • you need access to the internet (click here to learn more about Spectrum’s free offer); and
  • your child needs their instrument from school. 
Don’t worry, we’ll call you if you don’t fill this out, as we understand access is not uniform.
 

Will PreK - 5 students have access to Chromebooks or other devices?

At this time, we are focusing on ensuring that our 6-12 students have their Chromebooks and access to the internet. The coordination and delivery of devices to our younger learners is something we plan to look at if we are to remain closed beyond the spring break.  

 

What other resources are available to guide my child’s learning during this time

The New York State Education Department recently released a website full of learning supports and announced that PBS stations throughout the state will be showing educational content during this extended closure. Please check out the NYSED Continuity of Learning website for more information.  

 

How will this prepare students to pass a particular grade or exam, or even graduate?

Our distance learning plan is in place until spring break. In the meantime, we are preparing plans for longer-term distance learning in the event that the Governor declares that we must be out of session for longer. Although we hope that this is not the case, we know that we must be prepared for a closure that surpasses our current reopening date.  

 

Will staff come into work?

All non-essential staff must not enter district property. We support staff to practice social distancing as outlined by the Centers of Disease Control. We are implementing a total plant shutdown starting on Monday, March 23, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. for all non-essential staff. The Governor has ordered that organizations only permit “essential personnel” to report to our buildings. Your supervisor will contact you if you are to report. We want to ensure that staff are as safe as possible

 

What about report cards, conferences, and 5-week grades?

All of these are currently on hold due to our closure and we will be communicating more about these in the coming weeks.

 

What about special education and preschool special education services?

This is an unprecedented time. The IDEA, Section 504, and Title II of the ADA do not specifically address a situation in which elementary and secondary schools are closed for an extended period of time (generally more than 10 consecutive days) due to exceptional circumstances, such as an outbreak of a particular disease. We are working to support all students as we are able and will have updates for you in the coming weeks.

We know that parents and caregivers of children with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 Plans have questions and concerns about their children’s special education and services during the closure. While the situation is ever-changing, the ICSD has, at this time, made the decisions outlined below. We will continue to shift what we are doing in response to local, state, and federal directives. 
  • Special Education modifications and guidance will be provided in collaboration with general education teachers to maintain students’ progress toward IEP goals under the current restraints. The focus will be on maintaining skills vs. acquiring new skills.    

  • Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Speech-Language Therapists, Social Workers, Psychologists, and Adaptive PE teachers will be offering activities and/or home plans to maintain progress toward IEP goals under the current constraints.

  • Office hours will be provided so that Special Education teachers and Related Service providers can connect with students and families on their caseload. We are asking case managers to make initial contact with families.

  • Technology resources, such as Learning Ally, will continue to be available to students and posted on our website. Please contact your Master Educator of Inclusion if you need access to the internet or technology.

  • Therapists will contact families whose children use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) devices and programs on strategies during the closure.

  • Auditory supports will continue to be available. We are working closely with our audiologists from CiTi BOCES to make this happen.

  • We will be communicating and collaborating with Racker and TST BOCES to determine what and how special education programs and services will be addressed.

  • All CSE meetings will be canceled through April 12, 2020.

  • All testing in process for special education initial eligibility decisions will be suspended. Testing will resume when students return to school.

  • IEP progress monitoring will be suspended and will resume when students return to school.   

If you have questions about your child’s special education services, please contact their Master Educator of Inclusion (MEI) or Sheila McEnery, Director of Special Education. 

 

What about the Committee on Special Education (CSE), Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) and Section 504 meetings?

All CSE, CPSE, and 504 meetings are canceled through April 12, 2020. We will be communicating details on rescheduling meetings in the coming weeks.

 

How can families get access to the internet while schools are closed?

Charter will be offering free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not currently have service. The free access will start Monday, March 16 and will be available for 60 days. You must call 1-844-488-8395 to enroll. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.

Additionally, the following companies also have updated services and offers:

AT&T

  • Suspending broadband usage caps for our home internet customers. That means no overage fees while people are home using more data.
  • Will continue to offer internet access for qualifying limited-income households at $10/month through Access from AT&T program.
  • Will not terminate service of any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer due to an inability to pay their bill as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – and are waiving late payment fees for those customers.
  • Not terminating service if they are unable to pay their Sprint bill because of the coronavirus,
  • Waiving late fees incurred because of economic circumstances related to the pandemic.
  • Customers with metered data plans will receive unlimited data per month for 60 days (a minimum of two bill cycles) at no extra cost.
  • Will provide customers with an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot data per month for 60 days (a minimum of two bill cycles) at no extra cost.
  • Customers with mobile hotspot-capable handsets who don’t have mobile hotspot today will now get 20GB as well per month for 60 days (a minimum of two bill cycles) at no extra cost.

