JULY 10, 2020 - HEALTH AND SAFETY SUBCOMMITTEE MEETING
Health and Safety Subcommittee MeetinG
July 10, 2020
Members in attendance: Superintendent, Assistant Superintendents, Director of Business Services/Safety Officer, Administrators, Coordinator of Health Services, Director of School Facilities, Director of Transportation, Teachers, Doctors/Parents, Parents, Board of Education Member, School Nurse, Students and Security Staff
Superintendent: Good morning everyone and happy friday. Thank you for joining us today. I am going to be brief today and will present a quick overview. We will lead off with committee members who did not have the opportunity to speak last meeting. The ebb and flow will be different than last meeting. After we hear from the two committee members we will get into other instructional models. We will provide some updates on where we are in the process. Continue to engage each other about our thoughts and ideas and concerns. Second on the agenda, we will start with the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. Last week we had 11 other meetings which is great news. They were all participatory. This process is working in terms of hearing from our stakeholders. Yesterday we started to take some deep dives and probe ideas with each other. We are gathering ideas. Things will get busy very quickly. The governor and SED are expected to provide further guidance on monday. Afterwards we will share with the administrators and superintendents. We will meet with leaders of bargaining units, share our thoughts of guidelines. Already on July 14 there is a tasks force meeting scheduled. My role is to make sure I am tapping into all. Board workshop. Three board of education members are on the task force. With so much information coming, my hope and desire is that this is the first of two meetings. There is a need for a lot of dialogue going forward to get to a landing place.
Are there any questions about the timeline.
Security Staff: I believe that no matter what you do there will be second guessing. Ever changing patterns. Today we are dealing with corona, tomorrow it could be SARS. I believe that we will have some problems if we need an evacuation of a building and we group everyone together. Someone will complain about being put together.
Superintendent: I would agree with you. Decisions will be made for the health and safety of all.
Member of the Board of Education: I like the timeline. Only concern is there will likely need to be more workshops. It is important to have a shell or plan that we can work from as the governor changes his guidance.
Superintendent: I agree with you. The shell you are referring to has come up in discussions. Highlighted yesterday in a meeting with the bargaining units. Thank you for that feedback. Let's go to the committee members we did not hear from last meeting.
Security Staff: In the other meeting I indicated that continuity in all buildings is very important. Parents need to know exactly what is expected of them in each building. The model of behaving will wear off. Masks hinder face commands. People will say they didn't understand what was said to them. May not be able to identify students properly because of masks. Wearing masks will limit identification. Evacuation drills need to be thought out. Taking students out of the classroom and putting them outside. Congregation of vaping in the bathroom will be an issue. Going back to handwashing is great. Concerned some students may wear masks with a message. Political or otherwise. Could cause a problem. Are we going to ensure all employees are free from carrying a disease so they can’t be blamed down the line. There are other issues with security but will discuss with his principal.
Superintendent: Thank you. Will open discussion to anyone to react to what you said.
Doctor/Parent: In terms of the shared buildings, is that curriculum based? Will a high school student be in several buildings?
Security Staff: There are some students who will go from the high school to Rockland Community College and back.
Doctor/Parent: As part of the cohorting plan, this is important that students would stay in the classroom at the elementary level. In the middle and high school cohorting needs to be minimized.
Principal - elementary level: Spoke to RCC and they are doing online studies in the fall with the exception of culinary, auto and nursing.
Doctor/Parent: Would it be possible for all students to wear an id tag around their neck on a string, so identification would be less of an issue? In terms of talking through a mask, it is difficult to do but can be done. For the evacuation drills, can putting masks on during drills be part of the process?
Superintendent: Those are great ideas and we appreciate them. Regarding the security staff committee member and his concern about consistency in following the rules I know you have been meeting. Ask for a comment from the Assistant Principal - secondary level.
Assistant Principal - secondary level: Every school is different and unique, so it may not be possible to to have all systems exactly the same. Everyone needs a mask. Regarding evacuations; they are required by law. District is looking into the drills and if they are going to be required.
Student: Hoping we can open schools with kids learning. We need the connection of our peers. I am a fan of opening or doing a hybrid model. When I leave the classroom, my shoulders are up against everyone, it gets very crowded. We all like to be near each other.
