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FAQs: Reopen ICSD

Updated September 25 (latest updates are in red)

Please see below for answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding plans for all students to engage in distance learning beginning September 14 and for our transition to in-person/hybrid learning on October 5. As always, you may reach out to us via email, phone (607-274-2101), or Let’s Talk! with any additional questions.

For FAQs specific to Ithaca High School or to view our staff FAQs, click here:
IHS Reopening FAQs  |  Reopening FAQs for Staff
 
General
When does the 2020-2021 school year start?
When do students start learning?
Why is the ICSD starting the school year with distance learning?
When will the ICSD transition to in-person learning?
Does this mean that the ICSD is closed?
Why is the in-person start date October 5?
How will the ICSD decide to return to in-person learning?
What happens if the ICSD decides not to reopen for in-person instruction on October 5?
Will the ICSD provide school meals for students during distance learning? (Updated September 4)
What childcare supports are available for families? (Updated September 14)
What will staff do on September 3 and September 8-11?
I’m a teacher. Will I be able to teach remotely from my classroom?
Physical and Environmental Health and Safety
If my student is enrolled in distance learning, will they need to stay up-to-date with their immunizations? (Added September 6)
Will staff be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)? 
Will students be required to wear masks in school?
How will mask breaks work?
How will health and safety education work for students?
Will the ICSD provide PPE for students and staff?
Will the district conduct daily health screenings of staff?
Will the district conduct daily health screenings of students?
Will personnel be trained to look for signs of illness in students and staff?
What if a student or employee develops symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 during the school day?
Why isn’t the ICSD requiring testing of students or employees? (Updated September 4)
What if a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19?
How might classroom configurations work?
Where will students eat meals in school?
Will students be required to physically distance on the bus?
What are the district’s cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing protocols?
What is the district’s plan for cleaning school playgrounds?
What work is being done on the district’s HVAC systems? (Updated September 23)
What testing has been or will be done on the district’s water systems? 
Will visitors be allowed in schools?
Social-Emotional and Academic Learning
What is the ICSD distance learning model? How is it different from the spring?
How will the ICSD support students’ social-emotional well-being when school begins?
How will the district ensure students with disabilities receive the education and services they need?
Will the district be maintaining support for English as a New Language (ENL) students?
How much synchronous (live, real-time) and asynchronous (any time) learning will students have? (Updated September 10)
What will daily schedules look like for students and teachers?
How will the district monitor student attendance?
How will cohort assignments be determined for elementary and middle school students?
How will cohort/class assignments work when we transition to in-person teaching and learning? Will they stay the same or be different?  (Added September 22)
Why are there different in-person and distance learning cohort sizes at the elementary level? Can this be changed? (Updated September 25)
Will in-person and distance learning experiences be the same in terms of synchronous teaching? (Added September 22)
What criteria will be used to make the decision of which students can come back, and when, in-person after the initial October 5 group of students? (Added September 22)
When will parents and caregivers be able to make a different selection? (Added September 22)
What should families do if they need access to the internet or if there are issues with their child’s device? (Updated September 23)
What should teachers do if they need access to the internet? (Added September 23)
Will the district be providing devices for students in Pre-K-1st grade?
What is the Canvas learning management system? (Updated September 10)
What will remote options for classes like PE, art, and technology look like?
Will students who choose distance learning still be permitted to participate in athletics? (Added September 10)
When do fall sports start? (Updated September 13)
Communication
How can I learn more about the ICSD’s reopening plans?
How can I provide input on the ICSD’s reopening plans?
How can parents and caregivers ensure they receive communications from the ICSD? (Added September 6)
In the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 among students or staff, what information will be shared, and how?
 

General

When does the 2020-2021 school year start?
We will welcome all students back for distance learning on Monday, September 14, 2020. All staff will return on September 3, 2020, and will spend September 3 and September 8-11 engaged in professional development activities to even better prepare for distance learning.
When do students start learning?
Students will begin distance learning on the new first day of school: Monday, September 14, 2020. All communication regarding when and how students will first interact with one other and their educators will be forthcoming from each school. 
Why is the ICSD starting the school year with distance learning?
We hope that the virtual start to the school year will allow us extra time to address the details and logistics needed to ensure a safer opening of our school buildings. It is also our hope that, for those wishing to return to our physical spaces, we will have the ability to begin in-person teaching and learning on October 5, 2020. We will closely monitor internal, local, state, and national indicators to determine if and how we will reopen our spaces for in-person instruction at that time.
 
While state and local data on risk and infection rates would currently permit us to reopen our buildings, there are a number of factors that support starting with virtual/distance learning. As previously communicated, we are committed to providing choice to families and teachers with regards to in-person or distance learning. At the same time, doing so presents complications for scheduling and staffing. We also recognize that although community spread of COVID-19 continues to fall below 1%, recent and upcoming transitions and mobility in the area could significantly impact infection rates. Beginning with a virtual/distance learning model will allow us to monitor data and adjust plans as necessary.
 
