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Frequently Asked Questions: Reopening Sept. 2020

Discussed During 8-13 & 8-17 Parent Meetings

When is the required response date for parents to choose in-person or distance learning? The new date is Wednesday, August 19 which allows parents to attend any of the parent meetings and then to make a decision.

In-Person & Distance Learning Models: 

Describe what the in-person and virtual learning models will look like? 
Regardless of the model, students and families can expect that instruction and learning: 
  • will be aligned with State standards with consistently rigorous learning expectations + opportunities
  • will have routine schedules
  • will have time for daily, meaningful student-teacher interactions that includes feedback and support; this will include specific and clear success criteria 
  • and will include both synchronous learning (same time or live learning) and asynchronous learning (meaning that students do not have to be online at the same time as their teacher or each other) 
What will In-Person learning look like in the classroom?
  • Masks - all students and staff will wear masks
  • 6 foot social distancing will occur - typical max capacity of 12-14 students sitting at desks
  • Teacher will have instructional area/space
  • Students will stay in micro-group/cohort throughout the day
  • Cohorts will be developed after the parent data is reviewed.
What will Distance learning look like - how will it be different from the Spring? 
We will focus on what worked well and what can be strengthened:
  • We will be cognizant of developmentally appropriate amounts of screen time
  • It will be more interactive, meaningful and engaging (Substantial Interaction) with daily interactions with teacher
  • Balance between live instruction in front of screen (synchronous - same time) and times when students will be working on an assignment or project (asynchronous) 
  • We are exploring the possibility of recording lessons in order to provide more flexibility for families
What learning model options/choices are available? Can we switch Models?
We are requesting that parents/guardians make a semester-long commitment, and wait until February 2021 to request changes. We have extended the deadline for those still in consideration, but we respectfully request that all decisions are submitted by Wednesday, August 19. 
  • Requests to switch from distance to in-person will not be an allowable option due to classroom and staffing capacities
  • On a case-by-case basis we will assess requests for switching from in-person to remote. However, please realize that, if approved, this could possibly result in a change of teacher.
  • Families cannot choose the Hybrid model to start - the hybrid model is only activated if we exceed the capacity for students or for staffing for the in-person model.
What happens if the hybrid model needs to be used for those requesting in-person learning?
  • Due to the large number of high school students and requests for in-person learning, the High School will start in our hybrid model that is currently being developed
  • IF in-person requests exceed our capacity parameters in other school buildings, then we will adjust to our hybrid model. We should know if the hybrid model will be needed by the week of August 24. In our hybrid model, students will be divided into cohorts called micro-groups that will be determined
    • Depending on the cohort, students will attend in-person 2 days per week with the other 3 days being virtual learning
    • Wednesdays are fully virtual for all students, this will allow for a deep cleaning at all buildings as well as afford teachers collaboration time within their PLC’s
    • Families that choose all virtual learning will continue learning remotely 5 days/week  
  • How groupings for the hybrid model (if necessary) will be made and are being analyzed and should be determined within the next week or two
    • We plan on grouping siblings at all grade levels (please let the Principal know as soon as possible if this does not occur) and that cohorts will be decided at the HS building level based upon course selections.

Mask Policy:

What will the mask wearing policy be?
All students and staff are expected to wear masks unless they have a medical reason with a Doctor's note explaining why they cannot wear a mask. This will be reviewed by our Medical Director, Dr. Daniel Rancier. Students will be expected to wear a mask on the school bus, in the hallways and in the classrooms. There will be scheduled mask breaks when students and staff are socially distanced by 6 feet throughout the day and at lunch time. Face shields are acceptable as an enhancement or additional PPE, however a mask is required in addition to the face shield.

School Day: 

Will school hours remain the same or will they be adjusted?
The length of our school day will remain the same. Start and end times for each school will be sent to all families and are posted on the website. The times for most schools are the same as last year, except for Fremont which will start and end 15 minutes later (8:45-2:45). 

COVID-19, Testing, Reporting, Notification:  

What Covid 19 infection rate will cause the school to shut down in-person learning? 
The Governor has directed schools to close when the rate reaches 9%. Any school closures due to cases of COVID-19 will be determined in consultation with the Department of Health.

What are the required Health & Safety Protocols that parents and students will be learning at the beginning of the school year?
We will provide learning opportunities for parents and students for the following health and safety protocols:
  • Hand Washing Hygiene
  • Respiratory Hygiene
  • Social Distancing
  • Mask Wearing
  • Daily Temperature Checks and Screening Procedures
  • Recognizing Signs of Illness and Symptoms of COVID-19
Will parents need to report their child(ren)'s symptoms and temperature each morning?
Based on guidance from the NYS Education Department and the NYS Health Department - the responsibility for ensuring children are healthy and can attend school each morning is the responsibility of parents. The guidance indicates that the specific expectations includes screening children for the 11 COVID symptoms (which does include temperature taking) - as well the other 3 questions (in addition to the COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days) 
1) Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
2) Had close contact with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case in the past 14 days?
3) Have you traveled internationally or from a state with widespread community transmission of COVID-19 per theTravel Advisory in the past 14 days?

