Welcome Back Message for Employees from Superintendent
Watch Our One-Hour Employee Information Meeting Recorded August 12, 2020
The Rush-Henrietta Central School District held an online information session for employees on August 12, 2020. You can watch a recording of that meeting by clicking the below video. Answers to many additional questions can be found below this video.
Answers to Questions from the Employee Information Session
Q: How will we handle students who can’t wear a mask? Will they need a doctor’s note?
A: Students who have a legitimate reason that prevents them from wearing a mask will need a doctor’s note.
Q: Do students with disabilities in our special education classes still need notes from doctors regarding masks? (not tolerating masks due to sensory issues, etc.)
A: An exemption from wearing a face covering is available to students who have the following accepted diagnoses: a documented neuromuscular disorder that makes it difficult for a student to independently remove a face covering; a severe developmental/ behavioral problem; a serious emotional disturbance or other significant mental health issue that the student’s behavioral health team feels would be exacerbated if the student had to wear a face covering.
Q: What is the plan for staff members who work with our NYSAA students who can't wear a mask or understand the placement of barriers within a classroom and need adult assistance for all parts of their day?
A: Staff will be provided with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep staff members safe.
Q: Can students who are excused from wearing a mask be identified in SchoolTool like we do with allergies and other medical concerns? How will we know of the exemption?
A: We do not yet have a mechanism in place for SchoolTool, but will recommend that to the vendor for future updates. Building administrators will be aware of exemptions and will share with teachers.
Q: What happens when a student refuses to put on a mask before getting on the bus?
A: If space allows, the student will be put in a seat at least six feet from other students and the driver. Otherwise, the student will not be allowed to board the bus and alternate transportation will be arranged later in the morning. Parents will be notified.
Q: Classrooms can be warm in the fall. How can masks be worn while teaching and learning in those conditions?
A: We realize our schools can become warm during the first few weeks of school. Masking breaks will be required throughout the day in classes where the teacher requires face coverings. We encourage teachers to open classroom windows when possible.
Q: What if a staff member can’t wear a mask? Will they be able to work in the district?
A: Employees requesting not to wear a mask must contact the Office of Human Resources, and provide specific documentation of what prevents them from wearing a mask. They will still be expected to work; their assignment would be determined based on the information provided.
Q: A new study shows that gaiter face/neck wraps may not be suitable. Will we be specific about the type of masks that are acceptable?
A: We recently added this information to our FAQ: “We discourage wearing gaiters and bandanas as a mask. A recent study found they perform more poorly than wearing no mask. The district reserves the right to ask a student wearing a gaiter-type mask or bandana to wear one of our disposable masks instead.”
Q: Does wearing the mask incorrectly trigger the same response as not wearing one?
A: We will use a restorative approach with students and teach them how to properly wear a face covering as part of health and hygiene instruction.
Q: Will neighbors be allowed to sit together on the bus if they have been together outside of school?
A: No. We will allow one student per seat, with the exception of children living in the same household.
Q: Can student drop-offs happen before or after buses?
A: We are working with each building to determine the best schedule and process for safe drop-off and pick-up procedures. Some have begun to survey their parents to assess how many families might be driving their students to school.
Q: If paraprofessional hours are extended due to having Wednesdays off, what type of responsibilities would that involve? How will paras make up the seven hours we would lose on Wednesday?
A: Erroneous information was distributed prematurely to some employee groups regarding changes to working conditions and times. Nothing has been agreed upon yet. If paraprofessionals or others are going to work a four-day week, their total weekly hours would not change; they would work longer days on M, Tu, Th and F. The district would like the flexibility to assign some paras and others to a four-day workweek; that doesn't mean all in those groups would. Technology TAs, for example, will be needed on Wednesdays.
Q: What will teachers be doing on Wednesdays?
A: We are still working out details for teachers on Wednesdays. We are hoping to use those days for a combination of conferencing, ICT training, and some virtual learning with students (synchronous and asynchronous). This is part of ongoing negotiations with the teachers' association.
Q: What extra cleaning measures are being taken at non-school buildings?
A: All district buildings, including non-school buildings, are cleaned and disinfected daily.
