04-12-21 Important update on school guidance, the Plan to Pivot, and Implementation Timeline
April 12, 2021
Dear Williamsville Central School District Families,
Late Friday evening, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) announced new COVID-19 guidance for schools, allowing for increased capacity for in-person instruction by reducing social distancing under certain conditions set forth in the Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools During the COVID-19 Global Health Emergency.
You can read the updated guidance on the District’s webpage: Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools During the COVID-19 Global Health Emergency
I am encouraged by the resolve and resiliency shown by our students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators. I look forward to seeing our teachers continue to deliver a high-quality education to our students, both in-person and remote.
Thanks to our proactive planning over the last few weeks, we are prepared for these changes and are moving quickly within each of our buildings to allow for increased capacity for full-time, in-person instruction.
We are planning to implement changes to meet the updated guidance on Monday, April 26, 2021. At the elementary level, students will return to five days of in-person instruction.
The remote option will remain available for all students for this school year.
Middle School and High School
At the middle and high schools, students will have four days of in-person instruction when conditions allow. For middle and high school students, Wednesdays will continue with a synchronous remote experience for all students, and allows for office hours and individual supports for students. The remote option will remain available for all students for this school year.
It is important to note that on pages 7, 8, and 22, the guidance details specific conditions by which social distancing is determined and is further explained below. At this time, due to the “High Rate of Transmission” in Erie County and pursuant to the guidance set forth by the NYSDOH, the middle and high schools are required to maintain six-feet of social distancing and will not be able to return to full-time, in-person instruction. Our plan for middle and high schools is ready to be implemented as soon as our region reaches the benchmark set by the NYSDOH in updated guidance.
The District’s ‘Plan to Pivot’ and Implementation Timeline are shared below and also available here: https://www.williamsvillek12.org/news_detail_T2_R979.php
Instructional Information Survey
To help finalize our plans, we need your cooperation in completing the Instructional Model Survey on WITS.
On this survey, families are asked, “With a change in State guidance allowing for increased capacity for full-time, in-person instruction, which instructional model do you choose?” The options are full-time in-person instruction or fully-remote instruction.
You will also be prompted to answer transportation questions to help the District plan and prepare logistically for an increase in students.
This survey needs to be completed for each child by Wednesday, April 14, 2021 at 12:00 p.m.
Please note that in completing this survey, you will be choosing an instructional model for your child(ren) for the remainder of the school year.
Your completion of this survey is critical to ensure we have the most accurate information and know how many students will be in our buildings and classrooms. We will also send reminders through our eAlert messages and follow-up with families.
Once the survey window closes, the District will work diligently to collect, format, and present this information to our school community. At the elementary level, it is possible that a change in teacher may occur for any students whether they remain in-person, remote, or switch models. Your principal will contact you if your child’s teacher will change.
Summary of Key Elements for the Plan to Pivot
- Send out preliminary Instructional Model Information Gathering Survey on February 25, 2021 to determine who plans on keeping their child(ren) in one of the following models if the guidance changes:
- Meet with Reset, Relaunch, Return Committee and expand with elementary
- Brainstorm and discuss additional members to committees
- Develop building specific Plan to Pivot coordinated by building administrators
- Committees will focus on logistics, communications, and safety protocols
- Develop communications to share with community regarding re-entry
- Review data from informational survey
- Inform staff and families of changes to state guidance regarding social distancing when guidance is updated
- Send out instructional survey to families asking them to choose an instructional model for the remainder of the year
- Reconfigure classrooms and other areas within school building to meet updated guidance utilizing building-based Plan to Pivot
- Share instructional survey results and next steps with staff and families
- Begin implementation of new guidance
April 12, 2021 – Send Instructional Model Survey to families
April 13, 2021 – Presentation at the Board of Education Meeting
April 14, 2021 – Instructional Model Survey due at 12 p.m.
April 15-16, 2021 – Review & analyze Instructional Model Survey date and implement necessary changes to classrooms/transportation
April 19, 2021 – District Presentation (Zoom Webinar/YouTube)
April 20, 2021 – Elementary Presentations/Feedback
April 21, 2021 – Middle and High School Presentations/Feedback
April 22-23, 2021 – Make any final adjustments/preparations for the Plan to Pivot
April 26, 2021 – Implementation of Plan: Students return dependent on the rate of transmission
NYSDOH Guidance Information
As indicated on Page 1 and Page 9 of the guidance, “Responsible parties must include opportunities for feedback from parents, community members, teachers, staff and local departments of health. This meeting must be held before any change to the physical distancing in schools can be made.”
