School Reopening Plan

Monday, August 10, 2020

Hi Everyone.

The Union Officers and Central Office have been meeting frequently and continue to hash out details of the reopening plan.  This has not been easy.  These are extraordinary times and for us to be successful as educators, we have to be collaborative and creative in our approach and also understand that September will not be typical in any way.

Please keep in mind that there is no ideal set of plans that will work for everyone.  Instead of thinking there is a right way, approach this issue keeping two important notions in mind: (1) the belief that school leaders care deeply about the people in our schools; and (2) that the purpose in doing everything we are trying to accomplish is to reduce risk as much as possible; but know that we can never eliminate it.

From the beginning, the Officers have made the health and safety of our students and staff, our top priority.  We are very pleased that we were able to have a strong influence on the safety measures that are being implemented. The District, at our encouragement, will be going above and beyond the minimum standards of the guidance.  Making people feel safe to return to work was our ultimate goal. 

Thank you for all your feedback on the surveys and our social media platforms.  These discussions helped guide us at the table.

Once we felt satisfied with the safety parameters in place, we then started to focus our attention on instruction.  These discussions are far from over.  There is still a lot of details to be worked out.

For now, let’s review what we know are general aspects of the plan, as of today:

- All students K-6 will attend school every day - Sixth Grade will attend classes using the hybrid model - half kids in class, and half kids socially distanced in the building.  The 6th grade will have the option to learn remotely from home on the alternate day.

- Grades 7-12 will be provided instruction using a hybrid model.  Two cohorts determined alphabetically.

- All students will be socially distanced in class, and masks will be required at all times.  The safety plan is 6 feet, mid-desk to mid-desk.  Inclusion classrooms that have 2 teachers (and sometimes also a TA/aide) have been configured, taking into account the additional adults in the classroom.  Appropriate ‘mask breaks’ will be scheduled throughout the day.

- All staff will wear masks, at all times.

- On the elementary level, barriers will also be used to separate students at their desks.

- Walk thru temperature scanners will be used at all levels.  Temperatures will be taken of students and staff.  This will alter typical student and teacher entrances upon arrival.

- We were assured that classroom ventilation will be operational, and filters will be cleaned and replaced frequently.  Windows will be opened to allow the proper flow of fresh air.  Central Office needs to check with the Fire Marshalls to see if doors will be allowed to be propped open for extended periods of time.

- Fans will not be used, as they spread droplets throughout the room.

- Face shields will be provided to teachers, upon request, to be worn in conjunction with regular masks.  The District has ordered this type of PPE.  Additional PPE has been ordered for high touch classes such as ABA.  The district has acknowledged that small office settings such as Speech cannot possibly accommodate small groups and are seeking to remedy this issue.

- Butcher paper will be used to cover student desks on the secondary level.  Classrooms on the elementary level that change frequently, will also be provided butcher paper, i.e. speech, reading.

- No Tier II reading pull out/push in on the elementary level for next year.

- Elementary Art and Music classes will be traveling on a cart to individual classrooms.

- The District will provide WIFI for students that do not have it.

- You are welcome to teach lessons outside of the building, but you must coordinate with your principal.  If you would like a rolling easel or rolling small whiteboard to bring outside, let your principal know and he/she will order one for you.

- Students will be expected to bring their devices to school each day.

- Students will not be allowed to use lockers on the secondary level. They will be asked to bring a notebook, pen, and their device to school. Nothing more.  A small backpack may be allowable, but backpacks on wheels will not be.

- Elementary students cannot share cubbies.

- To start the year, all schedules will remain unaltered.  ‘Arrival’ & ‘dismissal’ will continue to be assessed and changes will be made if necessary.

- If teaching remotely from home to start the year, it will be a full day, bell to bell schedule.

- Extra charging stations and surge protectors have been ordered.

- Building Computer TAs will be the go to Google tech. support in the building.

- Attempts will be made with the master schedule on the elementary level so that special subject teachers pushing into classrooms will have classes in the same hallway during blocks of time, rather than moving from one end of the building to the other, period by period.

- And finally, on the secondary level, webcams will be allowed in the classroom to transmit the teacher’s voice only to students learning remotely from home on the alternate day.  A document viewer will be used as well.

Yes, webcams.  This is a very foreign concept to wrap our heads around and it took significant deliberation with Central Office to come to a compromise.  The Officers, in the end, felt that this is in the best interest of students and teachers.  On the alternate day, there would have been an expectation that the students learning remotely would still need to receive asynchronous lessons, thus creating twice the amount of work for the teacher.  It would have been nearly impossible for secondary teachers to teach every day and still provide learning opportunities to children at home on the alternate day, similar to what they were doing in the spring.  In exchange for this concession, we were able to get ‘Live Streaming Safeguards’ as advised by NYSUT, such as voice only and student engagement parameters.  Additionally, our final two personal days will now be ‘unspecified’.  

It is very important to note, that we will be engaging in a non-precedent setting Memorandum of Agreement with the district to address any contractual implications and changes to our working conditions.  This MOA will be only for the duration of this nightmare.  Nothing we agree to will extend beyond the life of this MOA Many school districts on Long Island are agreeing to ‘Live Streaming’ of lessons for all the same reasons.  We are not alone in this decision.

This final bullet is bound to cause anxiety and will certainly create a ton of questions.  In addition, it is most likely going to be an endeavor that we transition to, as the proper equipment still needs to be obtained.  Teachers will also need the proper training to feel comfortable and safe using this type of technology.

The Union Officers met with the LUT Executive Board this morning and discussed these issues.  Building level meetings should be scheduled shortly to encourage more discussion.  Any Union specific concerns can be brought up at these meetings.

In the meantime, any questions regarding building protocol or curriculum should be brought to the appropriate administrator.

We have come so far and although not out of the woods yet, I assure you that we will continue to work through these challenges and be stronger for it!

Be safe and well!