Reopening Questions & Answers

Welcome to our Reopening of Schools Questions and Answers page. Here, we will be answering the questions many of you have as we work toward reopening our schools in September. We will be updating this page regularly with additional questions and answers as information becomes available. – Last updated September 2, 2020

Health & Safety

What is the District’s rule on wearing masks?

Students and staff must wear a mask on the bus and inside our school buildings at all times, except in controlled situations where proper social distancing can be maintained, such as lunch or scheduled “mask breaks.” We are reviewing our practice for students during recess. All visitors to campus must also wear masks at all times.

What type of masks will be required for students and staff?

Face coverings include, but are not limited to, cloth (e.g. homemade sewn, quick cut, bandanna), and surgical masks. Standard bandannas are not ideal unless they are the type that are closed at the bottom to prevent respiratory droplets from escaping. Neck/sun gaiters are also not ideal as they are thin and recent studies indicate they do not filter air effectively. You can learn more at:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html  

Do families need to provide their own masks?

Families may provide their own masks for their children. The District will also have two washable cloth masks available per student for families who request them.

Can students wear a face shield instead of a mask?

No, face shields are not a substitute for masks.

How will the District reinforce its mask-wearing rule?

We will initially approach mask wearing as a public health learning exercise, as the mask rule is in place to protect not only our students and staff, but also your family and friends. However, like any other non-compliant or disruptive action, not following the mask rule could result in a disciplinary procedure. 

How are the schools going to implement mask breaks?

Mask practices are being finalized with priority being given to consistency within the buildings. The draft plan shared at the 8/12 Town Hall is::

  • MED (Grades PK-5): One 5 minute break every 30 minutes
  • Grades 7-12: One 5 minute break per period
  • Lunch – no mask while eating but need to be seated and properly socially distanced at their desk or cafeteria

What happens if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 at school?

Any positive student or staff cases will be handled by the Columbia County Department of Health with our school district’s cooperation. Positive cases would be required to follow all quarantine rules and could only return to school after being cleared by the Department of Health. Any close contacts would be identified by the Department of Health through contact tracing. If a student or staff member is identified as a contact, they will be contacted by a NYSCommCare and be instructed to quarantine for 14 days. Any contact identified by the health department may not return to school until such a time as they are released from mandatory quarantine by the NYSCommCare or the local health department.

If there is a possible COVID-19 exposure at my child’s school, what is the notification process and timeline?

We believe transparency will be extremely important to maintain trust with the school community during this crisis. Confirmed positive cases will require notification and contact tracing, which will be facilitated by the Columbia County Department of Health with our cooperation. We will be as open as we can under HIPAA privacy rules to keep parents informed about potential risks of exposure.

Will the school pivot to fully-remote learning in the event of positive cases?

School closure decisions that would trigger a return to remote learning would occur in consultation with the Columbia County Department of Health. This may involve the closure of a classroom or an entire facility depending on the quantity of suspected and/or confirmed cases. There may be no need to close to a school building if the health department determines that the identified close contacts are excluded from school and the facility may continue normal operations. Full closure of a school facility may be necessary in some situations and will be implemented on a case-by-case basis.

The symptoms for COVID-19 are often similar to other illnesses such as the common cold or flu. When should I keep my child home from school?

If your child is sick or even showing mild symptoms of a communicable illness, please keep him or her home from school and contact your health care provider for guidance on how to properly assess your child’s symptoms. It is imperative that individuals seek medical evaluation from their primary care provider to determine whether or not these symptoms are related to a known or diagnosed condition other than COVID-19 (i.e. ear infection, allergies, etc.). The parents of any student who has tested positive must notify the school district as soon as possible.

What happens if a student develops symptoms at school and needs to go to the nurse?

Our schools will be following Depart of Health guidelines concerning student illnesses. In the event an individual screens confirmed for COVID-19 symptoms while at school, meaning that they have a fever or appear symptomatic with any of the COVID-19 symptoms identified by the CDC, they will be placed in an isolation area. Students’ parents/guardians will be called to pick them up from school immediately. Staff members will be directed to leave immediately. Individuals will be referred to their primary care provider for evaluation. If the primary care provider determines that the symptoms are not COVID-19 related, a note from the primary care provider stating such diagnosis must be provided in order for that individual to return to school. If the primary care provider determines that the symptoms are COVID-19 related, testing must occur.

It is imperative that individuals seek medical evaluation from their primary care provider to determine whether or not these symptoms are related to a known or diagnosed condition other than COVID-19 (i.e. ear infection, allergies, etc.).

