Introduction | Communication/Family and Community Engagement | Health & Safety | Facilities | Child Nutrition | Transportation | Social Emotional Well-Being | School Schedules | School Activities | Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism | Technology and Connectivity | Teaching and Learning | Special Education | Bilingual Education | Staff
Use the links above to view our reopening plan, which was submitted to the New York State Education Department on July 31. If you have any questions or comments about the reopening plan, please send them to email@example.com.
On Monday, July 13, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that school districts in New York can follow plans to reopen for in-person schooling in September if COVID-19 infection rates stay at 5% or lower in a given region.
Determinations will be made by region about opening and closing schools as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. If a region is in Phase 4 and has a daily infection rate of 5% or lower over a 14-day average, schools in that region could hold in-person instruction. If daily infection rates exceed 9% over a seven-day average, however, schools in that region would not reopen. Similarly, should a region see such an average after reopening, schools in that region would also be directed to close.
While districts have been instructed to prioritize efforts to return students to in-person instruction, the district is also planning for remote/distance learning as well as a hybrid model that combines in-person instruction and remote learning. Parents will always have the choice to remain in the remote learning model. If parents would like their child/children to attend school through the remote option, they are asked to complete this opt out form by the close of the business day on August 7. To minimize transition and arrange for staffing, enrollment in virtual learning will be a 10-week long commitment.
The plan outlined here is for the reopening of schools in the Cohoes City School District for the 2020-21 school year, following the building closure related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan includes procedures that will be followed in the following schools:
- Abram Lansing Elementary School: Principal, Cliff Bird
- Harmony Hill School: Principal, Mark Perry
- Van Schaick Grade School: Principal, Jacqueline DeChiaro
- Cohoes Middle School: Principal, Dan Martinelli
- Cohoes High School: Principal: Laura Tarlo
The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school campuses. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).
It is possible that we may need to alternate between in-person and fully remote learning throughout the year due to recommendations and guidance from our partnering agencies, and stay-at-home orders from the Governor. The level of infection, the spread of the virus and response to the disease in our community, will be at the forefront of our decision making as we move to open our schools.
Superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Spring will serve as the district’s COVID-19 Coordinator and update the plan as needed. Dr. Spring will work closely with the Albany County Department of Health and will serve as a central contact for schools and stakeholders, families, staff and other school community members. She will ensure the district is in compliance and following the best practices per local, state and federal guidelines. Dr. Spring can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This plan was developed collaboratively with a variety of district stakeholders. A district-wide reopening committee was established, representing more than 40 members and began meeting in June. The 43-person committee includes Board of Education members, administrators, faculty, support staff, students, parents, health care providers, and union leaders. Within the Reopening Committee there are ten subcommittees: Health and Safety, Facilities, Instructional and Social Emotional Learning, Special Education, Technology, Food Service, Athletics, and three building-level subcommittees (elementary, middle school, high school). We are grateful to all of these individuals for serving on this committee. Their input has been invaluable to developing this plan. Additionally, a series of virtual panel discussions were held with staff, students and parents to gain feedback on the plan.
To help inform our reopening plan, the district has sought feedback and input from stakeholders, including administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents/guardians of students, local health department officials and health care providers, employee unions and community groups. Planning efforts were led by a district-wide reopening committee, which began meeting in June, made up of 43 stakeholders plus additional members who served on subcommittees. There were ten subcommittees that met regularly to inform this plan: Health and Safety, Facilities, Instructional and Social Emotional Learning, Special Education, Technology, Food Service, Athletics, and building-level subcommittees (elementary, middle school, high school). Additionally, virtual presentation sessions were held with key stakeholders – staff, students and parents – to discuss the plan and to gain their feedback.
The district remains committed to communicating all elements of this reopening plan to students, parents and guardians, staff and visitors. The plan is available to all stakeholders via the district website at cohoes.org and will be updated throughout the school year, as necessary, to respond to local and state circumstances.
The link to the plan appears in the alert bar at the top of the website homepage. The alert bar remains at the top as users navigate the website, making the reopening plan link available on all pages. Every effort has been made to ensure that the plan is accessible to all individuals in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A/AA. The plan can also be translated into other languages, via the G-Translate feature scheduled to be available on the district website by mid-August. The tool will be customized to translate the non-English languages most frequently spoken by our families.
As part of its planning for the reopening of schools and the new academic year, the district has developed a plan for communicating all necessary information to district staff, students, parents/guardians, visitors and education partners and vendors. The district will use its existing communication channels – including the district website, ParentSquare, Schoology, and social media – as well as appropriate signage and training opportunities to support the dissemination of consistent messaging regarding new protocols and procedures, expectations, requirements and options related to school operations throughout the pandemic. The primary communications channel for updates and information will be the district website, which will feature the G-Translate plugin.
The district is committed to establishing and maintaining regular channels of communication and has reviewed and determined which methods have proven to be the most effective with our school community. The district will rely primarily on the website and ParentSquare to communicate news, requirements and updates related to reopening and in-person instruction, including social distancing requirements, proper wearing of face coverings and proper hand and respiratory hygiene. The information that we will share will be based on state guidance, the recommendations from the district’s reopening committee and feedback received from stakeholders from the virtual panel discussions.
In support of remote learning, the district will make computer devices available to students and teachers who need them. A survey is being administered to students to determine their device and internet access. Questions are also being included on our district registration form so we know the needs of all new entrants. The district provides a Chromebook to all faculty and principals will work with their faculty to ensure they have adequate internet accessibility. The district will provide students and their families with multiple ways to contact schools and teachers during remote learning, including email, Parent Square, and Schoology at the secondary level.
The district will use existing internal and external communications channels to notify staff, students and families/caregivers about in-person, remote and hybrid school schedules with as much advance notice as possible. More details will be made available following the Governor’s initial decision regarding reopening at the beginning of August.