Q: How will the district help keep technology teaching assistants and library staff safe when they handle the Chromebooks, cords, books, and more being returned to school?
A: PPE, including masks, face shields, and disposable gowns and gloves, is available. In addition, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer are provided. Please keep in mind that frequent hand-washing is more effective unless bodily fluids are involved. Whenever possible, the equipment should sit for 24 hours before handling
Q: Who will be responsible for cleaning between classes in our secondary schools?
A: Routine cleaning will not be performed between classes in classrooms. Thorough nightly cleaning and disinfecting will be done. Sanitizing wipes are available for use by classroom teachers, if they desire.
Q: What new markings and signage will be in the classrooms?
A: There will be posters throughout the building. Classrooms won't have any special markings or posters but teachers certainly can display additional posters if desired.
Q: What cleaning products are being used? Are they safe?
A: A list of disinfecting products being used is included in the district's detailed Reopening Rush-Henrietta plan which is being posted on the district website August 24. EPA registration numbers can be looked up at epa.gov/listn to determine if a product is approved to kill the COVID-19 virus. Disinfectants used by the district are designed for use in hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other high-occupancy facilities.
Q: Will related service providers (speech, OT, school psychologists, counselors) be provided with kidney tables and plastic shielding? We often have small groups in small office spaces per IEPs.
A: Barriers have been placed in these areas where feasible, but seating capacity will be reduced. If additional barriers are desired, please contact your building principal. He or she will work with the facilities department to evaluate needs and resources.
Q: What is the rationale for students at SHS only having one 80-minute-per-week in-person instructional time vs. a period schedule that would allow for 2X a week in-person instruction for each course?
A: The district expressed interest in altering the high school class schedule this year. The teachers' unit indicated it was not interested in pursuing this.
Q: Will choir still be held at our schools? Will piano accompanists still be needed?
A: We expect to offer choir in grades 7-12. Accompanists will be needed.
Q: Will Regents exams be offered in January and June?
A: The New York State Education Department has not made an announcement about these exams.
Q: What are the plans for remediation for students since they have been out of school since March?
A: Each student will be assessed by their teacher. If gaps in learning are identified, interventions will be provided. This is true for both the hybrid model and Remote Learning Academy.
Q: Are we doing MAPs testing this fall? If so, what will that look like for remote learners?
A: Yes, we intend to offer MAPs assessments for students in both the hybrid model and Remote Learning Academy. All students in grades 1-6, as well as students in grades 7-8 who have identified learning gaps, will participate. The vendor has developed systems that will allow us to do MAPs testing in a remote environment.
Q: Will students who get extra time for tests have access to that when taking assessments remotely?
A: Yes. Any accommodation or modification a student must receive will be upheld in the Remote Learning Academy.
Q: Can we ask intervention teachers to do remote groups?
A: We are exploring this idea.
Q: What professional development is being offered? How much planning time will teachers be given during the four staff days?
A: Principals and building leadership will be determining the specifics pertaining to professional learning at each school from August 31 through September 3. Topics likely will include safety and operational procedures for reopening, mental health and social emotional learning for staff and students, equity, and instruction related to hybrid learning. Teachers will have a set amount of hours of built-in planning time on these days. Each principal will be creating and communicating the schedules for their specific buildings. The district and the RHEA have agreed upon a predetermined amount of hours that teachers will be given for independent planning and preparation each day. Principals at each building will be communicating the schedules.
Q: What professional development will be offered to address social-emotional learning?
A: District leaders are discussing a variety of resources, links, and possible training ideas to address social emotional learning. This past school year, the Teacher Center provided social emotional learning training to a group of staff from each building. The goal is for these trained individuals to help lead social emotional learning teams in each school. Specifics pertaining to professional learning during the first four days will be a building-based decision.
Q: Will we be meeting in-person or online during the week of August 31?
A: Faculty and staff will report to the school district for four days of professional development and planning before school begins. There will be much in-person professional development, but many online resources will be provided, as well.
Q: What can the district do to assist employees who have young children at home? Could we flex our hours or work from home Wednesdays?