In addition to monitoring health data, more work is needed in our school buildings. We have taken great strides in securing personal protective equipment (PPE), organizing around physical distancing standards, and implementing sanitation/cleaning protocols. However, we are facing challenges with the impact of COVID-19 on our supply chain. We are awaiting the delivery of MERV 13 filters and other HVAC equipment needed to meet the safety thresholds we desire. Furthermore, our capital project work, most specifically at Ithaca High School, has been delayed due to the lack of availability of fan coils in several spaces. You can be reassured that we will not open our spaces without proper airflow and ventilation.
When will the ICSD transition to in-person learning?
We hope that we will be able to begin in-person teaching and learning for those wishing to return to our physical spaces on October 5, 2020. We will closely monitor internal, local, state, and national indicators to determine if and how we will reopen our spaces for in-person instruction at that time. 
Does this mean that the ICSD is closed?
No. The ICSD will be open for all students to engage in distance learning, starting September 14, 2020. This decision does not constitute a school closure, as teaching and learning will be taking place each day, as per the academic calendar.
Can families choose different options for different students in their household?
We will work with a group of students, staff, faculty, families, and health experts to design the safest, most responsive approach to bringing students and employees back for in-person teaching and learning. This representative group of stakeholders will provide recommendations to help us determine the best approaches at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. These volunteers will help us gather input from and communicate our plans to our communities.
Why is the in-person start date October 5?
October 5 allows the ICSD several extra weeks to monitor qualitative and quantitative data, and make a thoughtful decision regarding any return to in-person learning. 
How will the ICSD decide to return to in-person learning?
The ICSD will utilize a combination of qualitative and quantitative data from local, state, and national sources to inform when and if students and teachers will return to our physical spaces for in-person instruction. A representative group of stakeholders will provide recommendations regarding the best ways to transition to in-person teaching and learning at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
What happens if the ICSD decides not to reopen for in-person instruction on October 5?
The students and staff of the ICSD will continue to engage in distance teaching and learning beyond October 5, as needed.
Will the ICSD provide school meals for students during distance learning?
Yes. The district will continue to provide school meals to all students, regardless of whether they are in our buildings or learning remotely. 

From Monday, September 14 through Friday, October 2, we will be serving free grab-and-go meals (breakfast and lunch) at each school building. The meals will be available for pickup between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Monday through Friday. Families can place their school meal orders using our online Google Form. Please place one order for all children in your household for all three weeks (September 14 - October 2). For more information, visit our School Meals Information page or call 607-274-2302.
What childcare supports are available for families?
The Child Development Council is available to support families in need of childcare, and can be reached at 607-273-0259. To learn more, visit the Child Development Council website.
What will staff do on September 3 and September 8-11?
The focus of professional development for these dates will be:
  • Blended learning, and utilizing technology to amplify student learning and peer collaboration
  • Anti-racist and culturally responsive teaching practices, aimed at validating and affirming young people and helping them build and bridge to school
  • Integrated social-emotional learning, to support students recognizing, understanding and empathizing with others’ emotions 
  • Health and safety protocols
This training will be focused, based on the roles and needs of staff. Although most staff are required to participate in these professional learning days, staff from all bargaining units are invited to engage, including substitutes. 
I’m a teacher. Will I be able to teach remotely from my classroom?
Yes. All staff who report to any school district facility must continue to follow standard health and safety protocols, including filling out the daily employee screener, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, and practicing good hand and respiratory hygiene.
 

Physical and Environmental Health and Safety

If my student is enrolled in distance learning, will they need to stay up-to-date with their immunizations?
At this time, the NYS Department of Health is not issuing exceptions for immunizations because of COVID-19. The department's stance continues to be that students missing vaccine doses for any reason must comply with Public Health Law Section 2164 requirements. Children entering or attending school in New York State, including summer school and distance learning, must comply with said requirements. View our Immunization FAQs for more information.
Will staff be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)? 
Yes. Face coverings will be worn by staff and visitors at all times, except for during scheduled mask breaks when students are physically distanced, including eating and drinking. Employees with documentation from a healthcare provider stating they are not medically able to tolerate face coverings will not be required to do so.
Will students be required to wear masks in school?
Yes. Face coverings will be worn by students at all times, except for during scheduled and naturally occurring (e.g., lunch, outdoor PE) mask breaks when students are physically distanced, including eating and drinking. Students whose physical or mental health would be adversely affected by wearing a mask will not be required to wear one. We will all be responsible for cultivating a culture of mask-wearing, along with practicing physical distancing, good hand, and respiratory hygiene, and staying home when sick. Students may wear their own masks (cloth or surgical). The ICSD will also provide masks. Students and staff will be frequently reminded not to touch their face covering and to wash their hands frequently. Information will be provided to staff, students, and students’ families on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.

Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings, such as school. If students are struggling to meet these expectations, we will engage students in discussion, solution-seeking, and restorative practices to ultimately support the student in engaging in these health and safety practices. 
Will students be required to wear masks on the bus?
Yes. Students who are medically and physically able will be required to wear masks at all times while on the bus. It is important to note that students who do not have a mask will NOT be denied transportation.
How will mask breaks work?
Building administrators will work directly with teachers to support the identification and implementation of scheduled and/or naturally occurring (e.g., lunch, outdoor PE) mask breaks during the school day. Masks breaks will be structured by school personnel, as they will teach and guide students through this process. Mask breaks can occur when students are at least 6 feet apart and are staggered in nature. This means that not all children will take a mask break at the same time. Each mask break will typically last for a few minutes. Students and staff will receive training in donning (putting on) and doffing (taking off) masks.
Will the ICSD provide PPE for students and staff?
Yes. Although ICSD students and staff may choose to wear their own face coverings, the ICSD will provide free, acceptable face coverings to those who need them, and will maintain an adequate supply of coverings in case replacements are needed. The district will also maintain adequate supplies of additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and eye protection, for school health professionals and transportation staff.
How will health and safety education work for students?
Education will be provided to students on an ongoing basis, consisting of simple, accurate, and age- and developmentally-appropriate information. Within buildings and during the school day, multiple strategies will be utilized to educate and support respiratory and hand hygiene, including:
  • Posting signs that promote everyday protective measures in highly visible locations (e.g., at entrances and exits and in restrooms)
  • Ensuring the availability of materials needed for adhering to hygiene practices (i.e. tissues, garbage cans, hand soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available)
  • Broadcasting regular announcements (building-wide and within Homebase or morning meetings)
  • Using age-appropriate videos to educate and remind students to wash their hands frequently and to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow and throw used tissues into the trash
  • Building hand hygiene into the school day schedule, including but not limited to:
    • Upon arriving in the classroom and after breaks
    • Before and after eating or handling food, or feeding children
    • Before and after diapering
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • After using the toilet or helping a child use the bathroom
    • After playing outdoors or in sand
    • Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
Additionally, in line with our mission to Engage, Educate, Empower, the district is seeking to involve students in the development and dissemination of information campaigns, messaging, and activities that support health and safety consistent with our Culture of Love. Through Friday, November 20, the ICSD is inviting students, staff, and community members to submit original content (e.g., photos, videos, audio recordings, paintings, essays, poems, etc.) related to the following themes, as part of Reopen ICSD:
  • Why I Wear A Mask
  • What School Means To Me
  • It's Up 2 Us Ithaca
Content submitted for the Reopen ICSD messaging campaign will be displayed on the district website, posted to district social media channels, reproduced as print materials or signage, and available for discussions and core subject investigations, in the academic setting ranging from science to social studies.
Will the district conduct daily health screenings of staff?
Yes. All ICSD employees currently receive a daily COVID-19 health screening questionnaire in their email inbox at 1:00 a.m., which they are required to complete before entering any district facility. In this questionnaire, staff are asked whether they have tested positive for COVID-19 and about any symptoms or known exposures. The list of possible symptoms is included for their review, first among them being a temperature of 100.0 °F (37.78 °C) or higher, as well as a definition of close contact for evaluating exposures. Following the governor’s announcement about travel restrictions, another question was added to the questionnaire regarding travel from any of the restricted states with significant community spread. Employees are not asked to record their temperature or provide any additional information beyond affirming or negating their status regarding testing, symptoms, exposures, and travel. At this time, the district is looking to enhance the monitoring capabilities of its current system, as well as exploring applications available through third-party vendors.
Will the district conduct daily health screenings of students?
Guidance from the NYSDOH requires mandatory daily health screenings, including temperature checks, as well as periodic screening questionnaires for students. It is strongly advised that this be done at home before students report to school. 

The ICSD is providing Student Health Screening Guidance for Parents/Guardians, currently available on the ICSD Health and Wellness webpage. Expectations for daily screening will be communicated to families using various channels (email, robocall, website, social media, printed flyers, newsletters, short video), and in multiple languages, before the start of school, with regular reminders provided throughout the year. The district is also exploring the use of supportive technologies for remote health screening (e.g., by an electronic survey, digital application, or telephone) by a parent/guardian before any student reports to school. 

Using information provided to us by caregivers and/or students, building staff will work to identify and screen those students for whom confirmation of a completed screening is lacking (i.e., daily temperature and symptom check). There will be communications to caregivers and students regarding this process, including the need for timely completion and confirmation to support our review and preparation before students begin arriving at their building. Additional details will be forthcoming based on the capabilities and use of any potential supportive technology. 

The guidance for screening children will be subject to change based on guidance from health authorities.
Will personnel be trained to look for signs of illness in students and staff?
Yes. District personnel will receive training on both typical and emergency signs of illness to support their ability to observe them among students and staff. Staff will be educated to observe students or other staff members for signs of any type of illness, such as:
  • Flushed cheeks
  • Frequent coughing or sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue and/or irritability
  • Frequent use of the bathroom
Students and staff exhibiting these signs with no other explanation for them will be sent to the school health office for an assessment by the school nurse. 

