Please note: These questions were collected via Google Form and answered at the August 23, 2021 Board of Education Meeting. The Google Form was emailed to all staff members and parents/guardians and was made available to the entire community on our website prior to the meeting.
Will remote learning be available?
All classroom instruction for the 21-22 school year will be 100% in person unless mandated otherwise by the State. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been emphatic in stating that children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), remote learning highlighted inequities in education, was detrimental to the educational attainment of students of all ages and exacerbated the mental health crisis among children and adolescents. Therefore, returning to full-time in-person learning is a priority for the Valley Central School District.
If a student is quarantined due to COVID 19, he/she will be provided with remote instruction.
- This instruction will be a combination of asynchronous and synchronous instruction.
- When determining the correct combination of instruction it is always important to ask ourselves what is best for this student?
- Teachers will establish a Google Classroom for remote learning. All live instruction will be conducted through Google Meets and all instructions and digital learning material will be posted to the Google Classroom.
- All students will be provided with a district Chromebook.
In the event that the Valley Central School District is fully closed due to COVID -19, the District is prepared for 100% online instruction. Guidelines for online instruction are posted on our website.
The District will ensure access to the necessary accommodations, modifications, supplementary aids and services, and technology (including assistive technology) to meet the unique disability related needs of students. All of this will take place through either a 504 meeting or a CSE meeting.
Will there be a hybrid option?
No, there will not be a hybrid option this year unless there are significant changes to the guidance and/or a mandate from the State.
Will in-person tutoring services once again be offered to students that are absent from school for extended periods of time due to a medical condition?
A process will be put in place similar to the past. The school will require a medical diagnosis from the physician as well as other pertinent information. Tutoring will be done in person following COVID protocol.
How will band and chorus take place this year?
Students in chorus will be spread out 3 feet apart or further if possible. If they are singing inside, they will keep their masks on. If they are singing outside they may take them off. Band students will be separated by 6 feet as much as possible.
Will our children be educated about the vaccine, as I am afraid they will feel forced?
No. Valley Central will provide information about COVID-19 vaccinations to families via our website, email and social media. It will not be provided directly to the students. We will establish supportive policies and practices that will make being vaccinated as easy and convenient as possible for those who want to be vaccinated. We will not make students feel as though they are being forced to be vaccinated, nor will it be a part of our curriculum.
What happens if I decline to send my children into school?
You can choose to homeschool your children. If you need information on that process you can find it on the district website under academics.
Will the High School be offering in person clubs and activities?
Yes, they will follow COVID protocol in the same manner as during the school day. There will also be clubs and extracurricular activities at the middle school and elementary levels. It is correct to say that our students missed out on a great deal last year and we are doing all we can to provide engaging opportunities for our students.
Will the quarantine rules be the same as last year?
The CDC guidance defines close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person. In the K-12 classroom, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 feet to 6 feet of an infected student IF both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time. The exception does not apply to teachers, staff or other adults in the indoor classroom setting. Fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID -19 do not need to be tested or be quarantined, as long as they are not exhibiting symptoms. If there is a need to quarantine, the quarantine period is 10 days from the date of exposure. There was a typo in the original plan that was sent out that has been corrected on the website.
What will be the protocol for notifying parents of positive cases/exposures in the classroom?
The procedure will be the same as during the 20-21 school year. When we are made aware of a positive case we will begin contact tracing and notify parents if their child has been exposed and if they need to quarantine. Weekly COVID-19 updates will be provided to the entire Valley Central community.
What are your protective plans for children that are not eligible for quarantine?
The CDC has recommended the following 9 prevention strategies, which the Valley Central
School District will adhere to:
★ Promoting vaccination and providing information for those that do qualify.
★ Consistent and Correct Mask Use for all students and staff.
★ Physical Distancing of three feet to the very best of our ability
★ Improving Ventilation
★ Encouraging Hand Washing and Respiratory Etiquette
★ Reminding students and staff to stay home when sick and to get tested.
★ Continuation of Contact Tracing and Quarantine when Necessary
★ Continuation of High Standards of Cleaning and Disinfection
Will there be temperature checks at the door?
No. Parents, caregivers, or guardians will be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs and symptoms of infectious illness every day through home-based symptom screening. Students who are sick or exhibit symptoms of any illness should not attend school in-person and their health care provider should be contacted.
Staff will take their temperature and monitor themselves for any signs and symptoms of illness daily. Any staff member who has any signs of illness will notify their administrator and stay home. Staff members who have not self-screened prior to coming into the building will immediately report to the health office for screening before starting their workday.
Why has the daily temperature screening been removed and placed onto the parents/teachers? This is arguably the single most helpful tool the school has.