A: Regarding personal home situations, the district does not have a lot of flexibility, as students will be attending in-person four days each week. Individuals who have a compelling situation with which they need help should contact Human Resources so we can consider what options are available.
Q: Are there flex options for teachers who have a medical concern?
A: Except in extraordinary circumstances, all employees need to report to work. We need to have access to our most important resource - our employees - for a variety of reasons.
Q: Do paras report to school on August 31?
A: Paras, teachers, and all other employees report to work on August 31.
Q: If a teacher or employee has to quarantine for 14 days due to exposure at school, do they have to use their own sick days?
A: The use of sick time is going to depend on the situation, especially if COVID-19 is involved. People will qualify for additional sick leave under the emergency legislation only in very specific situations involving COVID and them personally, not necessarily family members.
Q: When will paraprofessionals and teachers hear about assignments?
A: We are working as hard and fast as we can to redo the entire district staffing to make reassignments to our schools and the Remote Learning Academy. Staffing is usually a four-month process and we are doing it in just four weeks. We hope to share Remote Learning Academy assignments by the end of next week; elementary may be a bit sooner.
Q: If you opt to teach in the Remote Learning Academy because of health issues, do you lose your place in your building or are you given the right of first refusal to take that position back next year?
A: To the greatest extent possible, we will try to place teachers back in their building. It will depend on enrollment numbers and staffing needs at the time.
Q: If a staff member has to leave during the day how will that be handled and how will the position be filled?
A: Staff leaving will be handled as it always is, and coverage will depend on the availability of substitutes on a particular day.
Q: If it makes sense to have fewer people in the building and we can collaborate online, why would Remote Learning Academy staff need to be present?
A: With the large number of people assigned to the Remote Learning Academy, and the amount of design associated with creating this new venture, it is important to have people on campus. This will allow us to collaborate and work together more effectively.
Q: Will student teachers still be accepted in our buildings?
A: Unless sponsor teachers have heard differently from Human Resources or the college, student teacher placements will continue as planned. Anyone who has been assigned a student teacher who has a concern must contact Judy Torres in Human Resources immediately.
Q: We are short subs during a regular school year. How do we cover the remote and hybrid staff?
A: We are hiring additional substitutes, but the pool is very small. We hope to assign a full-time building substitute to each elementary school, we are hiring as many as 15 district substitutes, and we have seven graduate school interns as subs, as well. But it will still be tight.
Q: Can any staff member take temperatures?
A: We expect that every parent will conduct the risk screening at home prior to sending their child to school. If a student comes to school without being screened, appropriate personnel will follow-up with the student.
STUDENT HEALTH AND SAFETY
Q: How will schools manage physical distancing in the hallways?
A: First, each school will have less than 50 percent of students attending on a daily basis. Second, we have marked the floors with directional arrows and red tape that clearly divides the hallway into two distinct sections.
Q: What are the daily screening questions? How do they address asymptomatic cases?
A: The risk screening questions follow the same CDC-recommended questions being posed in various venues, including questions to identify certain risk factors and whether the student has an elevated temperature.
Q: If a child has COVID symptoms one day, do they have to stay home for two weeks?
A: If a child presents with symptoms during the school day, the child must be sent home and follow-up with their physician. The doctor will provide advice and information regarding a return to school.
Q: What will the special education classrooms be like? How is social distancing going to work? What guidelines will paras have?
A: All classrooms are set up with social distancing guidelines in mind. Paras will have access to PPE to keep them safe.
Q: How are we keeping students safe in the gym?
A: If physical education is provided in-person, we will follow state guidelines for proper distancing.
Q: Will temperatures be checked before students and staff enter a building? What happens if someone doesn’t complete the screening before coming to school?
A: Employees or students who have not completed screening will be followed-up with by an appropriate staff member.
Q: Will the district provide employees with face shields?
A: Face shields will be available in all buildings.
Q: Will thermometers be available for families who don’t have one?
A: There is no plan to provide thermometers.
Q: What will recess look like? If kids can’t use equipment or get near each other, why bother?
A: Students in younger grades will be taken outside in classroom groupings. It is important for children to have the ability to stretch their legs, release physical energy, and get some fresh air.
Q: What will qualify a shutdown? How does the district decide when to close?
