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FAQ: Safely Reopening the Westmoreland Central School District

Parents/Guardians:

The following FAQ was developed to be a helpful resource for parents and guardians and, in turn, students, concerning the reopening of school. It is also a summary of the district’s formal reopening plan.

While the district attempted to provide as much information and answer as many questions as possible, the FAQ is not all inclusive, as it is impossible to plan for every scenario. With that said, should you have a question(s) not answered here, please email Superintendent of Schools Mr. Migliori at rmigliori@westmorelandschool.org. The district will add to the FAQ as needed.

More detailed information can also be found in the district’s formal reopening plan, which is located on the district website at www.westmorelandschool.org/reopeningplan.

We look forward to seeing everyone again for the start of the 2020-21 school year in the most “normal,” yet safe, manner!

REOPENING

Is the decision to reopen school a local or state decision?

The decision to reopen schools across the state is a state decision. Based on guidance from the New York State Education Department (SED) and New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), every school district in New York State must develop and submit a reopening plan to SED by July 31, 2020. After reviewing all reopening plans, SED, NYSDOH and Governor Cuomo will decide if schools will reopen by August 7, 2020. SED, NYSDOH and Governor Cuomo will also approve or disapprove individual school district reopening plans. In other words, the reopening plan submitted by the Westmoreland Central School District may have to be altered per state guidance.

If the state allows schools to reopen to in-person instruction, how will they reopen or what will educational instruction look like?

Due to a number of factors, mainly differences in student and staff populations, size of facilities and transportation constraints, it is likely that school reopening plans across the state will differ. Governor Cuomo and SED could approve a reopening plan “as is,” alter a reopening plan or issue more uniform guidance to be followed across the entire state or in specific regions. We expect to know more by August 7, 2020.

Do schools have to consider alternatives to in-person instruction?

Schools must submit plans that take into account in-person instruction, hybrid instruction (a combination of in-person and remote learning) and remote instruction. 

What does the Westmoreland Central School District’s reopening plan entail?

The district’s reopening plan is broken into three parts – K-2 instruction; 3-6 instruction; and 7-12 instruction. It also addresses several issues, including, but not limited to, student/staff health and safety, student transportation and daily instruction schedules.

Where can I find/read the Westmoreland Central School District’s reopening plan?

The district’s entire reopening plan can be found on the district website at www.westmorelandschool.org/reopeningplan. Again, based on state review/guidance, the plan may have to change. Any changes will be communicated to the school community. In addition, summaries of the plan and this Q & A will be available. 

INSTRUCTION AND SUPPORT SERVICES

Will my child receive in-person instruction, remote instruction or a combination of both?

The district created and asked parents/guardians to take a survey about the reopening of school to better understand preferences for educational instruction. More than 85 percent of the survey’s respondents said they would like to see in-person instruction resume in September, as scheduled. Input was also received from district staff, students, Board of Education members and community members. The district’s reopening plan was broken into three parts – K-2 instruction; 3-6 instruction; and 7-12 instruction. The type of instruction will vary based on grade level.

What is the plan for K-2 instruction?

Under the district’s reopening plan, K-2 students will receive in-person instruction at the Primary Elementary School on a daily basis (M-F). However, in order to comply with health guidelines and mandates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), NYSDOH and SED, kindergarten and second grade homerooms/classes will be divided into two groups. While one group is receiving instruction from their teacher, the other group will be receiving instruction from a teacher assistant. The teacher and teacher assistant can move freely between groups. First grade homerooms/classes will not be divided because of lower enrollment. In order for some homerooms/classes to be divided into two groups, more classrooms will be utilized.

What is the plan for 3-6 instruction?

Under the district’s reopening plan, 3-6 students will receive in-person instruction at the Upper Elementary School on a daily basis (M-F). However, in order to comply with health guidelines and mandates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), NYSDOH and SED, third and fourth grade homerooms/classes will be divided into two groups. While one group is receiving instruction from their teacher, the other group will be receiving instruction from a teacher assistant. The teacher and teacher assistant can move freely between groups. Fifth and sixth grade homerooms/classes will not be divided because of lower enrollment. In order for some homerooms/classes to be divided into two groups, more classrooms will be utilized.

So, will all students in grades kindergarten thru sixth grade be offered on-site instruction each day?

