Letter from District Superintendent
Dear Members of the Questar III School Community:
Questar III BOCES has been working over the summer to update its plan for the opening of school in September 2021. This document outlines our COVID protocols and procedures based on guidance and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State Education Department, and New York State Health Department. In addition to reviewing feedback from state and federal agencies Questar III continues to meet weekly with the departments of health and superintendents in Rensselaer, Columbia, and Greene counties.
We will open the new school year as we closed, continuing to use the layered mitigation strategies that allowed us to remain open last school year. The health and safety of our students, staff, and families remains our top priority and we remain committed to doing our part to minimize the impact of the virus within our facilities.
We recognize the magnitude, complexity, and significance of this work to safely keep our schools open amid the spread of the Delta variant. As a BOCES, we will continue to plan, implement, evaluate, and adapt to the best of our ability to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff – and the best opportunity for our students to learn.
Much of this plan is based on protocols implemented last school year with success. The biggest change for instructional programs will be the allowance to move to 3-foot physical distance in the classrooms. We will also discontinue the daily onsite temperature checks, but we will keep the daily online health screening questionnaire. We ask families and staff to please complete this online form prior to coming to school or work (and to stay home if you are sick).
This plan is designed to be a fluid document that changes as the state or federal government updates its guidance. Looking ahead, we expect that the pandemic will require us to continue to think and work differently – and to remain flexible, adaptive, and patient.
Thank you for taking the time to read this plan and for your continued assistance in following our protocols. Any questions or concerns may be directed to COVID19@questar.org.
Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
Questar III BOCES
Communication/Family and Community Engagement
Health and Safety/Facilities
Budget and Fiscal Matters
Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism
Technology and Connectivity
Teaching and Learning
Career and Technical Education (CTE)
Athletics and Extracurricular Activities
Bilingual Education and World Languages
At Questar III our primary commitment is to the students, families, and districts we serve. Our priority is the health, safety, and well-being of our entire school community. When the 2021-2022 school year begins, school and campus activities will look similar to the previous school year. Due to the emergence of the Delta variant and the ever-evolving health and safety measures put in place to protect our communities, we also must adapt, evolve and be flexible. Our students depend on us to lead the way. And so, in developing this plan we have committed ourselves to the following guiding principles.
1. Our priority is the health, safety, and well-being of our entire school community.
2. Consistent monitoring of facilities, students, and staff in adherence to federal, state, and local guidance will strengthen our ability to protect our community and provide stability.
3. All students must have equitable opportunities to access educational resources and support services, and we must work tirelessly to identify and remove barriers.
4. Strong two-way communication with students and their families, educators, staff, and other community members will help us overcome challenges, grow partnerships, and reach shared goals.
5. We must fully consider the unique needs, concerns, and experiences of our diverse community members and allow flexibility while fully supporting mandated COVID-19 containment measures.
6. We must include advocates for special populations in our work and consider the impact our decisions and actions may have on members of these populations to identify and take measures to correct any inequities, exclusions, and oversights.
7. We must recognize that communities are emerging from historic disruption and identify mindful academically integrated activities and larger initiatives to support students’ physical safety, social emotional well-being, and mental health.
This 2021-2022 Fall Opening Plan will guide the new year for Questar III’s educational programs and facilities. It follows the recommendations set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New York State Education Department (NYSED) and our local health departments. This plan also recognizes the possibility that we may need to alternate between in-person and remote learning during the year due to recommendations from our partnering schools and agencies, any executive order that may be issued by the Governor, local assessment of infection level and transmission of the virus, and/or coordinated community response efforts. However, it is our hope that this document will relieve anxiety caused by a lengthened state of uncertainty. Further, it is our hope that open collaboration and communication with our stakeholders will provide clarity and consistency while allowing for creative and flexible solutions for issues as they arise.
The plan outlined in this document represents the balancing of the myriad considerations Questar III will address in opening schools safely and in sustaining their safe operation. Given pandemic conditions are still present, this plan recognizes the integral role that social-emotional well-being plays in students’ development, while focusing on academic instruction that will enhance student achievement and address learning loss. Questar III further recognizes that to be successful in this work it must also sustain its staff in a way that helps them feel empowered to connect, heal, and build greater capacity to support our students, colleagues, and families. Given the success of last year at the height of the pandemic, Questar III will open as it closed, continuing to utilize the multi-layered mitigation strategies that allowed programs to remain fully open last year.
Of course, as with every opening plan being developed throughout New York State, this document is fluid and will change as necessary based on guidance from the Governor, CDC, NYSDOH, Local DOH, and the NYSED. We strongly believe the services described throughout this plan are in the best interests of our students, families, staff, and community.
As we continue this work, the following “next steps” will help us to further develop, revise, and implement a successful School Reopening Plan.
|Questar III School Reopening Plan Next Steps|
|-Align plan with any future mandates or considerations issued by the NYSED and revise according to any updated federal, state, and local guidance|
|-Review and revise the facilities plan based on any future mandates or considerations|
|-Revise the 2021-2022 school calendar as necessary|
|-Review and select instructional plans and strategies for modifying instruction as needed|
|-Review and implement technology plan and ensure that students and staff have access to technology at home|
|-Review and revise professional development plan based on recommendations included in this document as practical|
|-Ensure that all facilities are prepared for reopening|
|-Review and revise Human Resource policies as necessary|
|-Communicate with partner schools and other stakeholders regarding plans for reopening|
|-Ensure that the School Emergency Response Team (SERT) reviews the updated Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) in response to the pandemic|
This plan includes procedures that apply in the following schools:
Questar III Facilities and Offsite Programs
A. Career & Technical Education
Columbia-Greene Educational Center
Rensselaer Educational Center
B. New Visions Programs
EPICH at University of Albany
Medical: Samaritan Hospital
Scientific Research & World Health: University at Albany’s Health Sciences Campus
STEM at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
Visual & Performing Arts: The Arts Center of the Capital Region
C. Special Education
Academy at REC
Columbia-Greene Educational Center
Columbia High School
George Washington School
Paul Puccio School at Maple Hill Rensselaer Academy
Rensselaer City High School
Robin Sobol Transition Academy
Sackett Educational Center
Ichabod Crane Primary
Montgomery C. Smith Elementary, Hudson CSD
E. Tech Valley High School
F. Questar III and HVCC STEM High School
G. Adult Education
Columbia-Greene Educational Center
Rensselaer Educational Center
Questar III strives to provide transparency through open communication and information sharing with families, staff, and community members. We are mindful that maintaining open lines of communication allows community members to express concerns, provide valuable , and reduces uncertainties and anxieties that are already heightened during a pandemic.
Questar III seeks to ensure that all community members know where and how to access information related to the Opening Plan. This organizational plan and any ongoing updates will be posted to the Questar III website (www.questar.org).
Questar III has designated its Director of Health, Safety, and Operations, Craig Hansen, as its COVID-19 Safety Coordinator and main contact for any COVID-related reporting and inter-agency communications. Questar III has also established a dedicated email address (COVID19@questar.org) for any COVID-related questions, concerns, or feedback. In addition to all existing channels of communication (principals, school counselors, etc.), Craig Hansen is available for any questions or concerns that arise amongst school community members.
Over the past year Questar III has demonstrated what is possible through collaboration and the implementation of layered mitigation strategies. We also gathered feedback from our stakeholders via online surveys, virtual town halls, open virtual informational meetings and Q & A opportunities, and one-on-one outreach and communications. Stakeholders are encouraged to continue to provide feedback as this process will be ongoing and we value your input.
Questar III will implement the following practices to clearly communicate any COVID-19 related changes, requirements, and expectations to students, staff, families, and visitors as described below.
- Questar III will continue to provide information to students, parents, guardians, staff, and the larger school community through SchoolMessenger calls/texts, social media, virtual town halls (via Zoom or other online platforms), mailings, emails, online trainings, building level letters/newsletters, website (www.questar.org), and the local news media.
Topics of communication may include but are not limited to (1) notification of any upcoming feedback opportunities, (2) updates from federal, state, and local sources, (3) resources that can be used to communicate and reinforce physical distancing, school entry/dismissal, hand hygiene, proper face covering wearing, and respiratory hygiene practices, (4) any changes in information about how to contact designated personnel, (5) information about schedule changes or other important logistical information, (6) information about access to technology and related technical support, (7) reminders about personal versus school responsibilities.
Communication will be provided for special populations including persons with visual and hearing impairments. Communication will also be provided in the language and mode of preference for those who speak home languages other than English.
- Questar III and its individual school sites intend to provide regular communications that may include updates, reminders, and/or general informational communications. Before students return to school, Questar III programs will communicate attendance policies and procedures, information about arrival and dismissal, and other pertinent opening day information.
- Questar III will notify those affected by COVID related building closures or changes to in-person instructional schedules. Questar III will send out such notices via multiple means. This may include but not limited to parent letters/newsletter, robocalls, emails, announcements on the Questar III website, or postings on social media.
- Questar III buildings will include signage, health and safety notices, descriptions of procedures/expectations, physical distancing markers on floors, and hygiene posters reminding students, staff, and necessary visitors of personal responsibilities (e.g., hand washing instructions, appropriate use of hand sanitizer, disposal of certain personal items).
- Questar III willprovide training to all staff and students to ensure a common understanding of protocols and procedures, expectations, requirements, options, and ongoing changes related to school operations throughout the pandemic. Training topics will include but not limited to hand hygiene best practices, proper face coverings and their use, respiratory hygiene, distancing, and other health and safety topics.
Questar III acknowledges the importance of clear communication and meaningful engagement in keeping our buildings open and students engaged. Through our collaborative efforts we have learned much already, and we continue to encourage all community members to communicate concerns and challenges. The information that follows is intended to provide full transparency and a comprehensive outline of current expectations, responsibilities, and required procedures so that all community members can develop a full, shared understanding of Questar III’s plan.
For convenient reference, contact information and links are listed below:
Questar III BOCES District Superintendent – 518-477-8771
Questar COVID-19 Safety Coordinator – 518-477-8771 | COVID19@questar.org
This section outlines facility compliance and health and safety requirements in alignment with the CDC, local health departments and current New York State COVID-19 mandates. Questar III Director of Health & Safety, Craig Hansen, will serve as the COVID Safety Coordinator. The COVID Safety Coordinator is the central contact for school building leaders, staff, families, and other school community stakeholders and is responsible for ensuring that the BOCES is in alignment with local, state, and federal guidance as well as best practices. Additionally, emails can be directed to a monitored email address dedicated to COVID specific communications (COVID19@questar.org).
The health and safety of the children and adults in our schools is paramount. Health and safety considerations must always come first in every decision made and every action taken by our BOCES. Whether instruction is provided in-person, remotely, or through a hybrid model, schools have a significant role to play in communicating with and educating school communities about the everyday preventive actions they can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Prevention is accomplished by following health authorities’ recommendations in the following areas:
- Health Screenings
- Healthy Hygiene Practices
- Physical Distancing
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Face Coverings/Masks
- Management of Ill/Symptomatic Persons
- Cleaning and Disinfection
Each of these categories is essential as they represent the minimum standards. Additional considerations are based on best practices and/or recommendations from the CDC, the NYSDOH and the local health departments. These will be reviewed periodically to ensure BOCES plan alignment.
