Parent Q & A - Answers
We have submitted our reopening plan to the state and DOH. We have not heard that our plan needed to be revised so we assume the plan was accepted. We are working very hard to do everything we can to assure a safe school year. We may not have all the answers yet and we may need to make adjustments as the year progresses. The answers provided here are subject to change as needed throughout the year. We have never had to run a school during a pandemic before. We made the last updates to these responses at 7:30 pm on August, 27, 2020 Many of you asked the same questions so we put the answers into categories. Thank you to all of our safety team members for their help, especially Anne Casola and Peggy Clohessy who chaired this committee.
Type of instruction:
SMSA is offering full day, in person instruction 5 days a week as well as an online live streaming program for students in NA - 8th grade. We will be as flexible as possible to meet your needs. If you are not comfortable sending your child to school and prefer online learning, you will need to fill out a form indicating this to us and you will need to agree to the expectation of the online learning environment. The children will be expected to log on at the beginning of the school day and remain logged in and in sight of the teacher for the whole school day. Students learning online will get the same breaks as students in class. If a student is home due to illness they will have the opportunity to attend school remotely, following all the remote learning protocols, as long as they are well enough to do so. If a child starts school in person and then the family decides to switch to online that will be permitted and vice versa. We are in the process of creating forms for you to fill out to indicate these changes, the forms will be available ASAP. We are encouraging teachers to hold classes outside and we will be designating portions of the playground for each cohort for class instruction.
School Closure and Remote Instruction:
Teachers will be prepared to switch to remote instruction at a moment’s notice. Students in NA - 8th grade will have access to remote learning. This year students will be expected to attend all remote instruction during the regular school day. We plan to use Google Classroom. Michele Mergen is our in house Technology Coordinator and Jim Farrell is our Technology Support Person (He makes sure computers and servers are all working properly and advises us on the hardware products). Mrs. Mergen has been working and continues to work with teachers from all grade levels on being prepared for virtual learning. Professional Development will continue throughout the school year on this subject. Mrs. Mergen has dedicated time during the day for technology troubleshooting, if she is not available another staff member along with the assistance of Jim Farrell will quickly work to solve any issues. If you have any questions regarding Technology you should contact Michele Mergen. Children who are absent will be marked absent. If a student logs on to the remote session, but disappears during the session the student will be marked absent for the subject that he or she missed. Repeated absences will be reported to the principal and a meeting will be arranged to address the situation.
Our enrollment is considered ongoing and we do not have finite ending enrollment dates.
Tuition is a yearly commitment because we depend on it for salaries and operational costs associated with running the school.
We are still finalizing our academic calendar with the diocese and local school districts and will post it as soon as it is complete. The calendar will be a living document as there may be many changes throughout the year. We will not have to make up any days due to starting on September 14th. Those days were already in our calendar and count toward our total number of days for the year.
SMSA’s primary form of communication to school families is via Swift Reach messaging email. Generally, the school sends out a weekly email Newsletter called the Kerry Blue. It is the responsibility of each family to make sure that email addresses are current. Families are expected to read all information that is sent home from the school. In the case of school closing families will be notified via swift reach email, phone call and text messaging. If you do not receive an Swift Reach email newsletter at the end of the first week of school you should immediately contact the school so that we can be sure to have the correct email address for you.
All of our classrooms, except 2, can safely accommodate 25 students with barriers and social distancing. Right now it does not look like we will have a class that large. The other 2 classrooms can safely accommodate 29 students. If we do end up with a class size larger than 20 we will make every effort to put that class in a larger room and provide an aide and an extra classroom for students to do small group work in and spread out. If we have a larger class, and need to separate the class during the day, we will provide further information with what the teaching will look like between the two rooms. As of now it does not look like we will have a class that large.
All classrooms will be set up to safely accommodate the number of students in that class. We will be using individual student barriers and 6ft distancing to make this accommodation. Students may be seated at desks with the barrier or at tables with the barriers. If children are to work or play in a small group and a barrier is not feasible then the children will wear masks during that activity.
Students will remain in their cohort and in their classroom for the majority of the day. Special area teachers, in most cases, will travel to each class. Middle school students will remain in their homeroom and teachers will switch classes. This is to minimize contact with other cohorts.