Staff will also be trained on signs of an urgent or serious nature associated with COVID-19, including Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), and the appropriate response.
What if a student or employee develops symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 during the school day?
Students and staff who develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 or those with a positive response to the questionnaire during the school day will be assessed by the school nurse, with the district medical director available for consultation as needed. Following assessment by the school nurse, any student or staff with a temperature of 100.0 °F (37.78 °C) or higher, signs of illness, and/or a positive response to screening questionnaire will be directed to a dedicated isolation area. Students will be supervised while in the isolation area, before being picked up or otherwise sent home. Isolation areas in each school building were identified before the school closure in March 2020 and will be reconfirmed prior to school reopening. An outdoor isolation space will also be identified for use as feasible, based on the weather and availability of staff supervision. 

If a caregiver or other designated adult is unable to pick-up their student from the school (e.g. they are under quarantine or isolation orders, serving as a primary caregiver for another member of the household, or lack transportation), the school nurse and/or building principal will work with district transportation to arrange for travel from the school site to the student’s home. Caregiver consent will be secured and confirmation of arrangements will be communicated by phone, email, or text and documented. 

Schools are not responsible for conducting investigations or testing of staff or students. This responsibility lies with local health officials and healthcare providers. It is important to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of those seeking health care and those who may be part of any contact investigation by the county health department.
Why isn’t the ICSD requiring testing of students or employees?
While schools play a role in identifying students, faculty, and staff who have COVID-19 symptoms or who have had recent known or potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2, school staff are not expected to directly administer SARS-CoV-2 tests. It is strongly recommended that schools comply with CDC guidance and not conduct universal COVID-19 testing or require testing or antibody testing of students or staff members. The decision of whether a test needs to be conducted should be determined by a healthcare provider or the local department of health. The ICSD will only mandate that a student be tested for COVID-19 if such testing is consistent with guidance from a healthcare provider and/or the Tompkins County Department of Health.  

NYSED guidance also indicates testing alone is insufficient to combat the spread of COVID-19, and so we are focusing on implementing multiple prevention and mitigation strategies, which include temperature and symptom screening, promoting behaviors that reduce spread, maintaining healthy environments and operations, and preparing for when someone gets sick. According to the CDC:

Universal SARS-CoV-2 testing of all students and staff in school settings has not been systematically studied. It is not known if testing in school settings provides any additional reduction in person-to-person transmission of the virus beyond what would be expected with implementation of other infection preventive measures (e.g., social distancing, cloth face covering, hand washing, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting). Therefore, CDC does not recommend universal testing of all students and staff. Implementation of a universal approach to testing in schools may pose challenges, such as the lack of infrastructure to support routine testing and follow up in the school setting, unknown acceptability of this testing approach among students, parents, and staff, lack of dedicated resources, practical considerations related to testing minors and potential disruption in the educational environment. Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/k-12-testing.html

Additionally, pursuant to New York State Public Health Law, the Ithaca City School District is legally prohibited from administering a COVID-19 test to a child in the absence of parent consent. See: N.Y. Pub. Health Law Section 2504

Districts do have a responsibility to identify who in the community is responsible for referring, sourcing, and administering testing (e.g., local health department testing sites, physician offices, hospital systems) and to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of those seeking care or undergoing testing.
What if a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19?
If a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19, we will uphold their right to privacy and confidentiality to the greatest extent possible, while also supporting any contact investigation by the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD). As partners in this effort, we share information with local health officials so they can communicate with people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. News of a confirmed case may generate anxiety and concern, so it is important to be clear how the Tompkins County Health Department handles communication with individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19: 
  • The health department is notified of any positive cases.
  • The health department conducts a contact investigation by interviewing the person who tested positive to identify close contacts.
  • Those close contacts are then notified by nurses from the health department to provide support and guidance to them on issues like quarantine and testing.
  • If the health department does not notify you, then you are not considered a close contact and do not need to quarantine.
Unless the health department contacts you or your child, you are not identified as close contacts, and thus, there is a low identifiable risk for contracting COVID-19. You do not need to quarantine or to be tested for COVID-19. As cases are confirmed within the ICSD, the health department will continue to communicate with anyone who needs to be notified, and we will communicate with school communities.