The daily temperature screening was removed from being done on school property because Valley Central did not have one student or staff member sent home with a fever upon entry last year. Parents and guardians were all asked to monitor their children before sending them to school as were staff instructed to monitor themselves before coming to work. We believe that parents and staff did comply and we believe that they will again. Any student or staff member that complains of illness at any time during the day will be isolated and screened by the school nurse. If the health offices see an increase in students or staff coming to school ill, we will revisit daily temperature screening.
What is VC doing about air conditioning?
There are air conditioners in some classrooms in each building. The auditorium in the high school has air conditioning. Several were put in this summer for our summer program. A referendum was put up several years ago which included air conditioning in all the buildings in the large common areas, but it was defeated. The district will possibly look to put up another referendum in the future.
How will lunches be set up?
Each building will establish a procedure for lunches so that students are distanced from each other as much as possible. Students will put their masks on when they are done eating. Some schools will put procedures in place where students go outside immediately after they are finished eating. Some elementary schools may choose to have students eat in the classrooms. Some schools may set up overflow rooms. This will depend on the population and spacing available in each of the seven buildings.
For high school students that have opted out of having a lunch period, will they be allowed to eat in one of their classes as they have in the past?
Will lockers be used at the secondary level?
At the middle school, lockers will be phased in as the school year starts for each grade level. Students will not be required to carry many supplies. Lockers will be used at the high school and students will be reminded to not linger and to keep their masks on.
Will elementary students be able to mingle on the playground?
Yes. Students will be reminded to stay at least 3 feet apart and they will not have to wear masks.
What is the plan for better air circulation, without making it too hot or too cold?
Valley Central is aware that improving ventilation is an important COVID 19 prevention strategy. We will bring fresh outdoor air into the buildings to help keep virus particles from concentrating inside. Multiple inside doors and windows will be kept open as much as possible.
Child-safe fans will be used to increase the effectiveness of open windows.
Windows on buses will be cracked to improve air circulation.
How does the school intend to keep kids 3 feet apart?
In most instances this will be very possible. However, the CDC has made it clear that failure to be able to do so in all cases should not prevent schools from opening to full in person instruction. That is why they have also recommended other mitigation measures such as masking, vaccination and hand washing. Desk will be set up with three feet of distance between students.
Will there be staggered arrival and dismissal times implemented for students?
Not at this time. Walkers/self-pickup students and bus students are staggered in many buildings. Each building will have procedures in place to ensure there is no overcrowding in the hallways at arrival and dismissal.
Will there be a more efficient pick up process eventually?
The pickup process is determined by each building level team. If you have suggestions for a more efficient process, or you would like to comment on the process that takes place this year, I encourage you to reach out to the building principals.
Will children be able to take mask breaks?
Yes. In addition to frequent short mask breaks, masks will not need to be worn outdoors. We are encouraging teachers to take students outdoors as much as possible.
How often will there be mask breaks?
The number of mask breaks will vary depending on student age and needs. We are instructing teachers to give staggered mask breaks throughout the day and to take students outside as much as possible where they do not need to wear masks. We are also instructing teachers to encourage students to let them know when they need a break.
What happens if a child cannot tolerate a face mask?
Face shields and/ or other accommodations, including frequent mask breaks and social distancing, will be considered for those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering. A medical note from the student’s physician stating the medical reason for not being able to tolerate a face mask will be required. A meeting will take place with the school and the parents to discuss appropriate accommodations.
Will my child have to wear his mask while attending gym class?
While indoors students will have to wear masks while in gym class, but not when physical education is outdoors. Physical education classes will be held outdoors as long as the weather permits.
What is the end game for masks with children? What is the threshold for this district to make them optional and not this one size fits all for the entire state?
As stated, we have reason to believe that an order will be put out this week from the state requiring masks to be worn by all individuals in district buildings. It will be up to the health departments to create these thresholds, not the school districts.
Please note that the answer above was given on August 23, 2021 and on August 24, 2021 Governor Hochul announced that she would be mandating masks in public schools. https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/first-day-office-governor-hochul-announces-comprehensive-plan-help-ensure-safe-productive
Are all staff such as the office assistants, janitorial staff, principals, etc. required to wear masks at all times while inside a school building?
They will follow the same COVID 19 protocol as students.
My child has allergies, which resemble COVID. Will she be required to stay home every time she has an allergy attack?
No, your child will not have to stay home if they have allergies. A medical diagnosis of allergies must be on file with the health office.
Will all the teachers and staff be vaccinated?
Many of our teachers and staff are vaccinated, however we cannot mandate vaccination at this time.
What specific studies are you using from the CDC in making your decision?
