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FAQs: Distance Learning

Updated May 30, 2020
 
Distance Learning
Will the teaching staff be providing distance learning to students?
Why will the current distance learning plan not look just like a regular school day?
Why is the ICSD talking about equity and inclusion in terms of the distance learning plan?
How will this distance learning plan prepare students to pass a particular grade or exam, or even graduate?
What about report cards, conferences, and 5-week grades?
What about spring break?
What about special education and preschool special education services?
What about the Committee on Special Education (CSE), Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) and Section 504 meetings?
What other resources are available to guide my child’s learning during this time?
What resources are available for students and families in need of distance learning support?
Culminating Experiences
Why is the ICSD focusing on culminating experiences?
How have the culminating experiences been designed?
What exactly are the common culminating experiences?
How will students be graded/assessed at the end of the year?
Will special education services be provided through the end of the year?
Internet and Technology
Will 6-12 students have access to Chromebooks or the internet?
Will PreK-5 students have access to Chromebooks or other devices?
Will teachers and students use Google Meet video features?
What if students or families need support with technology during the closure?
Cancellations and Building Access
Will school be in session this July?
What about summer school?
What about sports?
What about fine and performing arts?
What about New York State testing and Advanced Placement (AP) tests?
What if my child has ICSD textbooks or library books that need to be returned?
 

Will the teaching staff be providing distance learning to students?
 
Yes. Optional activities for elementary and secondary students will be provided through Friday, April 10. On Monday, April 13, we will begin our next phase of instructional delivery, ICSD Distance Learning 2.0. Our goals for this next phase of distance learning are to:
  • provide our students with a truly engaging and empowering academic distance learning experience;
  • ensure our students have access to appropriate social & emotional content, skills, and strategies; and
  • support our educators so that they have the ability to manage their own lives while planning and teaching through a distance learning approach.
Here’s what you can expect to see in ICSD Distance Learning 2.0, depending on your student’s grade level:

Pre-K - 1st Grade

Instruction: Assignments and materials (books, workbooks, etc.) will be delivered to your home. We will be recommending supplemental digital resources as well. Students will be learning around 1 hour to 1.5 hours each day, doing work and connecting with their teachers.

Connection:
  • Daily contact (by a classroom teacher, specialist, or aide/TA) via phone, email, or digitally (as appropriate).
  • Weekly office hours hosted by Master Educators of Inclusion will be available should you have questions or concerns.
Grades 2-5

Instruction: Chromebooks, along with print materials (books, workbooks, etc.) will be delivered to your home. Students in grades 2-3 will mostly use software (SeeSaw) and students in grades 4-5 will mostly use Google Classroom. Students will be learning 1.5 to 2.5 hours each day, completing assignments and connecting with their teachers.

Connection:
  • Daily contact (by a classroom teacher, specialist, or aide/TA) via phone, email, or digitally (as appropriate).
  • Weekly office hours hosted by Master Educators of Inclusion will be available should you have questions or concerns.
Grades 6-8

Instruction: Chromebooks will be delivered to your home, if they have not already been. Grades 6-8 will continue the use of Google Classroom. Students will be learning around 2.5 to 3.0 hours each day, doing work and connecting with their teachers.

Connection:
  • Each teacher will connect at least twice per week/per course through office hours and/or direct video lessons.
  • Weekly office hours hosted by Master Educators of Inclusion will be available should you have questions or concerns.
Grades 9-12

Instruction: Chromebooks will be delivered to your home, if they have not already been. Grades 9-12 will continue the use of Google Classroom. Students will be learning approximately 2.5 to 4.0 hours each day, doing work and connecting with their teachers and classmates.

Connection:
  • Each teacher will connect at least twice per week/per course through office hours and/or direct video lessons.
  • Weekly office hours hosted by Master Educators of Inclusion will be available should you have questions or concerns.

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.

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 access to additional materials, internet, and adult support for our PreK-12 students 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 during school in brick-and-mortar spaces.
  • 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, we began a unified approach to alternative instruction 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 have reached out to families to determine their level of access to devices and the internet, and are in the midst of ensuring that each 2nd- through 12th-grade student has access.

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.

Our educators know this, and are working to find ways to structure assignments and grades to better support all learners. As we transition away from “optional” activities, we ask educators and caregivers to partner with one another in new ways to keep our children learning. 

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

Our current distance learning plan is in place through April 10, 2020. In the meantime, we are determining how educators may grade and assess student work in ICSD Distance Learning 2.0.

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

We will be combining our 3rd and 4th marking periods; elementary report cards will go out in June. Parent-teacher conferences are currently on hold until further notice and we will keep the community apprised of any changes. If you have questions about your child’s progress, please reach out to their teacher(s).

What about spring break?

During the week of April 6-10 we will continue to deliver meals, as well as connect with and provide “optional” learning opportunities for students. We plan to transition to the more robust ICSD Distance Learning 2.0 plan beginning on Monday, April 13, 2020 (see above for more information).

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 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?

In April, the Special Education Department resumed CSE/504 and annual review meetings. If you have any questions about your child's special education services, please contact their MEI

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: NYSED Continuity of Learning website
 
NYSED also recently announced that PBS stations throughout the state will be providing “Learn-at-Home” educational content through its broadcast stations and increased online educational resources during this extended closure. Parents/caregivers and educators should check local listings for their local public television stations for additional information on schedules and channel lineup. You can find your local PBS station by using the PBS Station Finder
 
Digital PBS resources can be found here:

What resources are available for students and families in need of distance learning support?
 
Students and families who are experiencing issues with technology (how to log on, device not working, missing charger, etc.) and those who need help completing assignments should call our Family and Student Support Line any time at (607) 882-9850. Please leave a voicemail and someone will call you back as soon as possible.