All students, faculty, staff and visitors are required to wear masks in all common areas of the school building and anytime a 6 foot distance cannot be maintained or a barrier is not available to separate them from others. Persons who have health issues and are unable to wear a mask, must be kept 6 feet away from others or in a barrier. We are strongly recommending that those people, at the very least, wear a face shield. If someone cannot wear the face mask due to health reasons a Doctor’s note will be expected to be presented to the administration indicating such.
Masks can be removed if students are seated within barriers and/or 6 ft away from others. If Students are seated and in their personal barrier the masks can be removed. (This pertains to all students NA - 8th Grade). All students will have time throughout the day for mask breaks if they need them.
Students in K-8 need to wear a blue or white mask with limited print to adhere to the uniform policy. We will be a little flexible with Kindergartners in the beginning of the year with mask colors. According to the CDC and NYS guidelines fabric masks are approved, you may also use paper masks. Bandana and gaiter face coverings are not permitted.
Students in NA do not need to follow the dress code and can wear any color/design masks, but they must not be gaiter or bandana style.
Students may wear the same mask all day, however if it becomes wet or soiled they will need to change it. We will have a stockpile of paper and cloth masks if a child needs a new one at any time.
Cleaning and Sanitizing:
All classrooms, hallways, bathrooms and high traffic areas will be cleaned and disinfected with the electrostatic sprayer at night after camp Kerry and NA. The rooms will be sprayed with the electrostatic sprayer once during the day when the students are not in the room. Classrooms will each have a sanitizing kit and teachers and staff members will be responsible for wiping down toys and surfaces throughout the day. We will be using a non toxic, CDC and FDA approved disinfectant or hot soap and water to disinfect surfaces in the classrooms. There will be limited to no use of Hand sanitizer by children and if there is hand sanitizer used we will make sure it is not on the contaminated list of sanitizers supplied by the FDA and CDC.
All toys, books,or any items in the classroom that may be shared will be placed in a designated bin after children use or play with the item. Those items will be disinfected before they are returned to circulation for others to use.
Teachers will spend the beginning of the school year and school day teaching students new procedures and protocols in school during COVID, following CDC guidelines.
Students, teachers, and staff will be required to wash or sanitize hands frequently throughout the day and must build handwashing times into their daily schedules. There will be additional handwashing stations on each floor to accommodate the extra handwashing.
Hallways and Stairwells:
All hallways will have a dedicated pathway for foot traffic that all members of the school will need to follow. We are in the process of labeling hallways with arrows as well as placing 6 foot spaced dots on the floor to keep the hallways separated. We are also working on hanging signs throughout the building that teach and promote CDC health guidelines. We will also have a dedicated up stairwell and down stairwell on the playground side of the building. All of these measures are to help reduce the flow of traffic within the building. Also since we are having limited movement from classrooms to other areas of the building this should relieve some of the higher traffic areas.
All faculty, staff, outside providers, and students will have temperatures taken before entering the school building and the proper screening will be completed. Teachers, outside providers, and all visitors will also need to sign in each day, so proper contact tracing can be maintained.
Our current plan is to have all students arrive between 7:00am and 7:40. Students who arrive before 7:30 will need to go to Camp Kerry in the cafeteria, or if the student is NA to their classroom. Camp Kerry and NA will end at 5:00 instead of 5:30, to allow time for proper cleaning and disinfecting of school.
If students are being dropped off by parents, the parent will drive through the double gates on the playground following the arrows to the side door of the building.
A staff member will take student temp and history. We are currently waiting to hear from the diocese if surveys and temperature checks need to be done at home before school. When we have that information and any forms from them we will pass it along as soon as possible.
Parents will not be allowed to walk students into the building.
A teacher or staff member will walk students to their class.
Students will be put in class cohorts and to the greatest extent possible, will not be allowed to mix with other cohorts during the day.
We will be allowing students to use lockers. We have enough lockers to separate them. We will also be sending students to lockers in a staggered format, so that we do not have too many students in the hallways at once. While in the hallways going to lockers, students will need to wear their masks.