I. Health Screenings
Health screenings will be conducted for both staff upon arrival at Questar III facilities. Online health screenings will also need to be completed for students by parents/guardians daily. Parents/guardians, students, and staff will be provided with further information about return to school/work procedures and educational resources regarding the careful observation of symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, the Questar III Communications Department will provide parents and guardians with COVID-19 protocol reminders throughout the school year via the platforms and methods explained in the preceding “Communications/Family and Community Engagement” section of this plan.
A. Screening Questionnaire/Collection of Information
The screening questionnaire will be used to determine whether an individual has:
- Knowingly been in close or proximate contact in the past 10 days with anyone who has tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 or who has or had symptoms of COVID-19.
- Tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in the past 10 days.
- Experienced any symptoms of COVID-19, including a temperature of 100° F or greater in the past 10 days.
- Questar III BOCES will maintain records that confirm individuals were screened and will document positive or negative results of such screenings as required, but individual health and personal information will not be recorded.
B. Health Screenings Upon Arrival
Firstly, symptomatic students or staff members must follow CDC’s Stay Home When You Are Sick guidance unless otherwise directed by a healthcare provider or the local health department. Questar III will continue to require staff to complete daily screenings upon arrival at their assigned locations. Similarly, parents/guardians are encouraged to perform health screening/temperature checks each morning before sending their child(ren) to school via bus or other means. Individual Questar III instructional programs will provide additional program or site-specific screening information to parents/guardians, as necessary.
Upon entering a Questar III building or site, completion of the following general safety protocols will be required.
|Staff||Daily completion of the online COVID-19 Mandated Daily Screening will be required.|
|Students||Completion of a screening questionnaire will be required prior to arrival (unless the home district has conducted this screening before transporting the student to Questar III programs). All student drivers must also follow health screening protocols before arrival.|
|Visitors & Others||Visitor entry into school buildings will be limited to official school business. Please notify an appropriate building contract well in advance of arrival to make sure your entry has been approved. Completion of a health screenings questionnaire will be required for all contractors, vendors, and other visitors upon arrival.|
Building and site access will be granted only after an individual has successfully passed screening requirements and is properly wearing an appropriate face mask.
C. Symptom Evaluation & Suspected Illness Dismissal
Parents/guardians, students, and all staff are advised that any person with a temperature of 100° F or greater and/or who exhibits symptoms of the COVID-19 virus infection, that cannot otherwise be accounted for, will not be allowed to remain in the building or facility. Students or staff exhibiting these signs (with no other known reasonable explanation) will be sent to the school health office for an assessment by the school nurse. Students will be supervised in the isolation area while awaiting evaluation and/or transport home. Administrators will contact a parent/guardian for pick-up of a symptomatic student when a school nurse is not available. Symptomatic staff members will be sent home. Questar III nurses and/or administration will refer symptomatic students and staff to their healthcare provider to provide resources on COVID-19 testing.
Per the NYSDOH guidance, all school students, teachers, and staff with new or worsening symptoms of COVID-19 must be excluded from school, regardless of vaccination status, and either (a) provide a negative COVID test result, or (b) remain excluded from school for a minimum of 10 calendar days from symptom onset, prior to returning to school.Following is a list of common COVID-19 symptoms identified by the CDC. This list is not all inclusive as some individuals may display other symptoms or none at all:
In addition, staff and students should also observe others for signs of any type of illness such as:
- Rapid or difficulty breathing (without recent physical activity)
- Fatigue, and/or irritability
- Frequent use of the bathroom
Students and staff are required to notify the school building administrator or their supervisor when they develop symptoms or if their answers to the questionnaire change during or outside school hours. This would also include any related testing results.
II. Healthy Hygiene Practices & Notices
Guidance, recommendations, and reminders for healthy hygiene practices will be communicated regularly to all school community members throughout the course of the school year. Questar III programs will provide hand and respiratory hygiene instruction and reminders to students along with adequate time and supplies to allow for frequent and thorough hand hygiene. Signs and posters will be posted throughout school facilities in highly visible or frequently used areas such as but not limited to (1) entrances, (2) restrooms, (3) communal areas, (4) classrooms, (5) staff areas, and (6) administrative offices.
Reminders and instructions related to healthy hygiene practices may be delivered in person, by video, or via announcements, posters, and signs. Such notices and communications will remind school community members that they should:
- Stay home if feeling sick or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms;
- Report symptoms of, and any possible exposure to, COVID-19;
- Properly wear, remove, store, clean, and, when necessary, discard PPE/masks;
- Practice appropriate and thorough hand hygiene;
- Follow respiratory hygiene and coughing etiquette guidelines; and
- Adhere to physical distancing requirements
A. Hand Hygiene
Students and staff must practice thorough hand hygiene to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Questar III programs will develop school day schedules that allow frequent and thorough hand hygiene. Traditional hand washing with soap and water, including lathering for a minimum of 20 seconds, is the preferred method.
At a minimum, staff and students should wash hands as follows:
- Anytime hands are visibly soiled.
- Upon coming in from outdoors.
- Upon entering the building and each classroom.
- Before and after snacks and lunch.
- After using the bathroom.
- After helping a student with toileting.
- After sneezing, wiping, or blowing your nose, or coughing into your hands; and
- After using shared objects or surfaces (e.g., electronic devices, musical instruments, writing utensils, toys, desks, tabletops, CTE program tools/equipment, and therapy equipment).
Use of school approved alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) is required when soap and water are not immediately available. However, soap and water must be used when hands are visibly dirty. Signage will be placed near hand sanitizer stations to remind students and staff that visibly soiled hands must be washed with soap and water. ABHS will be provided throughout common areas (e.g., entrances, communal areas) and near high touch surfaces. Students or staff that may be unable to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers for health reasons are asked to wash their hands with soap and water more frequently. Staff will assist students who are unable to wash their hands on their own.
NYSED’s Memo Regarding Handwashing Recommendations and Alcohol-based Hand Sanitizer Use in Schools provides further information regarding the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
B. Respiratory Hygiene
The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. Therefore, it is important that students and staff cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and that they dispose of the tissue appropriately.
Supplies of tissues and no-touch trash cans will be available in each room when feasible. lf no tissue is available, staff and students are reminded to use the inside of the elbow (or shirt sleeve) to cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Individuals should always perform appropriate hand hygiene after sneezing, coughing, and handling dirty tissues or other soiled material.
III. Physical Distancing
Physical distancing means keeping a six (6) foot space in all directions between yourself and others. Questar III will evaluate all instructional programs and related spaces to ensure physical distancing can be safely conducted as is required in all Questar III facilities and programs. Three (3) foot physical distancing will be allowed in classrooms between students. Staff to student physical distancing will remain at six (6) feet unless circumstances require close proximity to meet student needs.
A. Arrival and Dismissal
Student drop-off and pick-up will occur in designated areas to limit contact and to reduce entry of parents/guardians into buildings whenever possible per the NYSED guidance. In the event parents/guardian visits are required, physical distancing and face coverings must be used.
Multiple entrances and exits, along with designated physical distance markers in supervised spaces, will be used to carry out appropriate physical distancing. Student drivers will be required to comply with set protocols. District and Questar III contracted transportation will be required to assign seating for students going to New Visions and Tech Valley High School programs. Any questions related to other transportation providers should be directed to your child’s home district. Questar III will limit outside visitors to official business and any parent/guardian exceptions as deemed necessary by building administration.
B. Classroom Considerations
Individual Questar III programs will ensure that students are assigned to groupings/cohorts and that limit interaction and gatherings on a daily basis. To maximize space, classroom desks/tables/furniture and items of non-instructional value may need to be removed. Desks and tables may be orientated to face in the same direction to reduce potential droplet transmission.
Windows may be opened to improve ventilation when health or safety are not at risk (e.g., allergies, elevation). Movement throughout the school will be reduced where possible by keeping students within a defined area or classroom and by modifying class schedules or coordinating class transitions.
C. Special Subject Teachers
Special subject teachers (e.g., art, music) or service providers may go to individual classrooms rather than rotating all students through a shared space. Use of shared supplies and equipment will be limited to one group of students, and cleaning is required in between cohorts.
A distance of 6 feet in all directions is required to be maintained between individuals while participating in activities that require voice projection (e.g., singing) or aerobic activity (e.g., physical education).
D. Restrooms/Lockers/Shared Spaces
Staggered use of restrooms will be implemented to limit contact. Restroom use may be monitored by staff to ensure adherence to face covering, physical distancing, and hand hygiene guidelines and to monitor facility cleanliness.
Use of alternate classrooms and other spaces where students, faculty, and staff gather (e.g., hallways, entryways) will be monitored and/or restricted. Visual aids and demarcation labels will be used to illustrate traffic flow and appropriate spacing in hallways and other areas.
Lockers and other student storage assignments will be grouped by class cohorts to coordinate staggered use and limit contact. Students may not use another student’s designated spaces or personal belongings for any reason.
In person student assemblies, events, performances, field trips, and school-wide parent/guardian meetings may be allowed with restrictions.
The use of alternate spaces such as classrooms will be assessed for breakfast and lunch use. lf lunchrooms are used, Questar III will ensure classroom cohorts are grouped together while adhering to physical distancing rules.
E. Provisions for Medically Vulnerable/High-Risk Groups
The groups listed below are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 and may need added or alternative provisions for physical distancing. Anyone affected by medically vulnerable/high risk group factors should consult with their healthcare professional regarding prevention. For example, in some cases students who have household members who are in high-risk groups may require fully remote learning. Program administration will review accommodations to meet the needs of these students.
Staff who are at higher risk of severe illness should contact their supervisor and the Director of Human Resources to discuss concerns.
|High Risk Factors include but are not limited to the following:|
Additionally, students with special needs or medically fragile (e.g., neurologic, genetic, or metabolic conditions, or those who have congenital heart disease) are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 than other children. Questar III is mindful that the families of students at higher risk are already under significant stress. Per NYSED guidance, it is important for parents/ guardians to work with their child’s healthcare providers so that an informed decision can be made on how to best meet the child’s needs at school while protecting health and safety. Transitioning these students back to school will require careful planning and coordination of all providers.
Students with special needs or those with certain medical considerations who may not be able to maintain physical distancing, adequately conduct independent hand or respiratory hygiene, or wear a face covering or mask must be documented through the Committee on Special Education or through the 504 Committee to receive accommodations.
Finally, if the parents/guardians choose not to send their child back to school, Questar III will assist in developing appropriate alternate educational delivery modes, as necessary. Please see the section on CTE or Special Education for more details.
IV. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Questar III has reviewed the OSHA COVID-19 guidance and will take measures to protect staff from potential exposures according to their exposure risk pursuant to the Questar III BOCES Infectious Disease Plan. The CDC recommends that school-based healthcare personnel use Healthcare Facilities: Managing Operations During COVID19 Pandemic guidance when providing care to ill persons as part of infection control protocols.
