Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the questions that were submitted by residents after the Layer Mitigation Plan was shared and before the public “Reopening Schools Q&A Session” was held on Aug. 25. These questions will be updated throughout the year as information is update and changed. Changes will be denoted with the date the answer was updated. The responses are paraphrased from the recorded Q&A Session. Follow this link to watch a recording of the session.
Q: Will everyone, students and staff alike, be required to wear a mask this school year? And why has the administration chosen to go against the guidance of medical experts at the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics by not requiring universal masking in schools at every level of the Mitigation Protocols Plan?
A: Yes, as of now, the NYS Governor has required that all staff, students, and visitors to school facilities wear masks indoors. BH-BL will follow the guidance of the NYS Department of Health and the Governor’s Office. Additionally, there will be optional mask breaks throughout the day. The district’s Layer Mitigation Plan is a communication tool that refers to tiered and overlapping health and safety measures designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as the recognition that different measures may be needed as the rate of community transmission of the virus changes in one direction or another. BH-BL is currently in Level 4, based on Saratoga & Schenectady County transmission rates. (Please refer to the Daily Data & Mitigation Level page on our website for detailed data.)
Q: What kind of exceptions will the district be granting for individuals unable to tolerate masks in light of the CDC’s recommendation for mask wearing to be universal for all employees and students?
A: This will be decided on an individual basis with administration and the family of the student who possesses a valid medical reason from a licensed physician as to why a mask can’t be worn.
Q: What happens if someone refuses to wear a mask when required? What are the consequences?
A: The student or staff member will be asked to wear a mask and be given a mask if they do not have one with them. Administration is committed to working with students to understand why masks must be worn. Parents may be contacted if a child refuses to wear a mask. This could result in the child being taken home. Principals will also follow the code of conduct. We kindly ask that all students and staff wear a mask, as requested by the Governor and the State Department of Health.
Q: If we stop requiring masks and other protocols when the transmission levels are low or moderate, what will prevent the virus from spreading and driving up transmission levels? And as such, would the district consider amending the Mitigation Plan to clarify that all levels of mitigation for face masks will follow the CDC’s recommendation?
A: The district’s Layer Mitigation Plan is a communication tool that refers to tiered and overlapping health and safety measures designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as the recognition that different measures may be needed as the rate of community transmission of the virus changes in one direction or another. Please refer to the Daily Data & Mitigation Level page on our website for detailed data. That being said, amending the Mitigation Plan to require masks at all levels negates purpose of aligning protocols with local data. The district will continue to follow CDC and NYS Department of Health guidance.
Q: Will the school district have extra masks available for those who forgot them, or needed one during the school day.
A: Yes, the district will provide masks to any students or staff member who needs one throughout the day. Additionally, each school bus will have a box of wrapped disposable masks. A mask will be handed to any child who is not wearing a mask upon entering the bus. Students are required, by federal mandate, to wear a mask on the school bus.
Q: Building-level protocols were quite effective last year at preventing the spread of COVID-19 and guarding against building closure. We had fewer children in our schools, however. What will the building-level protocols look like now that all of those children will be back in school? How will proper social distancing be accomplished?
A: We are following the guidelines that indicate 3 feet with a mask indoors is sufficient to limit transmission. UPDATE: “6 feet or to the greatest extent possible. Getting all students back to school is a priority and will require alternate options.
Q: How will students be socially distanced at lunchtime at the various grade levels, and at various levels of mitigation?
A: At the MS and HS students will eat in the cafeteria. We will maintain 3 to 6 feet of distance to the greatest extent possible. There was an extra lunch period added at the high school. Students will be masks when not eating. At the elementary schools, half of the students will eat in their classrooms and half will eat in the cafeteria. All students will go to recess once done eating lunch.
Q: What happens if the current social distancing guideline [while masked] changes from 3 feet to 6 feet? How will that change in person learning?
A: We would need to shift our instructional model. This could be similar to last year’s hybrid model or more of a virtual situation.
Q: What about when classes need to be quarantined; will they be taught virtually from home (all grade levels)?
A: We will pivot our instructional model as needed. To start the year, we will not provide virtual learning during quarantine. Materials/assignments may be provided to students.
Q: Are teachers and staff required to be vaccinated?
A: This has not been mandated as of August 2021. However, the Governor has said that unvaccinated school staff will need to be tested for COVID weekly.
Q: What is the status of vaccination among students who are eligible for the vaccine in the district?