All parents, guardians or designated persons must produce a photo ID before a child will be released.
Students who ride a bus will be escorted to the bus by faculty or staff members.
Once busses have departed, the gates to the playground will be opened and parents can follow the arrows to the door and wait for a staff member to escort the child or children to the car. Pickup at the end of the day will be similar to the procedures to drop off in the morning.
At 2:45 the gates will be shut and locked. Parents picking up students after 2:45 should drive up to the main doors and call or text a number TBA. A faculty or staff member will escort the child or children to the car when the parents arrive.
Camp Kerry and NA Before and After Care:
During Camp Kerry and Noah’s Ark before and after care, students will remain in their class cohort, but may be separated by a barrier or 6 foot distance and be allowed in the same room. Even though the cohorts are in the same room the students will not be permitted to interact closely with another cohort. The six foot distance and/or the barrier will be in place. Whenever the 6 foot distance or barriers are not available students will be required to wear their masks. Parents who are volunteering to work for Camp Kerry will be allowed to come in and work. They will need to complete all screening before entering the school.
Snacks will be eaten in the classroom. Students will wash hands before and after eating. Students will either be placed 6ft apart or be in their barrier during snack time. Teachers and staff will wipe down and disinfect all eating surfaces before and after snack.
We have not made the decision on whether or not students will eat in the cafeteria. That will depend on enrollment and scheduling. We can fit 30 students safely in the cafeteria following the CDC safety guidelines for eating. We are also thinking of using the Great Hall to accommodate lunch. Students will wash hands before and after lunch. Teachers and staff members will wash eating surfaces before and after lunch.
Students will have temp checks before lunch. Glens Falls school food service will continue to provide student lunches but it is important that students know their lunch choice first thing in the morning as lunches will be served in a sealed container. Students will be able to bring lunches from home. Younger students will still be able to send in their weeks worth of lunch choices as they have in the past.
Students will have recess each day either outside or indoors. Extra recess will be permitted and will be the decision of the teacher to provide the extra recess.
We are still figuring out all the details, but students need to stay in their designated area of the playground and to the extent possible should not interact with another cohort. Students may use the playground equipment one cohort at a time and should maintain a six foot distance or wear masks. Playground equipment will be sanitized and a 20 minute wait time will need to pass before another cohort can use the equipment.
Will be in the classroom or gym, following all social distancing guidelines.
Students will still enjoy Art, PE, Foreign Language, Music, Religion and Band. STREAM will be handled in the classroom, by the classroom teacher. Music for NA will be held in each classroom, with the music teacher moving to the classrooms. Art, Foreign Language, Music, Religion for K-4 will be held in the classroom, with the special teachers going to each class. PE will be in the gym for all classes, with appropriate social distancing guidelines in place. Band will be in the band room and Middle School Art and Music will be in the respective classrooms. Students will maintain a 12 ft distance in Gym, band, and music class if no masks are worn. Teachers are taking extra care to plan lessons that avoid student contact or close proximity. On a side note the gym has an exhaust system which draws air out of the building.
In NA a teacher or staff member will escort students to the bathroom as necessary. The teacher or staff member will ensure that children wash hands and that high touch surfaces are disinfected.
In the lower elementary grades, teachers will take students by class to use the bathroom, so that they can monitor proper safe bathroom procedures. Teacher’s will also make sure that proper handwashing occurs as well as disinfecting high touch surfaces. Students will wear masks while in the hall and bathroom.
It is not a requirement to sanitize the bathroom after each student uses it. However, the bathrooms will be equipped with sanitizing kits, so that a staff member can quickly sanitize the surfaces after a group of students has used the bathroom.
Protocol for Quarantine:
Schools are not mandated to have a nurse on site. We are very lucky that Glens Falls School District provides us with a nurse. However, there is no guarantee that we will have a school nurse on a daily basis or full time. When a school nurse is not available, Mrs. Balmer will staff the nurse’s office.
The nurse’s office will be stocked with all the necessary PPE and sanitizing items.
The nurse’s office has been moved to the first floor to an unused large classroom. A clear barrier will separate the room so that the nurse can attend to students who have bumps and bruises as well as symptomatic students.