Questar III will ensure that all staff receive training appropriate to their duties and will provide the necessary forms of PPE required for staff to safely fulfil those duties. An adequate supply of PPE has been acquired and will be maintained according to the CDC and the NYSED guidance. Parents/guardians of students with special conditions will receive notice of any necessary changes to the delivery of care. Any person with special concerns is encouraged to reach out to their supervisor or school contact or to send an email to COVID19@questar.org.
Universal indoor mask use is required for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status and community transmission levels per NYSDOH requirements.
When teachers, staff, and students consistently and correctly wear a mask, they protect themselves as well as others. Consistent and correct mask use is especially important indoors and in crowded settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Per the CDC, mask must meet the following minimum requirements:
- Have two (2) or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
- Completely cover your nose and mouth
- Fit snugly against the sides of your face and do not have gaps
- Preferred to have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask
Questar III employees may wear their own acceptable face covering with approval. Questar III will provide masks for students and staff who forget their own or need a replacement. Employees with healthcare provider documentation stating they are not medically able to tolerate face covering are exempt.
B. Mask Breaks
Wearing masks in an all-day setting such as school may be challenging for students (especially younger children), so scheduled mask breaks are important. Questar III will allow for the removal of masks in instructional settings when (1) all individuals are appropriately physically distanced as described in Section 2 “Physical Distancing” above. Questar III will provide training to students and staff on the proper use of masks and will additionally communicate expectations and requirements to the larger school community via signage, instructional videos, or documents, or through other means as described in Section 1 “Communications.” All visitors who enter our facilities will be required to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing.
Masks may not be placed on children younger than 2 years old and:
- Anyone who has trouble breathing.
- Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance; or
- Students whose health or mental health would be impaired by wearing such coverings, or where such covering would present a challenge, distraction, or obstruction to education services and instruction or
- Any child that is allowed to sleep (i.e., Pre-K naptimes)
With prior approval from a program administrator or supervisor, students and staff may use alternate PPE (i.e., face coverings that are transparent at or around the mouth) for instruction or interventions that require visualization of the movement of the lips and/or mouths (e.g., speech therapy). These alternate coverings may also be used to benefit certain students (e.g., hearing impaired) whose educational interactions are equitably enhanced by seeing more of a staff member’s face.
V. Management of Ill Persons
To safeguard the health and safety of all, students, and staff with symptoms of illness must be sent to the health office for assessment. The school nurse will assess whether any known non-contagious causes (i.e., asthma, allergies, chronic health conditions) may be presenting the same symptoms as COVID-19. If a school nurse is not available to verify an assessment, Questar III will isolate and dismiss any student or staff member who has a fever or other symptoms of COVID-19 that have not been previously documented by a licensed healthcare provider. Students will be escorted from isolation to the parent/guardian. Such individuals will be directed to follow up with a licensed health care provider. Questar III facilities and programs will continue the use of designated isolation rooms separate from the nurses’ offices, where possible.
The following subsections describe plans in more detail.
A. If Students or Staff become Ill with Symptoms of COVID-19 at School
Questar III will follow Education Law § 906, which provides [w]henever…a student in the public schools shows symptoms of any communicable or infectious disease reportable under the public health law that imposes a significant risk of infection of others in the school, he or she shall be excluded from the school and sent home immediately, in a safe and proper conveyance. The director of school health services shall immediately notify a local public health agency of any disease reportable under the public health law. The director of school health services, or other health professionals acting upon direction or referral of such director, may make such evaluations of teachers and any other school employees, school buildings and premises as, in their discretion, they may deem necessary to protect the health of the students and staff.
School staff must immediately report any students or staff illness to the school nurse or other designated school staff. Such reports should be made in compliance with FERPA and Education Law 2-d. If nurses choose to go to classrooms to make assessments of students, this also should be done in a manner that protects the student’s confidentiality. Similarly, all student assessments must also be done in a manner that protects student confidentiality.
If there are several students awaiting school nurse care, students will wait at least six (6) feet apart as designated by markers or as directed by school staff. Students suspected of having COVID-19 awaiting transport home by the parent/guardian must be isolated in a supervised room. Multiple students suspected of COVID-19 may wait in a dedicated COVID-19 isolation area if they can be separated by at least six feet and wearing masks. When enhanced physical distancing precautions cannot be followed, a mask (e.g., cloth or surgical) will be provided to the student (excluding those exceptions discussed in Section IV, A: Masks).
School nurses and other school health professionals whose duties include providing care to ill students and staff will be trained in the use of appropriate PPE, care protocols, and identification of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), and other necessary information or precautions. The Questar III Nurse Practitioner will be notified and consulted for dismissal recommendations when any student or staff presents unexplained COVID-19 symptoms.
Questar III will notify the parent/guardian (or in cases of emergency symptoms, call 911) if their ill child symptoms are suspect of MIS-C (including fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, and feeling extra tired). The nurse or other school healthcare provider will recommend that any student with a potential MIS-C case receive immediate healthcare provider follow up.
CDC and NYSDOH Precautions
|The CDC and NYSDOH have provided the following guidelines to be used after a potential or confirmed COVID-19 case is discovered.|
B. Return to School after Illness
If a person who has seen a healthcare provider is not diagnosed as being positive for COVID-19 symptoms, they may return to school when (1) there is no fever present (without the use of fever reducing medicines) and they have felt well for 24 hours; (2) If the healthcare provider diagnosed the individual with another condition and provides documentation recommending a return to school.
A person presenting COVID-19 symptoms who is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a healthcare provider (either by positive test or symptom consideration) or does not get a COVID-19 test, they must not be at school and should stay at home until (1) ten days after the individual first had symptoms; (2) at least three days since the individual last had a fever (without using fever reducing medicine); AND (3) at least three days since the individual last experienced any other symptoms. However, the CDC provides specific guidance (Discontinuation of Isolation for Persons with COVID-19 Not in Healthcare Settings) for individuals on home isolation related to COVID-19. Such individuals should communicate with the local DOH to determine when they may return to school.
Questar III BOCES will follow the requirements from the local health department of residency for the individual for return to work or school. The exception would be for any fully vaccinated student or employee such individuals may return while asymptomatic. It is recommended that any fully vaccinated individual should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure, even if they do not have symptoms, and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative.
C. COVID-19 Testing/Contact Tracing
Questar III BOCES will recommend testing for any symptomatic individuals (CDC Interim Considerations for K-12 School Administrators for SARS-CoV-2 Testing). With the release of the NYSDOH guidance, INTERIM NYSDOH GUIDANCE FOR CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION IN P-12 SCHOOLS DURING THE 2021-2022 ACADEMIC YEAR, COVID testing will be required for unvaccinated staff on a weekly basis. For students, it is required schools offer similar weekly testing. Questar III BOCES has connected with its local health departments with this newly implemented requirement. Testing will begin as soon as the counties have received their individual ELC funding to support this initiative.
Questar III BOCES will be provided both surveillance and point of care testing resources through our local health departments as made available by funding from the NYSDOH. It is anticipated that 10 percent of the unvaccinated staff and students will be tested weekly. Point of care testing materials and supplies will also be provided to test symptomatic individuals in school. Similarly, contact tracing is a public health function performed by local health departments. Questar III will cooperate with state and local health department contact tracing by:
- conducting initial contact tracing investigations to identify individuals who may be subject to quarantine
- keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members.
- ensuring student schedules are up to date.
- keeping a log of any visitors which includes date, time, and destination within the building; and assisting local health departments in tracing all contacts of the individual at school in accordance with the the latest CDC guidance.
All community members are reminded that confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state laws and regulations. School staff should not try to determine who is to be excluded from school based on contact without guidance and direction from the local health department.
D. School Closures
Questar III will collaborate with the local health departments to determine the parameters, conditions, or metrics (e.g., increased absenteeism or increased illness in the school community) that will serve as early warning signs that positive COVID-19 cases may be increasing beyond an acceptable level. The District Superintendent will additionally consider closing school if absentee rates impact the school’s ability to operate safely. Questar III may choose to modify operations prior to closing to help mitigate a rise in cases. Questar III will consult with their medical director and/or the local health department when making such decisions.
VI. Cleaning and Disinfection
Questar III will continue to provide frequent and high touch cleaning and disinfection of school buildings (Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection; Cleaning and Disinfection Decision Tool ). The Questar III Operations & Maintenance Department will maintain logs at each site that include the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection. This will include the scheduling of frequent high touch surface cleaning for areas such as:
All cleaning and disinfection will be performed in accordance with CDC and NYSDOH guidelines. Questar III will continue to ensure that only EPA registered and NYSDEC approved disinfection products (EPA approved disinfectants; DEC) are used to prevent COVID-19 spread. If EPA-approved disinfectants are not available, approved alternative disinfectants will be used (e.g., 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water or 70% alcohol solutions) are not available, approved alternative disinfectants will be used (e.g., 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water or 70% alcohol solutions).
Assigned staff will be trained to properly conduct any cleaning required as part of their duties. Students will not be present when disinfectants are in use and will not participate in cleaning and/or disinfection activities, except for CTE students who will continue to be trained in the appropriate use of cleaning techniques as part of their educational program (e.g., Culinary, Intro to Foods, Cosmetology, Auto Tech, Auto Services, Heavy Equipment).
Playgrounds located at George Washington School and Paul Puccio School at Maple Hill will be maintained and cleaned by appropriate personnel in accordance with CDC guidance which requires routine cleaning of equipment and high touch surfaces.
B. School Health Office Cleaning
Cots, bathrooms, and equipment will be cleaned after each use. Disposable items (e.g., disposable thermometers and pillow covers) will be used as much as possible. All Questar III nurses’ offices will be equipped with a GLO UV light disinfection unit. Units will be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer and will be run on a 24-hour cycle. The nurse’s offices and any identified isolation rooms will be cleaned daily and after use.
More information on cleaning health office equipment is on the New York State Center for School Health’s website under COVID-19.
VII. Other Considerations
A. Health Physicals and Screenings
As a result of the current challenges, NYSED has made the following special provisions for screenings and physicals:
- For exams conducted on or before January 31, 2021, other proof of a health examination will be accepted beyond the Required NYS School Health Examination Form.
- Beginning February 1, 2021, health examinations must be documented on the Required NYS School Health Examination Form or an electronic health record equivalent.
- Parents/guardians will have additional time to schedule and complete health examinations required for school.
- 2021-2022 hearing, vision, and scoliosis screenings will resume in the new school year.
B. Safety Drills
Education Law § 807 requires that schools conduct 8 evacuation, and 4 lockdown drills each school year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, drills will still be required. All drills will be coordinated through the Questar III Health and Safety Office. As of September 7, 2021, all drills will be conducted in a manner similar to last year pending clarification from NYSED.
Conducting drills is an important part of keeping students and staff safe in an emergency; however, Questar III may implement new protocols within guidelines to minimize the risk of spreading infection during drills. As part of school reopening orientation and training, students will be instructed in the event of an actual emergency, maintaining physical distancing in an actual emergency may not be possible and should not be the first priority.
Safety drill modifications will continue to include conducting drills on a “staggered” schedule where classrooms evacuate separately rather than all at once to minimize contact in hallways, stairwells, and exits. In this circumstance, all students in the school building will participate in a drill during the same school day.