The district will follow its existing engagement and communication protocols with parents regarding the provision of special education services for their child. Additionally, related service providers (speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and counseling) will be contacting families to discuss how to best meet students’ individual needs.
In addition, the district will make every effort to ensure that communication to parents/legal guardians is in their preferred language and mode of communication. Each year the parents’ of all students, including our ENL students, are contacted to determine their preferred language for communication. Parent Square, the District’s primary home-school communication platform is then set to translate all sent information into the parents’ language of choice.
The district is committed to ensuring that all of its students and their families are taught and re-taught new expectations related to all public health policies and protocols. As part of this continuous training, the district will assess the best approach to communicating the information for each student’s age group and will provide frequent opportunities for students to review these policies and protocols. This targeted education will help ensure that all students and their families know what is expected of them as they successfully return to the school setting. All district staff and students will be trained in COVID Safety Protocols, provided by the Capital Region BOCES. These trainings will occur in early September and throughout the school year in the following areas: hand and respiratory hygiene, proper face covering procedures (how to wear and remove), the importance of social distancing and maintaining a 6 foot space, and how to identify the symptoms of COVID-19.
The district will create and deploy signage throughout the district to address public health protections surrounding COVID-19. Signage will address protocols and recommendations in the following areas:
- Proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Acceptable face coverings and requirements related to their wear
- Hand washing
- Adherence to social distancing instructions
- Symptoms/prevention of COVID-19
In addition to signage, the district will encourage all students, faculty, staff and visitors through verbal and written communication to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DOH guidance regarding the use of PPE.
The district is committed to creating a learning environment that protects student and staff health, safety and privacy. Our district will operate under a standard procedure for addressing situations in which an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 or appears symptomatic. In the event that a student or staff member is sick or symptomatic, notification to exposed individuals will occur pursuant to the state’s contact tracing protocols as implemented by the Albany County Department of Health. Additionally, the district will notify staff, students and families from the affected building of a positive case and protocols that will be followed.
The district is preparing for situations in which one or more school buildings need to close due to a significant number of students or staff testing positive for COVID-19 or a considerable regional increase in COVID-19 cases.
The district will regularly consult with Dr. DiTursi, the Cohoes City School District’s Medical Director, and the Albany County Department of Health on issues related to absenteeism that will serve as early warning signs that positive COVID-19 cases may be increasing beyond an acceptable level. Absentee data will be monitored daily. The district may choose to modify operations in one or more schools prior to closing to help mitigate a rise in cases. The district will consult with Dr. DiTursi and the Albany County Department of Health when making such decisions.
The health and safety of our students, our staff and their families is our top priority. We want students and employees to feel comfortable and safe returning to school campuses. Our reopening plan incorporates recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).
The following protocols and procedures will be in place in all district schools and in the TSL before and after care program for the 2020-21 school year, should in-person schooling resume. Anyone with questions or concerns should contact our COVID-19 safety coordinator at email@example.com or call 237-0100, ext. 2350.
The district has developed resources to educate parents/guardians and staff members regarding the careful observation of symptoms of COVID-19 and health screening measures that must be conducted each morning before coming to school. The resources include the requirement for any student or staff member with a fever of 100°F or greater and/or symptoms of possible COVID-19 virus infection to not come to school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list of Coronavirus symptoms was used to develop these resources.
The Cohoes City School District will implement the following practices to conduct mandated health screening:
- Staff, contractors, vendors, and pre-approved visitors, prior to arrival, will complete a digital health screening questionnaire, modeled after the guidance provided in the New York Forward Pre-K to Grade 12 School Guidelines, including daily temperature checks.
- Prior to arrival at school, students/parents must perform daily temperature checks and complete the health screening questionnaire once per week.
- The temperature check form will be sent out digitally through ParentSquare to parents/students each morning. Parents must respond prior to their child’s arrival at school.
- Staff will follow up with parents for those students whose parent reports a temperature greater than 100 degrees F. Additionally, staff will follow up with parents whose form was not received.
- Once per week, parents will be required to complete the health screening questionnaire on behalf of their child/children.
- The information that is reported from the screening tool is cleared/not cleared and will be sent to the school nurse and building principal. No other information will be collected or reported.
- If a student presents with a temperature of 100°F or greater or has a positive response to a screening question, he/she will be separated from others, parents will be called immediately and the student will be dismissed from school and referred to his/her health care provider.
- Students/parents and staff are required to notify the school when they develop symptoms or if their answers to the questionnaire change during or outside of school hours. Parents are asked to contact the school nurse or building principal to report COVID-19 symptoms.
Social distancing, face coverings & PPE
The district has developed a plan for maintaining social distancing of all students, faculty, and staff when on school facilities, grounds and transportation.
- Elementary Buildings: Students in Pre-K through grade 5 will be required to to wear a mask/face covering that covers their nose and mouth upon entering and exiting the building, anytime inside the classroom and anytime outside of their classroom (ie. bathroom, hallway etc.). Mask breaks will occur throughout the day, including for meals, when non-masked students can be spaced at least six feet apart, ideally outside or at least with the windows open.
- Elementary students will remain with their class “pod” in their classroom. Special area teachers will provide instruction in the “pods’” classroom.
- Middle School/High School: Students in grades 6-12 will be required to wear a mask/face covering that covers their nose and mouth at all times. Mask breaks will occur throughout the day, including for meals, when non-masked students can be spaced at least six feet apart, ideally outside or at least with the windows open.
- Exceptions to mask/face covering requirements must be made for those who cannot wear one due to medical conditions, disability impact, or other health or safety factors.
- Transparent masks/face shields may be an option for those students with medical, behavioral, or other challenges who are unable to wear masks/face coverings.
- Adults, including educators and staff, are required to wear masks/face coverings. Transparent masks/face shields may be the best option for elementary teachers or teachers whose students rely on visual/facial cues (SPED, ENL). Face masks will be provided for staff, but staff may also provide their own.