A: We have not collected this data from students.
Q: Will you be able to share the percentage of each buildings‘ vaccinated staff? AND, for those staff members who are not vaccinated, will you require weekly testing to help mitigate the spread to all of the kids who are not yet able to be vaccinated?
A: We have not broken down our staff vaccination data by building, nor is the information a requirement to be shared with the district. We have to be cognizant of privacy laws and will await further guidance regarding sharing this information. UPDATE 8/31: The NYS Department of Health is requiring weekly COVID testing for staff who are not vaccinated.
Q: Why is there a districtwide protocol when children ages 11 and under are not eligible for vaccines? And, will you consider different rules for elementary school since this age of children will not have a chance at vaccination?
A: This is not something that is planned currently. The Layer Mitigation Plan is based on transmission levels and expert guidance.
Q: The CDC recommends promoting vaccination. How does the district plan to begin promoting vaccination? Will the district begin educating parents on the efficacy and safety of the vaccine? Will the middle school or high school host a vaccine drive? Will schools use vaccination status as an incentive for extracurricular activities? When the vaccine is approved for children aged 5-12 years of age, will elementary schools host vaccine drives?
A: Much like last school year, where we emailed staff and parents information about local vaccination clinics, we will continue to the same practice. Additionally, last year the district was able to host a clinic in O’Rourke Middle School. We are not opposed to doing similar practices this year.
Q: If a child or class needs to be quarantined what options will there be for their schooling? Is there a point at which classes will be switched to virtual?
A:Teachers will be working to keep their Google classrooms active to allow students the opportunity to be connected with their classrooms. Hybrid synchronous instruction is not promoted at this time as we have not found it practical or beneficial to the majority of students. It is very difficult to reach students in multiple modalities. If large numbers of kids were to be quarantined, we would entertain different modes of instruction.
Q: If students are quarantining what does this look like with no “virtual” classroom. Is the work sent home for 10 days? Do these 10 days go against kids?
A: Time does not count against the students. Current guidance indicates that quarantines will be fewer and shorter. If this holds true, we will be providing work in a pre-covid fashion.
Q: If you are tested with no symptoms and it comes back positive, are employees obligated to take their own sick days while quarantining for the specified amount of time?
A: Our goal is to have our teachers in front of students as often as possible. We will work with healthy faculty members to be in school as much as possible.
Q: Do individuals who are vaccinated have to quarantine for the same amount of time as those who are not vaccinated?
A: The local Departments of Health are finalizing guidance. It is possible in circumstances that vaccination can lead to shortened or no quarantines.
Q: Will anyone with any signs of illness be expected to stay home until those symptoms have cleared completely?
A: People should stay home from school or work if they have symptoms. As in pre-covid times, no one should return to work until a physician deems them not contagious. We expect people to be honest about their symptoms and encourage everyone presenting covid symptoms to get tested if possible.
Q: Will we be notified immediately if our children have come in contact with anyone who has been ill for possible Covid exposure?
A: Yes, if we know a child has been in a situation where they may be affected and others may be required to be quarantined, parents/guardians will be notified.
Q: At the elementary level, will students remain together within their classroom at all times? And, will students be staying in the classroom for music, art, etc like last year?
A: There are no pods this school year so students will be in their classrooms with their classmates. During specials, students will leave their classrooms and attend special in those designated classrooms.
Q: Will children be able to access hands on learning materials, math manipulatives, and toys?
A: Yes. Medical experts have since learned the virus does have as much of risk of transmission from hard services. Learning materials will be cleaned as part of the daily cleaning routines and proper hand washing will be encouraged in the classrooms.
Q: What will happen if there is a mandate to close school? Will local teachers switch to fully virtual learning like the 2020-21 year or will it all switch to the BOCES virtual school?
A: If that occurs, we would likely switch to BH-BL virtual school based on the circumstances presented.
Q: Will there be plexiglass dividers/partitions on the desks?
A: No. We have since learned these are not effective at preventing the spread of the virus.
Q: As currently presented, there is no daily Qualtrics questionnaire requirement in any tier. Is that correct? Will student and staff temperatures be checked before entering a school bus or a school?
A: Correct, the district will not be implementing a pre-school online screening this school year. Under level 4 mitigation protocols, temperatures will be taken as students enter school. This is not required under protocol levels 1-3.
Q: What changes to instruction will be made? I have not heard any discussion of how early elementary students will obtain help with reading, social cues, speech therapy, social or emotional health. Covid 19 is not even a risk to them, but these issues are.