If and when a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19, we will determine the level of closure in consultation with the Tompkins County Health Department. “Cohorting” practices (the amount of intermingling among groups) will dictate whether a classroom, grade level, wing of a school building, or entire school will close. Those in close contact with the individual who tested positive will then receive instructions from the TCHD regarding testing, quarantine, and a timeline for returning to school in-person. Distance learning will ensue for all who are not able to be physically present at school and are well enough to participate. If too unwell to participate in distance learning, staff and students would utilize benefit time, or receive an excused absence, respectively. 
How might classroom configurations work?
Classrooms and other instructional spaces will be reconfigured to ensure a positive, welcoming, and affirming learning environment, and also to maximize the distance between students and staff. 
  • We will restrict the use of classrooms and other places where students, faculty, and staff gather (e.g., lockers, cubbies, entryways, hallways) so that individuals can be physically distanced.
  • Desks will face in the same direction, rather than facing each other, to reduce transmission caused by virus-containing droplets (e.g., from talking, coughing, sneezing).
  • Instruction will be rethought to enable projections or displays so that students can remain distanced, rather than gathering closely to watch a demonstration.
  • Non-traditional spaces, such as cafeterias, libraries, gymnasiums, art/music rooms, and the outdoors, may be utilized for instruction.
We are committed to affirming the ICSD culture and will create spaces that are student-centered and foster sociocentrism as much as possible.  We will not only use classroom spaces but also non-traditional spaces, such as cafeterias, libraries, gymnasiums, and art and music rooms. When possible, we will also support our educators leveraging the outdoor spaces on our campuses. We will continue to support place-based instructional strategies that engage our students in project-based learning. 
Where will students eat meals in school?
Schools will work within their communities to identify locations for meal consumption. It is anticipated that meals will be consumed in classrooms, or outdoors whenever possible (i.e., students will travel with their classroom cohort, at staggered times from other cohorts, to the building’s cafeteria, be provided their meals, and travel back to their classroom or outdoors to consume their meals. For students unable to navigate to the cafeteria, their meals will be delivered by appropriate school personnel to the learning location of the student.

The use of the cafeteria itself will be determined on a case-by-case basis. If a situation arises in which students must utilize the cafeteria to consume their meals, classroom cohorts will sit together in the cafeteria with at least 6 feet of physical distance and school nutrition line supervisors will ensure the proper cleaning and disinfecting of tables between use.
Will students be required to physically distance on the bus?
Yes. Students will be required to maintain physical distance on the bus and wheelchair placement on buses will be configured to ensure a distance of at least 6 feet. Students will be seated one student per bus seat (students living in the same household may be seated together). If greater physical distancing is available on a bus based on student ridership, it will be utilized.
What are the district’s cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing protocols?
Before reopening, all district buildings will undergo enhanced cleaning and disinfection based on current CDC and NYSDOH guidance.
 
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICSD has also developed and implemented new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for sanitizing district facilities, which are now the “normal course” of custodial operations. High utilization touch areas and flat working surfaces, such as door handles, soap dispensers, light switches, desktops, and tabletops, will be sanitized at least once every 24 hours when schools are open. Custodial staff will respond to requests for more frequent sanitizing as needed.

Sanitizing Procedures
  1. Thoroughly clean any of the surfaces with a general cleaner to remove any visibly soiled areas. Use a greenback sponge and wipe the surface dry. Removing the dirt will allow the disinfectant to be effective by directly contacting the surface.
     
  2. Disinfect the cleaned surface by using a spray bottle of disinfectant. Apply the disinfectant to wet the surface thoroughly. Allow the disinfectant to remain wet for 10 minutes, then dry the surface with a paper towel. A C3 machine can be used to apply the disinfectant in bathrooms and locker rooms.
All custodial staff have been trained and understand that these SOPs are to be carefully and thoroughly followed. To maintain fidelity to the cleaning and sanitizing procedures, custodial staff will maintain accurate and up-to-date logs, which will be reviewed by supervisors daily.

Additionally, other staff members will have access to disinfectant wipes to utilize throughout the district. Students are not permitted to use these materials, as per NYSED and NYSDOH guidance.
What is the district’s plan for cleaning school playgrounds?
We will engage in deep cleaning of playground equipment based on current guidance from the CDC and other agencies upon reopening and before use. Regular cleaning/disinfection protocols will be developed based on the latest guidance. Students will wash their hands before and after using playground equipment.
What work is being done on the district’s HVAC systems?
We are currently working with Trane to do a full analysis of our current systems and apply any necessary mitigation strategies. Specifically, we are implementing Trane’s three-step program, as outlined below:
 
Building ReOpening Plan:
3 Step Program for Better Air Quality

Proactive HVAC ventilation and filtration is a critical first step to help ensure a safer indoor environment for increased occupancy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies that show increased fresh air and filtration significantly reduce the potential transmission of airborne viruses. Accordingly, Trane has developed a simple 3-step program to help ramp-up in line with recent recommendations from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Step 1: Perform HVAC Health Check
  • Assess existing air filtration systems parameters and conditions. 
  • Assess existing ventilation system settings and operating conditions. 
  • Identify improvements specifically targeting ventilation and filtration.
Step 2: Improve Ventilation
  • Increase ventilation via airside system adjustments (per ASHRAE guidance).
  • Verify that improved ventilation is in effect through operational data and physical inspection.
Step 3: Improve Filtration
  • Evaluate system design parameters.
  • Install new HVAC filters, including MERV 13/14 level where feasible in context of system design parameters.
Validation Report
  • Document findings of HVAC Health Check.
  • Document ventilation conditions upon completion.
  • Document filtration improvements upon completion.
  • Review with organizational leadership via remote conference platform.