- Training will be provided to both staff and students on how to properly remove and put on a face mask/covering, and the proper way to discard disposable face coverings.
- Disposable face masks will be provided for students, but students/families are also encouraged to provide their own. Reusable masks/face coverings provided by families should be washed daily.
Transportation: Masks/face coverings are required for everyone on the bus during school bus transportation.
Infection control strategies
The district will implement the following infection control strategies:
- The district will use multiple points of entry/exit at every building to reduce congestion.
- All points of entry will have hand sanitizer stations.
- Additional hand sanitizer dispensers will be provided in every classroom.
- Class sizes have been reduced to less than 49 percent the room’s maximum occupancy with desks spaced a minimum of 6 foot apart.
- Six foot social distancing signage will be placed throughout the school.
Facility Alterations and Acquisition
Although not identified at this time, if student enrollment increases to a point that occupancy is greater than 49 percent we are contracted with the architectural and engineering firm of CS Arch for an immediate remediation plan to be submitted to the OFP.
The district will not be expanding square footage (e.g., building additions, lease space, transportable classroom units or spaces such as tents).
Tents for Additional Space
The district will not be using any tents for additional space.
Plumbing Facilities and Fixtures
- Water fountains that are turned off will be replaced with bottle filling stations as soon as practicable.
- Paper towel dispensers are being installed to replace hand dryers.
Ventilation will be maintained as follows:
- We will use our building automation system to increase outdoor air to the maximum allowable based on air temperature.
- All HVAC filters have been changed.
- All HVAC coils have been cleaned.
- Window screens have been repaired.
New Technology for Air Purification
No new technology for air purification has been planned at this time.
Management of ill persons, contact tracing and monitoring
The district requires students, faculty, or staff members who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to report to the identified isolation area in that building, which is separate from the area used to treat injuries or to provide medications to students. If there are several students waiting to see the school nurse, students will be directed to wait at least 6 feet apart. Both areas will be supervised by an adult with access to a bathroom and sink with hand hygiene supplies.
PPE requirements for school health office staff caring for sick individuals includes both standard and transmission-based precautions. In areas with moderate to substantial community transmission, eye protection (e.g., goggles or face shield) should be added. When caring for a suspect or confirmed individual with COVID-19, gloves, a gown, eye protection, and a fit-tested N-95 respirator will be used, if available. If an N-95 respirator is not available, a surgical face mask and face shield will be used.
School health office cleaning will occur after each use of cots, bathrooms, and health office equipment (e.g., blood pressure cuffs, otoscopes, stethoscopes). Health office equipment will be cleaned following manufacturer’s directions.
Disposable items will be used as much as possible (e.g., disposable pillow protectors, disposable thermometers, disposable thermometer sheaths or probes, disposable otoscope specula).
Aerosol Generating Procedures
Respiratory treatments administered by nurses generally result in aerosolization of respiratory secretions. These aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) potentially put healthcare personnel and others at an increased risk for pathogen exposure for COVID. Current CDC guidance recommends the use of spacers/valved-holding chambers and an MDI instead of nebulizer delivered asthma medication when feasible, to reduce the chance or aerosolization and transmission of COVID.
While schools cannot prohibit nebulizer use if the private healthcare provider determines nebulization is required, its use will be limited during the pandemic. Any requests for the use of nebulization must be reviewed with the requesting primary care physician by the district’s medical director, Dr. DiTursi, prior to the beginning of the school year
If Students or Staff become Ill with Symptoms of COVID-19 at School
The district requires students or staff with a temperature, signs of illness, and/or a positive response to the questionnaire to be sent directly to a dedicated isolation area where students are supervised, prior to being picked up or otherwise sent home. Parents will be called immediately. Students will be supervised in the isolation area while awaiting transport home and will be separated by at least 6 feet a part. Students will be escorted from the isolation area to their parent/guardian. Students or staff will be referred to a healthcare provider and provided resources on COVID-19 testing.
In addition to a temperature of 100 degrees F or greater, symptoms of COVID-19 may include:
- Fever, chills
- New loss of taste or smell
- Shortness of breath
- Nasal congestion or rhinorrhea
- Sore throat
- Muscle or body aches
- Poor feeding or appetite
Return to School after Illness
The district has established protocols and procedures, in consultation with the Albany County Department of Health and the district’s medical director, Dr. DiTursi about the requirements for determining when individuals, particularly students, who screened positive for COVID-19 symptoms can return to the in-person learning environment at school. If a student presents with a temperature of 100 degrees F or greater, or has symptoms of COVID-19, the student may return to school under the following scenarios:
- The student receives a COVID test which comes back negative. The school should receive the certificate from a licensed health care provider who treated the child attesting the current illness is unrelated to COVID-19, providing confirmation of alternate diagnosis, labs, date of diagnosis, or other pertinent information, affirming child is fever-free for 72 hours and without other COVID-19 symptoms. The note must include the health care professional’s contact information and be accompanied by a signed parental consent for the school to interact with the child’s healthcare provider.
- The student receives a COVID test which comes back positive. The parent must follow New York state and Albany County Department of Health guidance for isolation, quarantine and contact tracing. The student may return to school when the healthcare professional provides the school with two negative acute COVID-19 test results, both taken since symptoms first appeared and are at least 24 hours apart. Or, the child’s healthcare provider, affirms the child is fever-free for 72 hours and without other COVID-19 symptoms. The note must include the health care professional’s contact information and be accompanied by a signed parental consent for the school to interact with the child’s healthcare provider.
- If no COVID test was administered, the student may return to school, when confirmed in writing by the parent affirming the child is fever-free for 3 days (no fever, off meds, respiratory and presenting symptoms have improved and ten days have passed since symptoms first appeared (unless there is also a known exposure, then 14 days after that exposure).
