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IHS Reopening FAQs for Students and Caregivers

Health and Safety
How will mask breaks be handled? Could you give an example of what it will look like in a typical classroom?
How can we support our children in wearing masks? (Added August 25)
What happens if a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19?
How will you deal with students who don’t follow mask and distancing rules? They are kids! :)
Is there special cleaning that will happen each night and in bathrooms?
Did we hear correctly that there will be NO testing of students? How will we know if there are asymptomatic students in the school?
Instruction - Overview
Will students be taught by teachers in person if they choose to return for in-person instruction, or will teachers be teaching them remotely on screens in the classroom? (Updated August 25)
If students choose distance learning, will they have live, 88-minute classes with their teachers and peers online? (Updated August 25)
Will AP and Honors courses be available to distance learners? (Updated August 25)
How much synchronous and asynchronous learning will take place, in general? (Added August 25)
How will small groups of students interact with one another, and engage in peer-to-peer work? How often will this happen? (Added August 25)
What is the purpose and structure of office hours? (Added August 25)
How often, and what modes will be used for caregiver communication? (Added August 25)
What can you tell me about the new Learning Management System (LMS) adopted by the district? (Added August 25)
Special Education (Added August 25)
Will students who choose virtual learning have peer-to-peer interactions and small group instruction?
Will students who previously had a 1:1 aide for behavioral reasons and who attend in person still have their aide this year?
Will aides and TAs come into our homes for distance learning?
Will students who receive services from outside sources (e.g., Racker, BOCES) be allowed in the buildings?
Will a student who is homeschooled receive the services in their school (when open) or virtual services?
Will CSE cases reviewed between now and the beginning of the school year be done in time to be accounted for in the teacher/cohort placement?
Will teachers have time to review 504/IEP plans at the beginning of the year? What does that time look like this year? Will teachers have dedicated time/space before the first day of school to review their students' plans and needs?
What is an MEI and how do we know who our MEI is?
We’ve done a lot of teletherapy, and one of the biggest challenges has been with computer/camera use. Will training or guidelines be available to therapists for best practices in terms of camera use and technology?
Will heterogeneous groupings be maintained and what will that look like?
My child received an independent evaluation over the summer that will be submitted this week. Will this be reviewed and included as classes are made for the fall?
What would be the difference between an IEP and a contingency plan if a student is virtual from the start of the school year?
Will technology appropriate to each student's needs be provided?
Will the related service sessions be at consistent times?
How will we do speech therapy while also wearing masks when in person?
ESPs, TAs, 1:1 aides, and parents are concerned that ESPs will be placed in classrooms as the "adult in the room" and there will be no ESPs available to provide 1:1 support. Will this be the case?
Block Scheduling
Do fewer periods mean that the school day is shorter, or that the school day stays the same but each class is double in length?
Can you please clarify whether the A/B block is alternating days or two different semesters?
Will the A/B block scheduling consist of four classes for the fall and four for the spring semester?
Can you explain smaller learning groups? Will students taking different classes be in the same classroom learning together?
What will distance learning look like? Will it be synchronous or asynchronous?
Fine and Performing Arts
How will art classes (studio art, etc.) work for students learning remotely?
Is there an option for band online/how will band work for distance learners?
Is it necessary to choose 100% distance learning or 100% in-person learning? Or could a student opt for distance learning and go into school for performing arts?
How will remote chorus work for students learning in person?
How will it work if a student is taking both band and orchestra?
Should a student enrolled in band or wind ensemble elect for in-person learning?
What is instrument PPE for band?
Do you know yet how remote students will manage art classes requiring supplies?
How will choir classes meet remotely? Will remote instruction be consistent with what is happening in person?
 

Health and Safety

How will mask breaks be handled? Could you give an example of what it will look like in a typical classroom?
We have received updated guidance, and indeed, all students and staff will be wearing masks at all times, except for during structured mask breaks and when eating and/or drinking. Students whose physical or mental health would be adversely affected by masks will not be required to wear them. 

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. Mask breaks can occur when students are at least 6 feet apart and are staggered in nature. Each break will last for a few minutes. 