Superintendent: The topic of discussion regarding students wanting to be near peers is in the social emotional bucket. Can you speak about that?
Student: Being in a school environment allows students to be more focused. It is difficult at home to be focused in your room. Having a teacher in front of you helps.
Superintendent: Can you offer a suggestion regarding flows of traffic?
Director of Facilities and Operations: Some of our schools have a circular pattern. SHS is one of them. Festa is one as well. In those locations we could implement a one way flow pattern to avoid crossing paths. To some extent it exists in elementary schools. In elementary schools we could implement a “double yellow line” to manage cross contact.
Superintendent: We are going to segway, before we go to the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. Perhaps a question to think about would be, “What is going to drive all the decision making”? Health and safety is at the core of decision making, however wherever we land with our varying and multiple ideas, we will more than likely be in a situation where answers to other questions are determined based on how we will provide instruction to students. Live in person? The Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction is sharing ideas. They are not carved in stone. Many conversations need to occur with numerous stakeholders. Bargaining units, the Board of Education; many conversations need to occur. Need to brainstorm. Please share thoughts and ideas from a distance learning and in person standpoint. I am Going to ask you to start with the elementary level and then finish with the secondary level.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction: I am excited to talk about ideas and let you know about the process. From all the listening tours with elementary and secondary administrators in addition to all subcommittee meetings, the total number of people involved is nearing 80 plus. Also meeting with Ed Council. What we learned is a 3 cog wheel as follows:
- Health and safety
- Student experience
- Stakeholders needs
Some cogs will be weaker or stronger. All are challenges. There is not a perfect idea yet. All ideas are challenges, all are concerns. We will try to help everyone understand our thinking. This is done in concert with thoughts on transportation challenges.
- Partially in school and partially home. We need to try to repurpose every space in elementary school. K-2 would come in every day. Every school will need 7 to 9 additional spaces for classrooms. Grades 3-5 will be on a hybrid approach. 50% of students would come to school on day one and the other 50% would come in on day 2. All K-2 students will need to be picked up on the bus first. 3 - 5 students would be picked up later. This presents staffing issues. This model would have TAs involved with supervision. The number one thing we heard from parents was learning online was very challenging. K-2 would need assistance with assignments, and technology. Pause for reaction.
Superintendent: Just to add a fine point, let's pass to the Director of Transportation.
Director of Transportation: This would be a challenge for transportation. Transporting all K-2 students to all 9 schools at one time will be difficult. The Assistant Superintendent is on point.
Assistant Superintendent of Business: To add and echo the Director of Transportation’s sentiment, it will be difficult. We may need to change two tiers from early and late elementary to a K-2 arrival time and a 3,4,5 arrival times. If we are thinking through logistics in an AB model we will need to rethink two tiers early and late and convert to a K-2 and 3,4,5 arrival time everywhere. We cannot add two additional tiers to the schedule and meet the school start times.
Superintendent: Neighborhood cohort?
Assistant Superintendent of Business: It becomes clear that regardless of the model, when you build cohorts we should try to not double or triple the transportation costs. Scheduling children on a particular route on the same day. For example, there are 10-12 buses per elementary school that deliver and return children home. 10-12 buses are dispatched to specific routes based on efficiency. A route is a contiguous set of streets. If we build an A/B model that has only some kids from a particular route and some from another route, we could be increasing routes and increasing costs. Within a bus route, it would be important to look at cohorting these children to attend school on the same day. Children on a particular route are all on a particular bus schedule. Other special routing like special education children needs to be considered carefully when applying a new model. The Director of Transportation and his team have a lot of expertise developing efficient and safe routing schedules. It almost takes the entire summer to work through routes. Right now, we are doing routes based on pre-covid processes. We will need to revamp our routing schedule based on the instruction model we choose. It is a significant job to efficiently build routes.
Superintendent: Thank you. Let's open it up.
Member of the Board of Education: Thinking about K-2 every day and speaking about youngest kids needing support academically, but additionally they need support with everything. Tying shoes, going to the bathroom, washing hands. This is putting staff in a position where they may be at risk because these children need more help. To me, we should not sacrifice any group. Services should be provided across the board. One group should not get more than another. All have needs. Just looks different at different grade levels.
Superintendent: Equity is important and balance is important.
Member of the Board of Education: I agree, in terms of academics and safety.
