FAQ’s – Valley Central Returning to Learning

ANY PART OF OUR PLAN IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE BASED ON REVISED GUIDANCE AND MANDATES FOR THE GOVERNOR, THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT.

General Questions about Reopening Schools

Under what conditions can schools in New York State reopen?

According to NYS guidance on July 13, Gov. Cuomo said that schools in a region can reopen if that region is in Phase IV of reopening and its daily infection rate remains below 5 percent using a 14-day average since PAUSE was lifted. Schools will close if the regional infection rate rises above 9 percent, using a 7-day average, after August 1. New York State will make the formula determination during the week of August 1 to 7 and Gov. Cuomo has said he will make that decision. 

What is VCSD’s approach to reopening? 

On July 13, Governor Cuomo indicated that, if the data supports doing so, schools must open safely for as much in-person instruction as possible, while also offering remote options for those who need/want it. At this time, VCSD schools will follow NYSDOH and NYSED guidance to reopen and safely welcome back as many students as possible, while also providing distance learning for those who need it. 

Valley Central conducted a survey asking our parents what they would be most comfortable with as we reopen schools.  We had 1,919 respondents and 75.9% indicated that they were most comfortable sending their children back to school on a modified schedule that allowed for reduced student density. 

To best maintain social distancing, VCSD decided to offer a hybrid instructional model after considering the data from the parent survey and NYSDOH and NYSED guidance.  We are beginning with two (2) in-person days of school and three (3) virtual days of school for most students.  We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in our area and when it is safe to do so, increase the number of in-person days of school with the goal of eventually fully returning to five (5) in-person days of school.   

Self Contained Students (12:1:1, 8:1:2, 6:1:2, Life Skills), Viking Academy, and ALC students will be provided with 5 days of in-person instruction. 

Will there be an option for students who would prefer all on-line instruction due to health concerns? 

Yes. There is an option for students to opt for all on-line instruction.  The details of our 100% online instructional plan are currently being developed and will be finalized after the parent forms are all submitted. If you choose 100% online learning for your child(ren), they will receive their instruction at home 5 days a week via the chromebook.  This will be a combination of the asynchronous and synchronous methods described above.  The level of synchronous instruction will vary depending on the number of students who choose this method. 

Can non-teaching staff work remotely if they prefer? 

At this time, we need teachers to teach remotely for those students who are engaged in distance learning. School district operations require virtually all other staff to be present for those students who are attending in-person. Staff are, however, able to indicate their requests for accommodations through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for a maximum 12-week period (as the law requires).

What happens if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases in our community? Do you have plans in place for closure?

There is a plan if schools have to go 100% online. 

Will children be able to stay for afterschool programs? 

 We are discussing the specifics with the outside organizations that we have always had provided our before and after school childcare programs on-site in the past in an effort to have this service available for those who may need it.  As in the past, arrangements and payment would be made with the outside agency. 

Masks and Social Distancing

Will students be required to wear masks in school?

Yes. Per Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.17 (April 17), any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face-covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, physical distance. However, this topic is currently being discussed with the Orange County Health Commissioner and NYSED and once we have clarification, we will provide more information. 

Recognizing that wearing a mask all day may be challenging for some students, particularly younger students, guidance from NYSED and the NYSDOH encourages schools to schedule mask breaks for students (when they can maintain physical distance). Students must also be allowed to remove masks for meals.

How can we help students that are having difficulty wearing masks?

It goes without saying that 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 authentic expressions of self through mask-wearing
  • Calmly (tone and content) reminding students when face coverings should be worn
  • Offering free face coverings to those who do not have them
  • Engaging in discussions about the challenges associated with wearing face coverings
  • Addressing any issues about wearing face coverings that arise within the school community early and finding solutions together
  • Assuming students’ positive intentions

How can we ensure that students stay physically distanced in school?

Like mask-wearing, physical distancing represents a significant shift in our school culture. 

Helping students remain physically distanced requires the creation of environments that make it easy to “do the right thing” (by, for example,reconfiguring classrooms and other instructional spaces). Additional approaches we can take to encourage physical distancing include:

  • Prompting students with clear markings/visual cues and reminders that are simple to understand
  • Calmly (tone and content) reminding students when 6 feet of distance is needed

How can physical distancing be maintained in bathrooms?

Bathroom use will be limited to the number of stalls in each bathroom and students/staff will be wearing masks. 

How will school staff handle situations when students come close together or remove their masks?