Additionally, if a student or staff member has had close or proximate contact in the past 14 days, > 10 minutes, closer than 6 feet, without a mask, with a person known or suspected to have COVID-19 and is not experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms, the student or staff member should follow directives/protocols from the Albany County Department of Health and may return to school upon completing 14 days of self-quarantine.
The district will refer to DOH’s “Interim Guidance for Public and Private Employees Returning to Work Following COVID-19 Infection or Exposure” regarding protocols and policies for faculty and staff seeking to return to work after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or after the faculty or staff member had close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19.
The district requires that individuals who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus complete quarantine and have not developed symptoms before returning to in-person learning. The discharge of an individual from quarantine and return to school will be conducted in coordination with the local health department.
The district will communicate safety measures taken or any positive or presumed positive cases to all relevant parties including parents/legal guardians, faculty, staff, students and the local community. In the event that a large-scale testing will need to be conducted at the school, the district administration will work with Dr. DiTursi, the Cohoes City School District’s Medical Director and the Albany County Department of Health.
The district will notify the state and local health department immediately upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 diagnostic test result by an individual within school facilities or on school grounds, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors of the district.
To assist the local health department with tracing the transmission of COVID-19, the district has developed a plan to trace all contacts of exposed individuals in accordance with protocols, training, and tools provided through the New York State Contact Tracing Program.
The Cohoes City School District will assist with contact tracing by:
- Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members
- Ensuring student schedules are up to date
- Keeping a log of any visitor which includes date and time, and where in the school they visited
- Assisting the local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual in accordance with the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYS Contact Tracing Program
If/when COVID-19 cases are discovered in the school, in consultation with the Albany County Department of Health, the district will close affected classrooms and/or areas within the building.
Confidentiality will be maintained as required by federal and state laws and regulations. School staff will follow the guidance and direction from the Albany County Department of Health and the school district’s medical director, Dr. DiTursi.
A closure refers to contingency plans, protocols, and procedures for decreasing the scale or scope of in- person education and/or closing the school. The district will collaborate with the local health department to determine the parameters, conditions or metrics (e.g., increased absenteeism or increased illness in the school community) that will serve as early warning signs that positive COVID-19 cases may be increasing beyond an acceptable level.
The parameters are as follows:
- Schools will close if the regional infection rate rises over 9% after Aug. 1.
- Schools will close if the 7-day rolling average of the infection rate is above 9%.
- Schools in regions in Phase 4 can reopen if the daily infection rate remains below 5 percent using a 14-day average, unless otherwise directed from the Albany County health department.
- If the infection rate rises about 9%, schools must wait until the 14-day average is below 5%
- Once schools open at Phase IV below 5% for a 14-day rolling average, schools can remain open even if the rate continues to rise about 5% until it reaches 9% for the 7-day average.
- The district will consult with Dr DiTursi and with the Albany County Department of Health on matters/decisions of closure.
- The district will consider closing school if absentee rates impact the ability of the school to operate safely.
- The district may choose to modify operations prior to closing to help mitigate a rise in cases. If infection rates are rising above 5%, we will consider modifying school operations for medically vulnerable students and staff if they are participating in in-person activities.
- In the event that a closure is necessary, the manner in which operations will be conducted will be communicated.
The district will emphasize healthy hygiene practices for students and staff by providing initial and refresher education in hand and respiratory hygiene, along with providing adequate supplies and time for frequent hand hygiene. Signs will be posted throughout the school (e.g., entrances, restrooms, cafeteria, classrooms, administrative offices, auditorium, custodial staff areas) and regular messaging will be shared with the school community. Signage will be used to remind individuals to:
- Stay home if they feel sick.
- Cover their nose and mouth with an acceptable face covering when unable to maintain social distance from others or in accordance with any stricter policy implemented by the school.
- Properly store and, when necessary, discard PPE.
- Adhere to social distancing instructions.
- Report symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.
- Follow hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection guidelines.
- Follow respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.
Students and staff will carry out the following hand hygiene practices:
- Frequent hand washing breaks will be scheduled and occur throughout the day.
- Wash hands routinely with soap (any kind) and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Dry hands completely after washing. Use paper towels to dry hands if available instead of a hand dryer if they are available.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizer should be rubbed on the hands until it is completely absorbed. DO NOT dry hands if sanitizer is used.
Hand washing or use of hand sanitizer should occur:
- Before and after eating (e.g. snacks and lunch).
- After going to the restroom or after assisting a student with toileting.
- After using a tissue.
- Before and after using shared materials.
- Before and after putting on or taking off face masks.
- After coming in from the outdoors.
- Anytime hands are visibly soiled.
The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. Therefore, the district will emphasize the importance of respiratory hygiene.
Students and staff must carry out the following respiratory hygiene practices:
- Cover a cough or sneeze using a tissue. If a tissue is used, it should be thrown away immediately.
- If you don’t have a tissue when sneezing or coughing, sneeze into your elbow.
- Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.
- Face coverings are protective. Wearing a face covering will keep the respiratory droplets and aerosols from being widely dispersed into the air.
Cleaning and disinfecting
The district 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.
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 should be cleaned and disinfected between each individual’s use. 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 should be cleaned and disinfected more often depending on frequency of use. Cleaning and disinfection will occur at least daily in the following areas:
- 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.)
- Break rooms
- Computer labs
- Science labs
- Maintenance offices and work areas
- School vehicles
- 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 hand washing: soap, running water, and disposable paper towels.
- For hand sanitizing: an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol for areas where hand washing facilities may not be available or practical.
- Accommodations for students who cannot use hand sanitizer will be made.
We recognize that some students and staff members are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, live with a person who is at an increased risk, or simply do not feel comfortable returning to an in-person educational environment. It is our goal that these individuals are able to safely participate in educational activities and every effort possible will be made to provide accommodations.
