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Everything You Wanted to Know About Elementary School This Fall But Were Afraid to Ask

SchoolVisionIn response to Scarsdale parents’ requests for more information about the Scarsdale School District’s school reopening plans and to comply with New York State Governor Cuomo’s request to have meetings with parents, the Scarsdale School Administration announced on August 10th that principals from Scarsdale’s elementary, middle and high schools would hold public forums this week. The Elementary School Forum based on the District’s restart plan was held Monday night August 17. Principals and Assistant Principals from all five of Scarsdale’s elementary schools delivered a broad outlook of what daily school will look like and stated several times that more information about curriculum content and logistics will be made available as school reentry nears.

Dr. Felix Gil, Quaker Ridge’s Principal, called the restart plan a collaborative vision that involved parents, teachers, students, administrators, consultants, and the Board of Education. In fact, “more than 100 people in the Restart Committee and subcommittees came to design the plan.” The principals presented their September plan with the intention that they will be adding to it as new information from the State and about the virus becomes available. Dr. Gil emphasized the importance of in-person learning and social connections.

In describing Scarsdale Elementary School priorities, Heathcote Elementary Principal, Maria Stiles, explained, “Our goal from day one was to place safety at the forefront of all possible plans. The ultimate goal is to have all of our students back at full capacity for all day instruction as quickly as is possible.” She stated that in-person learning is valuable when safe and possible and that connection and socialization for young learners is important. Predictability of schedules and routines, as well as coherent, common learning outcomes by grade are also principals’ priorities.

AM/PM Hybrid, Virtual-Only, and Special Education Schedules

Fox Meadow Elementary School Principal Melissa Feinberg presented on the AM/PM hybrid model chosen by the District. That learning modality will be a combination of ‘small group instruction, one-on-one, and the whole group of students.” While students in the hybrid in-person model are at school, the other half will be at home completing asynchronous assignments designed to be completed independently.

AMHybrid

Feinberg stated that parents will receive Zoom links ahead of time and that schedules will be structured with consistency. Additionally, students will receive technology readiness instruction so that they are prepared in vase there has to be a shift to 100% remote learning.

TypicalDay

All five elementary schools will be operating on the same daily schedule. There will be staggered arrival and dismissals in order to abide by social distancing protocols. While logistics specifics will be forthcoming at a later date, the principals emphasized the importance of “adhering to designated arrival and dismissal times and locations.

For the elementary students who will be in the virtual-only model, they will receive daily remote instruction in small group, breakouts, as well as in whole groups. Their asynchronous assignments, like for the in-person learners, will be designed to foster student independence. The virtual-only day will be structured like the Hybrid model, divided in AM and PM groups.

Special Education and Bridge Classes will be scheduled for the full day.

SpecialEd

Tier II support, such as occupational and physical therapy will begin in October and will be scheduled on Wednesdays via Zoom. IEPs and 504 accommodations will be honored in all learning structures, but adjustments may be made.

Technology

Edgewood Assistant Principal William Yang, who served in the Technology Restart Committee, stated that student access to technology is very important and that all students will be receiving a technology device from school with the same configuration. K-2 students will receive an iPad while students in the third-fifth grade will receive a Chromebook. Students will need to carry their devices to and from school on a daily basis. Additionally, the District invested in a number of additional online services in order to support blended learning. There will be uniformity in the platforms by school level. Younger students will use Seesaw, while the older elementary students will use Google Classroom. “We hope to help students and parents with a portal. We will provide classes for parents and students. Details will follow in the fall.”

Elementary School Curriculum

The elementary school curriculum was created by the various Restart committees with the intention that it can be used for in-person and virtual-only learning. Underpinning the curriculum design was also the understanding that teachers and students may have to pivot from in-person learning to remote learning and vice versa. During the summer, teacher representatives from each grade have been working with English Language Arts (ELA) coordinators to create reliable and realistic student assessments that will function in a variety of learning environments. A team of teachers is also collaborating to review and revise the Scarsdale Literacy Guide: A Balanced Approach for Elementary Learning. A math research team at each grade level is engaged in standards based alignment that focuses on the essential math skills to set up students for subsequent years. For some grades, teachers have begun digitizing science lessons.