Yes. All elementary students will receive on-site instruction each day. However, class sizes will be much smaller than in years past and social distancing must be practiced. A regular sized classroom will have about 14 students and a larger classroom will have about 20-25 students. 

Is the plan for instruction consistent with the results of the district’s parent/guardian survey?

Yes. There were almost 800 responses to the parent/guardian survey and more than 85 percent of respondents indicated they wanted on-site classes. Of that 85 percent, more than 90 percent wanted elementary instruction to take place every day, Monday-Friday.

What is the district’s plan to staff additional K-6 classrooms?

The district has entered into a partnership with Utica College to create an apprenticeship program. Seniors and graduate students in the UC Education Program who have completed all of their education course work but have not yet completed their student teaching practicum – thus are not yet certified teachers – will be assisting classroom teachers during the first half of the school year. These same students will be with us during the second half of the school year as student teachers, working with the same classroom teachers and students. This will be a mutually beneficial program for Westmoreland and Utica College.

What about the Pre-K Program at the Primary Elementary School?

Pre-K will still be offered on a daily basis. Please contact Lisa Morosco at lmorosco@westmorelandschool.org for more information and to learn more about the protocols being implemented.

What is the plan for 7-12 instruction?

Due to insufficient space to comply with state and federal health guidelines and mandates, under the district’s reopening plan, 7-12 students will receive both in-person instruction at the Jr./Sr. High School and remote instruction. The Jr./Sr. High School student population will be divided into two groups based on last name (A-K and L-Z). Each group will have one day of in-person instruction and then one-day of remote instruction. The schedule will then repeat. In other words, while one group is receiving in-person instruction at the Jr./Sr. High School, the other group will be participating remotely.

If my 7-12 student is learning remotely for the day, will he/she have the same schedule as those receiving in-person instruction?

Yes. Regardless if your child is receiving in-person or remote instruction, his/her schedule will be the same. For example, if your child’s science class starts at 9:00 a.m., it will always start at 9:00 a.m. – in-person and remotely.

If my 7-12 student is learning remotely for the day, will he/she be able to see and interact with his/her teacher and classmates?

Yes. If your child is receiving remote instruction, he/she will be able to see, hear and interact with his/her teacher and classmates via video and audio. Again – if science class starts at 9:00 a.m., it will start at 9:00 a.m. for students receiving in-person and remote instruction.

Will students still have specials (e.g. physical education, art, music, etc.)?

Students in grades K-12 will still have specials, although most specials will be divided into two groups and instruction will be adapted to adhere to all health guidelines and mandates. More information will be forthcoming.

Will students still have access to guidance, counseling and other related support services?

Yes. Students in grades K-12 will still have access to guidance, counseling and other related support services both in-person and remotely. Appointments are strongly encouraged.

Where can I find other helpful resources?

Other helpful resources, including mental health and child care resources, can be found on the district website.

Will normal grading policies and other school policies still apply?

Normal grading policies and other school policies, including the district’s Code of Conduct, will still apply for students in grades K-12 regardless if a student is receiving in-person or remote instruction.

Will the normal attendance policy still apply?

Yes. Student attendance, whether in-person or remote, will be taken each day. For the 2020-21 school year, students are still expected to attend school for 180 days and receive a minimum of 900 hours of instruction at the elementary level and 990 hours of instruction at the secondary level. Students absent for more than 10 percent of school days will be considered chronically absent.

Are students able to switch from an in-person model to a remote model of instruction after the school year has started?

Yes, but it may become more difficult once classes are finalized. Every class will be structured to maintain social distancing and many classes will be “full” with 13-14 students. If students transfer back to an in-person model, it may overload a particular
classroom, causing the district to have to create an additional section or find more space. Additional sections would require the district to hire more staff. So, while not impossible, it would be challenging.

Where can I find out more about remote learning?

Helpful resources can be found on the district website at www.westmorelandschool.org/remotelearning.

My child is struggling to adapt to remote learning. Who should I contact?

Please contact and work with your child’s teacher first. If necessary, your child’s principal will become involved.

My child is having technical difficulties with remote learning. Who should I contact?

Please contact your child’s teacher first. If the issue cannot be resolved, please email techsupport@westmorelandschool.org.

What should I do if I do not have high-speed internet in my home?

Please contact Mr. Cieri, Director of Technology, at mcieri@westmorelandschool.org and arrangements will be made to assist you.