On September 21, Trane provided an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) report for the district, which provides an overview of the ventilation and filtration improvements that have been made in each of our buildings to date. 

Will the district keep doors open in order to increase air circulation?
To encourage maximum airflow throughout the building, classroom doors will remain open while the building is occupied by staff/students. Door handles should remain “locked” in the event of an emergency requiring rapid locked-closure of doors. Faculty and staff may close doors if appropriate to maintain student confidentiality or to facilitate the appropriate delivery of instruction, but the duration of such instances should be minimized. Exterior doorways shall remain locked and closed as per normal protocols to maximize deterrence of entry by unscreened visitors.
What testing has been or will be done on the district’s water systems? 
Before reopening, all water systems in the district will be inspected for safe use after the prolonged shutdown. At present, the statutory requirement that lead testing occurs in 2020 continues. The NYSDOH requires lead-in-water testing to be conducted when the building is “normally occupied.” Sampling should not be conducted when the building is vacant or has been vacant for an extended period due to COVID-19 closure. The ICSD maintains a rigorous lead testing protocol, including testing on a legal compliant schedule with review by the Tompkins County Health Department and public dissemination of all test results through the ICSD website. All such protocols and procedures will continue to be followed and adhered to. The provision of potable, safe drinking water to students and staff through bottled water and water tower dispensers shall continue when we reopen, as needed.
Will visitors be allowed in schools?
To limit the spread of COVID-19, visitors to our schools will be limited to the greatest extent possible. Any visitor who is permitted to enter a school building will be required to fill out a health screening questionnaire.
 

Social-Emotional and Academic Learning

What is the ICSD distance learning model? How is it different from the spring?
The ICSD’s approach to distance learning combines synchronous (live, real-time) and asynchronous (anytime) learning experiences for young people, focused on academic and social-emotional standards and needs. Additionally, for 3rd grade and above, educators will hold office hours for students to informally get support, check in, work with peers, ask questions, and receive feedback. Small group instruction will occur regularly throughout the week, particularly at the younger grade levels (pre-K through 5th), to facilitate differentiated instruction, similar to the in-person experience. We will be implementing a cohort model at the middle school level and block scheduling model at Ithaca High School. 

Our approach to distance learning will continue upon the foundations of social-emotional learning and our three key levers of culturally responsive practices, inclusion, and teaching and learning innovations. We will also continue to align all instruction to New York State Learning Standards.
How will the ICSD support students’ social-emotional well-being when school begins?
Our first weeks of school will be focused on social-emotional learning. Our students and staff have been simultaneously experiencing a global pandemic, the very public admonishment of systemic racism, and a global recession; they need time, space, and resources to process this and return to learning in ways that support ongoing learning. 
 
We will continue to support families with resources and maintain a referral process for mental health, behavioral, and emotional support. A list of resources can be found on our website. With the resumption of remote instruction, ICSD mental health staff will co-create norms and routines and provide tiered support systems at all levels.
How will the district ensure students with disabilities receive the education and services they need?
All students with disabilities under Part B of IDEA are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), whether their services are provided in person, remotely, or through a hybrid model. During the 2020-2021 school year, an appropriate education will continue to include the following:
  • Special education and related services that provide specially-designed instruction based on the individual needs of each student in the most appropriate format and delivery, based on school conditions
  • Access to the general education curriculum within the least restrictive environment whenever possible to maintain the health and safety of students with disabilities and those providing special education and services
  • Continued procedures for referral, evaluation, and placement of students in the initial eligibility process, and periodic reevaluation of students according to the OSE’s guidance for conducting evaluation and reevaluations during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Due process procedures that enable caregivers and guardians to receive required notices, review their child’s records, and challenge identification, evaluation, and placement decisions
To ensure FAPE is maintained when the health and safety of students with disabilities and those providing special education and related services are compromised, teams of service providers and caregivers will collaboratively determine how special education and related services will be provided for each student during the 2020-2021 school year in a Local FAPE/Contingency plan. The services provided should mirror the actual services outlined in the student’s Individual Education Plan whenever possible. In addition to the provision of in-person, virtual, or hybrid service delivery, each team will create a thoughtful and proactive contingency plan for the provision of services if school building(s) are unavailable due to governmental requirements. 
 
Students receiving special education services in placements outside of the district will continue to receive the provision of services consistent with the recommendations in their IEPs to the maximum extent practicable. Student progress will be monitored and communicated at regular intervals to the District Level Master Educator of Inclusion and caregivers/families. Whenever possible, CSE and CPSE meetings will be held through video conferences. Regular monthly meetings with the CPSE and CSE offices will ensure consistency for and collaboration among CPSE, CSE, in-district providers, and out-of-district providers. District resources for in-person, virtual, and hybrid learning will be shared monthly with out-of-district providers and regional providers through the Department of Special Education.