Visitors on campus
Visitors to school buildings will be restricted to those required for school business only. Essential visitors to facilities will be required to wear face coverings, complete the health screening attestation and will be restricted in their access. No outside visitors or volunteers will be allowed entry, except for the safety and well-being of students. Upon arrival at a school building, parents/guardians will press the call button at the entrance of the building to communicate the purpose of their visit.
School safety drills
The district will conduct fire (evacuation) drills and lockdown drills as required by education law and regulation and the fire code without, exceptions. Schools will continue to conduct mandatory fire and lockdown drills according to the existing statutory schedule. Drills will be conducted in a manner that maintains social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students to respond in emergencies.
Required school safety drills will be conducted with modifications ensuring social distancing and utilizing procedures that minimize the risk of infection. Regardless of the modification used when conducting a drill, students will be instructed that if it was an actual emergency that required evacuation or lockdown, the most imminent concern is to get to safety; maintaining social distancing in an actual emergency that requires evacuation or lockdown may not be possible and should not be the first priority.
The school district modifications to evacuation drill protocols may include, but are not limited to:
- Conducting drills on a “staggered” schedule, where classrooms evacuate separately rather than all at once, and appropriate distance is kept between students to the evacuation site. Staggering by classroom, minimizes contact of students in hallways, stairwells, and at the evacuation site.
- In the “hybrid” in-person model, students will participate in drills while they are in attendance in-person.
Modifications to Lockdown Drills may include, but are not limited to:
- Conducting the lockdown drill in the classroom setting while maintaining social distancing/using masks.
- Conducting lockdown drills on a “staggered” schedule with smaller numbers of students present to maintain social distancing.
- Conducting lockdown drills in the classroom without “hiding”/“sheltering” but providing an overview of how to shelter or hide in the classroom.
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection in the district, facilities operations will be geared toward meeting social distancing requirements and cleaning frequently touched spaces regularly. In carrying out projects or tasks supporting infection control, requirements will be met for changes associated with building spaces. Plans for changes or additions to facilities that require review by the Office of Facilities Planning (OFP), will be submitted to comply with the requirements of the 2020 New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (BC) and the State Energy Conservation Code.
The function, position and operation of stairs and corridor doors, which have closers with automatic hold opens (and are automatically released by the fire alarm system), will remain unchanged.
The district plans to meet the deadline for submission of Building Condition Survey or Visual Inspections on time. In addition, lead in water sampling will be carried out upon the reopening of school under conditions consistent with when the building is “normally occupied.”
Upon reopening, the district plans to increase ventilation, to the greatest extent possible. Water systems will be flushed in buildings that have been unoccupied. More specifically:
- Commissioning of the HVAC is underway.
- All bathrooms will be in use.
- Water systems will be adequately flushed prior to reopening.
- Ventilation will be increased.
School meals will continue to be available to all students, including those attending school in-person and those learning remotely.
For students onsite, meals will be provided while maintaining appropriate social distancing between students. Students do not need to wear face coverings when seated and eating so long as they are appropriately socially distanced.
The district will ensure social distancing between individuals while eating in the school cafeteria. Elementary student meals will be served in the classroom. Middle School students will alternate between eating in the classroom and the cafeteria to ensure social distancing.
The sharing of food and beverages (buffet style meals, ala carte items and snacks) is prohibited, unless individuals are members of the same household. Adequate space will be reserved for students, faculty, and staff to observe social distancing while eating meals.
Elementary student meals will be delivered to the classrooms. Additional class sections have been created to limit class sizes, allowing for adequate social distancing. All meal components will be individually wrapped. Students will be eating at their designated desk. The classroom desks have been pre-arranged to ensure social distancing protocols are maintained. For classrooms identified with a food allergy (example: peanuts), the room will be identified as a “peanut free” space to ensure the student(s) are not exposed to the allergen. Classroom cleaning and sanitizing protocols will follow CDC guidance.
Most elementary classrooms have hand washing sinks and sanitizer dispensers available for the students and staff to practice proper hand hygiene. In classrooms without sinks, students will be allowed the opportunity to wash their hands in the bathroom. Signage will be posted and training will be provided.
During the warmer weather, classes will be encouraged to go outside for a “picnic” lunch.
Middle School Plan
The Middle School students will be operating under a hybrid model. Students will be scheduled, on an alternating basis, for lunch in the cafeteria or in the classroom.
Grab & Go breakfast will be available to all students through kiosks located at the entrances of each building.
The cafeteria experience includes a no touch service line, items will be pre-wrapped individually. Students sitting in the cafeteria will be limited to 2 per table or individual desks, maintaining a six foot distance. The Middle School cafeteria has hand sanitizer dispensers available for the students and staff to practice proper hand hygiene. Signage will be posted and training will be provided. Buffet, ala carte and vending options will not be available. Staff will be responsible for cleaning & disinfecting the tables and high touch surfaces (following CDC guidance) between lunch periods.
For students scheduled to eat in the classroom, meals will be delivered daily. All meal components will be individually wrapped. Students will be eating at their designated desk. The classroom desks have been pre-arranged to ensure social distancing protocols are maintained. For classrooms identified with a food allergy (example: peanuts), the room will be identified as a “peanut free” space to ensure the student(s) are not exposed to the allergen. Classroom cleaning and sanitizing protocols will follow CDC guidance.
At the end of each day, students will be provided with Grab & Go (breakfast and lunch) for the next day, since students will be onsite every other day.
High School Plan
Grab & Go breakfast will be available to all students through kiosks located at the entrances of each building.
High School students will be eating meals in the cafeteria. The cafeteria experience includes a no touch service line, items will be pre-wrapped individually. Students sitting in the cafeteria will be limited to 2 per table or individual desks, maintaining a six foot distance. The High School cafeteria has hand sanitizer dispensers available for the students and staff to practice proper hand hygiene. Signage will be posted and training will be provided. Buffet, ala carte and vending options will not be available. Staff will be responsible for cleaning and disinfecting the tables and high touch surfaces (following CDC guidance) between lunch periods. During the warmer weather, seating will be available outside. The “old” gym may also be used for overflow seating to ensure a 6 foot distance.