Similarly, lockdown drills may be conducted on a “staggered” schedule with smaller numbers of students present to maintain physical distancing. If conditions limit “hiding”/ “sheltering” during lockdown drills, all students will be provided with an overview of how to shelter or hide in the classroom.
Questar III will ensure that all students are receiving instruction in emergency procedures and participate in drills conducted when they are on campus. If schools use a “hybrid” model that reduces student numbers on alternating schedules, Questar III will schedule drills to ensure that all students receive instruction in emergency procedures and can participate in drills while in attendance on campus.
Questar III BOCES programs will work closely with home districts to follow School Food Authorities (SFA) policies when communicating (through guidelines described in Section I “Communications”) about school meal services, eligibility, options, and changes in operations. The building principals will serve as the main contact for receiving and responding to related communications.
Appropriate physical distancing will be maintained in cafeterias, eating areas, and classrooms to provide the necessary meals to all students in attendance. Layered mitigation protocols will be incorporated into for food areas. These include:
- Hand washing, hand sanitizer before and after meals;
- Limiting mask removal to the duration of eating (consider < 15 minute periods);
- Cleaning and disinfection between table use;
- Provide increased ventilation of seating areas.
- Cohorting where possible
- Seating charts should be used
Food sharing will be restricted to pre-packaged items.
All meals provided to Questar III programs are delivered from contracted school districts. Appropriate precautions will be taken to continue to protect students with food allergies, including attention to food menu offerings. Delivered meals will be handled according to applicable health and safety guidelines and will include glove use by staff during delivery and the cleaning of surfaces prior to meal consumption. Students will be provided with time to perform hand washing before and after eating. Students will be appropriately physically distanced so masks can be removed when eating. Masks must be put back on immediately after eating. Sharing of food and beverages will not be allowed. Staff will be required to clean and disinfect surfaces after meals are consumed. Posters and other aids on hygiene reminders will be displayed.
In the event of remote instruction, home districts will provide meals to students. To avoid oversights, Questar III program administrators will contact home districts to ensure meals are being provided to students who would normally eat meals at Questar III programs.
Questar III BOCES only contracts for transportation needs for New Visions programs and field trips. All other transportation is coordinated and provided by home districts. The school bus is an extension of the classroom; therefore, many of the recommendations that apply to school buildings (like physical distancing and frequent cleaning) will apply to the school bus and the contractors that provide services.
A. School Bus Requirements
As outlined in the “Health and Safety” section of this plan, all parents/guardians will be required to ensure their child/children are not experiencing any signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and do not have a temperature of 100° F or greater prior to boarding buses/vans. When students embark and disembark the bus/van, they must follow physical distancing protocols. It is recognized this will increase the time required to load and unload buses/vans at stops.
Students will be required to wear masks on buses (excluding those exceptions discussed in the “Health and Safety: PPE: Masks” section of this plan). However, students who do not have a mask must be provided with one by transportation staff. Students who do not have their own mask can NOT be denied transportation. Questar III students will be required to follow all standard bus rules, and in keeping with mask requirements, will not be allowed to eat or drink while on school transportation.
Questar III expects that all contracted bus vendors will clean/disinfect their buses once a day and that high contact surfaces will be wiped down after any AM and PM runs. School buses will transport passengers with roof hatches or windows slightly opened to provide air flow, except where this would interfere with a student’s medical needs. Questar III will communicate these expectations with all contracted bus vendors so that they may train and provide periodic refreshers to all personnel accordingly.
B. School Bus Staff/Contractor Responsibilities
Transportation carriers will be required to assign seating for all students and should place members of the same household together whenever possible. Students who are exempt from mask wearing will also be assigned to seating that is physically distanced from other students. For any field trips chartered by Questar, Questar staff are responsible for creating seating charts of those in attendance.
School bus drivers, monitors, and attendants must wear face coverings. Those who have direct physical contact with students must wear gloves. Contracted transportation carriers will be responsible for providing this PPE for all school bus staff and should additionally provide hand sanitizer in all transportation facilities (i.e., dispatch offices, break rooms, garages).
Transportation staff should also be informed of proper hand hygiene in keeping with practices described within this document and should be reminded (via signage or other methods) to wash hands before and after AM and PM runs. Contracted Transportation providers must verify that staff will be trained (including periodic refreshers and updates) on identifying the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and all other expectations and requirements described under the “Transportation” section of this plan.
C. Arrival at Program
Questar III will employ physical distancing during bus arrivals and departures. Student drop-off and pick-up will occur in designated areas to limit contact and to reduce the need for parent/guardian building entry. Upon building entry, students will be required to use hand sanitizer and follow all mitigation protocols, including adhering to physical distancing markers.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control FAQs for COVID-19https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-after-vaccination.html
Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools
 Effective February 1, 2020, the 2019-Novel Coronavirus was added to the Public Health Law as a significant threat to the public health, and the NYS Commissioner of Health designated 2019-Novel Coronavirus as a communicable disease under 10 NYCRR Section 2.1.
The guiding definition of social emotional learning (SEL) for Questar III BOCES is “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions,” as defined by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning).
Questar III is committed to the inclusion of SEL and to consideration of our school community members’ states of well-being as an integral part of its reopening plan. In planning for our fall opening, the Questar III planning team thoughtfully discussed and created its Guiding Principles, which are included in the introduction to this document. Although Guiding Principle #7 specifically mentions social emotional well-being, it is the foundation on which all others are built.
It is our goal to support the mental, social, and emotional health of students, staff, and families in a way that will create a culture and a learning environment in which individuals can thrive.
Whether student learning takes place in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid form, we must once again create an interconnected community that honors the unique needs, concerns, and experiences of our diverse community members. In support of this effort, Questar III will emphasize the practice of integrating SEL into academics and will plan for delivery modalities that can effectively meet the diversity of students’ needs. This will require ongoing, in-depth evaluation of our programs, our practices, and of ourselves.
To this end Questar III will:
- Ensure that BOCES-wide and building-level comprehensive counseling program plans (created in consultation with certified school counselors) are further developed, reviewed, and updated as new needs and insights emerge.
- Convene a diverse advisory council so all stakeholders can participate in the development, review, and update of the comprehensive developmental school counseling program plan. This may include but not be limited to families, students, board of education members, school building and/or BOCES leaders, community-based service providers, teachers, certified school counselors, and other pupil personnel service providers, including school social workers and/or school psychologists.
- Share resources that address mental health, behavioral, and emotional needs.
- Provide referrals for support services and programs with emphasis placed on any available telehealth options.
- Provide professional development opportunities for staff that addresses (1) SEL and well-being of students, (2) SEL and well-being of adults, (3) restorative practices, (4) mental health education, (5) systemic racism and implicit bias, (6) culturally and linguistically responsive-sustaining practices, and (7) other related topics.
- Plan community re-engagement activities (e.g., town hall meetings, staff-student-family forums, etc.) to assist students, staff, and families in transitioning back to school.
- Provide consistent student access to BOCES support staff, which includes school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, and/or other support staff.
- Assist staff in embedding SEL practices as a part of academic instruction, whether the delivery is remote, in-person, or in hybrid form.
- Promote the importance of strengthening both staff-student relationships and staff-family relationships.
- Emphasize the need for clear and consistent communication between staff and families.
- Leverage data (e.g., surveys, student progress data, attendance, and engagement data, etc.) to better understand community needs and to develop responsive SEL supports that will build relationships between students, staff, and families.
Questar III BOCES believes that all students can learn and grow towards their fullest potential and ensures equity in access through a Multi-Tiered Support System (MTSS). This includes educational experiences for all students, which includes (Tier 1), targeted or tailored support that is often delivered in smaller group settings (Tier 2), and more individualized and specially designed interventions intended to identify and correct inequities (Tier 3).
MTSS requires teachers, administrators, and other support providers to mindfully consider both whole community needs and individual circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased academic and social-emotional needs at all levels. In planning for SEL staff professional development and academically integrated SEL learning activities, special care must be taken to consider the individual stressors students, their families, and staff members may be experiencing. Integrating restorative and trauma-informed practices will be key in engaging with students and their families.
Some in our community have faced long standing inequities caused by structural racism and social/economic hardships. Others face newly emerged or ongoing physical and mental illnesses, abuse, neglect, loss, or other circumstances that cause increased stress, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, or fear of the unknown. For some the sudden isolation and separation from support systems due to the pandemic has caused difficulty that has impacted student performance and well-being. These challenges may cause anxieties about returning to school.
Questar III recognizes that people perform best in environments that provide consistency, stability, and clear expectations. While we believe that in-person instruction offers numerous irreplaceable benefits that help build strong relationships that bolster learning and personal growth, however; there are many factors beyond our control that may impact our delivery model. It is our hope that our careful planning for both a safe return to in-person instruction and contingencies will help our school community prepare for the coming changes and transitions to remote or hybrid instruction.
In planning for students’ safe return, Questar III has considered several flexible restructuring measures that can be implemented to decrease density and congregation within school buildings and on school grounds. Some of these measures include:
- Staggering schedules and allowing more transition time between classes to reduce congestion in hallways, walkways, and buildings.
- Staggering arrivals and dismissals by program.
- Assigning students to specific entry points where they will follow screening protocols as described in the Health & Safety section of this document; and
Shifting schedules to accommodate physical distancing guidelines.
A. For All Questar III Programs:
- If a building/program is instructed to convert to a hybrid model, the building/program will reduce class size by approximately 50% during in-person learning. Approximately half of student enrollment will be assigned to in-person learning while the other half will be assigned remote learning, with the exception for those programs described otherwise noted. All students will be expected to engage in remote learning activities when they are not on campus, which may include attending live virtual instruction.
- In the event of a Questar III COVID closure, all affected buildings/sites will be closed to all students and employees, and academic instruction will be delivered remotely. Students will be expected to engage in remote learning activities and attend live virtual instruction during this time. In order to maintain consistency and to foster good habits of mind, schedules will resemble in-person classes as much as possible.
The building and program specific subsections below outline any additional building or program specific scheduling guidance.
B. Rensselaer Academy
Rensselaer Academy (RA) will use lengthened instructional periods to reduce the use of shared spaces and potential exposure. Teachers will rotate to instructional areas allowing students to remain in their classroom cohorts.
C. Sackett Center
Students will be grouped in cohorts for homeroom, check and connect, lunch, and study halls to reduce the use of shared spaces and potential exposure. Whenever possible students will be grouped according to academic goals and credit attainment plans, and staff will make every effort to limit group cross-over.
During remote instruction, staff will provide structure by providing students with a predetermined daily schedule that will resemble in-person classes as much as possible.
D. George Washington
George Washington (GW) will use lengthened instructional periods to reduce the use of shared spaces and potential exposure. Teachers will rotate to instructional areas allowing students to remain in their classroom cohorts.
E. Catskill Academy
Students will be grouped in cohorts for homeroom, check and connect, lunch, and study hall to reduce the use of shared spaces and potential exposure. New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) students, elementary, and middle school students will be grouped together as cohorts throughout the day. High School Regents track students will be grouped according to academic goals and credit attainment plans whenever possible, and staff will make every effort to limit group cross-over. Teachers will rotate to instructional areas allowing students to remain in their classroom cohorts.