If a student is required to get a COVID-19 test, where do they get tested and who will pay for it? 

COVID-19 testing is free in NYS and falls under the jurisdiction of the Columbia County Department of Health. Your healthcare provider can direct you where to go. Information from the Department of Health on COVID-19 testing, including testing locations, is posted on our website at: https://www.chathamcentralschools.com/2020/08/14/covid-19-testing/

Is there a list of symptoms or guidelines regarding what symptoms require a test?

Here is a good resource from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

When students are asked to stay home for extended periods (symptomatic or family quarantine) will those days count towards the NYS 18-day absence limit?

In the event a student is under mandatory quarantine by the health department, the school district will provide remote learning options for the student for the length of their quarantine. If the student is able to participate in remote instruction and can be considered in attendance, we do not see that counting toward that number. If a student is unable to participate in any form of instruction, those days (as in the past) would count as absences. If a student is absent for more than 10% of instruction over the course of the school year, the state would consider the student to be chronically absent. The NYS Education Department may provide more guidance in the future, but this is our best interpretation of the rule at this time.

What are the rules regarding staff and/or families who vacation in states listed on the NYS travel advisory?

Any staff or students who travel out of state to any location listed on the Governor’s Travel Advisory will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to New York State. Persons who travel to any states listed on the Travel Advisory should self-report their travel to the school for instructions. Persons who travel via airplane and are required to complete a survey upon arrival in NYS should still self-report their travel to the school. If a location has been removed from the travel advisory list while a person is serving their related 14 day mandatory quarantine, that person must still complete the full 14 days of mandatory quarantine before returning to school.

In the event that someone within a household travels to a state on the travel advisory list and returns to New York State, but the student or staff member does not travel, that student or staff member may be allowed to return to school without a 14 day mandatory quarantine. In the event that a person in a household who has traveled becomes a positive case, the local health department will identify all household members as close contacts and quarantine all members of the household for 14 days.

What is the plan if the school nurse is required to quarantine, do you have substitute nurses who are willing to come in?

We have two substitute nurses who have indicated they will work in Chatham this coming school year.

If I choose remote-only learning for my child, will my child’s immunizations need to be up-to-date?

Yes. Per NYS law, ALL students who are enrolled in school, regardless of whether attending classes remotely or in-person, are required to have up-to-date immunizations in order to avoid being excluded from school.

If a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available in the near future, will students be required to be vaccinated?

That is a decision that would be made at the state level. Schools must follow all vaccine requirements as prescribed by the NYS Education Department and NYS Department of Health. 

Has there been approval of clear sneeze guards for teacher/student desks? 

Schools are approved to use polycarbonate products and we have purchased some for office areas. At the present time, we are investigating their possible use for the teacher or student desks, which will also be properly socially distanced.

Can my child bring hand sanitizer to school?

Individuals are now allowed to bring their own hand sanitizer to use at school. Our school will also provide safety-approved hand sanitizer in all classrooms and in dispensers in the hallways.

School Structure & Support

What will the schedule for the opening weeks of school look like?

We have put together a general reference schedule highlighting our transition back to school during September. View Opening Weeks Schedule – (Updated August 31, 2020)

How will the school make room to meet social distancing requirements and smaller student cohorts?

All grade levels will remain in their respective buildings. Examples of spaces that will be used to increase capacity include art, music, band, conference rooms, as well as business office rooms that were originally classrooms. Ultimately, spaces like the cafeteria and gym may be needed as well. Even with a hybrid model for grades 7-12, we are going to use all of the available space in the MS and HS. 

Is there a visual we can share with our children of what to expect in the classroom? 

What is the teacher/student ratio for in-person instruction? 

We cannot know for sure until we know which families are choosing remote learning. However, we have designed the in-person learning to have an average of between 9 and 11 students in most standard-size classrooms.

Will there be a full-remote learning option?

Yes. A full-remote option will be available at all grade levels. Parents were asked to select this option by August 17, 2020. Parents could choose remote learning for some, all, or none of their children.

Will there be a full-time in-person option for grade 7-12 students where they can attend classes at school every day?

No. Given the social distance requirements, we do not have the capacity to accommodate everyone back in the building at the same time.

If in-person does not work for our family, can we transition to online if needed?

Yes. We fully expect that we can accommodate parents who want to change from in-person/hybrid to remote. However, choosing remote to start does obligate parents to do so for the remainder of the quarter/trimester, as remote teachers may be different than the in-person teachers.