At the end of each day, students will be provided with Grab & Go (breakfast and lunch) for the next day, since students will be onsite every other day.
For students that opt for full time remote learning, Grab & Go sites will be available daily. The pick up locations are to be determined, based on student demand.
For our students at the secondary level, remote instruction is scheduled every other day to limit building occupancy. As a result, kiosks will be placed at designated exits to provide Grab & Go breakfast and lunch for the following (virtual) day.
Cohoes City School District is a walking school district. The District encourages all parents and legal guardians to drop off or walk students to school. The District does, however, contract out for certain transportation services such as: out of district programs (VOTEC/CTE), Individualized Education Plan Out of District placements, medical necessity, etc.
The District shall ensure that the contractual transportation provider conducts transportation activities consistent with state-issued public transit guidance and NYSED School Reopening guidelines. When temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, school buses should transport passengers with roof hatches or windows slightly opened to provide air flow.
Students and contract staff must wear acceptable face coverings at all times on school buses (e.g., entering, exiting, and seated). Students will be encouraged to bring their own masks, however, disposable masks shall be provided to students when needed. Students/parents will be required to complete a wellness attestation affirming that the student does not have a temperature of 100 degrees F or greater, prior to entering the bus. Bus schedules shall be modified (when necessary) to reduce bus capacity. Students will be assigned seats to ensure proper social distancing and members of the same household shall be seated together. When students embark and disembark the bus, they shall follow social distancing protocols. Students will be assigned a designated entrance to the school building to avoid crowding.
All buses that are used every day by contract carriers will be cleaned and disinfected daily. High contact areas will be wiped down after the morning and afternoon runs, based on disinfection schedules. Buses shall not be equipped with hand sanitizer due to its combustible composition and potential liability to the carrier.
School buses accommodating wheelchairs shall configure the wheelchair’s placement to provide for six feet of social distancing.
Whether school is in session remotely or otherwise, pupil transportation will be provided to students whose Individualized Education Plans have placed them out of district, whose schools are meeting in in-person sessions.
School bus drivers, monitors, attendants and mechanics are required to perform a self-health assessment for symptoms of COVID-19 before arriving to work. If personnel are experiencing any of the symptoms of COVID-19, they will notify their employer and seek medical attention.
Transportation staff (drivers, monitors, attendants, mechanics and cleaners) shall be trained on the proper use of personal protective equipment and the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. School bus drivers, monitors, attendants and mechanics must wear a face covering. It shall be the responsibility of the transportation carrier to provide Personal Protective Equipment such as masks and gloves for drivers, monitors and attendants. Drivers, monitors and attendants who must have direct physical contact with a child should wear gloves.
We recognize that the social emotional well-being of our students and staff during these challenging times is critically important. The district will provide professional development opportunities for faculty and staff on how to welcome our students back and support them during the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. A major component to this will be to integrate coping and resilience skills into instruction. Training in these areas will be provided to all staff during the district’s Superintendent Conference Days prior to the start of the school year. Social emotional resources are also provided on the district’s website.
Second Step, a program rooted in social emotional learning, will be used in all elementary classrooms to build resiliency among students and provide them with coping strategies during these uncertain times. District social workers and psychologists will work within each building to provide additional support and when needed will connect students and families with Northern Rivers Behavioral Health Services, located in Cohoes Middle School. Referrals to outside providers will be made when necessary.
The district will send a parent and secondary student survey prior to reopening to help identify the ways students and families have been impacted by the pandemic. This will allow us to better support students in their transitioning back into the school setting. Principals, teachers, and social workers are developing “Welcome Back, We Miss You!” plans and activities to support buildings, classrooms and individual students, whether in person or remote. The parent/student survey will help to inform these plans and guide social emotional learning for the school year.
Students in grades Pre-K through 5 will be onsite daily. Additional sections have been created to reduce class sizes to 15-18 students in order to maintain a six foot distance in the classroom. In some classrooms the class sizes may be lower depending on the square footage of the room. Special area teachers (art, music, physical education) will travel to the classrooms to provide instruction. Physical education classes will be held outside whenever possible, keeping a distance of 12 feet between students. Once cold weather returns, the use of the gym for Physical Education and corresponding safety protocols will be revisited.
Middle School and High School
Students in grades 6-12 will have a hybrid model with an alternating day schedule, which includes both in-person and virtual instruction each week. To ensure social distancing, each grade level will be divided in half into two teams – Team Blue and Team Gold. When one team is in class the other team will receive virtual instruction. The Middle School and High School will follow the same every other day model, with siblings assigned to teams that meet on the same day. Special Education students in self-contained classrooms and ENL students who score at the Entering level will be onsite daily. Physical Education classes will be held outside whenever possible, keeping a distance of 12 feet between students. Once cold weather returns, the use of the gym, weight rooms and required safety protocols will be revisited. Large group chorus and band will not be held, in favor of small group instruction.
The district understands the positive contribution and the value that extracurriculars have on students’ lives. Developing and supporting the whole child is critically important, especially during the pandemic.
At the time of this posting, the fall season for interscholastic sports has been postponed and is scheduled to begin September 21. Updates will be provided as additional information on athletic activities is announced. The district will also refer to Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and Guidance for Opening HS Athletics and Activities to assist in developing procedures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
The district is currently reviewing school events, activities and clubs to see which can be conducted in a safe environment with appropriate social distancing protocol, PPE usage and cleaning and disinfecting. The district will also consider an option to conduct these remotely. The list, by building, will be determined prior to the beginning of the school year and shared with parents and students.
The following is the TSL Adventures’ plan that will be in place for the before- and aftercare programs at Harmony Hill, Abram Lansing and Van Schaick. The plan aligns with the Health and Safety protocols and procedures being followed in the Cohoes City School District.