Will technology devices be made available to all students?

Yes. Just as we did last March, we will provide devices to each student. Distribution will occur at the end of August so if we are forced to begin the year remotely, we will be ready. 

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

Will students be able to participate in extracurricular activities like clubs and organizations?

The extracurricular activities (e.g. clubs, organizations, etc.) normally offered to K-12 students will continue to be offered. However, each activity will be adapted to adhere to all health guidelines and mandates. More information will be forthcoming from building principals and club advisors.

What about events such as concerts and assemblies?

Plans for events such as concerts and assemblies, along with other traditional large gatherings, will be addressed and communicated on a case-by-case basis. For example, to comply with health guidelines/mandates and capacity restrictions, an event may occur over the course of multiple days or there may be different time slots (i.e. half of National Honor Society would be inducted one night and the other half would be inducted the next night).

Will students be able to participate in sports?

The decision to resume sports is a state decision. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) voted to delay the official start date of the Fall 2020 sports season, cancel the Fall 2020 Regional and State Championships and prepare to implement a condensed season schedule in January 2021 if high school sports remain prohibited throughout 2020 due to COVID-19. More information can be found on the district website at www.westmorelandschool.org/sports_COVID-19.

My child is a member of the Pride of Westmoreland Marching Band. Is the Marching Band competing this year?

The Pride of Westmoreland Marching Band is still open to students this year. However, competitions have been cancelled and Mrs. Cutler, director, is in the process of developing plans for practices. Please contact Mrs. Cutler directly for more information.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

What health and safety guidelines/protocols are the district implementing?

The district must implement all health and safety guidelines, protocols and mandates issued by the CDC, NYSDOH and SED. These guidelines, protocols and mandates can be found on the district website at www.westmorelandschool.org/corehealthandsafetyprincipals.

Will Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) be made available to my child?

PPE, including hand sanitizer stations, will be available to all students, staff and visitors at no cost. However, to maintain an ample supply and limit costs, everyone is highly encouraged to bring in and use their own PPE.

Will my child have to wear a face covering?

If your child is less than six feet away from another person or leaves his/her work area, a face covering must be worn (same rules apply to staff), however, your child is encouraged to wear a face covering at all times. The Board of Education is in the process of developing a more specific policy that will contain certain exceptions. Once completed, the policy will be made available to the school community. If your child has a condition that prohibits him/her from wearing a face covering, please contact your building principal.

How will the district enforce social distancing?

All classrooms, learning spaces and other areas of frequent congregation (i.e. restrooms) will be marked with “X’s,” arrows and other symbols. For example, all classroom floors will be clearly marked to indicate a minimum of six feet between desks and tables. Hallways will also be marked with arrows so foot traffic is always moving in the same direction. To the greatest extent possible, if a student must travel to a different classroom for another class, travel will be minimized (i.e. the district will attempt to construct student schedules so a student is in the same area/classrooms throughout the day). Tightly confined spaces will be occupied by one individual at a time, unless all occupants are wearing face coverings. If an area is occupied by more than one person, occupancy must be no more than 50 percent of the maximum occupancy.

Will visitors be allowed into school buildings?

Visitors, including parents, will be discouraged from entering school buildings. If a visitor must enter, they will have their temperature checked and be expected to answer a screening questionnaire. Visitors will be encouraged to conduct their visit virtually, when possible. 

What happens if my child or a staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

If your child or a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, he/she, along with the district, must follow all county, state and federal guidelines, protocols and mandates issued by the CDC, NYSDOH and SED. As of July 30, 2020, if a child/student or staff member tests positive, he/she must self-quarantine for 14 days. A negative test is then required to return to school. Please refer to the district’s reopening plan for complete guidelines.

If another student or staff member in one of my child’s classes tests positive for COVID-19, will the entire class have to self-quarantine for 14 days?

No. Consistent with county, state and federal guidelines, protocols and mandates issued by the CDC, DOH and SED, only those who were in closest proximity to the student or staff member who tested positive may have to self-quarantine for 14 days. However, anyone displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 must self-quarantine and be tested. Also, anyone in the same classroom that had a positive test is encouraged to be tested as a precaution. “Closest proximity” is defined as those sitting immediately adjacent to the person who tested positive. All teachers will maintain seating charts so contact tracing is possible. Please refer to the district’s reopening plan for complete guidelines.