A: There has been a significant emphasis on instruction based on feedback received from parents and faculty over the past several months. Based on feedback at the K-5 level there is an increased focus on social-emotional learning (SEL), early literacy and early math. We have used our federal funding to address many of these topics. The addition of School Counselors and Social Workers at the elementary level. This corresponds with work on a K-12 guidance plan including lessons on character education and SEL learning (second step). We also have assigned a veteran administration, Jill Bonacio, to oversee these services along with an elementary assistant principal to work on coordination in academics across the three buildings. This includes literacy, science, and PACE programming. We continue to emphasize early intervention with robust RtI, SPED, and related services. We have added RtI and math specialists along with SPED teachers at the elementary level. We also continue our work on MTSS and Inclusive practices which relates directly to these aspects. We are starting new programs in science through the smithsonian, starting a new culture and language program in our third grade SS curriculum, as well as trying to get our elementary enrichment/PACE program running. At the Middle School and HS we have all programming available to students.
Q: Is the school sanitized daily by a cleaning crew and in between classes by the students?
A: The schools are cleaned daily, with both surfacing wiping as well as sanitizing mist machines. Each classroom will have sanitizing wipes at their disposal again this year.
Q: My child attended fully virtual school last year and is therefore not versed with what is expected of him in order to maintain protocols while in school. I hope there is an initial session where kids going in-person for the first time will be given some instructions and guidance on how to abide by the required protocols.
A: Yes, the first days of school always involve teachers discussing routines and class/school expectations.
Q: Can a child begin in person and sign up for (B)CES) virtual if unsatisfied with how this plan works? Is there a way to join the BOCES virtual school during the year if it becomes medically necessary?
A: No, the BOCES program is a full-year commitment. The BOCES program is not arranged by BH-BL, although there will be BH-BL teachers virtually teaching through this program. BOCES has set the parameters that students are required to commit to a full-year of virtual school. Please note, the sign up deadline for this program has passed.
Q: Will my child still be considered a part of the BH-BL school district if she does the BOCES virtual program? And will the BOCES program be aligned with BH-BL curriculum?
A: Yes, they are BH-BL students attending at a remote location. The NYS curriculum will be taught.
Q: Why is virtual not an option to all parents like last year?
A: Our goal is to have as many students in person as possible. The virtual model is not sustainable in an unlimited manner.
Q: Will Google Chromebooks be provided for virtual students?
Q: Are youth sports part of interscholastic athletics? If so, I was told they go by county mandates not school mandates so are you working with the counties to put health and safety first with our athletes?
A: School athletics are separate from youth athletics. We continue to develop athletic protocol. Indoor masking, testing for a percentage of athletes.
Q: How are most band members supposed to practice/ perform when masks are required?
A: Students do not wear masks when performing. They have bell covers that act as masks for the instruments.
Q: Last year was socially distanced and many people transported students, but how will covid affect bussing this year, especially in tiers 3&4? I know masks are required but I know our bus for secondary was packed for everyone before covid so I’m not sure how social distancing will be enforced.
A: Masks on public transportation is a federal mandate, so masks will once again be required. We will continue to socially distance seating assignments to the greatest extent possible. Parents who prefer to drop their children off and pick them up from school are asked to follow the Pickup/Dropoff Procedures for their child’s school.
Q: Are drop off and pick up procedures the same?
A: There will not be any waves in the Drop off/Pickup Procedures like last year. The district is reverting back to pre-COVID Drop off/Pickup Procedures for the 2021-22 school year.
*Please note, pool testing has NOT begun at BH-BL. Questions have been listed but are unable to be answered at this time. IF/WHEN pool testing begins, these questions will be answered.
Q: How does the pool testing work? If my child is in a group of pooled testers that test positive does she have to be quarantined for the 10 days if she is vaccinated? The issue with this is she could be a positive person and not know she has covid. But the CDC states that a vaccinated person does not have to quarantine if they are exposed.
Q: Do individuals have to opt in to be random tested?
Q: In addition to random spot testing, what symptoms will warrant immediate COVID-19 testing in schools?
Q: Will rapid tests be used, or the more accurate and preferable PCR tests?
Q: What types of tests are being used to determine positivity? Rapid tests have been shown to misdiagnose the flu as COVID.
Q: Is BHBL opting-in to the pool testing authorized by Saratoga County? If so, is it covering all buildings or just those in Saratoga County?