Risk Mitigation

Scarsdale principals also spent considerable time in the presentation discussion what risk mitigation will look like at the elementary schools. Parent and staff will complete a daily health screener. Every morning parents will be required to fill out a form about their children’s health, which must be sent in to school. Staff and teachers will not take children’s temperature on a daily basis on arrival.

In order to comply with social distancing guidance, arrival and dismissal will be staggered; more information about logistics will be communicated to parents by each principal in the days to come. Students and teachers desks will be placed six feet apart. All staff and students will be required to wear facemasks. Face shields are not required but they can be worn. All rooms will be cleaned and disinfected prior to the AM and PM classes. Hallway movement is being reviewed. The District plans to adhere to CDC and New York State Department of Health guidance.

The principals “ask that all members of our community adhere to social distance and mask requirements as well as travel advisories.” They emphasized that it is important that students be ready. Parents need to discuss with students that school will be different. For example, students will not sit on rugs or pillows, and they will not use lockers. The principals recommend that students practice wearing masks at home for an hour and wash their hands for the time that it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

Transportation and Lunch

Students taking buses to school must practice a six-foot separation whenever possible and will be required to wear masks. Buses will be loaded and unloaded in a staggered manner.

The hybrid AM/PM model will not include an in-school lunch period. Presently, the school district is working on developing a Grab and Go bagged lunch service. Should they want this service, parents will need to order lunch ahead of time using the Nutrislice App; only cold options such as sandwiches, salads, and bento boxes will be available.

Critical Factors

In pointing out critical factors, Dr. Gil stated that all school stakeholders are important. “Our ability to staff the school year adequately is an open question.” The District is monitoring staff availability. “We are in constant conversation with our teachers.” Principals are also exploring the extent to which they can increase in-person instruction by using large spaces that could accommodate more students while abiding by social distancing guidance.

Once the school year starts, if developmentally appropriate, students are encouraged to express any concerns with their teachers directly. Parents and guardians can reach out to teachers as well as to principals with any questions or concerns.

Highlights of Questions and Answers

Over 120 questions were posed during the meeting in the Zoom chat box. Most of the questions were answered during the presentation or in the chat box. Those questions and answers, if new, will be added to the District’s Frequently Asked Questions. Jerry Crisci, Scarsdale Director of Instructional Technology and Innovation informed me that his team and he are in the process of consolidating the two FAQ documents on the District’s website.

Can I choose AM/PM for my child? Can this rotate and can I move from hybrid to remote at any time during the trimester?

No to all three questions. The algorithm takes precedence. Siblings and twins will be put together. Our priority is safety. There will be no rotation between AM/PM. Change from hybrid to remote can happen at the end of trimester.

What will be done to create a remote learning community with students from all 5 elementary schools? Will students enrolled in remote learning join their “home” school for specials and school wide events?

Teachers will provide remote online activities mirroring the classroom. It is important that remote students are connected to their schools. They will be included in school wide events. Should there be a District change to remote, virtual-only student will stay their virtual teacher.

Will parents be required to play a significant role in supporting children during asynchronous learning?

All assignments at home should be done independently or with specials teachers.

Will children borrow library books and have access to the books in their class libraries?

We are working on clarity about borrowing in libraries. Teachers will curate books from which students can choose. We value student choice. We will circulate books from school libraries.

Will children have collaborative learning opportunities/projects?

Opportunities for collaborative learning will be explored.

Will textbooks be provided to the students enrolled in remote learning?

Students will receive books to support their learning. Students in the hybrid in-person learning will have to travel with books on a daily basis with ready access.

When will teachers plan and collaborate?

Planning and collaboration will be supported by front loading Superintendent Days to September and also on alternating Wednesdays when there will be no AM or PM classes. These days will be for teacher development. On those days, students will engage in independent work assigned by the teachers. The possibility of integration for synchronous specials is still being developed.