- TSL plans to hold its gather ups or meetings, arts and crafts and all other appropriate activities with children outdoors to the maximum extent possible so children can spread out more to maintain social distancing in a larger group.
- Larger groups of children will be broken down into smaller groups of 10 while implementing the scheduled activities.
- We will be breaking large spaces down with natural barriers, ie. cones, tables, tape, so that the larger group of children in bigger spaces is broken down into groups of 10.
- Restrict the number of children in the use of bathroom facilities to prevent overcrowding during changing times or bathroom breaks
- Make the education of healthy habits a part of the daily instruction to the larger group including: hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, using hand sanitizer, not touching their faces, and taking daily temperatures of children entering the program
- TSL will have designated staff assigned to the daily cleaning of toys and other community supplies.
- Surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected continuously as part of normal operations, as well as a final cleaning before closing each day.
- Tables for check in will be kept outside the center. Parents will not be permitted to enter.
Cafeteria or food consumption areas
- Surfaces will be cleaned prior to and after eating snacks.
- The maximum number of tables on hand will be used in order to maintain social distancing.
- Education about not sharing food or beverages will be ongoing.
- Vending machines will NOT be used.
Arrival and dismissal procedures
- Temperatures of children and staff will be checked with forehead thermometer strips upon arrival by a designated staff member.
- Drop off by parents will take place outside, as parents will not be allowed entry.
- A designated staff will sign children in and out as parents arrive so only one set of sanitized hands are on the sign in materials.
- Parents will be encouraged to keep pick-ups and drop-offs as swift as possible to avoid lingering.
- Staff who feel sick will be directed to stay home.
- For after school programs, TSL will assume that children have already been assessed prior to entering afternoon programming.
Health education and communication
- TSL is planning to offer a virtual information night for parents so we can educate them on our policies and procedures related to health and safety.
- Staff will be required to attend a staff training event which will, in part, serve to provide information on updated regulations and protocols for implementing childcare through COVID.
- TSL will follow mandates in place for the use of face masks while in the program.
- Children’s health will be assessed daily upon intake and temperatures will be taken. Any child who is suspected of being sick, as per usual protocol, will be sent home.
- An “infirmary” area will be established for a sick child or staff who needs to be isolated from the larger group until such time that they are picked up.
The district recognizes that regular attendance is a major component of academic and future success. A spirit of collaboration among parents, students and the school district will be promoted to develop a plan to meet the needs of each student. The district will use SchoolTool, the Student Information System, to collect and report daily student attendance and engagement. Each building has developed building-wide systems to monitor daily attendance and to provide follow up to students/ families who are physically absent and/or are not engaging in remote instruction. Interventions will include regular contact by teachers and school staff, virtual parent and student meetings, a transition back to in-person instruction, social emotional support, assistance with accessing and utilizing technology, and frequent check-ins by staff utilizing a team approach.
The district recognizes the importance of staying home while sick, especially to contain the spread of COVID-19. The district also understands there may be occasions when students need to quarantine as directed by the Albany County Department of Health. It is requested that parents immediately contact the school nurse or building principal to report if their child is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.
A technology access survey will be sent to families in August to determine the availability of at-home devices for student instructional use as well as each family’s access to reliable internet connectivity. Feedback on effective virtual learning methods, which worked best for families and students last spring, will also be gathered. Additionally, questions regarding internet access and the availability of at-home devices will be included on registration forms for new entrants.
The district will utilize the information obtained from the technology access survey to determine which students/families are in need of a Chromebook for at-home use. For families without access to the internet, the district is putting in place exterior Wi-Fi access points in each of the school building parking lots. Spectrum is also providing low-cost internet to qualifying families. Families should inform their child’s principal if the lack of, or unreliable internet access, is preventing their child from fully engaging in the curriculum. In this case, in the hybrid model, the student/family may make arrangements with the building principal to utilize the internet in their school building on their virtual learning days. In case of closure instructional packets and other materials will be provided without full access to the internet at home.
Two Superintendent Conference Days have been planned for staff development prior to the start of the school year. In addition to safety training, the focus will be on providing support to ensure student and staff social-emotional well- being, technology integration, assessing learning gaps, and pedagogical strategies for teaching and learning in a hybrid and/or virtual model.
Incoming Kindergartners will be screened individually prior to the start of the school year. During this time, students and their families will be able to meet their teachers and become comfortable with the school environment. Orientation will be provided prior to the start of the school year for incoming sixth and ninth graders, as they are new to their respective buildings. If possible, small groups of students will tour the building. A virtual orientation will also be provided.
As we enter the new school year, teachers will spend time building relationships, supporting students with the transition back to school, teaching social distancing etiquette as well as wearing masks at developmentally appropriate levels. Mask breaks will also be incorporated into the school day schedule. Instruction in the use of technology platforms at each level will also occur so that students will gain familiarity and can easily transition if a move to virtual learning is necessary.
Assessing student learning gaps or areas of need will be critical. Formative assessments will be given before a unit of instruction to assess student understanding of pre-requisite skills. Instructional material will be differentiated where possible to assist students in closing gaps, while providing enrichment opportunities for students. Academic Intervention Services (AIS) teachers will work with students who are in need of additional support.
Instruction will continue to be aligned to the New York State Learning Standards. Acknowledging that the content in a given grade level or course may need to be adjusted, content will be prioritized to ensure that students receive instruction in the prioritized learning standards, key understandings, and skills necessary for students’ success in future coursework.
Committees of administrators and teachers will be meeting to determine grading practices designed to provide direct feedback regarding students’ mastery of course content.
We have been working closely with Capital Area Boys and Girls Club, our UPK service provider, to ensure that their staff follows all health and safety guidelines outlined in the NYSED guidance and required by the NYSDOH. We are collaborating with them on their continuity of learning plan that addresses in-person, remote and hybrid models of instruction.
