2020-2021 Re-Entry FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the 2020-2021 Re-entry Planning

Updated September 14, 2020. New information underlined.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the reopening plans for the 2020-2021 school year in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the District will operate with all distance learning through September, some questions below pertain to when students eventually return to classrooms, likely in a hybrid model. Please check back frequently. We will continue to add questions and answers as the plans continue to develop throughout this ever-changing crisis. The most recent information is underlined.

How long will it take to clean out the duct work?

As mentioned in a Board of Education meeting, district crews are cleaning out the duct work in its schools. This a significant, time-consuming project. New Rochelle High School will take 50 to 60 working days to complete, after which crews will branch out to other schools. It will take up to two years to complete ducts throughout the entire District. The duct work will not delay the opening of schools.

Is the cleaning of the duct work necessary to block the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?

No. It is important to note that duct work cleaning is not a requirement of any COVID-19 guidance document. The work is one of many steps were are taking beyond what is required to maintain our schools as safe, healthy environments for students, teachers, staff and visitors. The duct cleaning was planned before the pandemic developed, and it was always a project that was going to take a significant amount of time.

Why did the District choose to take this extra step?

This step will help our HVAC systems operate more efficiently. We take a comprehensive approach to cleaning, maintaining and upgrading the District’s HVAC systems. While making upgrades to guard against COVID-19, we are taking the opportunity to make other significant improvements to our systems.

Are the schools safe while these improvements are under way?

Our buildings already meet New York State Education Department guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19. The steps we are taking fulfill two purposes – to create an even stronger defense against COVID-19 than is required, and to continue improving the health and safety of our schools.

Can teachers be accommodated to work from home?

Some teachers have requested permission to lead their classes remotely because of preexisting conditions that put them at higher risk of COVID-19. The District complies with all Equal Employment Opportunity Commission standards in taking requests on a case-by-case basis.

Were there any issues with wifi and other technological matters for the start of school?

Any new system will experience some wrinkles, and when we implement a change of a magnitude we have never seen before, there were bound to be some issues. Overall, the opening of school proceeded smoothly. We expect it to run even more efficiently as time goes on. Teachers were provided laptops to work from home.

Is the District on track to begin welcoming students back by the recently released schedule?

The District remains on track to bring students back according to the schedule, with the earlier grades beginning in-class lessons on Oct. 19. However, the District is working to bring select special education populations back to class earlier.

Why do we lack the bandwidth needed for our teachers to lead their virtual classes from school? 

Our current internet provider, the Lower Hudson Valley Regional Information Center (LHRIC) of Southern Westchester BOCES, announced in recent days that it would not have the bandwidth required to support the City School District of New Rochelle and other component districts.

Why aren’t we going directly to a vendor instead of LHRIC?

The District is currently searching for a cost-effective alternative program through an outside provider.

What reason did the internet provider give for not being able to increase the bandwidth needed to support virtual instruction?  

The requests for expanded broadband from the BOCES’ member school districts exceeded what LHRIC and BOCES anticipated. 

Will LHRIC increase its capacity to meet the needs?

The LHRIC is in the process of obtaining the equipment and infrastructure to increase capacity. The center has informed the District that the enhancement will take at least 30 days.

How long will it take to resolve the broadband issue?

We expect the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center to be able to provide us the broadband needed for all teachers to lead their remote classes from school as reflected in our reentry schedule. Most teachers are leading their classes from home while broadband is being expanded.

When was the first day of school?

For students, school begins Wednesday, September 9.

When will students return to their school buildings?

The broadband issue has caused us to adjust the reentry dates. The current schedule is:

Phase

Reentry Date

Reentry Population

I

October 19, 2020

Pre-Kindergarten

Kindergarten

Grade 1

Grade 2

Grade 3

Grade 6

Life Skills

ABA

PAT (Elem. & Middle School)

II

October 26, 2020

Grade 4

Grade 5

Grade 8

III

November 2, 2020

Grade 7

 

IV

November 9, 2020

High School

How have rules changed regarding hand sanitizers on school buses?

Buses can now have a securely mounted hand sanitizer dispenser mounted somewhere near the front of the bus, near the driver, during this time when we are operating under a state executive order regarding the COVID-19 emergency.

The District is following New York state health and safety guidelines to manage the 2020 school year reentry and also customizing those guidelines when allowed and appropriate to best serve the District’s special health, safety and education concerns.

“Pursuant to Executive Order 202, Declaring a Disaster Emergency in the State of New York, the New York State Department of Health, New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Education Department hereby authorizes the use of and availability of hand sanitizer dispensers on school bus vehicles that fall under the inspection jurisdiction of New York State Department of Transportation.”