F. The Academy at Rensselaer Educational Center
The Academy will group students in cohorts for AM/PM homeroom and lunch to reduce the use of shared spaces and potential exposure. Whenever possible students will be grouped according to academic goals and credit attainment plans, and staff will make every effort to limit group cross-over.
G. Robin Sobol Transition Academy
The Robin Sobol Academy will use lengthened instructional periods to reduce the use of shared spaces and potential exposure. Teachers will rotate to instructional areas allowing students to remain in their classroom cohorts.
H. Columbia High School Program
The Questar III Columbia High School Program will use lengthened instructional periods to reduce the use of shared spaces and potential exposure. Teachers will stay in their instructional classroom to limit contact and possible contamination as normal.
I. Paul Puccio School at Maple Hill
Classrooms at Maple Hill are self-contained throughout the day but may collaborate with one another for related services as well as integration opportunities. In addition, Regents bound classes will remain as a cohort except when an academic need or grade level need arises.
J. CTE at Rensselaer Educational Center, Columbia-Greene Educational Center, and Durham Elementary School
Each CTE program housed at these locations has a classroom and large workshop space that allows for appropriate physical distancing at full capacity. Students will remain in the classroom or workshop areas as much as possible during their time in the centers to decrease hallway congestion and potential exposure.
The CTE centers are prepared to stagger arrival and dismissal times for students entering and exiting the building as described under the “Transportation” and “Health & Safety: Arrival” sections of this document.
K. Offsite CTE Programs and New Visions
Each off-site program will continue to work with their sponsoring organization to adhere to physical distancing requirements. Arrival and dismissal times for students enrolled in these programs will be staggered to decrease congestion as health screenings are taking place.
If needed, a program may enter a hybrid A/B Day rotation as described above in the Questar III “All Program” sections to safely maintain physical distancing when enhanced precautions are required. However, all programs are prepared to comply with Questar III’s hybrid model and COVID-19 closure guidelines as directed.
BOCES are public education cooperatives or educational service agencies that serve as extensions of local school districts. A BOCES provides programs and services that districts are unable to offer on their own or that are more economical to share with other districts. The outbreak of COVID pandemic has had a negative impact on New York State’s economy and financial condition. The full impact of the pandemic upon the State is not expected to be known for some time.
Questar III BOCES will continue to ensure fiscal preparedness during the reopening school year. For the 2021-2022 school year, our programs remain strongly subscribed. Budgets have been developed and reconciled based on the commitments made by the school districts we serve.
During the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the federal government passed several laws to address the economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act all allocated aid and provides funding to school districts to address issues related to the ongoing pandemic and fund recovery efforts to school districts. The BOCES are not direct recipients of this funding, however the funding has provided fiscal stability to school districts allowing continuation of strong subscriptions to the BOCES programs and services and in some cases has created new programs. Unlike the previous year, it is not anticipated that there will be issues with reductions in state aid.
In the normal course of business, cash flow shortfalls may occur early in the fiscal year until the first billings are issued to and paid by school districts. As a result, cash flow could be impacted. Questar III has a process in place to project and monitor cash flow. To continue with operations and to ensure Questar III meets its obligations, we evaluate the need to address any temporary cash flow shortfalls through short-term borrowing by the issuance of Revenue Anticipation Notes. Approvals are in place to issue Revenue Anticipation Notes if needed.
Questar III provides guidance to its program and service managers in monitoring their budgets and for additional expenses that may be incurred due to the pandemic. Programs and services have evaluated costs incurred related to the pandemic and have provided appropriations to address these costs in the 2021-22 budget process. If additional resources are required, then in order to avoid negative budgetary impacts, programs and services will evaluate existing resources and re-deploy where necessary.
Questar III will continue to meet existing state and federal reporting requirements and deadlines except where modified by law, regulation, or executive order. Questar III will also continue to monitor the situation and will take such proactive measures as may be required to maintain its operations and meet its obligations.
- Attendance and Attendance Reporting
Attendance policies and procedures will be communicated (as described under the “Communications” section of this document) with families and students prior to the start of the school year or if the instructional model changes during the year. When school starts in September, all Questar III programs will track attendance in SchoolTool, our student management system. Teachers will record daily attendance based on the required, scheduled student contact/engagement in assigned activities. Daily reports will be generated to identify students who are absent and/or chronically absent. Families and students are reminded that Questar III must report attendance for all enrolled students of compulsory age. Appropriate notifications will be made in accordance with Questar III Board of Education attendance policies.
- Chronic Absenteeism
Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing at least 10 percent of a student’s enrolled school days. For a full academic year, this is equivalent to 18 days per school year, or two days per month. While there is no one-size-fits all approach to addressing chronic absenteeism, Questar III is committed to providing preventative interventions to address physical, mental, and emotional health related chronic absenteeism. We recognize that students and families are experiencing many different stressors because of the social and economic impacts of COVID-19, and these factors will influence student attendance at times. We also recognize the significant importance of relationships; we understand that students’ past and present experiences of in-person, hybrid, and/or remote learning may impact attendance.
Questar III is committed to working with students and families to overcome these challenges and will set the following practices in place.
- Student Attendancewill be nurtured by: (1) communicating the attendance policy clearly to families and students, including noting the expectations for participation during in-person, hybrid, or remote instruction, (2) explaining the importance of attendance to the entire school community, (3) tracking daily attendance in SchoolTool so that all responsible personnel have access to the information and so student attendance issues can be identified early.
- Early Identification and Interventionwill be targeted through: (1) continuation of attendance data monitoring and clear communication with parents/guardians and the student as issues arise, (2) development of supportive intervention plans that include parent phone calls, counseling, instructional modifications, etc., (3) use of a team approach that may include coordinating with social workers and behavioral intervention staff and/or conducting home visits to work with the family to motivate the student’s return to school, (4) coordination of responsive measures with the home district guidance counselor and otherwise developing partnership with the home district to ensure the student and family are receiving needed resources and supports.
- Positive School Culturefocuses on providing engaging instructional experiences developed by: (1) continually evaluating and enhancing students’ learning through creative and innovative instructional practices, (2) providing teachers and school leaders with multiple levels of support so that they feel more empowered to help students, (3) providing educational activities that will encourage positive social and emotional character development, (4) reinforcing civically responsible behaviors that have the power to build an ideal school culture.
Access to technology is essential for the successful roll-out of this plan. Questar III BOCES is committed to ongoing planning and will implement and/or expand the use of technologies to ensure equitable access for staff and students. Questar III has initiated the following plan, which is mindful of student and staff home access to reliable internet and computers.
- Questar III BOCES is gathering data from teachers and families to identify their level of access to devices and high-speed broadband. Respondents that indicate they have inadequate availability of high-speed internet will be prioritized, and subsequently contacted to discuss alternative options. At residences where other forms of internet access are unavailable, cellular hotspots will be provided to the extent practicable. In rural areas where cellular coverage may not be available, every attempt will be made to identify a public facility where Wi-Fi is available for drive up access. For example, the student’s home district and the Questar III educational centers may have external Wi-Fi and parking available. The organization will continue to assess the ongoing technology and connectivity needs of our families (through survey, interviews, school outreach, etc.). If students and/or teachers do not have internet access, the organization will take necessary steps to meet their needs where plausible.
- Questar III BOCES will maintain, manage, and support equipment and other assets or resources by (1) documenting which students, families, and staff have organization assets in their possession, (2) procuring, managing, and/or maintaining hardware, software, licenses, learning management systems, etc. that support and improve virtual instruction and student engagement, (3) putting in place a technology “Helpdesk” system for parents, students, and teachers to report technical issues that affect remote learning.
- Protocols for (1) the care of Questar III equipment, (2) picking up or returning equipment, (3) accessing technical assistance will be communicated to teachers and families according to the guidelines described in the “Communications” section of this document.
- Questar III will provide professional development and coaching opportunities that specifically address the challenges and opportunities presented by remote and blended learning. This may include instruction in the best practices of emerging technologies or commonly used educational platforms (i.e., Google Classroom tools, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or other web conferencing tools).
- Questar III BOCES will provide all students with access to learning materials and resources in multiple formats, whenever possible. In the event students do not have sufficient access to devices and/or high-speed internet, the organization will provide the students with alternate methods to access materials and instruction (e.g., material pick up at school, bus drop off at homes).
Teaching and Learning
In order to ensure high-quality teaching and learning, Questar III has worked to develop a Continuity of Learning Plan for the 2021-2022 school year. While our plan for remote instruction is similar to the plan that we used last school year, we have used what was learned from this experience to inform our plan for the upcoming school year. Our plan developed with special considerations for in-person, remote, and hybrid modes of instruction as well as fluid transition between each. Our plan assures that instruction is aligned with the New York State Learning Standards and that all learners receive high quality, equitable instruction, and support.
Equity is at the heart of all school instructional decisions. All teaching and learning activities will be designed to have clear, comprehensive, and accessible learning opportunities for all students. Whether instruction is delivered in-person, remotely, or through a hybrid model, instruction will be thoughtfully aligned with state standards. Our teaching and learning plan outlines routine, scheduled times for students to interact with their peers and teacher(s) as well as designated time to seek teacher feedback and additional support. Our plan is centered on instruction and academic programming that includes regular and substantive interaction with an appropriately NYS certified teacher regardless of delivery method (e.g., in person, remote or hybrid).
Our teaching and learning plan includes a clear communication plan for how students and their families/caregivers can contact the school with questions about their instruction and/or technology. This information will be accessible to all, available in multiple languages, widely disseminated, and will include multiple ways for students and families to contact schools and teachers (e.g., email, online platform, and/or by phone) to assure learning for all.
All students must have the opportunity to feel safe, engaged, and excited about their learning, whether in-person, remote, or in a hybrid model. During the upcoming school year, it is of the utmost importance that individual student needs and equity are put at the center of all learning experiences. We recognize that students may need additional social, emotional, or academic support to ensure success in the 2021-2022 school year. Flexibility is essential, and schools will be prepared to shift between in-person, remote learning, and a hybrid model.
The school calendar typically includes one or more staff-only days before students arrive at school. Acknowledging the challenges that our teachers and staff faced this spring when delivering remote instruction under stressful circumstances, Questar III has realigned these teacher-only days to address current teacher needs. Based on teacher feedback, these in-service days will be focused on providing support to staff in the areas of social-emotional health and technology integration for in-person, remote, or hybrid models of learning. We will also use this opportunity to meet prior to the start of school to plan for individualized student learning and support as well as to discuss professional development needs for administrators, teachers, and teaching assistants for the upcoming school year, particularly those needs related to teaching remotely and the use of technology.
When a remote or hybrid learning model is necessary, certain groups of students will be prioritized for in-person learning to the greatest extent possible. This includes, but is not limited to, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and students with technology or connectivity needs.