We are not doctors or scientists and therefore we do not analyze various studies. We take our guidance from the New York State Department of Education, which has recommended that we create plans based on the most recent guidance from the CDC and the AAP, which is what we have done. In addition, Dr. Gelman, from the Orange County Department of Health recently put out a notice urging all residents of Orange County to wear masks while indoors. We also take the advice of our medical director and our attorneys. We are requiring masks due to the guidance of all those mentioned above.
Will my child require a COVID test if he misses school for a headache, allergies or anything other than COVID?
If your child is exhibiting signs that could be COVID 19, you need to contact your healthcare provider. The school district will not require a COVID test, however we will need a note from your healthcare provider clearing your child to return to school.
Can you honestly say that it was the children’s best interest that was the deciding factor in requiring masks?
Will the nurses have COVID 19 testing available?
At this time we are not planning on testing, however if it is later determined that testing is necessary we are willing to do so.
Why are individuals allowed to sit at a table to eat at a restaurant, but our children are not allowed to sit at their desks maskless to be educated by teachers?
The school districts are following the guidance of the CDC, the AAP and the NYS Education Department. We also have been told that the Governor of New York has stated several times that a school mask order will be forthcoming from the NY State Department of Health. The main objective is to keep students IN school. The wearing of masks will in almost all cases of exposure to an infected person, eliminate the need to quarantine. At this time there are 2 Orange County children in the ICU due to COVID 19. We believe that we are doing all we can to keep students as safe as possible.
Has the school district established threshold levels for enacting additional COVID restrictions (e.g. at what percent positive would in-person learning transition to remote, is there an intermediary step that would occur)?
Valley Central is using layered prevention strategies as recommended by the CDC so that we are able to open our doors for in-person learning for all students. We will maintain daily/ weekly communication with the OCDOH and make changes to our plan if advised to do so. This can mean more restrictions or less depending upon the information we receive. Currently, there is no recommendation or percentage of positive cases that would cause Valley Central to transition to remote. This directive would come from the local or state DOH.
Will VCMS be forcing students to undergo COVID 19 testing in school without obtaining parental consent first?
As already stated, Valley Central does not have plans at this time to conduct testing. If that were to change we would never test a student without getting parent consent first.
How many students contracted COVID during the 2020-2021 school year, when masks were being worn?
We did not have any cases of student contracting COVID in the school setting during the 20-21 school year. Masks were required during the 20-21 school year
Why has the school district not sent out a survey?
There are very different viewpoints on mask and online instruction, as well as on various other aspects of our plan. The guidance has been clear that instruction should be in person utilizing several mitigation strategies. After consultation with our attorneys and our medical director the Valley Central School District has made the decision to follow that guidance in order to do our best to keep our students and staff safe and to reduce the need to quarantine. A survey would not change that decision.
The plan that was circulated does not seem to cover any of the facilities outside of the schools. What is the plan for other district buildings including the administration building?
The plan covers all of the buildings in the Valley Central School District, including Central Office.
The following questions were answered during the Public Participation portion of the August 23, 2021 Board of Education meeting.
Will you be promoting vaccinations to students, because it is stated in the plan?
Valley Central will promote vaccination among teachers, staff, and families by providing information about COVID-19 vaccinations and establishing supportive policies and practices that make being vaccinated as easy and convenient as possible.
Who is advocating for the children of parents that want to choose whether masks are worn?
None of the organizations that we have listed on our website have voiced an opinion on whether or not masks should be worn. School districts look to local and state medical and educational organizations to provide us with guidance and we are compelled to follow that guidance.
Who is making the decisions?
The Valley Central Back to School Task Force created the back to school plan based on the guidance available to us. It is then reviewed and approved by our attorneys and medical director. Finally, the plan is approved by our Board of Education. This is posted on our website. https://www.vcsd.k12.ny.us/how-our-2021-2022-back-to-school-plan-was-developed/
Is the district receiving financial gain due to their decision to require masks?
Is the district receiving financial gain due to the decision not to offer remote instruction?
Why are schools in other states, (South Carolina) allowed to go back to school without masks and we can’t?
We cannot comment about why other states choose to allow students not to wear masks.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker is requiring anyone who enters a school building to wear a mask.
What will happen if my child does not wear a mask?
The District has heard the comments and concerns from the community on both sides of the issue of whether students should be required to wear masks in school. The District’s decision was made to protect the health and safety of the entire school community. While we understand some people’s personal feelings about masks may not align with the District’s decision, we ask that, as with every school year, all parents support their students in following all school rules, including wearing masks. Students who arrive at school without a mask will be offered a mask to wear. If they refuse to wear a mask, their parent/guardian will be called to come and pick them up. Until such time as the parent/guardian is able to pick up the student, the student will be asked to sit in a designated location and read or do homework quietly. Students will not be permitted to attend classes or other school-sponsored activities without a mask on, unless they have a valid medical exemption.