How big can a sanitizer dispenser be and what type of sanitizer can it contain?

The dispenser may not exceed 40 ounces and the hand sanitizer must be ethanol based per Department of Health guidelines. The dispenser must not block any aisles or points of egress and must not present any type of draw string (clothing) hazard.

May students and staff still carry their own hand sanitizers on a bus?

Yes, students and personnel on the bus can also carry on personal-size bottles of sanitizer, the contents of those bottle should not exceed 8 ounces in volume. These items should be secured when not in use. The state guidelines add that students and staff can take their own sanitizer bottles into the school buildings as longer as the bottles are of the approved size.

How did the District reach the decision about its plans?

In May, the district set up five committees to advise the administration on current research into reentry planning. Made up of 100 staff and community members, the committees met throughout the summer.  We have also engaged hundreds of families and other community members through Thoughtexchange, surveys, emails, Board of Education meetings, and the re-entry Town Hall. District administration has worked closely in collaboration with the teachers’ union FUSE, the union of teachers; and A & S, the union of administrative staff, to create re-entry plans. We have also kept careful track of districts that have fully reopened, noting instances of covid spikes and subsequent shutdowns.We are grateful for the partnership and collaboration from all. 

Will free and reduced-priced meals be available to students who receive them when they are not in school?

Yes. Food distribution will continue for students who receive free and reduced-price meals, including on days when they are not in the school buildings. The District distributed meals from various points when school buildings were closed in the winter and spring. The distribution will continue when school begins at locations that will be announced closer to the first day of classes.

Are we locked into the September plan for the entire school year?

No. The initial plan will be reviewed throughout the opening weeks. The situation is changing constantly. As always, we will provide families with information as we have it and we will give as much notice as possible. 

Will every student have access to a Chromebook? How can I get one for my child?

Yes. The District is committed to putting a district Chromebook in the hands of every child who needs one. If you need a Chromebook, please contact your child’s school.

I need daycare for my child(ren). What can I do?

The District has compiled a list of many of the daycare resources available to New Rochelle residents. Find the list here.

How will the district communicate information about COVID-related developments?

The district will inform families on all COVID-related information via several communications methods: emails, website announcements, robocalls and social media. The district will ensure communications are translated into Spanish. If you are having difficulties receiving District communications, contact Ken Valenti in the Public Information Office, kvalenti@nredlearn.org or (914) 576-4305.

How will the CSDNR address the issue of out-of-state travel?

Parents and guardians of students returning to schools, and everyone else entering one of our buildings, must remain aware of the states on the travel advisory list, which changes frequently. Anyone returning from the listed states will not be allowed in a school building until the two-week quarantine period has passed. 

What are staff required to do to monitor their health?

Staff must complete a health questionnaire and take their own temperature each day before reporting to work. Health questionnaire responses will be reviewed and documented. 

When children are welcomed back to the buildings, what are parents required to do each day?

When that happens, parents and guardians are required to take each child’s temperature daily and complete a weekly symptom checklist for each child. Any student who has COVID-19 related symptoms or a temperature above 100.0F must remain home. Families who travel to states on the travel advisory list cannot send their children to school upon return until the required two-week quarantine period has passed.

 

What happens if someone in a school tests positive for COVID-19?

If a student, employee or visitor tests positive for COVID-19, the individual must immediately notify the building principal, supervisor or nurse, who in turn, will contact the Medical Director and the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources. They will work together to notify the Westchester County Department of Health and cooperate with contact tracing efforts, including notification of potential contacts, such as students, staff and workers or visitors who had close contact with the individual, while maintaining confidentiality required by state and federal law and regulations.

The return to work or school will be determined based on local, state, and federal health regulations. (Find more on page 22 of the plan.)

 

What is required for a student or staff member who had COVID-19 symptoms to return to school?

The following is from the Westchester County Department of Health COVID-19 FAQ for schools:

If the individual who tested positive has symptoms (Fever, Cough, Shortness of Breath/Difficulty Breathing, Chills, Repeated Shaking with Chills, Muscle Pain, Headache, Sore Throat, or New Loss of Taste or Smell) the Clearance Criteria for release from isolation are:

  •         It’s been at least 10 days since the individual first started experiencing symptoms; AND
  •         The individual hasn’t had a fever in at least 3 days, without taking fever-reducing medication (such as Tylenol); AND
  •         Any shortness of breath/coughing/difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell has improved.