Additionally, we have set up a new website, designed to help all students and families find support for learning digitally during our school closure: ICSD Distance Learning for Students and Caregivers.

Why is the ICSD focusing on culminating experiences?

For our students’ academic and social-emotional well-being, and for our educators’ and families’ well-being, we must find student-centered, common ways to wind down the 2019-2020 school year in the era of distance learning. The period between June 8 and June 16 will be an opportunity for students to complete work, connect with teachers, and review and celebrate their learning.

How have the culminating experiences been designed?

Educators from across the district came together in various working groups to discuss common elements of the end of the school year and develop suggestions for culminating experiences for their colleagues. These suggestions were combined into a single guidance document that is intended to help teachers and building leaders tailor culminating experiences specific to their students’ situations and needs. 

What exactly are the common culminating experiences?

Beginning June 8, all students will engage in the following culminating experiences:
Continued Connections
Teachers will continue to connect with students at regular intervals through June 16. The amount and frequency of the connections will depend on students’ and educators’ needs.
Closure Conversations
Teachers will engage in individual conversations with students/students and families to reflect on and provide a sense of closure to the year. These conversations can be student-led and may also include counselors or other school-team members. 
End-of-Year Learning
Beginning June 8, students will no longer engage in new material and will instead shift to end-of-year learning, such as final review and projects.
End-of-Year Celebrations
As always, the end of the school year will be a time to celebrate students’ accomplishments with presentations of learning, moving up ceremonies, graduations, and other special activities. 
Planning for Transitions
The period between June 8 and June 16 will also be an opportunity to begin helping students make successful transitions to new grades and/or school levels in the fall. 
Grading
Grading and assessment systems will vary among grade levels and courses (see below).

How will students be graded/assessed at the end of the year?

Grading and assessment systems will vary among grade levels and courses:
Elementary students will receive comments in June; they will not receive numerical grades.
Middle school students will be graded on a 1-4 rubric for non-credit-bearing classes and have the choice of receiving a numerical grade or pass/fail grade for credit-bearing courses. AIS labs will receive an S+/S/S- grade and Capstone Projects will receive a pass/fail grade.
IHS students have the choice of receiving a numerical grade or pass/fail grade for each course.
LACS students will receive narrative and other evaluations.

Will special education services be provided through the end of the year?

Yes. Special education-related services, such as speech, OT, and counseling, will continue through June 16. Special education teacher services will be provided in conjunction with classroom experiences through June 16, as well.

Will 6-12 students have access to Chromebooks or the internet?
 
Yes. If you have not already done so, please fill out this form or contact your school principal so that we can learn:
  • whether your 6-12 child needs a Chromebook and does not have one for any reason;
  • whether you need access to the internet (click here to learn more about Spectrum’s free offer); 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.

Will PreK-5 students have access to Chromebooks or other devices?
 
At this time, we are focusing on ensuring that all 2nd-through 12th-grade students have access to devices and the internet. Devices are being deployed to students in grades 2-5 during the week of April 6.

Will teachers and students use Google Meet video features?
 
As teachers engage students in synchronous (same time) learning experiences virtually, many of them will be using Google Meet. Educators may record these sessions and post them to student-only access sites, so that students who cannot participate live can experience the lesson at another time. This will ensure equity and access for all learners. Educators are the only ones who can begin these Google Meet sessions. These videos are only stored on our secure servers, and both our systems and processes are compliant with Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Any family who is concerned about this in any way may simply turn off video and sound. We also continue to be open to thoughts and questions about this and other topics; feel free to use the Let’s Talk! portal.

What if students or families need support with technology during the closure?
 
Students and families who are experiencing issues with technology (how to log on, device not working, missing charger, etc.) and those who need help completing assignments should call our Family and Student Support Line any time at (607) 882-9850. Please leave a voicemail and someone will call you back as soon as possible.

Will school be in session this July?
 
No. The last day of school for all ICSD students is July 16, 2020. Along with other districts in the region, and in accordance with Governor Cuomo’s executive order requiring remote instruction through the April spring break, the ICSD is positioned to end the school year approximately one week early. 

What about summer school?
 
On May 21, Governor Cuomo announced that there will be no in-person instruction this summer for New York State schools. Our summer school programs will be administered remotely through distance learning. 

What about sports?
 
All extracurricular activities, including all sporting events, are canceled through the duration of the school closure. 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 the duration of the school closure. We will notify the community when these activities will resume. 

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
On April 6, the New York State Board of Regents canceled the June 2020 High School Regents Examination Program. Students who meet one of the following eligibility requirements are exempt from Regents Examinations they were planning to take in June 2020:
  • The student is currently enrolled in the course of study culminating in a Regents Exam and by the scheduled date of the June 2020 Regents Examination will have earned credit in such course of study.
  • The student is in grade 7, is enrolled in a course of study leading to a Regents Examination, and has met the standards assessed in the provided coursework.
  • The student is currently enrolled in a course of study culminating in a Regents Examination and has failed to earn credit by the end of the school year. Such student returns for summer instruction to make up the failed course credit and is subsequently granted diploma credit in August 2020.
  • The student was previously enrolled in the course leading to an applicable Regents Examination, has achieved course credit, and has not yet passed the associated Regents Exam but was intending to take the test in June to achieve a passing score.
The New York State Education Department has released FAQs about the Regents Exams. In addition to the information listed here and the information available via the FAQ page, please look for more communication directly from your child’s principal.

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.

What if my child has ICSD textbooks or library books that need to be returned?
 
The Tompkins County Public Library is providing a central location for the return of ICSD textbooks and library books. All ICSD books that need to be returned to your child’s school building can be dropped in the building book drop of the Tompkins County Public Library, located at 101 East Green Street, Ithaca.