As a school community, we will all be responsible for cultivating a culture of mask-wearing, along with practicing physical distancing, good hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and staying home when sick. 
How can we support our children in wearing masks?
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. Requiring students to wear masks may present many challenges. Some approaches we can take to help children adhere to this new social rule and cultural shift include:
  • Welcoming self-expression through mask-wearing by selecting masks that reflect their favorite color, sports team, character, or a special interest
  • Using face mask extenders or ear savers, or a headband with buttons that the mask attaches on, or face masks with around-the-head tie straps for a more comfortable fit
  • Including them in selecting a mask and finding the right fit
  • Explaining to them why people wear a mask and sharing examples of images, stories, or videos, as well as modeling mask-wearing by other family members
  • For those who need a slower introduction, start with your child first touching and holding the mask, then progressing to touching the mask to their face without putting it on before attempting to properly wear it 
  • Consider introducing clear rules, breaks, and rewards with mask-wearing 
For more information, please see the toolkit developed by licensed psychologists at the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center
What happens if a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19?
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. 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 will you deal with students who don’t follow mask and distancing rules? They are kids! :)
When kids remove their masks or move toward one another without masks, we have to work with them through our restorative practices lens to understand, support, teach, and provide opportunities for them to make amends, if amends are needed. Discussing what happened, feelings associated with the occurrence, ways in which anyone involved has been harmed, and strategies for repairing the relationship and community will continue to be key. Our students and adults need us all to engage in these discussions to shift our culture to one in which we think collectively and act individually. We all have a responsibility to love, support, and teach one another as we learn these new norms together.
Is there special cleaning that will happen each night and in bathrooms?
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICSD has 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.

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.
Did we hear correctly that there will be NO testing of students? How will we know if there are asymptomatic students in the school?
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. 

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: 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 parental 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.
 

Instruction - Overview

Will students be taught by teachers in person if they choose to return for in-person instruction, or will teachers be teaching them remotely on screens in the classroom?
There may be some situations in which students who choose in-person learning will be instructed by a teacher physically in the classroom and others in which they will be instructed by a remote teacher, with supervision by another teacher or staff member. 
If students choose distance learning, will they have live, 88-minute classes with their teachers and peers online?
Yes. All courses, be they in-person or virtual, will follow the A/B block schedule format. Each class (or “block”) will be approximately 88 minutes long.
Will AP and Honors courses be available to distance learners?
Yes. Ithaca High School will be offering AP and Honors courses via our distance learning platform. 
How much synchronous and asynchronous learning will take place, in general?
Synchronous and asynchronous times for each 88-minute block will vary, but the time will be when students and staff “show up” for teaching and learning. In general, one can expect:
  • Beginning all together
  • Engaging in whole group, small group, pair, and independent learning
  • Structures dependent upon learning targets for each lesson
Relationships and social-emotional support will be at the core of all school interactions. Each department will further define and communicate out expectations for colleagues, students, and caregivers.
How will small groups of students interact with one another and engage in peer-to-peer work? How often will this happen? (Google Meet, Jamboard, SeeSaw, letters, Google Docs, etc.)
As part of the synchronous time, small breakout groups and pair work will be assigned, as per the learning targets and lessons. This will allow for an engaging 88-minute block. Additional professional development will help everyone implement small groups with greater ease and comfort.
What is the purpose and structure of office hours?
We will flexibly support students in individualized ways throughout those 88-minute blocks; thus there is no need for structured, separate office hours.
How often, and what modes will be used for caregiver communication?
Note: Each student will have a person within the school who will be connecting with them and be their point person. This will be further defined and communicated moving forward.
  • We will continue weekly phone calls, emails, and snail mail to students/caregivers from the IHS administration, our three Deans of Students, and our Student Services team.
  • We will leverage the use of the new communication features/parent dialogue that exists in Canvas so that caregivers are more informed about what’s happening in their students’ classes.
  • The A/B Block Schedule creates smaller numbers of students with which teachers interact daily, creating opportunities for more meaningful relationship-building. The IHS team will develop a system for tracking communication with students/caregivers that is readily accessible to all IHS staff.
  • School-wide, we will continue the use of Zoom meetings on a scheduled basis to invite caregivers to ask questions and receive feedback.
What can you tell me about the new Learning Management System (LMS) adopted by the district?
The LMS that the district has adopted is called Canvas. This is the same LMS that is used by Cornell University. Please read and click on the links below for more information. 

Canvas for Students
Canvas is a course management system that will support your online learning. Canvas provides you with a password-protected online classroom in which you will submit your work and communicate with your instructor and classmates. It allows your teachers to post assignments, announcements, grades, and information online.    
 
As with any classroom, Canvas is a changing environment – expect each teacher to apply different tools and techniques. Join in, ask questions, and participate as you would in any classroom.   
 
You should expect to have your Canvas course active in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you are curious to see what a Canvas account looks like for a student, click here for an overview.
 
Canvas for Caregivers
The Canvas app is a streamlined mobile application that will allow you, as a caregiver, to access important information about your child’s classes (Calendar, Assignments, Grades, and Announcements). The Canvas app is available for caregivers using iOS or Android devices. You will be able to sign-up for access when your student’s Canvas courses are active within the next few weeks. In the meantime, you can check-out the Canvas Observer Guide for more information.  
 