Assessing student learning gaps or areas of need will be critical, and so administering pre-assessments intended to assess student prerequisite skill or content knowledge will be common practice. Conveying a positive mindset about student learning is in everyone’s best interest, and as in other years we will move forward. Students and teachers will need time to re-adjust to the school setting, and creating a climate of safety, comfort, and routine will lay the foundation for success. As we enter the new school year, teachers will be encouraged to spend time building relationships, supporting students with the transition back to school, and teaching physical distancing etiquette at developmentally appropriate levels.
We must apply a flexible approach to our instructional planning and delivery so that the educational needs of students are met to the greatest extent possible. This includes prioritizing learning standards, key understandings, and skills necessary for students’ success in future study. During the 2021-2022 school year, course or grade level content may need to be adjusted or reduced to ensure students receive the level of support they need to move beyond learning losses. Additionally, Questar III will offer additional training and support to students and their families to ensure their comfort with instructional programs and any technological platforms and devices used to deliver instruction.
|Checklist for Instructional Planning|
|Each program/building should carefully consider the following steps when implementing the Questar III Opening Plan: |
- Early Learning: Pre-Kindergarten
- In-Person Instruction
Questar III recognizes that Pre-K programs and services are best delivered in person and that careful, ongoing planning will be required to protect health and safety when students return to school. Therefore, Questar III has developed its Pre-K teaching and learning plan with built in flexibility that takes the special needs of early learners into consideration.
In some cases, Questar III programs may be operating a hybrid model, with reduced, in-person enrollment based on the most up-to-date recommendations. Additionally, Questar III, in partnership with its host districts, is exploring possible revisions to arrival and dismissal times for both half-day and full day programs. This will provide time to ensure proper sanitization between sessions.
- Pre-K Scheduling
In the event COVID-19 cases increase at any of the Pre-K sites, the classrooms will follow the protocol set forth by each host district working, following either a hybrid model or remote learning. In the event Questar III or host sites are ordered to close, Pre-K programs will also close for all employees and students. Questar III staff will provide instruction remotely and will continue to follow continuity of learning plans.
- Enrollment and Facilities Plans
Prior to reopening, Questar III (in partnership with host districts) will monitor the cohort sizes. The number of students in each classroom may be capped at the current recommended health and safety levels to ensure proper physical distancing can be maintained (which includes configuring desks no less than six feet apart).
Each Pre-Kindergarten space will be evaluated by Questar III’s Health & Safety Director in coordination with on-site district representatives. Furniture, equipment, and student resources will be minimized to create more distance between students.
Common area space use, bathroom use, and screening procedures are being coordinated through collaborative planning with host districts.
- Pre-K Screenings, Lunches, and Daily Procedures
Our staff and students will be screened daily, and our staff will participate in ongoing training provided by our Health and Safety team to follow proper sanitation guidelines and our students will be provided with regular instruction on proper safety protocol.
Questar III will ensure that students in full day programs will eat lunches in assigned seats six feet from other students. For classrooms without an interior bathroom, an adult will accompany each child to the bathroom to ensure that proper handwashing and the wearing of face covering occurs and that napping materials will be sanitized daily and assigned to individual students.
Pre-K instruction and delivery will follow the Questar III and teaching and learning expectations/guidelines based on our Continuity of Learning Plan. Our delivery of instruction has been modified to refrain from practices that encourage physical contact (i.e., Buddy systems, physical hand holding).
Primary instruction will continue to be delivered by a certified teacher. For flexibility, to comply with physical distancing, a Teaching Assistant is assigned to each classroom to oversee students during learning centers.
Instruction periods will be extended to reduce the number of shared instructional spaces and potential exposure.
For in-person programming, learning centers will be restructured to avoid multiple students using the space at one time. Arrangements have been made to provide students with individual sets of materials so that there is no sharing of resources.
All individual Pre-K classrooms will remain as a cohort of students. They will not move to other classrooms or participate in mixed groups to limit potential exposure.
Teachers are prepared with resources to teach remotely. Remote learning plans have been structured to appropriately accommodate the amount of time that young learners will spend in direct instruction and directly viewing screens.
Questar III is collaborating with our host districts to coordinate administration of the required Pre-K screenings and will follow the safety protocols required and adhere to the adjusted timeline.
Pre-K classrooms will limit the number of volunteers and require that all plans to include visitors will need administrative approval. Visitor protocols have been written and will be communicated with staff to be shared with any potential visitors.
Related service providers will follow all health and safety protocols set forth by NYSDOH.
Instructional Delivery (K-12)
- In-Person Instruction
Upon reopening, the number of students in each of our classrooms will be monitored to ensure that we adhere to the appropriate guidance regarding physical distancing. Class size will reflect the need to ensure that students’ desks/seats are positioned no less than three feet apart.
Accommodating required physical distancing around students may, in some cases, necessitate the identification of additional rooms and common-area spaces that can be converted into elementary classrooms. In a small number of situations, current staffing levels may be insufficient to accommodate the expanded number of classrooms needed to ensure physical distancing.
All instruction will continue to be aligned to the New York State Learning Standards. Our administrators and teachers will work collaboratively to ensure that students receive high quality rigorous, standards-based instruction that will meet their academic needs and allow them to attain the learning standards in all curricular areas.
Our schools will minimize the movement of students. This potentially means having students eat lunch in their classroom instead of the cafeteria and eliminating assemblies, field trips and other large-group activities. Special area subjects (e.g., art, music, physical education) will be pushed into the classroom. Whenever possible, students will utilize outside space for physical education instruction. We will adhere to 6feet between students during any physical activity, per NYSED guidelines.
To the extent possible, students will remain in small cohorts if/when leaving the classroom, including but not limited to recess or any necessary transition, to reduce potential exposure.
- Remote/Hybrid Transition Model
Given the possibility that communities may experience spikes in COVID-19 cases at any point during the school year, which may prompt short or long-term school closures, our BOCES has developed a hybrid/blended learning model and schedule that can continue in a fully remote environment.
Instruction will focus on all subject areas. Consideration has been given to prioritizing hands-on and lab-based activities while students are onsite in school buildings. All instruction will continue to be aligned to the New York State Learning Standards.
As noted previously within our plan, student schedules will remain largely the same whether instruction is in person or remote (so that students do not encounter conflicts wherein synchronous lessons for different subjects are offered simultaneously). In cases of asynchronous learning, schedules for remote students may be modified, as needed. To the greatest extent possible, cohorts will be self-contained, pre-assigned groups of students with appropriate group sizes. In certain instances, self-contained cohorts are not possible, and, in these cases, the introduction of additional classroom personnel will be minimized. These groups will remain for the duration of the COVID- 19 public health emergency.
Our plan takes into consideration the possible contingency of fully remote learning. Understanding that there are challenges with remote instruction that are particular to certain school communities as well as individual students, we will ensure teachers have daily contact with students in some format to support both their academic needs and social emotional well-being. Similar to our implemented plan during the 2019-2020 school year, a contact log will be kept to track these interactions regardless of the instructional setting.
To prepare a seamless transition between models, Questar III administrators and staff established the following best practices and lessons learned as options to improve outcomes for remote instruction:
- Assigning tasks for at-home completion and then having students apply the knowledge gained in the school setting (i.e., have students practice a skill at home and then apply it during a class activity).
- A flipped classroom approach where students first learn about a topic at home and then come prepared to learn more about it in class (e.g., students watch a video about The Haka at home, then in school the teacher answers questions and teaches in more depth).
- Consider switching from providing direct instruction to more of a student-directed instruction approach.
- Provide synchronous learning opportunities (distance learning that happens in real-time) with opportunities for asynchronous learning as much as possible; record lessons to provide to students who may not have access in real time.
- Continue the use of Google Classroom and/or SeeSaw and look at the use of additional platforms/extensions to improve digital pedagogy: breakout rooms (Zoom or Google Meet), conversation, Poll Everywhere, etc.
- Ensure that every student has a device and Wi-Fi. Allow students to bring Chromebooks or iPads home.
- Set up clear expectations for students – schedule (start and end times for each class), live conferencing with teachers, amount of work, required work, required classes, communication, etc. (need explicit details of what is expected).
- Provide online counseling, tutoring, skills classes, and IEP services.
- Weekly staff meetings will include professional development on digital success, techniques, case management, student support, etc.
- Provide professional development and training for parents/guardians on use of Google Classroom and SchoolTool. Parents/guardians will be provided with their child’s account info as well as the ability to sign-up for daily parent/guardian summaries.
- Divide school into small social-emotional support/advisory groups – make sure students are supported.
- Provide support that may include home visits for students who are absent during distance learning (due to possible social-emotional issues) to discuss needs with families – to increase engagement; more at home intervention and counseling; use of TAs to structure and engage students; and tutoring.
- Reduce language barriers by having bilingual staff available for student and parent phone calls, if needed.
- Grades 7–12: Units of Study
The New York State Education Department regulations outline specific time/unit of study requirements for various subject areas. The unit of study definition (180 minutes per week or the equivalent) provides a framework for the instructional entitlement for our students in these grades. However, it is also noted that instructional experiences are not defined solely as a student’s time spent in front of a teacher or in front of a screen, but time engaged in standards-based learning under the guidance and direction of a teacher.
These experiences might include but are not limited to completing online modules or tasks; viewing instructional videos; responding to posts or instructor questions; engaging with other class participants in an online or phone discussion; conducting research; doing projects; or meeting with an instructor face-to-face, via an online platform or by phone. In order for this flexibility to be available to students, Questar III must ensure that the learning is supported, and students have access to assistance from their teacher when they need it.
Remote learning opportunities for secondary students will include a greater emphasis on synchronous instruction, with teachers finding ways to provide live instruction and lessons to students. While the recording of live lessons is still essential for students unable to attend at a scheduled time, teachers will ensure that their students are directly engaged with them and their class peers in experiential learning on a regular basis.
- Science Laboratory Requirements
- Per Commissioner’s Regulations, courses that culminate in a Regents examination in science must include 1,200 minutes of laboratory experiences. Due to the possibility of a hybrid or fully remote model of instruction as a result of COVID-19, the 1,200-minute lab requirement can be met through hands-on laboratory experiences, virtual laboratory experiences, or a combination of virtual and hands-on laboratory experiences coupled with satisfactory lab reports for the 2020-21 school year.
- Laboratory experiences specific to each science course will be aligned; depending on the mode or modes of instruction; and identifying a viable vetted list of acceptable virtual labs or a combination of virtual and hands-on labs that a student would need to complete for each science course that culminates in a Regents examination.
- Visual and Performing Arts
Due to the hands-on nature of Arts instruction, additional considerations have been given to both the management of Arts instructional spaces, as well as the development of instructional methods to teach the Arts via remote or hybrid models.
In-Person Instructional Model
- Consideration will be given to what students have already learned when designing curricula for next year. What artistic processes have students focused on during previous remote learning? What might need to be emphasized in the 2020-2021 school year?
- Possible remote lessons will be prepared in advance.
- Shared materials and surfaces will be cleaned following appropriate CDC and state guidelines.
- Singing can transmit the virus. Additional precautions such as smaller groups, alternative spaces (such as having chorus outside) and increasing the distance between students will be implemented.
- Students will maintain individual kits of “high touch” supplies such as scissors, markers, pencils, erasers, etc. to limit sharing of supplies between students.