Our students and adults need us all to engage in these discussions in order 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.

Will staff be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)?

Yes. Per Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.17 (April 17), any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face-covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face-covering.

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 cannot be denied transportation.  We will provide masks for any student that does not have one.

Can my child wear a face shield instead of a face mask?

No, the state requirements are to wear a face mask unless medically or developmentally unable to.  They can wear a face shield in addition to the mask, but not in place of the mask. 

Will students be required to physically distance on the bus?

Yes. Students will be expected to wear masks and social distance on the bus to the extent practicable; however, students whose physical or mental health would be impaired are not required to wear a face covering, but must  be appropriately socially distanced.  There will be one student per seat, seated against the window. Members of the same household may be seated within 6 feet of each other. Parents and legal guardians are encouraged to drop off or walk students to school to reduce density on buses. 

Will the VCSD provide PPE for students and staff?

Masks will be provided for any students or staff who need one.  Nurses will have surgical masks and medical grade fitted N95 masks as available.  Other PPE will be provided for our custodial and nursing staff as appropriate to the task they are performing. 

Health

Will the district conduct daily health screenings of staff?

Staff are required to complete a medical screening questionnaire prior to entering all VC locations. Any staff whose symptoms response changes from a NO to a YES during the day, must contact their supervisor immediately and wait for further instruction. 

Will the district conduct daily health screenings of students?

No, It is recommended that we check with students periodically for a full screening. However, parents are encouraged to monitor for temperature and confirm their child does not have a fever, shortness of breath or a cough. A Google form will be provided to parents to indicate daily that they have done so. If you do not have a thermometer, please contact your school nurse. This procedure is subject to change based on State guidance.

Will personnel be trained to look for signs of illness in students and staff?

Yes.  Staff will be trained on signs and symptoms of illness and send any students with signs of illness or complaints of illness to the school nurse.  Symptoms to be observed per guidance from the CDC and NYSED are:

  •  flushed cheeks,
  • rapid or difficult breathing without recent physical activity,
  •  fatigue and/ or irritability, 
  • and frequent use of the bathroom.  

What if a student or employee develops symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 during the school day?

Students or staff exhibiting signs of illness or signs of COVID-19 will immediately notify the school nurse and be sent to the school health office for assessment by the Registered Nurse.  

Health office staff will wear appropriate PPE when assessing and caring for students/ staff of suspected COVID-19.

  • If staff or students show signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and there is no other explanation for their illness, they will be isolated in a supervised separate area and sent home. Health office staff supervising the isolation room will have appropriate PPE as per CDC, NYSDOH, and NYSED.  
  • The parent/ guardian will be called to pick up the student with suspected symptoms of COVID-19.  When they arrive at the school, they will call the health office and the ill student will be brought out to the parent/ guardian. The parent/ guardian will be instructed to call their health care provider, local clinic, or urgent care center.  
  • If any student or staff member exhibits emergency warning signs such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face, 911 will be called and the operator will be informed that the person may have COVID-19. 
  • The isolation room and any other areas that were used by the person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 will be cleaned and disinfected before it can be reopened for use. 
  • School staff will be aware of the symptoms of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19, which is a serious condition associated with COVID-19 in children and youth.  Parents/ guardians will be told to look for symptoms of MIS-C and they will be told to immediately follow-up with their healthcare provider should any of the symptoms be present.
    • fever
    • abdominal pain
    • vomiting
    • diarrhea
    • neck pain
    • rash
    • bloodshot eyes
    • feeling extra tired

Emergency Services (911) will be called if any student exhibits signs and symptoms of MIS-C. Confidentiality will be maintained.

Will my child be sent to the nurse if they have a cough?  If they have a cough and no fever, will they be sent back to class? 

Any child exhibiting symptoms of illness will be sent to the nurse. Based upon the assessment by the RN, the student may or may not be sent back to class. 

How is the VCSD collaborating with the local health department?

Our District School Nurse Coordinator is in constant communication with the local DOH and shares this information with all stakeholders regularly. 


How will health and safety education work for students?

The first day of school will be online for all students, (Friday, September 4) and teachers will all be talking about the expectations for social distancing and mask wearing, as well as the specifics of what is expected of students in the course work and how the learning will be delivered. 

Cleaning Protocols 

What are the district’s cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing protocols?