Students with disabilities will continue to have access to the necessary accommodations, modifications, supplementary aids and services, and technology (including assistive technology) to meet their unique disability-related needs.
Will the district be maintaining support for English as a New Language (ENL) students?
Yes. We will continue to adhere to screening guidelines and provide the required instructional units of study to all English Language Learners (ELLs) during in-person and distance/hybrid instruction. The ENL Department’s professional learning community (PLC) will continue to meet regularly to assess the unique needs of students, given these unprecedented times. A commitment to co-teaching and integrated support will continue, as will the required stand-alone sessions, as outlined on our ENL Programs and Services webpage.
 
Our commitment to engaging caregivers in the education of their students remains during the reopening process. Educators will maintain regular communication with caregivers and other family members of ELLs. Upon registering their students, caregivers are asked to state their preferred language and mode for all district communication. Frequently used request forms, such as school meal forms, will continue to be provided in multiple languages, with translators available to support additional languages when needed (the ICSD Interpreter Request Form can be found here). 
How much synchronous (live, real-time) and asynchronous (any time) learning will students have?
Our structure for distance learning outlines the amount of daily synchronous and asynchronous instruction with teachers that students at each grade level can expect:
  • Pre-K - 1st Grade: 1.25-1.5 hours per day (Monday - Friday), depending on student needs and projects
  • 2nd Grade: 2.5 hours per day (Monday - Friday)
  • 3rd - 5th Grade: 3.5 hours per day (Monday - Friday)
  • 6th - 8th Grade: 4 hours per day (Monday - Friday)
  • 9th - 12th Grade: 4 hours or more per day (Monday - Friday), depending on course load
Although each class will be structured slightly differently based on learning needs and goals for the lesson, it is very likely that there will be a combination of both structured, independent learning and learning that will require the direct support of an adult for our younger students. 
What will daily schedules look like for students and teachers?
Distance learning schedules will be developed by each school and will be communicated to families and staff before the school year beginning on Monday, September 14. To get a sense of what students’ daily schedules may look like, view a recording from one of our recent information sessions below (the presentation slides can be viewed here).
 
How will the district monitor student attendance?
Daily engagement/attendance will be tracked via SchoolTool on a daily (rather than course) basis, with an assigned educator responsible for making daily contact with each student. On days when contact is made, the student will be marked present. On days when the assigned educator is unsuccessful in making contact with the student, the student will be marked absent.
How will cohort assignments be determined for elementary and middle school students?
Our elementary and middle school cohort model will ensure all students are placed in a heterogeneous (mixed) group, created collaboratively among school staff who have knowledge of these young people as learners. We will continue to consider multiple factors when creating balanced class/cohort lists, including learning style, strengths, needs, demographic data, peer relationships, and more.
How will cohort/class assignments work when we transition to in-person teaching and learning? Will they stay the same or be different? 
At the elementary level, we are taking a district-wide approach to educating our young people, and students who selected distance learning may be learning alongside students from other schools together in the same digital space. This may mean that children are transitioning teachers and learning peers - either within the same school, or in a different school with the same grade level. Our educators are working hard to ensure a caring and loving approach to this transition, and will be in communication with students and families about any shifts that will take place. For over a decade now, we have engaged in the Kids Discover the Trail program through the Ithaca Public Education Initiative, where students have partnered across schools successfully. Students will have more opportunities to engage with students throughout the school district; our school building boundaries are temporarily suspended in many ways through this virtual model. 
Why are there different in-person and distance learning cohort sizes at the elementary level? Can this be changed? 
The NYSED and NYSDOH guidelines for physical distancing require smaller in-person cohorts, as each of our classroom spaces can only hold a certain number of people while ensuring 6 feet of physical space between individuals. Thus, many of these in-person class sizes are around 11 or 12 students, with some closer to 20 if in a larger space such as a cafeteria. Distance learning cohorts, on the other hand, will have around 30 students within a given digital learning space. Although this is a larger class size, we will continue to adhere to our commitment to ensuring small group instruction and meaningful connections with young people and families. We are in the process of securing more educators, however even with these efforts, we are unable to change this distribution due to staffing. 
Will in-person and distance learning experiences be the same in terms of synchronous teaching?
At the elementary level, in-person learning times will continue to be the times of the regular school day, while distance learning synchronous and asynchronous learning times are outlined below:
  • Pre-K - 1st Grade: 1.25-1.5 hours per day (Monday - Friday), depending on student needs and projects
  • 2nd Grade: 2.5 hours per day (Monday - Friday)
  • 3rd - 5th Grade: 3.5 hours per day (Monday - Friday)
At the secondary level, in-person and distance learning times will be the same, as students will be learning simultaneously in-person and remotely from the same teacher. 
What criteria will be used to make the decision of which students can come back, and when, in-person after the initial October 5 group of students? 
The NYSED and NYSDOH guidelines for physical distancing, coupled with staffing each of these smaller cohorts of students limit our ability to welcome students back to the physical school building easily at this time. Once space opens up, we will let families know.
When will parents and caregivers be able to make a different selection?
The ICSD will resurvey families at the end of semester to ask if they would like to switch modality. 
What should families do if they need access to the internet or if there are issues with their child’s device?
Charter is offering FREE internet access for 60 days to households with teachers and/or K-college students that do not currently have service. Call 1-866-991-6533 to enroll. Families that do not qualify for the Charter offer and need support accessing the internet should contact our Technology Department at (607) 882-9555. 