How Will Parents Report Temperature/Symptom Screening Results?
We are reviewing a digital app that will assist families in communicating this information to our transportation office and school offices prior to students getting on the bus or arriving at school each morning. If we do not have the App in place by the first day of school, all families will have a pre-printed pad with the screening questions that must be signed by the parent to be given to School Personnel prior to boarding the bus or entering school each day.

What is the District’s plan when a staff member or student exhibit signs or symptoms of COVID-19?
When a student or staff member exhibits any symptoms of COVID-19, they will be referred to the school nurse. The school nurse will determine if the student or staff member needs to be sent home and referred to their family doctor for testing. The staff member or the parent of the student will also have the option to schedule a test with the Department of Health for testing. Results will be provided within 24 hours. There will be a “portal” on the District Website for parents and staff to use for this purpose.

What is the procedure if there is a positive COVID 19 case of a student or staff member?
When ESM is notified that there is a positive case, those who should be tested will be identified and contacted by the contact tracers of the Onondaga County Health Department and will be directed to schedule a test through the school’s website portal or with their private family physician. Once schools are open, there will be specific protocol in place for instances where positive cases have been identified. We will have a portal on our website that will allow for 24 hour testing for those who have been in school while symptomatic. 

What is the notification procedure for an exposure having occurred and who will do contact tracing?
If there is an exposure from a student or staff member in school, the District will immediately contact and consult with the Department of Health regarding notification of school staff and parents.  No personally identifiable information will be shared but a general notification will be made.
Contact tracing is the sole responsibility of the Onondaga County Department of Health. They will determine who needs to be contacted and tested. The results will be provided to the school District. Any directives regarding quarantining of the individual will be communicated and monitored by the Department of Health.


What are the plans for transportation and the seating on the school bus for the typical AM/PM run?
  • Students will have the option of riding the bus in the morning only, afternoon only, or both and we are asking families to indicate these choices when they complete their survey.
  • At boarding times, students will be loaded on buses from back to front, and unloaded from front to back to promote social distancing.  
  • Upon arrival at the school, unloading of buses will be staggered to allow social distancing. Similarly, at dismissal students will be released to board the buses in smaller groups.
  • Once on the bus, students will be seated with one student per seat.  Students that live together in the same household can be seated together, which will allow for up to approximately 20-30 students per bus.
What other safety measures will be followed on buses?
  • Masks will be required on the bus for students and drivers, and will be available on the buses for any student who forgot theirs.
  • Between each run, staff will be spraying and wiping down seats and high-touch items with disinfecting spray.  
  • When temperatures are above 45 degrees, various bus windows and the roof hatch will be opened to allow outside air to circulate in the bus.

Nutrition & Food Service:

What are the procedures for breakfast for students attending in-person?
A grab-and-go breakfast will be served in a “breakfast off the bus” model where students can pick up a complete breakfast meal upon arrival at school and take it to their classroom to eat. We piloted this model on a limited basis last year, and it worked very well.

What are the procedures for lunch for students attending in-person? Will students be eating lunch in the classroom?
Specific lunch plans for each building are still being finalized. However, lunch will look different from what students are used to in prior years. Lunch will be served either through delivery to the classroom or in the cafeteria or other larger group spaces within the school, where 6-foot social distancing requirements will be followed. The menu will be more limited than usual to start out with, but will include both hot and cold lunch items. Students will be allowed to bring lunch from home if they choose. 

How will Food Allergies Be Handled? 
We will implement measures to protect students with food allergies when providing meals in spaces outside the cafeteria. The District will move to a 100% peanut-free menu districtwide, and we will prepare individual meal plans for all dietary restrictions with separate preparation areas. 


What climate control and air quality measures are in place in ESM buildings?
  • ESM will maintain adequate ventilation (either natural or mechanical) in all district buildings.  
  • In classrooms and offices, the number of air changes per hour and outside air exchanges will be maximized as much as possible.
  • Enhanced air filtration will be achieved to the extent possible in all district buildings through the installation of enhanced air filters or stand-alone air purification units. This includes the leased buildings that will be occupied by Fremont and Woodland.
  • Wall-mounted Ultraviolet Cleaning (UVC) air purification units are being installed in all school nurse’s offices to provide enhanced air purification in those areas.
What will the cleaning schedule look like? 
  • Custodians will clean and disinfect common areas such as restrooms, cafeterias, door hardware and other high-touch surfaces as needed during the school day.  
  • Custodians will deep-clean at the end of each school day, including a basic cleaning followed by full cleaning of bathrooms as well as disinfection of horizontal surfaces and door hardware. 
  • Sanitizing wipes and/or spray will be available to wipe down high touch surfaces as needed throughout the day.  
  • While hand washing throughout the day will be encouraged using multiple communication methods (including signage and school routines and reminders), wall-mounted hand sanitizer units will also be available in common areas and individual pump bottles of sanitizer will be provided for teacher’s desks in all classrooms.  