The District is currently working to schedule this required meeting with Dr. Gale Burstein and the Erie County Department of Health. The District will also hold a Zoom Webinar, which will also be streamed on YouTube presenting the Plan to Pivot. In addition, each school will hold a Zoom Webinar, which will also be streamed on YouTube, presenting building specifics on their Plan to Pivot. There will be opportunities for questions and answers during these forums.
It is important to note that on pages 7, 8, and 22, the guidance details specific conditions by which social distancing is determined:
Pages 7-8: “Due to evidence that transmission risk ranges by the age of the student, the CDC recommends that physical distancing requirements differ by grade level and community transmission risk. Evidence indicates that there is lower susceptibility and incidence of COVID-19 among younger children than compared to teenagers; therefore, in-person instruction represents less risk of on-site transmission in elementary schools compared to middle and high schools. At some levels of community transmission, cohorting is recommended if a school is using less than six feet of physical distance in classrooms. The Department recognizes that certain scenarios may prevent physical distancing from occurring, such as providing essential classroom instruction, medical care, or student comfort/support. Responsible Parties must minimize this contact to the greatest extent possible and continue to ensure appropriate prevention measures—such as cleaning/disinfection, masking, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette—are maintained during these temporary episodes. Please refer to the Interim Guidance for School-Based Health Centers Regarding COVID-19 for further information.
- CDC has developed four levels of indicators and threshold for community transmission of COVID-19. Please refer to Table 1 in the CDC guidance to see the measures. CDC also provides recommendations for physical distancing and cohorting for elementary, middle, and high schools at each level of transmission. These recommendations are summarized below and are required to be adhered to by any responsible parties when implementing physical distancing of less than six feet in classrooms. Please refer to Table 2 in the CDC guidance for more detail.
- In counties with low and moderate risk of transmission, elementary, middle, and high schools can maintain physical distancing of at least three feet between students in classrooms.
- In counties with substantial risk of transmission, elementary, middle, and high schools can maintain physical distancing of at least three feet between students in classrooms and cohorting is recommended when possible.
- In counties with high risk of transmission, elementary schools can maintain physical distancing of at least three feet between students in classrooms and cohorting is recommended when possible. However, in middle and high schools three feet between students in classrooms is recommended only when schools can use cohorting. When schools cannot maintain cohorting, middle and high schools must maintain physical distancing of at least six feet between students in classrooms.
- The CDC no longer recommends physical barriers for mitigation where physical distancing cannot be maintained. A preferred approach is enhanced ventilation and air filtration to dilute and remove any SARS-Cov-2 particles from the air as described below and in the CDC school guidance.
- Exceptions Where A Minimum of Six Feet of Distance Must be Maintained
- Six feet is always the required distancing between adults (teachers, staff, visitors) and between students and adults.
- Six feet of distance is required when eating meals or snacks, or drinking, or other times masks must be removed. This may mean that meals cannot be eaten in classrooms that have been converted to three feet of physical distance during instruction time.
- Individuals participating in activities that require projecting the voice (e.g., singing) or playing a wind instrument must be six feet apart and there must be six feet of distance between the performers and the audience during performances and concerts.
- Six feet of physical distance must be maintained in common areas and outside of classrooms (e.g. lobbies, auditoriums, gymnasiums, cafeterias, and hallways), where possible.
- For guidance on sports, please refer to the Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (March 25, 2021)
Responsible Parties should ensure that a distance of six feet in all directions is maintained between individuals while participating in activities requires projecting the voice (e.g., singing), playing a wind instrument, or aerobic activity resulting in heavy breathing (e.g., participating in gym classes).”
Page 22: Indicators of Community Transmission
CDC recommends that public health officials and school administrators consider the total new cases per 100,000 persons in the community within the preceding 7 days and the percentage of molecular tests that are positive within the preceding 7 days when making decisions about physical distancing. Levels of community transmission defined as total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days (low, 0-9; moderate, 10-49; substantial, 50-99; high, ≥100) and percentage of positive tests in the past 7 days (low, <5%; moderate, 5-7.9%; substantial, 8-9.9%; high, ≥10%).
It is important to note these changes in guidance do not mean a return to normalcy. Many of our health and safety protocols, such as the requirement to wear a mask at all times when on school grounds and completing the Daily COVID-19 Health Screening Questionnaire, remain in effect.
The Erie County Department of Health establishes the contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation protocols (COVID-19 contract tracing, quarantine, and isolation protocol) the District is required to follow. With changes in social-distancing guidance, in the event of a positive COVID-19 case, contact tracing could result in the quarantine of an entire classroom.
We have to remain vigilant in our effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
As a reminder, the Instructional Model Survey on WITS needs to be completed by Wednesday, April 14, 2021 at noon. It is critical to have responses from all of our families and students so we properly account for increased capacity within our schools and maintain an educational environment that is as healthy and safe as possible.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. John E. McKenna
Acting Superintendent of Schools