Given that the AM/PM model has been selected for elementary school students, the curriculum will not be what it has been in previous years. How will it be adjusted or reduced? How much of the curriculum will our kids not get? What metrics were used to determine that AM/PM should be chosen over the initially proposed A/B hybrid model? Does the District doctor believe that AM/PM is safer than the A/B model? Do teachers like the AM/PM model? If not, should we be on the A/B model? When will we hear from teachers directly so that we may understand their concerns, fears, needs, and recommendations? How may parents provide support to teachers?

The curriculum will be streamlined. Curricular expectations will be published and explained. The current model was considered at Board of Education level. Corresponding information can be found with those sources. We are working with all teachers to ensure they are working in a safe and productive environment.

Will the curriculum be the same across the grade or different by each class? If we wanted to form a pod with other families on the same AM or PM schedule, so that working parents can share in the cost of a babysitter, does it need to be kids in the same class?

We aim for consistent learning programs and outcomes for in-person and virtual school.

Will there be enough teachers teaching all the classes? Or will there be aids teaching?

Kindergarten orientation was mentioned; will that still be possible? If so, when in September?

At this point we have the necessary faculty. Aides will not be teaching. We are still developing an in-person Kindergarten student welcome. We know that it is a big adjustment for them. There are no plans for a parent orientation.

How will feedback be provided on daily asynchronous work?

Daily asynchronous work will be similar to traditional homework and will be checked as always.

What is the overall time frame for arrival and dismissal for both cohorts? I understand it will be staggered.

We will begin with 30 minutes but will shorten this period as the students and parents become familiar with the new system.

How will ventilation work at schools?

The District has worked on improving ventilation. Where it was possible, Merv-13 filters have been place. We also are having ventilation 24-7. Cost savings have been eliminated this year. We also ask teachers to open windows and doors.

We saw today the schedule for LRC pull-outs. How long are those sessions? When do OT and Speech pull-outs take place?

LRC sessions will be 30 min. All related services will be scheduled virtually when students are home.

Can we have more information on small group meetings for students that are all virtual? How many small group meetings will there be per week? And what will be the focus of these meetings?

Virtual small group meetings will be developed by the remote learning teacher. They may include direct instruction, community building or check-ins for students.

If a kid is sick, can he join the other group's virtual class?

We would like to keep students in his/her assigned cohort.

Do you know when we will receive our child’s teacher placement and cohort?

Due to the complexity of creating the cohorts, we believe the lists will be ready at the start of September.

What will a mask break look like?

A mask break will be for a short period of time. Students will social-distance and be outside. On bad weather days, students will step into the hallway and stay away from other students. This will happen in small groups.

If a student/child needs comforting, how will this be accomplished while practicing social distancing?

Teachers will be wearing masks and will interact with students socially distanced, communicating with care and concern to provide the reassurance and the care and concern that is appropriate.

Have teachers now been trained in use of remote based learning technology such a ZOOM? Have you established protocols for teaching teams to use ZOOM in a participatory and inclusive manner?

Our teachers have been trained on the ZOOM platform. This platform was used by our teachers last spring as well.

How will the bathrooms be managed both for classes who have one in the classroom and grades who share one?

Students will use the bathroom one at a time.

Will all students be given workbooks so the work does not need to be printed at home every day?

We will be providing as many of the materials for schooling as we can provide students. To address specific needs, you can always approach the classroom teacher.

If your child is slightly unwell and decides to stay home, can she/he switch to virtual for the day or will they have to miss the am or pm in-person session?

If your child is enrolled in the hybrid program, they may not switch to the virtual program for a day.

What is the District’s plan if we are in a better place in January than we originally thought? Will the District try to get all our children back to the classrooms on a normal schedule?

The goal is to return to full schooling as soon as public health conditions allow. This will be determined with the assistance of the New York State Department of Health.

What date will the school commence in September?

We are scheduled to start after Labor Day. The exact start date is currently being discussed at the Board of Education. Please look for the Superintendent’s updates for the exact start date.

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