If the individual who tested positive is asymptomatic the Clearance Criteria are:

  •         It’s been at least 10 days since the person’s first positive COVID-19 test was collected; AND
  •         The individual hasn’t had any subsequent illness

How will social distancing be maintained and enforced on buses, and how frequently will buses be cleaned and sanitized?

The number of students permitted on a bus, social distancing measures, mask requirements, and cleaning protocols are all mandated by the State.

Elementary school buses: Students must wear masks at all times on the buses, and must sit one student per seat, with the exception that siblings may share a seat. Students will board buses back to front and will exit front to back to minimize students passing close by each other. Buses will be cleaned/sanitized after every run.

Middle- and high-school buses: Middle and high school students ride Westchester County’s Bee-Line buses to school, and must adhere to all COVID-19 precautions required by the bus line.

Will all schools require students and staff to wear masks?

All students, employees and adult visitors will be required to wear a cloth face covering over the mouth and nose whenever social distancing cannot be maintained. Face coverings are to be worn by all individuals at all times, with these exceptions: coverings may be removed during meals, instruction and for short breaks, as long as appropriate social distancing is maintained. Face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2 years old, students where such covering would impair their physical or mental health, or where such covering would present a challenge, distraction, or obstruction to education services and instruction.

Even when face coverings are off, all individuals in school facilities and on school grounds must be prepared to put on a face covering if another person unexpectedly cannot socially distance.

What distance must be maintained between individuals in the schools?

In most cases, students, employees and others must maintain a social distance of six feet. However, in certain circumstances where breath can be expected to travel farther – in classes that require singing, the playing of woodwind instruments or physical education, for instance – the distance will be increased to12 feet.

How can we be sure people will wear their PPE properly?

All students, faculty, staff, contractors and vendors will be trained on how to adequately put on, take off, clean (as applicable), and discard PPE. Schools will provide assistance to students who may have difficulty adapting to wearing a face covering.

 Which face coverings are acceptable?

Masks must cover the nose and mouth. Acceptable face coverings include but are not limited to cloth-based face coverings (e.g., homemade sewn, quick cut, bandanna), and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose. Students and parents/guardians should take responsibility for maintaining their face coverings. Face coverings should be cleaned or replaced after use and must not be shared.

Will masks be available at school?

Yes. The District has a supply of 1.8 million masks on hand. Schools will maintain adequate supplies of masks for all staff, visitors, and students in need of replacement.

What additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be available?

Schools will provide proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff who require a higher degree of protection, such as nurses, who may be working with students or staff who are COVID-19 positive; special education staff, who work with students with intense physical needs; and custodial staff responsible for waste removal. Examples of these PPE include N95 masks, eye protection or face shields, gloves and disposable gowns. Faculty may use alternate PPE (ex: face coverings that are transparent around the mouth) for instruction or interventions that require the visualization of the movement of the lips and/or mouth (ex: speech therapy) or with certain students (ex: hearing impaired) who benefit from being able to see more of their mouth.

Will children without masks be provided masks or will they be refused entry without?

Students, staff and visitors must wear masks to enter school buildings. Schools will maintain adequate supplies of masks for all staff, visitors, and students in need of replacement.

How are we cleaning schools?

When COVID-19 struck the community, we increased the frequency of our sanitizing routine, disinfecting schools three times a week instead of two, while cleaning each school every day. With the hybrid school plan, we would increase that again to four days each week – disinfecting each school after every day in which it was occupied by students. We use two treatments. One is a more traditional non-toxic disinfectant, sprayed by applicators that use ionization to envelop all surfaces of even irregular objects such as a jumble of crayons or the wall-facing side of a desk. The second coats all surfaces with a microscopic shield that continues to eradicate microbes up to 90 days even after repeated contact by students or teachers. 

Where will hand sanitizer be available?

Hand sanitizer will be provided in mobile non-touch dispensers throughout every building. The District purchased 1,600 gallons of Purell with 70% alcohol, meeting CDC guidelines. A second hand sanitizer used by the District is a hydrating solution with the anticeptic benzalkonium chloride (BZK). The BZK solution eradicates bacteria as effectively as alcohol-based solutions, providing a protective barrier up to 6 hours or 10 hand washings, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and doesn't sting or dry out of hands.

How will the teachers teach?

The vast majority of teachers will lead their virtual classrooms from their homes, as they did when the school buildings were closed in March and throughout the spring. The District has enough bandwidth for a limited number of teachers to teach from their classrooms. This will be coordinated during the first days of the school year. All teachers will be off-site the week of September 14.