If a student exhibits symptoms of COVID, the child will be escorted to the quarantine section of the nurse’s office. Parents will immediately be called to pick up the child. The parent will park on Warren St. call the nurse’s office and a staff member will walk the student out to the parent using the Warren Street doors. The nurse will notify Mrs. Balmer, and Mrs. Balmer will notify the Warren County Department of Health for further instruction.
Since it is difficult to discern the difference between the common cold, cough etc. and COVID symptoms a child who has any of the symptoms associated with COVID will be sent home and/or not allowed in the building and may not return until either a COVID test comes back negative or the child is quarantined for 2 weeks, symptom free and a Drs. note clears the child for school. The school will not complete any COVID tests on premise, all testing will be done through a physician or local testing site.
Meanwhile, the teacher and classmates of the symptomatic child will be quarantined in their classroom until dismissal.
Students who have allergies and have chronic cough etc. we will need a Drs. note explaining this.
Mrs. Balmer spoke to the Warren County Health Department during the creation of the Reopening plan to get specific answers as to when we should shut down a class or the school. The response from them was, if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID we should notify them immediately and then we would be given direction on how to proceed. Families will be notified as directed by the Warren County Health Department. Notification will be via Swift Reach email, phone call, and text message. We need to follow all HIPAA guidelines.
Social Emotional Wellbeing of Students:
SMSA will be providing instruction on social emotional awareness through the use of the PAX program, morning meetings, etc.. The PAX program is a NY State approved Social Emotional program. An example of a lesson would be, during a Morning meeting students would be presented with various feelings emojis and we would ask them to name the feeling the emoji illustrates and then we would discuss feelings. Students will have an opportunity to to express their feelings.
We will have a School Counselor onsite approximately 2 days a week. When the School Counselor is not in the building Mrs. Balmer and teachers will work with students who are having coping, anxiety, and any other issues.
We are working on providing families with links about ways to help their children prepare for the return to school. As soon as we have some good resources put together we will be sharing them via Swift Reach messaging.
Students Receiving Special Services:
Students who receive services from outside providers will still receive those services. All the protocols put in place by SMSA will be maintained during their time with the provider. We will not know where providers have been before coming into SMSA, but they will need to follow all of our protocols. For providers within our school, students will be picked up at their classroom by the provider, will wear their mask while in the hallway to get to the providers room. While in the room students will not be required to wear their mask as long as they are seated within a barrier or the 6 foot social distance can be met. At the end of each session, providers will be responsible for cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces before servicing another student.
We will be working on putting together an Open House when we return to school. Please know that this will most likely need to be a virtual Open House and will take some time to create. As soon as we have information on this we will share it. Parent/Teacher conferences also for the time being will need to be held virtually. If you need to meet with your child’s teacher please contact them via email to set up a day and time that you can both meet virtually
Concerns that School will Close Down Again:
This is a concern for all of us. The feeling we get from the various meetings we attended and information that we read, it seems that the Governor is trying to put protocols in place so that he does not have to mandate a statewide school shutdown. We get the feeling that it will be a regional decision based on the percentage of cases in that region. Warren county has done very well in keeping numbers down.
Building and Ventilation:
SMSA does not have a forced hot air heating/cooling system, we have a boiler system and steam heat. The Diocese employs a Safety Coordinator, Sal Carbone, who visits the schools several times a year to conduct a full evaluation of the building from a safety standpoint. Mr. Carbone explained that SMSA does not have ventilation issues and that there is no need for modifications. For proper air circulation, it is recommended that, to the extent possible that windows and doors remain open. We will be following this recommendation to the fullest extent possible.
Substitutes if Teachers are Sick:
SMSA has a few regular substitute teachers that we count on when our teachers get sick. They will be expected to follow all of the necessary procedures and protocols that our teachers and staff need to follow. If our subs are not available, Mrs. Balmer, Mrs. Kerpka, or Mrs. Gregorio will fill in when needed. Teacher’s will have lesson plans prepared advanced so that the quality of education is maintained during their absence.
School supply lists can be found on our website: https://smsaschool.org/parents-students/school-supplies/
These lists are being updated to reflect new protocols, so make sure to check the site for any updates.