- Ensure a distance of 6 feet in all directions is maintained between individuals while participating in activities that require projecting (i.e., singing and playing wind instruments).
- Limiting use of or alternatives for hard to clean supplies (i.e., clay).
- Create visual markings on the floor to reinforce physical distancing.
- Position hand hygiene supplies close to shared materials and surfaces.
- Increase transition time to account for additional cleaning time.
- Remote Instructional Model
- Plan individualized projects that can connect and reinforce in-person classroom learning.
- Plan for how to give students assignments, feedback, and track their progress/success.
To ensure high-quality remote learning experiences, we will work to standardize the use of an online learning platform, to the extent possible, and develop a common, coordinated set of guidelines for teachers to follow when using the platform with students.
Grading practices will follow a framework designed to provide direct feedback regarding students’ mastery of course content. We will use a five-scale grading rubric based on levels of competency/mastery, which can then be aligned to numeric bands (for grading purposes).
- Hybrid Instructional Model
During in-person instruction, Questar III will:
- prepare students with the skills and knowledge they will need when working remotely (e.g., online platforms, tools, available resources, etc.).
- Use digital platforms and other methodologies that will enable students to collaborate on group projects even if at home.
- Focus on personalized learning
- Utilize resources such as digital field trips and online arts collections.
- Physical Education
Questar III’s school reopening plan will ensure students will participate in physical activity under the direction and supervision of a certified physical education teacher to the extent practicable, whether in-person, remote, or hybrid models are utilized.
In-person Instructional Model
- Should ensure that a distance of 12 feet in all directions is maintained between individuals while participating in activities that require aerobic activity and result in heavy breathing.
- Will consider use of a microphone
- Focus more on individual pursuits or skills rather than traditional team sports or activities (e.g., dance and rhythms, exercises without equipment, fitness, mindfulness)
- Use games and activities that require no physical contact.
Remote Instructional Model
- Create opportunities for students to share and connect with one another.
- Consider special events or activities that can be done remotely (e.g., At-Home Family Field Day).
- Consider using videos or images demonstrating activities or skills.
Hybrid Instructional Model
- Consider assigning tasks for at-home completion and then have students apply the knowledge gained in the school setting (i.e., have students practice a skill at home and then apply it during a class activity).
- Consider a flipped classroom approach where students first learn about a topic at home and then come prepared to learn more about it in class (e.g., students watch a video about The Haka at home, then in school the teacher answers questions and teaches in more depth).
- Consider switching from providing direct instruction to more of a student-directed instruction approach.
- Provide synchronous learning opportunities (distance learning that happens in real time) with opportunities for asynchronous learning as much as possible; record lessons to provide to students who may not have access in real time.
- Additionally, students are more interested in seeing videos created by their own teachers than shared videos created by other teachers.
Academic Intervention Services (AIS)
The BOCES programs shall support any students who need additional assistance in academic subjects. The BOCES will use but not limit to the following:
- Fountas and Pinnell
- STAR Reading and Math Assessments
- Benchmark and lesson embedded assessments
- Common formative assessments
- Unit and lesson assessments
- Results of psychoeducational evaluations
- Diagnostic screening for vision, hearing, and physical disabilities as well as screening for possible disabilities pursuant to Commissioner’s Regulations Part 117
Given the flexible instructional models, Questar III BOCES’ grading policies will be applicable to each model and will remain clear and transparent to students, parents, and guardians.
- Students will be assessed in an ongoing fashion regardless of instructional model, through a variety of means. Student progress will be communicated to students, parents, and caregivers through SchoolTool.
- Opportunities for educators to collaborate and plan for the creation of pre-assessments will be built into our schedule for staff.
- Students who have identified testing accommodations will be followed.
- Through collaboration, we will determine those students who need AIS in accordance with guidance and plan to provide in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid model.
Within our programs, school library media specialists will provide resources to students, teachers, and others, and collaborate to support high-quality instruction in-person as well as in hybrid and remote models.
For information relating to teaching and learning in BOCES special education and Career and Technical Education programs, please see the BOCES website, www.questar.org.
- CTE Content and Delivery
While planning for CTE instruction, whether in-person, remote, or hybrid, Questar III CTE will ensure that all NYS Learning Standards as well as requirements for industry certifications, or postsecondary credentialing, and by state agencies are met. Additionally, Nursing Assistant, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and Cosmetology programs will follow curricula where required clinical hours are mandated by other state agencies.
CTE course instruction will continue to be delivered by appropriately certified CTE teachers. Instructors who are required to hold a NYS professional license for a particular content area (i.e., Nursing Assistant and Cosmetology) will maintain such license without lapse.
Work-Based Learning hours for CTE programs will be completed in-person, when practical and permissible. The director of health and Safety, in collaboration with the work-based learning coordinators, other school staff and business and industry partners, will determine the processes and procedures for safe work-based learning experiences.
- Non-Registered Work-Based Learning (WBL) Experiences: Where practical, and when supervised by school staff, non-registered work-based learning experiences will be conducted in a remote or hybrid format.
- Questar III will exercise discretion if a student is unable to meet the minimum hours requirement set for the program and/or credential being sought.
- Nursing Assistant students are required to complete supervised clinical hours under regulations set forth by the Department of Health. All regulations from the Department of Health will be followed when planning and supervising clinical experiences.
- Supervised clinical experiences for students in Cosmetology programs will meet all guidelines set forth by the Department of State.
- Supervised training hours for EMT students will meet all the guidelines set forth by the Department of Health.
- CTE Labs, Clinical Spaces, and Work-Based Learning Sites
CTE laboratory spaces will be set up to accommodate physical distancing, and all other procedures described in the “Health & Safety” section of this document. All CTE laboratory/clinical instruction and supervision will be delivered by the appropriately certified CTE teacher. In order to adhere to physical distancing protocols, flexibility will be allowed for other staff (under the guidance of the CTE teacher) to supervise student groups in a non-laboratory/clinical setting.
Questar III will collaborate with all business and industry partners to identify and ensure safe and healthy work-based learning opportunities. Students will be provided opportunities to participate in work-based learning, either in-person or remotely to the extent possible. In implementing work-based learning for the 2021-2022 school year, Questar III will consider the following:
- All registered work-based learning programs will be supervised by an appropriately certified work-based learning coordinator.
- Questar III WBL coordinators will refer to the work-based learning manual for guidelines on certification and how frequently students should be supervised.
- WBL site visits will be subject to review if there are Substantial and High levels of community transmission of COVID identified. Prior adminstrative approval will be required for WBL visits to commence under these conditions.
Depending on the industry, business and industry partners may have a reduced ability to sponsor students for work-based learning experiences. Priority for experiences will be given to those students who need work-based learning hours to meet graduation or CDOS exit credential requirements. The WBL coordinator will remain actively engaged with the needs of business and industry as they may change rapidly.
- Modifying Learning for Social Distant/Remote Learning (options may include but are not limited to)
- Questar III will identify content that takes precedence in the event instructional capabilities are modified and/or changed throughout the year.
- Questar III will identify those activities that must take place in a classroom and those that can be completed independently.
- Questar III will determine what students need to complete all learning activities and how to provide access to necessary materials.
- Questar III will consider individualized student “to go” kits to enable students to pivot to remote learning if necessary. These kits will be assembled by learning module and exchanged out as students complete each module.
- Questar III will utilize online platforms when teaching in person to build practice among students in the event that Questar III may need to switch to remote learning.
- Questar III will create instructor videos demonstrating skills or teaching content for use both in and outside of the classroom.
- Questar III will consider livestreaming what is taking place inside the classroom in the event some students are home, and some are present.
- Questar III will consider opportunities for instructors to operate portable video cameras during lessons. For example, when an instructor is providing a laboratory demonstration, he or she can display to students in their seats instead of them standing closely watching the demonstration.
- Questar III will consider modifications to laboratory skills or clinical days to reduce risk of transmission (i.e., designated lab/clinical days); and
- Questar III will determine procedures for sharing, disinfection, and decontaminating materials and equipment.
- Student Engagement
- Questar III will create a set schedule for class meeting times, when entire groups of students or programs are required to be remote. Class meeting times should be used to address large group instruction and/or issues impacting the whole class.
- Questar III will schedule small group and/or individual check-ins around full class meeting times.
- Questar III will consider incorporating current topics into the field of study to aid in interest and engagement along with incorporating current industry safety and infection control practices within curricula.
- Questar III will ensure a positive and respectful classroom culture exists to support students’ social-emotional needs.
Considerations for Students with Disabilities
The WBL coordinator, Special Education coordinator, and all other service providers will work collaboratively to design work-based learning experiences that are in line with students’ individualized education program (IEP) goals. Where practical, remote or hybrid experiences will be used towards work-based learning hours. Questar III will be considering placements in the school building if participating outside businesses are not able to meet students’ IEP requirements (job coaching, PPE, etc.).
Business and Community Partnerships
A high quality CTE program is planned with input from business and community partners. Questar III will consider the following for the 2021-2022 school year to continue business and community partner engagement:
- Questar III will continue to have business and community participation in advisory council meetings. Questar III will utilize videoconferencing if necessary.
- Questar III will establish and communicate clear safety protocols that will be expected prior to student and instructor participation at internship or clinical sites. Questar III will determine who will provide appropriate PPE for students and instructors.
- Questar III will incorporate industry partners into virtual student interactions, student career development, and instruction to the extent possible.
- Questar III will seek legal counsel regarding potential changes and the implementation of those changes into existing agreements and waivers, especially in light of COVID-19.
- Questar III will re-evaluate labor market needs with business and industry partners and adapt curriculum and program offerings as appropriate.
Student Career Development
Questar III CTE programs of study will continue to provide high quality career advisement and exploration opportunities to students through either an in-person, remote, or blended instruction environment. Questar III will consider the following when planning student career development experiences in the 2021-2022 school year:
- Using the CTE Career and Financial Management framework to enrich career development if hands-on learning and skill practice may not be feasible in person.
- Using virtual options to facilitate career exploration including, but not limited to job shadowing; guest speakers; career fairs; interview skills; job training; professionalism and proper use of virtual platforms; and other activities that allow safety guidelines to be followed by all involved.
- Utilizing school counselors and other school staff to facilitate and support career development and advisement within Questar III BOCES.
Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs)
- Consult with the respective state and national organizations for each CTSO to determine their policies and procedures during the pandemic.
- Consider if conferences, meetings, service projects, programs of work, and events can be conducted remotely if face to face meetings cannot take place. NYSDOH guidelines regarding physical distancing, equipment, and events must be followed when planning CTSO events.
- Consult with local legal counsel regarding any concerns regarding Ed Law 2-d and any other questions regarding allowable platforms for teleconferencing.
- Consult the NYSED CTSO page for additional information as it becomes available.
Program Approval, Data Reporting, Perkins, and Civil Rights
- Questar III will ensure that program applications for reapproval and/or initial approval of CTE programs, work-based learning programs, and health science operational approvals will continue to follow established schedules and deadlines.