If our family has selected Distance learning how and when will my child get their Chromebook if my child is in elementary school, entering 6th or 9th grade?
All elementary and 8th grade students returned their Chromebooks to School in June. Each school is working on a distribution plan and will be contacting parents and guardians as we get closer to school reopening.

If the Hybrid model is activated will students be expected to bring chromebooks back and forth to school? If so, what happens if a student forgets theirs? Will there be extra in class or will they be expected to share?
Students will bring Chromebooks to and from schools. We ask that parents/guardians help students charge them each night. If they forget them, we will have a limited number of loaners, which will be sanitized each day.

Will there be Tech support or help for students who do not have reliable internet service if the district has to go to a hybrid or all remote/ learning?
We will be continuing our student/parent helpline at 315-434-3024. Please contact your school if you need internet assistance.


Will students still be given their instrumental music lessons? Will incoming 4th graders still have the option to play an instrument?
Students who currently play instruments in our instrumental music programs will continue to have the opportunity to participate in instrumental music lessons. Fourth grade recruitment and beginning band will be temporarily on hold. However, instrumental music teachers are exploring ways in which to engage the 4th graders to prepare them for beginning band in different ways. 

What will music look like? Will there be music/band classes?  
While large ensemble experiences will be on hold for the beginning of the school year, music teachers are working to design meaningful music instruction for our students in all areas of music education including instrumental music, vocal music and general music. Instrumental music teachers are developing strategies and procedures to incorporate small group lessons, adhering to distancing guidance, in large spaces during the school day. There will be no sharing of wind instruments permitted and percussion instruments will be thoroughly cleaned after each use.

Will distance learners and hybrid learners cover the same amount of material?  
No matter what mode of instruction a family decides upon, students in music programs will still find rich and rigorous opportunities to further their musicianship.

Physical Education & Sports

Phys Ed: What will Physical Education look like for Distance Learning and for In-person Learning? Will students wear masks during phys ed? What will it look like in cold weather? 
We have guidelines that must be adhered to for in-person physical education to take place:
  • Physical distancing of 12 feet
  • A focus on individual pursuits or skills
  • Participating in games that require no physical contact
Where a gymnasium is not available, we will utilize outdoor spaces, classrooms and any available areas within the school to deliver instruction. An updated plan for distance learning will be implemented and will include both synchronous and asynchronous elements to ensure rigor and consistent learning.

In addition we will be following the instructional guidelines for quality physical education as outlined by NYS Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. We will remain flexible should weather and/or the availability of learning stations become a concern.

Sports: If my child is in the distance learning model, will this affect participation in any extracurricular sports or activities?
It will not. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) just clarified that students will have the opportunity to participate in interscholastic athletics if they are receiving credit for 3 courses AND physical education, regardless of the education platform utilized b y the school district (i.e. remote only, hybrid, etc.).

What is the plan for fall sports? Specifically football? 
As of this moment all Fall sports are slated to begin on September 21. As per the Governor's most recent announcement, interscholastic athletics are still on hold. The executive director for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) is working around the clock to try to get some answers and resolutions to a lot of questions. Once the state is provided some answers, the NYSPHSAA COVID Task force will continue their work devising a plan for Fall Sports.  As soon as we know more, we will let parents know.

High School-related Questions: 

Will high school students get the classes they requested? Students in Distance learning want to be sure that this doesn’t take away class choices or preferences. 
All students will be scheduled for their core academic classes first and then their electives. The students schedules will help to determine the hybrid days of attendance. Choosing distance learning does not take away choices or preferences.

Will HS electives be offered?
At this point in time, all electives will be offered. 
If an elective is not available or unable to fit into a student’s schedule, due to scheduling or enrollment number of students for the course, your child’s school counselor would contact the student to choose a different option. 

What about Clay?
Clay is still available as an elective. 

Nursing & New Visions Program at BOCES: How will this work if they have chosen the distance learning model? 
OCM BOCES has confirmed that students enrolled in the Nursing program or New Visions program will be able to participate via Distance Learning 5 Days per week. We’ve been assured that the program has been developed to support a Distance Learning model.

CHS Spartan Academy: If my high school child is in the distance learning model, will this affect participation in Spartan Academy?
Spartan Academy students whose families elect the distance learning model will still be able to participate in the program. Any questions regarding specific coursework can be directed to the students’ school counselors.