A: We will be taking our lead from the Monroe County Department of Public Health.
Q: Will we be forced to take sick days every time we have a cold?
A: No, only if you have fever or combination of COVID-related symptoms as indicated on the self-checklist.
Q: What if one of our own kids are to be quarantined from their school/college? Will we be required to quarantine also?
A: We will take our lead from the Monroe County Department of Public Health.
Q: How are we going to follow new testing modifications for IEP and 504?
A: All part 200 of the regulations for special education will continue to be followed. Some aspects that cannot be done virtually will need to be done in-person with necessary precautions followed.
Q: How will the ICoT model look for students who choose to learn through the Remote Learning Academy? How will special education teachers be assigned?
A: We are still developing schedules. Now that we know how many students are in each model, we are working on how to appropriately staff for the students.
Q: Will ICT classes be scheduled so that coded students are still able to remain in a least restrictive environment, regardless of last name?
A: We always desire to make sure students are educated in the least restrictive environment possible. All part 200 regulations will continue to be followed with fidelity.
Q: Can we work with the state/county to have COVID-19 testing near school property?
A: We will be working closely with the Monroe County Department of Public Health on all aspects relating to testing. If we are approached regarding setting up a testing site within our district boundaries, we will work with local health officials to provide this direct access for our families
Q: Why are kids going to be using water fountains?
A: The state requires that drinking fountains still be available. They will be disinfected periodically throughout the day. Parents are encouraged to send in a water bottle with their child's name on it. Many of our schools have water bottle fillers in the drinking fountain or classroom sinks that may be used for refills.
Q: Are fans allowed to be used in classrooms? Can classrooms use window A/C units?
A: If fans and air conditioners are not directly blowing air toward someone, they can be used. Windows should be open when fans are being used. Window air conditioners should only be used where temperature control is indicated on a student's IEP.
Q: Are there specific rules/expectations/policies around bathroom breaks for the K-6 students, especially for classrooms where there are no bathrooms inside the rooms?
A: We anticipate that teachers will use their discretion as they get to know their students and build community among the classes.
Q: When will we know health office guidelines, including how students who need routine medical attention, such as meds, will be separated from those exhibiting symptoms of illness?
A: Our school nurse-teachers have been working on reopening guidance for the health offices and will be disseminating the information as soon as it is finalized.
Q: What are the rules for the isolation rooms?
A: Every school will identify an area to be designated as an isolation room. The isolation room will be used only for assessing and caring for individuals who exhibit symptoms consistent with COVID-19. When in use, this room will be supervised and adequate hand hygiene products will be available. All isolation rooms and equipment will be cleaned after each use. Where possible, disposable items such as pillow protectors and otoscope specula will be used.
Q: Will services such as speech therapy be delivered remotely for students in the Remote Learning Academy?
A: All related services will continue to be provided to students who qualify for them regardless of learning model.
Q: In K-6, can teachers walk kids to the bus to help with social distancing?
A: As in the past, teachers will continue to help with getting students to buses safely.
Q: Will we be changing IEPs for kids who go remote, or for kids who were originally going to be in two classrooms to limit COVID exposure?
A: We will follow the same accommodations listed on IEPs for students, regardless of the learning model.
Q: Can CT/ENL teachers be asked to check in with CT/ENL kids who are home?
A: Any teacher on record for a student should feel empowered to engage with their students.
Q: Any consideration to starting two weeks later, rather than one, to prepare further?
A: We considered several options regarding our start date. The Board of Education recently approved the amended September 8 start date. This is six days later than the original start date.
Q: Is the 180 attendance days still required for the 2020-2021 school year?
Q: Are snow days being used for the school days that should have occurred before Labor Day?
A: We are using one snow day and one conference day to make this happen.
Q: Is there a possibility to start remotely and then phase in in-person learning?
A: We are preparing to open our schools Tuesday, September 8. We will be ready to begin in-person instruction unless instructed otherwise by state or local officials.
Q: How were Reopening Rush-Henrietta task force members chosen?
A: The 45-member task force consisted of board members, administrators, parents, and a variety of representatives from each bargaining unit. In addition, anyone who asked to be added was given that opportunity.