Can a student start with remote learning and later decide to go to in-person instead?

Maybe. We do not believe this will be an issue, but the decision will need to be made under the recommendation of the building principal with the Superintendent’s approval.

Who will teach the remote-only classes? Will they be Chatham teachers?

We are making plans to staff all remote-only classes with Chatham teachers. This plan is still being finalized and will depend on the number of students who have indicated the remote-only preference.

Will there be any band/chorus/orchestra ensembles and/or lessons for either in-person or remote learners?

This is still under review. We do not want to remove what students love to do. The administrative team is working with the music teachers on how, with social distancing, this can work out.

How would a specialty class like chemistry or earth science work if remote learning is selected?

Virtual labs and simulations are now permissible but the details still need to be worked out.

Will AP and other accelerated courses still be offered? 

Yes, that is our plan. 

If my family signs up for remote learning by the deadline, would we have the option to reconsider once details are released?

We can not effectively design a program if we allow an option to change your decision before school starts. But in fairness, the best answer we have is that we are committed to evaluating individual situations, taking all factors into consideration if a model is clearly not working, and doing what is best for the student. This needs to be a collaborative process among the school counsellor, principal, and the family.

When using the hybrid model, can you guarantee siblings will attend school on the same days?

Guarantee – no. Try to accommodate – absolutely! We know that this can be difficult for parents so we will make every effort, but with all of the scheduling constraints that we are confronted with we simply cannot guarantee it.

Can MS/HS students’ schedules in the hybrid model be designed so they and their friends attend school on the same days?

Unfortunately, we will not be able to consider friend groupings when developing student schedules. 

For special education/children with IEPs, what are our options? How will the children get support if we choose full remote? Will students in special education be able to attend the hybrid schedule?

We will be meeting the IEPs to the greatest extent possible, while taking into consideration health and safety needs, whether in-person or remote. Because of the individual nature of special education plans, specific questions about special education should be addressed to special education director Brain Simon at simonb@chatham.k12.ny.us or 518.392.1540

Will special education students have their usual Chatham teacher or someone different when learning remotely?

At this time, it will likely be their regular Chatham teacher.

Will there be assessments and grading for students this year?

Yes, students will be graded on their classwork and receive grades on their report cards this year. Tests and assessments will occur depending on the needs of the classroom teacher and grade level. 

Will there be NYS Assessments for Grades 3-8 this year?

As of right now, the NYS Standardized Tests for 3rd through 8th graders are scheduled to take place. 

Will there be Regents Exams this year?

As of right now, NYS Regents Exams are scheduled to take place.

What school supplies will students need?

Each school will communicate with students and families about needed supplies.

How will food service work the first month of school?

September 14-25:  All meals will be available to students for pick up. To sign up for pick up please email Barb Murray (murrayb@chatham.k12.ny.us) or call 518-392-1536. Meals will include an entrée, vegetable, fruit and milk. Students with last names that begin with A-L can pick up at the MED front door from 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Students with last names that begin with M-Z can pick up at the High School 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

September 28 – October 9:

In-person Students: Meals will be available for purchase during school hours.

Remote Students: Grab-and-go meals will be available for purchase to any family interested. These meals will be available each day from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and pick up will be at the MED front door. Please email or call Barb Murray (murrayb@chatham.k12.ny.us, 518-392-1536) to sign up for these meals.

Transportation

What safety procedures will be implemented on buses?

Parents/guardians will be required to screen their children prior to boarding the school bus (more information on this will be coming shortly). Students will be required to wear masks on the bus and social distancing will be practiced as much as possible through specific seating and reduced ridership. In the last transportation survey over 60% of families eligible for transportation indicated they are willing and able to transport their child/children to school. 

What will arrival and dismissal look like? 

This is still being designed, but there will be separate entrances for walkers, bus riders, and drop-offs/pick-ups. Social distancing and mask wearing will be maintained at all times. We are aware we may need to allow more time at arrival/dismissal and we expect there to be a larger number of parents driving students to school this year.

Are you changing the dismissal time for the students to align with other districts in our county and neighboring counties?

Not at this time, we believe our times will be similar to past years. 

Will transportation be provided for PreK and Kindergarten students during the week only those grades are at school?

We are planning to provide transportation during this time for PreK and K students.

Will transportation be provided for families utilizing the learning support (child supervision) option during the first phase of reopening when learning is fully-remote?

No. We are not able to accomodate transportation for the learning support (child supervision) option.