Noah’s Ark New Family Walk Through:
The New Family Walk Through Day for NA will be September 10th. Families will sign up for a specific time. NA teachers will coordinate this with families in their class.
The NA Dry Run Day:
The Dry Run Day will take place in the morning hours and will be staggered to accommodate all NA families. Students will be dropped off at school following the above drop off guidelines. They will enter their classroom and the teacher will read a story and do a short activity with the group. We are thinking that the children will be with their teacher for about an hour or two. After the allotted time parents will pick up their children following the above listed pick up guidelines.
Kindergarten Meet & Greet with Teacher:
One will be scheduled for families before school starts so stay tuned for updates on that information.
What will the daily schedule look like for NA?
Each teacher will work out their own daily class schedules and daily routines. They are not done yet but they will be meeting and working on schedules shortly. We have academics spread out throughout the day. It is a full day program but most preschool lesson activities are done by early afternoon. The teachers will email families to introduce themselves and share this information. They will each have a mixture of group times, centers where a couple students can play together and rotations are done. Individual activities will be set up as well. Indoor and outdoor play included. There will be rest time incorporated in each day.
Student Supply Drop Off Days:
Students will have an opportunity to drop off school supplies on Sept. 10th and 11th. We will send out a sign up genius to schedule family times. Students will enter the school and come directly to their classrooms to unpack and organize their belongings with their teacher in the room.
School District Purchasing Supplies for Students in District:
We have not been informed about this, it may be best for you to contact your school district directly to see what you need to do to acquire these supplies.
Who Will Be Assisting The Principal During This Difficult Year?
Mrs. Kerpka, Miss Casola, and Mrs. Clohessy are all members of the Safety Committee and will be assisting Mrs. Balmer in enforcing and revising the safety protocols during the year.
What are you doing to keep faculty happy and safe during this year?
We are listening to their concerns and working to assure that they feel safe while in the building. They had an opportunity to share their concerns, make suggestions, etc. at a previous meeting. We will be providing training and PD the week before school starts to make sure that all teachers and staff are comfortable with our new protocols and procedures.
How do teachers feel about coming back to school?
The entire staff is eager to return to school and to work in person with our students, who we have greatly missed. While we all have some hesitations about coming back to school, we are all committed to maintaining a safe environment for all. The teachers and staff of SMSA are ready to do all we can to keep your child safe and healthy while still providing them the ingredients for success, powerful minds, prayerful hearts and helpful hands.
All teachers will be conducting benchmark assessments to see where their students are at the beginning of the year. We know that there may have been a slight slide in academic levels given how we ended the year and will use these benchmark assessments to guide our lessons and teaching. By using these assessments we will be able to provide our students with strong academics that SMSA always provides. We will also continue to make sure we have an open line of communication with parents regarding their child’s academic, as well as their social emotional progress, as the school year begins.
All staff will be trained and have been made aware that there will be no wiggle room or exceptions made this year regarding being lax on health and safety protocols. All new protocols will be expected to be followed by staff and staff will all be in charge of making sure all students, visitors, and other providers are complying with health and safety procedures at all times.
At this time we are working on creating online fundraising opportunities. There will be more information to come as to what these fundraising opportunities will be.
For the time being PTSA meetings will be held virtually so that there is less influx of people into the school who are not students/staff. PTSA will be sending out notices of times and links to meets as meetings get closer. They still will have opportunities for parents to complete PACE hours.
At this time we will be watching and streaming Mass virtually every Friday. We will do this until we get information from Father that we can return safely to Church.
It seems that this would be the best time to maximize the use of our building and not a good time to reduce staff:
Yes, this is correct, however, with the impact of COVID coupled with new requirements for safety, and requirements from the Diocese these cuts were necessary for the viability of our school. They allowed us to submit a balanced budget to the Diocese.
There are plenty of activities that can be done at home. Especially with online fundraising. We could also use help with sanitizing and cleaning the building if anyone is interested in helping with that. As the year progresses we may need to adjust the PACE requirements if we do not have enough work to go around. A parent inquired if PACE hours could be used to help clean the building. THAT WOULD BE AWESOME if we have a parent who would like to coordinate this that would be great!