Special Education

Will students who choose virtual learning have peer-to-peer interactions and small group instruction?
Yes. Students engaging in virtual instruction will have multiple opportunities for small group learning. Additionally, teachers are aware of the need to structure more peer-to-peer opportunities for interaction through digital platforms.
Will students who previously had a 1:1 aide for behavioral reasons and who attend in person still have their aide this year?
Yes. If a student had a 1:1 aide for behavioral needs on their IEP last year, that student would keep a 1:1 aide for behavioral support this year. We are not making changes to a child’s IEP based on circumstances presented due to COVID-19. 
Will aides and TAs come into our homes for distance learning?
Guidance and regulations this spring and summer did not permit us to send staff, including service providers, to homes. We anticipate this guidance will continue. However, we recognize that we have students who meet two criteria: (1) they are medically fragile to such an extent that they can't safely elect in-person services, and (2) their disability prevents them from obtaining any meaningful benefit from virtual learning without the assistance of a TA. As we navigate and adhere to health and safety guidelines, we need to keep in mind disinfection/sanitation protocols, the use of PPE, and cohorting. We will be exploring creative solutions in collaboration with caregivers and staff to ensure that the needs of our most vulnerable students are met. Our MEIs will be collaborating with families who are identified as meeting these criteria to explore the options of support. Please reach out to your MEI if you have any questions.
Will students who receive services from outside sources (e.g., Racker, BOCES) be allowed in the buildings?
Yes. We will continue to partner with these service providers while adhering to the health and safety guidelines.
Will a student who is homeschooled receive the services in their school (when open) or virtual services?
Students who are homeschooled will receive services in their school or possibly another community agency/location as health and safety guidelines permit.
Will CSE cases reviewed between now and the beginning of the school year be done in time to be accounted for in the teacher/cohort placement?
Yes. IEPs will be reviewed in time to thoughtfully place students in a heterogeneous cohort for the start of the school year.
Will teachers have time to review 504/IEP plans at the beginning of the year? What does that time look like this year? Will teachers have dedicated time/space before the first day of school to review their students' plans and needs?
Yes. There are two days allocated in the teacher contract to plan and prepare for the students before the first day. This will continue this year. Teachers will have the time and space to reach out to families, as well as connect with their building leader and/or MEI in regards to planning. Some of this also is taking place now as virtual CSE meetings are held throughout the summer. 
What is an MEI and how do we know who our MEI is?
Master Educators for Inclusion (MEIs) facilitate CSE meetings and offer professional development opportunities (job-embedded or workshops) that support inclusion and high-quality first instruction to all staff. An MEI takes the decisions made at a CSE meeting and supports their implementation in the classroom. They are there to ask staff what they need to support their students. A list of MEIs can be found on our website.
We’ve done a lot of teletherapy, and one of the biggest challenges has been with computer/camera use (not being able to see small text, or small materials, not having significant lighting to see what the therapist is showing us, etc.). Will training or guidelines be available to therapists for best practices in terms of camera use and technology?
Yes. Your feedback is invaluable. Please connect with your MEI to share ideas. We will be creating additional tipsheets for tele-therapists, as well as recommending training that exists in the field.
Will heterogeneous groupings be maintained and what will that look like?
Yes. Heterogeneous groupings will be maintained. As we get closer to the start of the year and families share their preferences, groupings that balance the social-emotional and academic learning needs of students will be created.
My child received an independent evaluation over the summer that will be submitted this week. Will this be reviewed and included as classes are made for the fall?
We are striving to include information learned about students over the summer in class makeup decisions. Please reach out to your MEI to find out more about timing and share your thinking on the needs of your student if you haven’t already done so.
What would be the difference between an IEP and a contingency plan if a student is virtual from the start of the school year?
The term “contingency plan” is taken from state guidance. As we plan for the fall we are referring to this as the “virtual” learning plan, given the number of students choosing this from the start. Please see this graphic that maps out the steps to be taken whether you choose virtual or in-person instruction.
Will technology appropriate to each student's needs be provided?
Yes. Technology to support a student’s needs will be provided. Please share any concerns with your student's case manager if there is an unmet need.
Will the related service sessions be at consistent times?
Yes. Sessions will be scheduled at consistent times whenever possible. We realize consistency is important for families. If a session is missed, it will be documented and compensatory sessions can be offered.
How will we do speech therapy while also wearing masks when in person?
We are ordering universal designed masks to support our educators in the classroom and during sessions. Masks with windows along with face shields will be provided.
ESPs, TAs, 1:1 aides, and parents are concerned that ESPs will be placed in classrooms as the "adult in the room" and there will be no ESPs available to provide 1:1 support. Will this be the case?
If a student has a 1:1 aide or TA on their IEP, they will continue to have this support in person. Also, there may be situations where aides or TAs are also in positions to support a cohort of students. This does not mean that students with this 1:1 support would not receive it.
 