Will transportation be provided for CTE students?

CTE classes at Questar III in Hudson begin September 9. We will be transporting students to CTE on September 9, 10, and 11 from CHS. Families will need to provide their own transportation to and from CHS.

  • Our morning CTE students (11th grade) will be picked up at the high school at approximately 7:50 a.m. They will return to CHS at approximately 11:10 a.m.
  • Our afternoon CTE students (12th grade) will leave CHS around 10:55 a.m. and will return to the high school around 2:00 p.m.

We are working towards providing transportation from home for those that may need it starting on Monday, September 14 but are still finalizing the details.

Cleaning & Facilities Protocols

How is the District cleaning and sanitizing buildings? 

Our District has implemented increased daily cleaning and disinfecting protocols using effective/safety-approved disinfecting products. Cleaning staff will be disinfecting high-touch areas, such as doorknobs and bathroom areas, several times throughout the school day. Teachers will also be provided with disinfecting wipes for use in their classrooms as need be. Classroom areas, offices and bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected each evening.

The District has purchased several portable misters for use in disinfecting our buildings and buses after school. We will also be applying a product called Microban to the highest-touch areas in our buildings as well as to the wax we use on the floors. This product will provide a long-lasting (90 day) antiviral barrier on those surfaces.

Hand sanitizer will be provided in all classrooms and in dispensers in the hallways.

Is the District increasing or repurposing support staff to provide cleaning, maintain the administrative logs, and oversee safety compliance?

Not at this time. While we have ramped up our cleaning procedures, we still do not know what impact any changes to state aid by the governor might have. We also did not reduce staff in this budget in consideration of this fact. Andy Davey, our new Director of Facilities, is familiar with all the regulations and will be closely monitoring our cleaning response.

How will the District provide fresh air circulation indoors?

All classroom and office areas are served by air-handling (HVAC) units that circulate fresh air by pulling outdoor air into the room and exhausting interior air out of the building, all without the need to open a window. To increase their effectiveness, we have set the amount of air they exchange to the highest level practical and have implemented a robust HVAC maintenance and cleaning schedule that goes above and beyond the manufacturer’s specifications.

Will the students get opportunities for “outside breathing some fresh air” time?

Yes – we want students to be outside whenever possible.

Will students utilize lockers this year?

As of right now, lockers will not be used at the middle or high school. Students should come to school prepared to carry a reduced amount of materials. Storage of winter coats and boots is still being figured out.

Are hallways going to be one way? 

We are still working out traffic patterns in each of the buildings. The priority is student safety and we are taking time to consider all options carefully.

Technology & Connectivity

Will the school-issued Chromebooks we have need any updates?

The Chromebooks do not require any updating at this time. 

Is it preferred that students use the school-issued Chromebooks if they have their own personal ones?

We prefer students use our school-issued devices because our devices have more controls and safety filters in place.

Child Nutrition

How will lunchtime work?

Lunch will likely be in classrooms at the elementary school (with some small exceptions being considered). The secondary schedules are still being finalized. Students will be properly distanced and will NOT be required to wear masks during lunch while in their seats.

Will students be able to bring their lunch?

Yes, students may bring their own lunch to school. We will also have our food service program available for students who would like to purchase breakfast and/or lunch at school. 

Will children who receive free or reduced-price meals be singled out during lunch delivery to classrooms?

No. Student and family privacy around free and reduced eligibility will be maintained. 

Childcare

Is the District providing any sort of childcare option during the first few weeks of school when the District will be on fully-remote learning?

Yes. As a way to minimize any hardship for parents who have to work, we are offering families the option to sign up for Childcare/Learning Support provided at MED. This service will be available for Chatham students in grades 1-5 September 14-25, 2020 from 7:40 a.m. – 2:40 p.m. Children may be there for all or a portion of the day. It will be the parent’s responsibility to get their child to and from MED – no transportation will be provided. Info about signing up for learning support will be coming out in late August.

Will there be child care programs available before and after school? 

As in past years, Chatham Kids Club will be running its before and after school care  program at MED. Reach out to them for details at: ckcprogram@gmail.com

Social & Emotional Well-Being

What is the emotional support plan for teachers and students?

Our pupil service staff (comprised of school counselors, social workers and school psychologists) are working closely to determine what activities and supports will need to be in place for both students, their families, and teachers this school year.

Extracurricular/Athletics

If a family selects the remote-only option, can that student still participate in athletics or extra activities?

If we are able to offer athletics or extracurricular activities, remote students can participate.