For information relating to the teaching and learning of our students in BOCES special education and Career and Technical Education programs, please see the BOCES website.
Daily In-person Instruction Grades Pre-K – 5
The number of students in each of our elementary classrooms has been reduced to adhere to CDC guidance regarding proper social distancing. Class sizes reflect the need to ensure that students’ desks/seats are positioned no less than six feet apart. Additional sections were added (budget neutral) in the three elementary schools to ensure social distancing:
- Van Schaick: 4th grade and 5th grade
- Harmony Hill: 5th grade
- Abram Lansing: 3rd, 4th and 5th grade
Elementary certified AIS or Special Education teachers will deliver instruction in these newly created sections.
Our elementary schools will minimize the transitions of students whenever possible. Students will remain in pods so as to reduce their contact exposure to additional students. Movement activities will be incorporated throughout the day.
Assemblies, field trips and other large-group activities will not be held until NYSDOH guidance indicates that it is safe to do so.
Hybrid Instruction – Grades 6 – 12
Students in grades 6-12 will have a hybrid model with an alternating day schedule, which includes both in-person and virtual instruction each week. This provides for fewer students in each classroom space each day and lends itself to less daily contact exposure for teachers and students. It also provides the ability to pivot from a hybrid to virtual model if necessary. Consideration has been given to prioritizing hands-on and lab-based activities while students are onsite in school buildings.
On virtual instruction days, students will be required to participate in classroom work remotely and/or complete assignments. Students will be expected to log into their Schoology account.
Given the possibility that communities may experience spikes in COVID-19 cases at any point during the school year, which may prompt short or long-term school closures, our district is developing a virtual learning model and schedule for instruction in a fully remote environment. If it becomes necessary to conduct learning remotely, instruction will focus on both “core” subject areas and elective courses.
Remote learning opportunities for students will include a greater emphasis on synchronous instruction, with teachers providing live instruction to students. While recorded lessons and other methods of asynchronous learning are still essential for students who are unable to attend at a scheduled time, teachers will ensure their students are directly engaged through regular check and connects and the completion of assignments on a regular basis.
To ensure high-quality remote learning experiences, we are standardizing the use of a single online learning platform. Schoology will be used at the secondary level and Google Classroom at the elementary level. Building principals and teacher leaders are developing a common, coordinated set of guidelines for teachers to follow when using these platforms with students.
Instructional videos have been developed to assist parents in utilizing these platforms as well as an app that parents can download to their phones. Additional virtual training will be held to assist parents when needed.
The Cohoes City School District is committed to providing a Free and Appropriate Public Education to all of our students with disabilities. Students with the most specialized programs will be invited to physically attend school daily at all levels, with access to all their prescribed programs and services either in-person or remotely. Families of these students – in consultation with their medical providers – have the ability to determine whether their child will return fully in person, completely virtual or in a hybrid model. Similarly, students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) in grades K-5 who learn with their typical peers will continue to receive specified programs and services at school daily, unless restricted by family health and safety concerns.
At the middle and high schools, students with plans calling for them to learn with their typical peers will do so, with academic services and support provided by consultant, special class and resource room teachers throughout their school day, in addition to related service providers as applicable. On virtual learning days, these students will extend and practice their skills using tools introduced and modeled by their teachers and service providers.
Considering the lengthy time away from physical schooling, parents and school staff understandably have concerns about students with disabilities upon their return. The Department of Special Programs will communicate to all parents prior to the school year that we propose beginning the year with the program and services recommended at annual review, and allow students to relearn the routine of school while their teachers collect data on their performance and progress. IEP case managers assigned to each student (and related service providers as applicable) will contact parents to introduce themselves at the beginning of the school year and establish a preferred method of communication. Special Programs administrators will meet at regular intervals with teachers and service providers at all levels to review data documented in a district-approved platform to determine whether a CSE review meeting is warranted; they will also respond to parent requests for information and meetings.
Special Programs administrators will continue to communicate frequently with CPSE, out-of-district placements, service providers and families – via phone, electronic communication, and scheduled meetings – to ensure mutual understanding of plans, goals, and monitoring and reporting progress of shared students.
Special education and related service providers will remain diligent in advocating for specific needs of their students, whether an instructional modification, test accommodations or assistive technology. As the experts on students assigned to their caseload, these professionals will alert any colleague, building principal or Special Programs administrator necessary to meet their students’ needs.
All new students who registered during the closure due to COVID during the 2019-2020 school year or during the summer who identified a language other than English as their primary home language will be administered the NYSITELL during the first two weeks of school. The NYSITELL will be administered by an ENL teacher.
ENL students will receive their instructional units of study based on their spring 2019 NYSESLAT or the results of the NYSITELL. Students will receive their instructional units when attending school in-person by an ENL teacher. Students who choose the virtual only learning option will receive their instructional units with the use of Google Classroom or Schoology platforms. The ENL teacher will provide virtual learning lessons by posting instructional videos and live lessons. In the hybrid model that is being utilized at the secondary level, students who were identified at the entering level will attend school daily.
Teacher and Principal Evaluation System
All teachers and principals will continue to be evaluated pursuant to the district’s approved APPR plan.
Certification, Incidental Teaching and Substitute Teaching
All teachers will hold valid and appropriate certificates for teaching assignment, except where otherwise allowable under the Commissioner’s regulations (e.g., incidental teaching) or education law.
- State Education Department Issues Guidance to Reopen New York State Schools (July 16, 2020)
- State Education Department Presents Framework of Guidance to Reopen New York State Schools (July 13, 2020)
- Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, NYS Department of Health (July 13, 2020)
- Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (June 26, 2020)
- Interim Guidance for Food Services during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (June 26, 2020)
- Interim Guidance for Office-Based Work during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (June 26, 2020)
- Interim Guidance for Public Transportation Activities during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (June 26, 2020)
- New York State Department of Health Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- New York State Education Department Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 Website