Block Scheduling

Do fewer periods mean that the school day is shorter, or that the school day stays the same but each class is double in length?
The length of the school day will not be shorter; it will remain the same, but possibly with different starting and ending times. Each period/block will now be 88 minutes long.
Can you please clarify whether the A/B block is alternating days or two different semesters?
The A/B block scheduling model we will follow consists of the normal eight-period day being spread over two alternating days. Students will take four classes on A days and their other four classes on B days, with each class (or “block”) now being 88 minutes long.
Will the A/B block scheduling consist of four classes for the fall and four for the spring semester?
No. Students will still take eight courses each semester. The difference is that those eight courses will be spread over two alternating days (four classes on A days and four classes on B days), and each class will be 88 minutes long.
Can you explain smaller learning groups? Will students taking different classes be in the same classroom learning together?
Based on CDC guidelines on increased physical distancing in schools, class sizes at IHS will be reduced to approximately 12-16 students per class, depending on the physical dimensions/spacing requirements of each classroom. Because of the wide array of courses we offer, IHS is unable to support student cohorts. Students will be in classes with different students throughout the day.
What will distance learning look like? Will it be synchronous or asynchronous?
Distance/online learning will consist of both synchronous and asynchronous activities. Our approach this fall will be more intentional and robust than it was in the spring, which was an emergency response to the extended school closure. We will seek comparability for remote and in-person instruction in terms of content and rigor. Our educators will continue to utilize the same scope and sequence calendars, work together in the same professional learning communities (PLCs), and implement the same or similar assessment models (with appropriate adjustments for distance learning). 

For all secondary schools (6th-12th grade), the district has invested in Canvas, a learning management system (LMS). Below you can find out some details about how the Canvas LMS and the professional development/training for teachers will benefit IHS students and caregivers, both in person and virtually:

Caregivers
  • Transparent View: Caregivers can view their children’s courses, calendar due dates, and grades all from one location.
  • Click Through to Assignments: Caregivers can see a grade or "missing" label and then click directly through to the assignment to see the details. Caregivers can see everything their students can see, they just can't complete the assignments!
  • Parent Portal for Accountability: Caregivers can sign up to receive notifications regarding their children’s accounts to hold their children accountable in their learning process.
  • Language: Caregivers can change their preferences to their preferred language.  

Students
  • Single Sign-On: Students will be able to use their Google account for single sign-on capabilities.
  • Consistency: Students can click on "calendar" to see all assignments due on any upcoming date for any class they are taking.   
  • Collaboration: Canvas allows for discussion boards and group work.
  • Communication: Through Canvas, students can expect all communication in one localized place - the place where they also see their assignments, turn in their assignments, and take assignments. 
  • Immediate Content: Students can immediately access the content of their courses as long as they have access to the internet.
 

Fine and Performing Arts

How will art classes (studio art, etc.) work for students learning remotely?
All art classes will have synchronous and asynchronous components. Students who choose distance learning will engage with their instructor and peers through synchronous (live, real-time) instruction delivered online and asynchronous projects and assignments, which they will complete independently.
Is there an option for band online/how will band work for distance learners?
All music classes (band, orchestra, choir) will have synchronous and asynchronous components. Students who choose distance learning will engage with their instructor and peers through synchronous (live, real-time) instruction delivered online and asynchronous projects and assignments, which they will complete independently. 
Is it necessary to choose 100% distance learning or 100% in-person learning? Or could a student opt for distance learning and go into school for performing arts?
It is certainly our goal to bring back full, in-person instruction as soon as risks are reduced. However, until then, the current choice for families is in-person or virtual. The intermingling of groups must be reduced to lower the risks of infection spread, so, at this time, it is not possible for students to attend some courses remotely and others in person.
How will remote chorus work for students learning in person?
Music and choir classes will explore musical concepts that do not require singing in person. If weather conditions allow, rehearsals involving singing may be done outside, at a distance.
How will it work if a student is taking both band and orchestra?
The same as before closure. Students will have periods for ensemble rehearsal and time set aside to attend lessons and sectional rehearsals. Until it is safe to be less physically distant, whether students are 6' apart (strings) or 12' apart (wind instruments) in all directions, large ensemble rehearsals will be limited to small groups appropriately distanced in large spaces.
Should a student enrolled in band or wind ensemble elect for in-person learning?
During this health crisis, there is no doubt that remote and in-person learning environments will be different. That said, course content and instruction will consist of the same synchronous learning and asynchronous projects for all students, regardless of instructional mode.
What is instrument PPE for band?
Evidence-based research in this area is still ongoing, however, the current recommendations are to use bell covers for all wind instruments, masks with slits for instrument-playing, and gloves for percussionists sharing mallets.
Do you know yet how remote students will manage art classes requiring supplies?
It is our goal to provide individualized art kits for students who will be taking art remotely.
How will choir classes meet remotely? Will remote instruction be consistent with what is happening in person?
Yes. Regardless of whether a student chooses in-person or distance learning, course content and instruction will consist of the same synchronous learning and asynchronous projects.