- Questar III will utilize digital signatures and/or a PDF of a signed application(s) as an acceptable initial electronic submission of re-approval and initial approval forms. Original signatures will be on the paper applications which will be mailed to the CTE Office.
- Questar III will submit any changes to NYSED-approved CTE programs on a program amendment form to the Office of CTE for approval.
CTE Data Reporting
- CTE data will be reported for the 2021-2022 school year for NYSED-approved CTE programs using streamlined procedures found on the Office of CTE data reporting page.
- CTE data will be reported to the SIRS by Questar III as the agency that operates the NYSED-approved CTE program.
- Questar III will report work-based learning experiences for Grades 11-12.
- Questar III will utilize the grant documentation submission deadlines which are posted on the Office of CTE home page.
- Questar III will consider amendments submitted for the Comprehensive Local Needs Assessments (CLNA) for COVID-19 related needs.
- Questar III will submit digital signatures and/or a PDF of a signed application as the initial electronic submission of the CLNA, CLNA Summary, and application with budget forms FS-10 and FS-10A. Original signatures will be on the paper grant applications and FS10s which will be mailed to the CTE Office.
Questar III will not require flexibilities to comply with federal civil rights laws. Questar III will continue to comply with federal civil rights requirements, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It is New York’s responsibility to comply with these civil rights requirements, including through the State’s Methods of Administration State Plan under 34 C.F.R. Part 100, Appendix B.
Questar III does not offer athletics as part of its education programs.
All Questar III extracurricular activities and meetings may be held in person following all mitigation protocols. Extracurricular activities and meetings may also be held via Zoom, Google Meets, or Microsoft Teams. Advisors will choose the online platform that is most familiar and appropriate for the students involved in the extracurricular activity. An online calendar of meeting dates and times will be maintained. Advisors for each club or organization will email out a group email of meeting notes to all members.
Field trips and extracurricular activities will be subject to review if there are Substantial and High levels of community transmission of COVID identified. Prior adminstrative approval will be required for such activities to commence under these conditions.
Outside community usage of Questar III buildings for meetings outside of school hours may be held with prior approval pending community transmission levels. If approved, each organization is responsible for conducting health screenings of each participant and arranging proper disinfectant cleaning of all rooms used by the group. The group is required to maintain physical distancing and require mask usage for all participants.
Questar III’s reopening plan provides a framework to ensure that all students with disabilities continue to have available to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living in the least restrictive environment (LRE). In consideration of the health, safety, and well-being of students, families, and staff, our plan is to provide services fully in-person to the extent allowable.
Special education programs and services of Questar III will provide equity and access for students with disabilities to be involved in and to participate and progress in the general education curriculum with access to the necessary accommodations, modifications, supplementary aids and services, and technology (including assistive technology) to meet the unique disability-related needs of students. While not all formats allow for maximum benefit to students, these programs and services can be provided in all formats (live-person, hybrid, or remote). Questar III will document the programs and services offered and provided to students with disabilities as well as to the communications with parents in their preferred language and mode of communication. In addition, Questar III will ensure access to the necessary accommodations, modifications, supplementary aids and services, and technology (including assistive technology) to meet the unique disability related needs of students.
Questar III is committed to providing meaningful parent engagement in the parent’s preferred language or mode of communication regarding the provision of services to his/her child to meet the requirements of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Further, we will maintain regular communication with the parents/guardians and other family members to ensure that they are engaged in their children’s education during the reopening process. At Questar III, we recognize that clear, ongoing communication and collaboration are critical to ensuring students receive access to high-quality special education programs and services. The school reopening plan addresses meaningful parent engagement via parent forums, surveys, and individual communication regarding the provision of services to his/her child to meet the requirements of the IDEA. Parents have a legal right to be informed regarding identification, evaluation, educational placement, and provision of services. Please refer to the NYSED Procedural Safeguards Notice July 2017 at www.nysed.gov. Questar III encourages families to remain in close contact and communicate with their child’s special education teacher, related service providers, program principal, and CSE chairperson to ensure their child continues to participate and progress in the general education curriculum and make progress towards achieving individualized goals.
Questar III will plan and support collaboration between the committees on preschool special education (CPSE) and committees on special education (CSE) and program providers representing the variety of settings where students are served to ensure there is an understanding of the provision of services consistent with the recommendations on individualized education programs (IEPs), plans for monitoring and communicating student progress, and commitment to sharing resources.
Questar III will maintain records to document the implementation of each IEP. The documentation will include but will not be limited to narrative records of how the student is adjusting to instruction during the 2021-2022 school year, a record of what instruction and services were provided, a record of formative, summative, and standardized assessments, and their results as well as progress monitoring documentation, a record of school-family collaboration via contact logs, and the provision of compensatory services records.
Questar III BOCES is committed to supporting comprehensive, high-quality, and culturally responsive instruction for English Language Learners (ELLs) and Multilingual Learners (MLLs) and languages other than English for students upon reopening. Questar III BOCES will ensure that ELL/MLLs have the same access to instruction via in-person or remote learning as other students attending BOCES programs. Support of ELLs/MLLs will be comprehensive, high-quality, and culturally responsive. We are well prepared to reopen our schools and serve ELLs, MLLs, and students learning world languages as they expand their skills, knowledge, and proficiency with languages through our BOCES programs and services.
Questar III BOCES currently has an English as a New Language (ENL) Itinerant Service to support ELLs/MLLs in component districts. We also have ELLs/MLLs enrolled in our Career Technical Education programs and a part time ENL teacher. We will work with our component districts to ensure that the ELL identification process is completed as required by Commissioner’s Regulations Part 154.
- ELL identification within 30 days from start of the school year for students enrolled in the 2019-2020 school year or the 2020 summer.
- ELL identification within the first 20 days of 2020-2021 school year. After this 20th day period ELLs must be identified within 10 days of enrollment.
Units of Study
Questar III BOCES will provide the required instructional Units of Study to all ELLs/MLLs based on their most recently measured English language proficiency level during in-person or hybrid instruction in coordination with their home district. The BOCES will exercise the flexibility allowed by the OBEWL in implementing the units of study in coordination with the home districts with the use of remote instruction thus using a hybrid model as appropriate. In terms of students studying world languages, we will ensure that they meet their required units of study to meet their foreign language requirements for graduation. We are fortunate to host the Capital Region Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (RBERN) supporting districts across eight BOCES across the Northeast region of New York State.
Communication with Parents/Guardians
Questar III BOCES will maintain regular communication with parents/guardians of ELLs/MLLs and students learning world languages to ensure that they are engaged during the reopening process and provide all communications for parents/guardians of ELLs/MLLs in their preferred language and mode of communication. We will use translation services if needed to ensure that parents and guardians receive ongoing communication in the language and mode of their preference. Parents/guardians of ELLs/MLLs will be assured:
- Regular communication with families/parents of ELLs during reopening must be in the preferred language and mode.
- Provide support and instruction as practicable on the use of technology in their preferred language.
Further, we will use various modes of communication with the parents/guardians and other family members of ELLs to ensure that they are engaged in their children’s education during the reopening process which may include telephone contact, text messages, social media, emails, and regular mail in their preferred language.
The teaching and learning of our ELLs/MLLs and students learning a world language will follow research-based best practices. We will incorporate the principles found in the NYSED Blueprint for ELLs/MLLs, the Framework for Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Education, and resources available through the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages and the RBERNs. Native language supports will be used as applicable to support students’ learning English as a New Language (ENL). Students taking foreign languages in our programs, mainly Spanish and Latin will be provided instruction through online learning platforms that include but are not limited to APEX and Educere.
Questar III BOCES will ensure that ENL teachers incorporate online resources, digital tools, and media in daily in-person lessons to facilitate a smoother transition into any future school closure and remote instruction. The use of technology will be paramount in the programs to ensure that the ELLs/MLLs learn the necessary skills to pivot to remote learning quickly and to better prepare them for their futures. ELLs/MLLs’ technology needs, and internet access will be addressed as with all students to ensure equity of access to learning. Students learning a new language will have equitable access to technology that promotes engaging activities at appropriate proficiency levels aligned with ELLs/MLLs and LOTE students proficiency levels.
Questar III BOCES RBERN will provide professional learning opportunities for our BOCES staff that support best practices and equitable instruction for ELLs/MLLs to help address learning gaps caused by the COVID-19 school closures. Professional development opportunities will be aligned to CR Part 154 requirements and best practices for ELLs/MLLs and students learning world languages.
We will ensure that our staff be provided with appropriate professional learning opportunities to meet regulatory requirements:
- 15% of professional learning hours for all educators focused on ELLs/MLLs needs
- 50% for bilingual and ENL teachers targeted on specific ELL/ML needs
Some topics of professional learning for teachers and/or parents/guardians in our programs will include but not be limited to:
- Using technology to promote independence and engagement
- Parents as partners in the learning of a new language
- Providing effective and meaningful feedback
- Promoting peer to peer interaction
- Co-planning and co-teaching to support ELL/MLLs
Designing lessons that accelerate language learning
- Analyzing data and progress monitoring to support instructional decisions
Assessment strategies to inform student progress
- Best practices in learning a new language and supporting four language modalities
- Building positive relationships with students, parents and among teachers
- Strategies to support critical thinking and student engagement
- Preparing students to earn the Seal of Biliteracy
In order to assure that students have opportunities to study world languages we are prepared to teach Spanish and Latin via online platforms to include but not limited to APEX and Educere upon reopening.
Questar III BOCES will ensure that ELLs/MLLs progress is monitored over time. The BOCES will use the recommended checklist for developing or selecting ELP progress monitoring assessments and the Multilingual Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) Screener as applicable.
Teacher and Principal Evaluation System
All teachers and principals will continue to be evaluated pursuant to the organization’s approved APPR plan and as required under current legislation. Questar III will consider whether their currently approved APPR plans may need to be revised in order to be consistent with their plans for re-opening under the various instructional models. School leaders will continue to attend annually required Lead Evaluator training and recertification.
Certification, Incidental Teaching and Substitute Teaching
All teachers will hold valid and appropriate certificates for teaching assignment, except where otherwise allowable under the Commissioner’s regulations (e.g., incidental teaching) or education law.
Student teachers from NYSED registered college or university programs can serve under the supervision of fully certified teachers in Questar III BOCES. Student teachers will follow all the physical distancing, mask wearing, health status reporting, and other COVID-19 procedures that have been adopted by Questar III staff. Questar III will adhere to guidance outlined in board policy regarding supervision of Student teachers. Student teachers will serve under the direction of our full-time certified teachers only. Questar III will ensure Student teachers are given the opportunity to develop critical knowledge and skills. At no time will a student teacher be used as a teacher of record.
- State Education Department Issues Guidance to Reopen New York State Schools (July 16, 2020)
- State Education Department Presents Framework of Guidance to Reopen New York State Schools (July 13, 2020)
- Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, NYS Department of Health (July 13, 2020)
- Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (June 26, 2020)
- Interim Guidance for Food Services during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (June 26, 2020)
- Interim Guidance for Office-Based Work during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (July 17, 2020)
- Interim Guidance for Public Transportation Activities during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (June 26, 2020)
- New York State Department of Health Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- New York State Education Department Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 Website
Updated: August 31, 2021