Valley Central will ensure adherence to hygiene and cleaning and disinfection requirements as advised by the CDC and DOH, including “Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection of Public and Private Facilities for COVID-19,” and the “STOP THE SPREAD” poster, as applicable. Cleaning and disinfection logs will be maintained that include the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection.

Examples of facility types where cleaning and disinfection frequency will be distinguished include

  •     Bathrooms
  •     Athletic training rooms, locker rooms
  •     Health offices, isolation rooms
  •     Administrative offices (main office, reception area)
  •     Frequently touched surfaces in common areas (door handles, elevator buttons, copy machine keypads, etc.)
  •     Breakrooms
  •     Cafeterias/Kitchens
  •     Computer labs
  •     Science labs
  •     Classrooms
  •     Maintenance offices and work areas
  •     Buses, school vehicles
  •     Libraries
  •     Large meeting areas (auditoriums, gymnasiums, music rooms)
  •     Playgrounds (cleaning only)
  •     Outdoor seating areas (plastic or metal)

Students, faculty, and staff will be trained on proper hand and respiratory hygiene, and such information will be provided to parents and/or legal guardians on ways to reinforce this at home.

The district will provide and maintain hand hygiene stations around the school, as follows:

  •     For handwashing: soap, running warm water, and disposable paper towels.
  •     For hand sanitizing: an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol for areas where handwashing facilities may not be available or practical.
  •     Accommodations for students who cannot use hand sanitizer will be made.

Regular cleaning and disinfection of the facilities will occur, including more frequent cleaning and disinfection for high-risk and frequently touched surfaces. This will include desks and cafeteria tables, which will be cleaned and disinfected between each individual’s uses. Cleaning and disinfection will be rigorous and ongoing and will occur at least daily, or more frequently as needed.

The district will ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of restrooms. Restrooms will be cleaned and disinfected more often depending on frequency of use. 

Disinfectants must be products that meet EPA criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and be appropriate for the surface.

What is the district’s plan for cleaning school playgrounds?

Equipment will be sprayed down and wiped regularly. 

What testing has been or will be done on the district’s water systems?

Water testing will continue as normal. 

How is the district addressing ventilation in light of COVID-19?

Valley Central will ensure sufficient ventilation and fresh air to all spaces of occupancy by means of:

  •     More frequent maintenance and inspection of the systems will occur to mitigate extra strain on systems.
  •     Filter replacement schedules will be more frequent.

Will the district keep doors open in order to increase air circulation?

Doors will be left open as much as possible.  Fire doors must remain open.  For safety reasons, all entrances will be locked and secured as usual.  The opening of windows with screens will be encouraged. 

Will visitors be allowed in schools?

VIsitors will be limited to parents picking up students and they will be restricted to the greeter area and no further.  There will be no visitors allowed to go into the hallways or the classrooms. 

Learning In and Out of the Classroom

How might classroom configurations work?

Where possible, students will not face each other and their desks will be separated. All students will be seated six feet apart.  All soft surfaces (rugs, soft chairs) are removed.  There will not be any congregating in the classroom (i.e. circle time in the elementary classroom).  Teachers will seat children to make them socially distanced. 

Where will students eat school meals?

There are different plans for where students will eat school meals depending on grade level and building.  Elementary schools will have lunch in the classrooms. At the secondary schools, students will be socially distanced in various locations for breakfast and lunch.All students will be participating in social distancing during breakfast and lunch.

What will teaching and learning look like in the VCSD next school year?

The pandemic has changed what life looks like in all areas and school is included. While we are in this pandemic, VCSD will follow the Hybrid Instructional Plan as detailed in the Teaching and Learning section of the VC Returning to Learning plan until such time that we are able to return to school fully.

When will staff receive professional development (PD) and how will this work?

All staff will receive PD  on the three conference days prior to the start of school and it will continue into the school year.  PD will be provided in various formats.

How will substitutes receive professional development on safety protocol?

Substitutes will be trained on safety protocol and requirements by the district, in the same manner as all teachers before they return to work in the schools.  

Kindergarten parents are typically nervous under normal conditions.  What will Kindergarten look like this year? 

There will be a Virtual Kindergarten Orientation on September 4th, where all these questions will be answered. Kindergarten will utilize the existing curriculum and provide engaging opportunities for our youngest learners. 

Will the district be providing devices for students in K-2 grades? 

Yes, we will provide devices to students in grades K-2. 

To limit cohort mingling, will the district be changing class schedules?

Elementary students will remain in the same classroom for most of the day. Secondary schedules will be created to limit the amount of cohort mingling. 