How will the district ensure contact tracing is possible?

In addition to normal attendance tracking, every teacher will maintain a seating chart so we know where every student was/is at all times. A student’s schedule will also allow us to identify what hallways he/she travels in. Contact tracing will be conducted by the Oneida County Health Department.

How will my child enter and exit his/her school building?

There will be more than one point of entry and exit for each school building. Arrival and departure times will be staggered as much as possible to ensure too many students are not entering and leaving at the same time. In some cases, students and staff will be required to sign in and sign out of buildings and specific classrooms/areas.

Does my child need to have his/her temperature checked to enter school?

Yes. All students, staff and visitors will have their temperatures checked prior to entering school. Additionally, a digital and paper checklist will be utilized to screen students, staff and visitors prior to entering school. All students and their parents are encouraged to complete the screening tool, including a temperature check, prior to leaving for school. If the screening is not completed before arriving at school, it must be completed upon arrival. Temperatures will be checked again after arrival. Any student with a temperature of 100.0 or higher will be isolated until a parent/guardian is able to pick them up. Anyone not feeling well should stay home. Please refer to the district’s reopening plan for complete guidelines.

Are students allowed to pay for school lunches with cash, or do they need to use MySchoolBucks?

Students/parents will not need to pay using MySchoolBucks, but prepayments are encouraged (by cash, check or online). A temporary policy of “no change” will be established this year. For example, if a student has a $5 bill and it exceeds the cost of what is being purchased, rather than giving change back to the student, the change will be applied to the student’s account. This will eliminate money changing hands.

Will my child be able to choose where he/she sits at lunch?

Yes, but students must be at least six feet apart at all times and must remain at the same table for the entire lunch period. For contact tracing purposes, the cafeteria aide(s) will document where each student sits every day.

Will high school students still be able to leave campus during lunch?

No, high school students will be expected to have lunch in the cafeteria. This will help minimize the spread of COVID-19. 

Will elementary students still have recess?

Recess is an important part of the educational day. We will try to get kids outside whenever possible, including during the winter months. Social distancing will be enforced.

Is it safe for my child to bring personal items to school?

For the safety of everyone, personal items not required for school should be left at home (e.g. toys, playing cards, personal headphones, etc.). Personal items should also be labeled with a name prior to entering school and kept in a separate bag or area specifically for personal items from home.

What is the district’s plan for cleaning/disinfecting?

The district has constructed and implemented a rigorous plan for cleaning and disinfecting. Every classroom will be cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis, including “high touch” surfaces like door knobs, light switches, handrails, faucet handles, drinking fountains, touch screens/phones/tablets and copier controls. Please refer to the district’s reopening plan for complete guidelines.

TRANSPORTATION

My child rides a school bus to and/or from school. How many students will be allowed to ride on a school bus?

To comply with all county, state and federal guidelines, protocols and mandates issued by the CDC, NYSDOH and SED – specifically social distancing regulations – large school buses can only carry up to 21 students at a time. Students are required to wear masks during the entire bus trip. Drivers are required to wear masks and gloves. 

Will the district have enough buses to transport students to and from school so the start and end times of the school day will not have to be changed?

We are still evaluating. According to the survey about the reopening of school, more than 50 percent of parents/guardians will transport their child(ren) to and from school. If that remains the case, the district anticipates having enough buses to transport students without altering the start and end times of school. However, if social distancing guidelines make it impossible to transport all students at the same time resulting in additional bus runs, the start and end times of school for one or more school buildings could change. We are encouraging parents, if possible, to transport their child(ren) to and from school until we are able to resume normal operations. 

Will there be a before and after school program if I transport my child?

The district is currently looking into options to offer a before and after school program. 

If there is a before and after school program, will there be a charge?

There most likely will be a charge. The district would be forced to contract with an outside agency, so a fee would cover the cost of an outside agency running a before and after school program.

Will late buses be available for students staying after school?

Once we begin the school year and have a better idea of exact transportation needs, we will be able to make a determination. It is our hope, however, to offer late buses for students staying after school for additional help or to attend clubs and extracurricular activities.

Will students still be able to take a bus other than their own to a location other than their primary residence? 

This will probably not be possible this year. With the district only being able to transport approximately 20 students per bus, there will, in all likelihood, not be additional space available on buses.

Please visit www.westmorelandschool.org/reopeningplan for more information.