For any issues with school-issued devices or a particular learning application, please complete our Student Tech Support Request Form. You can also call 607-882-9850 and leave a voice mail or email us at helpdesk.family@icsd.k12.ny.us.
What should teachers do if they need access to the internet?
Charter is offering FREE internet access for 60 days to households with teachers and/or K-college students that do not currently have service. Call 1-866-991-6533 to enroll. 
Will the district be providing devices for students in Pre-K-1st grade?
Yes. We will be securing iPads for all Pre-K through 1st grade students to ensure that they have access to digital learning and communication tools, in addition to physical materials.
What is the Canvas learning management system?
The ICSD is transitioning students, families, and educators in grades 6-12 to the Canvas learning management system (LMS). Students will have single sign-on access to their schooling in a virtual environment and will utilize the system whether participating in in-person or distance learning. Teachers will create learning experiences and assessments through Canvas, and students will engage in learning and post assignments for feedback. Educators and families will have greater visibility into each student’s learning experience and understanding of skills, content, and practices. Additionally, the LMS system will allow teachers and school leaders to better keep track of student progress, academic activity, and engagement through comprehensive reports and system analytics. Teachers can easily create assignments and learning modules that support differentiated instruction and responses to meet the learning needs and styles of all students.
Canvas Student Tour
Canvas Caregiver Tour
What will remote options for classes like PE, art, and technology look like?
Our distance learning options for physical education (PE), art, technology, and other active, hands-on learning experiences will be enhanced in the fall. With synchronous (live) learning in all subject areas, students will have access to their teachers in real-time and can receive immediate feedback and interact with peers. For hands-on learning, our teachers have been exploring ways to send materials home to allow students to build, create, and tinker, much like the Junior Solar Sprint project this spring.
Will students who choose distance learning still be permitted to participate in athletics?
Yes. Students will be permitted to go to campus to participate in athletics, regardless of whether they are engaged in distance or in-person learning. 
When do fall sports start?
On September 13, the Southern Tier Athletic Conference (STAC) agreed to postpone all league play and follow the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) condensed fall, winter, and spring seasons beginning January 4, 2021. The new tentative start date for fall sports is March 1, 2021. 

Condensed Season Plan
Dates subject to change
  • Season I (Winter Sports): January 4 - March 13
  • Season II (Fall Sports): March 1 - May 8
  • Season III (Spring Sports): April 5 - June 1
Visit ithacacityschools.org/athletics to learn more. 
 

Communication

How can I learn more about the ICSD’s reopening plans?
Superintendent Luvelle Brown, Deputy Superintendent Lily Talcott, and Coordinator of Health Services and Wellness Kari Burke have engaged the community in multiple series of information sessions to discuss the work of safely reopening our schools. Recordings of the sessions can be viewed here: Reopen ICSD Information Sessions.
How can I provide input on the ICSD’s reopening plans?
As always, we encourage you to reach out to us with any questions, concerns, thoughts, or suggestions via the Let’s Talk! portal, email (icsdcommunications@icsd.k12.ny.us), or phone (607-274-2101).
How can parents and caregivers ensure they receive communications from the ICSD?
The Ithaca City School District uses SchoolMessenger to communicate with families through emails, phone calls, and SMS/text messages. The contact information loaded to SchoolMessenger is driven by students' current information in SchoolTool. To ensure you receive communications from the district and your child's school, please verify that your contact information in SchoolTool is correct and that you are set up to receive mail. Instructions for doing so, as well as information on requesting translations and opting in to receive text messages, can be found on our website: Parent/Caregiver Communications.
In the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 among students or staff, what information will be shared, and how?
If a student or employee tests positive to COVID-19, we will uphold their right to privacy and confidentiality to the greatest extent possible, while also supporting any contact investigation by the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD). As partners in this effort, we share information with local health officials so they can communicate with people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, as allowed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The TCHD communicates directly with anyone who is considered a close contact of an individual who tests positive and makes determinations about testing, quarantine, or isolation. 

As a district, we will communicate with our school community regarding confirmed cases or school closures and in the course of doing so, will not provide identifying information of individuals seeking care, undergoing testing, or who may be subject to quarantine. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), educational institutions are prohibited from sharing with other students and their parents any student’s name or other information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, either directly or indirectly, without the prior written consent of a parent or guardian.

Information regarding confirmed cases or closures may be communicated to families by one or more channels, including text, phone, and/or email, depending on the number of persons to be contacted and the timeline for doing so. We strongly encourage families to ensure their contact information on file with their student’s school is accurate.