Will students be allowed to play on school playgrounds?

Yes, the playgrounds will be cleaned. 

How can I change the plan that I choose for my child? 

To change the plan you choose for your child, please provide written notice to the building principal. Each case will be looked at on an individual basis. 

Will students wear a mask during gym class?

Masks can be removed during PE if a twelve foot distance can be maintained.  They should not be wearing masks when physically exerting themselves. 

Will the Middle School students stay in one class room with their team? Or will they be switching? 

At this time building administrators are working to limit the amount of student movement throughout the day.

How will the High School change classes to keep the traffic down in the hallways?

The secondary schools are looking at staggered schedules to keep the traffic down in the hallways.

Will secondary students who choose 100% online still be able to take all their classes at the same level? 

Yes, however it may look different at different levels. 

 Will there be designated times for remote/online?

 On Wednesday, there will absolutely be designated times for online learning. Remote learning will be a combination of asynchronous and synchronous instruction. 

Knowing that students had very different experiences with distance learning, how can we support student learning in the fall?

The VCSD has worked with a team of teachers to create an online learning framework that will ensure consistency across the District. 

How will the district ensure students with disabilities receive the education and services they need?

These programs and services can be provided in all formats (live-person, hybrid, or remote).  Valley Central will document the programs and services offered and provided to students with disabilities as well as to the communications with parents in their preferred language and mode of communication. 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.

How will my child get speech services?

Students will continue to receive speech whether in person or online.

Will the district be maintaining support for English as a New Language (ENL) students?

Valley Central is committed to comprehensive, high-quality, and culturally responsive instruction for ENL students, we will provide the required instructional Units of Study to all ELLs based on their most recently measured English language proficiency level during in-person or hybrid instruction.  

Once we begin hybrid instruction, we will complete the ELL identification process within 30 school days of the start of the school year for all students who enrolled during COVID-19 school closures in 2019-20, as well as all students who enroll during summer of 2020 and during the first 20 school days of the 2020-21 school year.  

After this 20 day flexibility period, identification of ELLs will resume for all students within the required 10 school days of initial enrollment as required by Commissioner’s Regulations Part 154.

How will the VCSD support students’ social-emotional well-being when school begins?

Valley Central school psychologists and our student assistance counselors will:

  • Assist with the facilitation of classroom guidance on social distance practices in school.
  • Check-in with emotionally fragile students as they return to school to assess the level of functioning.  Conduct home visits as needed following social distance guidelines and the wearing of protective gear such as masks.
  • Provide individual counseling to students who express fears, loss, anxiety, and/or signs of depression by providing age-appropriate stress management and coping strategies. Risk assessment will be conducted as necessary when suicidal thoughts are expressed or if a student is presenting as a danger to others.
  • Refer students to outside counseling as needed.  If a student attends private outpatient counseling, obtain consent to coordinate services with outpatient providers to support students and their families.  
  • Identify student needs for food and shelter.  Provide assistance through community resources and through Valley Central Programs (Backpack Snack Attack, Food Pantry). 
  • Assist families with fears about allowing their children to return to school. Share resources on signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Assist with referrals to community agencies as needed.  
  • Make contact with identified families that require assistance with obtaining outpatient appointments for their children, food, shelter and clothing.
  • Conduct home visits following social distance guidelines and wearing protective gear such as masks.  

How will the district monitor student attendance?

The district will take attendance on a daily basis. The specifics of the attendance plan are in the development phases and more information is forthcoming. 

If my child is sick (non-COVID) and I keep them home, but they work virtually, does it count as an absence?

Yes, it will be counted as an absence from school if you were expected to be physically present in school that day. However, students can continue to work online so as not to miss the work.

Will athletics and extracurricular activities continue?

VCSD is following the protocol that has been agreed upon by the NYSPHSAA. At this time,  the fall season has delayed to start on Sept. 21.  If it is cancelled there is a plan by NYSPHSAAto modify all the seasons so that all three seasons will occur this year beginning in January. For more information please consult the Athletics and Extracurricular section of the Reopening Plan. 

All extracurricular activities/clubs will be provided remotely until further notice.  There will be no in person assemblies.  Google Meet will be used to address large groups of students simultaneously. 

How can I learn more about the VCSD’s reopening plans?

The full reopening plan can be accessed on the Valley Central website, https://www.vcsd.k12.ny.us/academics/vc-2020-reopening-plan/