Can High School Students Still Drive to School? 
Licensed students at the HS will be allowed to drive to school as they normally would. 


What will special areas look like for Elementary students?
We have always, and will continue, to see the value and importance of the Specialty Areas at all levels. Principals are still working on specific daily schedules and these WILL include special area classes including Art, Physical Education, Music, and Library.


What is the plan for Pre-k students at Park Hill?
At Park Hill all programs for 1’s, 2’s and 3 year olds and their families will be through distance learning. We will be confirming student placement in this program soon. All 4-year-olds can attend in-person 5 days a week for 2.5 hours per day. We will offer distance learning to any child in the four year old program if their family chooses this option. If in-person requests for the four year old program exceed capacity, then we will need to change to a hybrid model. 

How will Park Hill gradually start the in-person 4 year old program?
We will begin phasing to in-person learning on September 17. Park Hill will start with 3 classrooms attending in-person. We will continue to add classes until we have full implementation of in-person learning on September 23. Specific phasing-in information will be included in your child’s welcome letter from Park Hill. 

Social Emotional Learning and Mental Wellness:

If my child is struggling with the transition back to school or with virtual learning, will a school counselor be available to talk with him/her?   
Yes, school counselors will be available to address all of the social emotional and mental wellness concerns both in person and virtually. School counselors will also be available to work with parents and families who may need additional support during the school year.
At the elementary level, students will continue to participate in the “Second Step” program both in person and virtually. This program teaches the five essential competencies around social and emotional learning: self-awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship development and responsible decision making.   
ESM collaborates with Contact Community Services, Arise Child and Family Services and the Onondaga County Department of Child and Family Services to provide case management, mental health therapy and early intervention to our students and their families.  
Also, on our website, we continue to provide updated links to many resources that support mental wellness and social emotional learning for our students and their families.

Special Education: 

How do we plan on delivering special education services to students? What about students who choose virtual or distance learning?

Special education services will be delivered to students both in person and in a virtual model. We will continue to offer the continuum of services and related services but how they are delivered in person may look different as a result of the parameters of the health and safety guidelines.

We are currently looking into some adaptive equipment and PPE such as clear masks that allow the speech therapists to continue to model how to position their mouth in developing some speech sounds.

Students who receive special education teacher services during the day will continue to have those special education teachers push into their classroom. The goal will be to have your child's special education teacher/case manager reach out to you as we start the school year to give parents/guardians an opportunity to discuss what your individual child's program will look like.

If your child is joining in virtually or the distance learning model we plan to coordinate with the classroom teacher and the special education teacher to determine when the  special education teacher would need to be scheduled into the classroom to support your student and continue to work toward their goals. In addition, there would be an opportunity for students to join in small groups to work on specific skills in virtual resource groups.

Students will continue to receive all of the accommodations and modifications on their IEP that we are able to make available in the current environment.  Testing modifications will stay intact for students both in school and in a virtual environment.  Accommodations will need to be reviewed to determine the space and availability to schedule such accommodations such as sensory walks in relation to the new health and safety standards.

English as a New Language (ENL) Learners

How do we plan to deliver English as a New Language (ENL) services to students? What about students who choose virtual or distance learning?
Our ENL students will continue to receive appropriate level of language supports In person support will continue if a student is in school while students are in their microgroups. If a student is remotely learning, ENL teachers will schedule time with students via Google Hangouts or Google Meet to support students language needs ENL teachers will coordinate and collaborate with students’ classroom teachers to support learning and provide accommodations in subject areas.

Opening Calendar:

What will the first 2 weeks of school look like? 
  • Sept. 2, 3, 8 & 9 will be days where we prepare and provide staff professional learning focused on Health & Safety, Social emotional Learning, researched best practices for our instructional models, and a few other important areas essential for a successful reopening
  • Sept. 10-16 will involve virtual learning for all students - this will provide an opportunity for our students and parents to meet their teachers, develop relationships, share expectations for each model of learning, and ensure a comfortability with navigating the technology. 
    • For those students continuing in Distance Learning the process will be reviewed and for those students entering in-person there will be a review of the Health and Safety protocols for students and parents (such as for hygiene, health screening and social distancing just to name a couple)
  • Sept 17 will be the first day of our gradual start or phasing to in-person by grade level - this will allow buildings the ability to adjust to specific needs and to best meet the new health and safety requirements. 
    • Pre-k 4s
    • 5th grade at the elementary's
    • 6th grade at Pine Grove
    • 12th grade at the High School
    • Further phasing-in information specific to each building will follow in the days to come
  • Sept. 24 marks the date for all grades to fully return for in-person learning, distance learners will continue with remote instruction

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