T-Mobile

  • Starting now - ALL current T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers who have plans with data will have unlimited smartphone data for the next 60 days (excluding roaming).
  • Providing T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot / tethering service for the next 60 days – coming soon.
  • Working with our Lifeline partners to provide customers extra free data up to 5GB of data per month over the next two months.
  • Will waive late fees for 60 days from March 16, 2020 to May 16, 2020 and will not terminate service to a customer who's been impacted by the events involving the Coronavirus. If our customers are experiencing a hardship, they should call our customer service team to discuss their situation and available options.
  • Verizon will waive activation fees on new lines of service and upgrade fees starting March 18. This applies to all purchases and service-only activations made through Verizon digital channels, such as verizonwireless.com and the My Verizon app.
 

What resources can help me find childcare while schools are closed?

For help with childcare, please call the Child Development Council at 607-273-0259.

 

How is the ICSD ensuring that essential staff in our area (including healthcare workers and first responders) have access to childcare, as per the Governor’s executive order?

Any family that calls the Child Development Council will be given information regarding childcare, which will prioritize placements for healthcare workers and first responders. Those of us providing this childcare are not permitted to have more than 10 children per room, and must ensure social distancing. Our school district is exempt from meeting the standards through the Office of Family and Children’s Services (OCFS) for this purpose.

 

My child has medication at school. What should I do?

Our school nursing staff contacted families of students with daily prescription medications to assess the need to access the school supply. Nurses scheduled medication pickups at your child’s school health office. Please call (607) 274-2127 or email kari.burke@icsd.k12.ny.us with any additional questions.

 

My child left some items at school. Can I come and get these items?

At this time, our buildings are closed to the public. This is a matter of public health and we appreciate your understanding. If your student has medication stored in their school health office and you need to access the school supply, please call (607) 274-2127 or email kari.burke@icsd.k12.ny.us

 

What about sports?

All extracurricular activities, including all sporting events, are canceled through April 12, 2020. We will notify the community when these activities will resume.

 

What about fine and performing arts?

All extracurricular activities, including fine and performing art events, are canceled through April 12, 2020. We will notify the community when these activities will resume.

 

I would like to volunteer to support with meals. Who do I contact?

We are humbled by the huge outpouring of community concern and support for our ICSD families. While we appreciate your engagement and generosity, we are not in need of additional support at this time.

 

What about New York State testing and Advanced Placement (AP) tests?

The administrations of the 2020 elementary- and intermediate-level State assessments have been suspended for the remainder of this school year. This suspension for the remainder of the school year applies to the following New York State testing programs:

  • New York State Grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) Test
  • New York State Grades 3-8 Mathematics Test
  • New York State Grade 4 Elementary-Level Science Test
  • New York State Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test
  • New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) in Grades K-12
  • New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) for students with severe cognitive disabilities in Grades 3-8 and high school
At this time, Regents assessments are expected to be given as scheduled (June 17-25 and August 13-14).

On March 20, the College Board released plans outlining how students can prepare for AP exams, and potentially take said exams, through distance learning. You can review these plans here.

 

How will our community be notified regarding ICSD community members who test positive for COVID-19?

We wish all of our community members who have received or are awaiting results well, and hope that they experience a swift and full recovery. We all anticipated that we would reach a time when ICSD community members would begin testing positive for COVID-19. We are notifying each school community of staff and families when the first case arises. We wanted to be sure our entire ICSD community knew when we had our first confirmed case, and contacted staff and families then as well.

 

Will construction on the Capital Project continue while we are closed?

At this time, yes.

 

Will collective bargaining agreements still be honored?

Yes, collective bargaining agreements are legal agreements. Our BOCES payroll is still operating. Direct Deposit will function normally, however, paper checks will be mailed to the employee’s address listed in WinCap. Please consider signing up for Direct Deposit in the coming days to ensure timely receipt of funds (see below).

 

I’m a staff member who receives paper paychecks. How will I still get paid?

BOCES will continue to process payroll and mail checks to the address you have registered with them if you do not participate in Direct Deposit. Please consider signing up for Direct Deposit in the coming days to ensure timely receipt of funds. 

If you would like to set up your pay as direct deposit, we are asking that Direct Deposit forms be sent via email to humanresources@icsd.k12.ny.us. All requests should include your Employee ID and last four digits of your SSN. Please print your name clearly on the form. This email should come from your ICSD email address for security and verification purposes.

If you are unable to have the form notarized, you must include a voided check or a direct deposit authorization letter/form that includes your routing number and account number provided from your financial institution. The human resources office is currently handling all of these requests remotely. You will be notified via your district email when your application has been processed.

 

Is there a recommended out of office message for employees?

Yes: “Our district will be closed through April 12, 2020. We appreciate your message and will respond upon our return to work. Please stay healthy.”

 

Will school be in session this July?

The governor has waived the 180-day requirement for all New York State schools through April 1. Our negotiated academic calendar remains unchanged at this time.