Teacher - secondary level: With K-2 being in every day, we would split classes and move them to other places? Social distancing.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction: K classes would be adjacent to one another. Anywhere from 12 to 14 on one side and the other side the same. Most classrooms have a TA. Teacher would be on one side and TA on the other side supporting the teacher.
Assistant Superintendent of Business: Regarding enough classrooms in an elementary school to have the same social distance met for K-2 while doing A/B for 3,4,5. The idea would be to use both the current classrooms and some other spaces in the building, potentially rooms such as a library, art room.
Teacher - secondary level: Question if we have the manpower. We have difficulty getting substitute teachers. If someone is out, we have an even harder time getting TA substitutes. What if there are no subs? Where will the kids go and who watches them?
Assistant Superintendent of Business: This is an important point. Ask for the Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent for Personnel to respond. Subs have historically been a challenge.
Teacher - secondary level: Many subs are retired employees who may be medically vulnerable.
Assistant Superintendent of Business: Staffing needs careful consideration as we step through this. Teachers, TA’s custodians etc.. It may be a challenge for some employees to work in this environment.
Superintendent: This is a great example of ideas having obstacles. In current time, smaller groups we may be able to problem solve and brainstorm.
Teacher - secondary level: TA’s are assigned to the grades based on need. If we have a TA assigned at K or first grade level that person is assigned there to help teachers. Now teachers are by themselves in one room, TA’s are by themselves in another room. We are losing a lot doing that split.
Superintendent: Understand this point. Wherever we are, either virtual or hybrid, I believe things will not be the same as during pre-covid times. We can focus on flexibility to do our very best.
Teacher - elementary level: Piggy backing off what the teacher - secondary level said regarding substitutes, we are diligently putting all this time together and discussing ideas. In thinking about subs coming to building, I am assuming they will not have had the same direction. We are doing this over a period of time. What kind of preparation will subs have? They are in many different buildings. In a way it is actually jeopardizing in terms of keeping students contained. Most importantly, will subs have all the information they need stepping into a building? Knowing what and how to do things.
Teacher - secondary level: Subs work in other districts. They go where the openings are.
Teacher - elementary level: I appreciate the focus on K-2, but we also need to consider that continuity should be there for every student. Where are the students in the 3-5 classrooms in getting their needs met? I feel that every student should have the same level of opportunity. Challenges that come in K-2 could be defined differently than in a 3 to 5 student.
Doctor/Parent: Would like to remind everyone that in countries with schools open since April, there have been very few cases of Covid going from kid to parent to teacher. We can really have a model with kids going to school daily. Older kids more of a concern.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction: K students have never been exposed to school. Reason for this idea is that primarily we anticipate at some time a school will close abruptly. While they did have some remote learning we anticipate some level of a Covid slide. Reading is fundamental in K-2. Neuroscience talks about the effect of online learning to pathways for students under a certain age. Another consideration. Talking about academic research. APA shows number of cases during a shutdown, transmission level very low. There will be a portion of the community that will be completely remote learning. Also for teachers. Once data points come back, this information will help us understand how many classrooms and teachers we will need. What happens with situations where we redistribute classes.
Substitute teachers and TA’s are a problem. All of the approaches are not even remotely ideal. We are not satisfied with them but we will have to present them. Some students will have no choice but to be remote. Equity does not mean equal and equity does not mean fair. Must think of which learners are neediest. Everyone's point is extremely valid and on point. We currently don’t have all the solutions.
Superintendent: I appreciate your thoughts. You put a fine point regarding equity is not always equal. We don't have all the answers but we are sharing ideas.
Coordinator of Health Services: Let us refer to the doctors in our committee.
Doctor/Parent: With hybrid model grades 3-5 needs to be in school every day. Is child care for a 3-5 student being provided in a subsidized way? Grades 3-5 students still can’t stay home alone. Are permanent substitutes a thing?
Teacher - secondary level: There may be one permanent sub in a building. There is not a permanent TA sub.
Doctor/Parent: Could you use the larger rooms for the social distancing rather than 2 rooms?
Superintendent: I appreciate your point. Your point of emphasis about childcare is spot on. It’s a tough nut to crack. Trying to figure out ways to solve the issue.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction:
To finish elementary, the other two models to be discussed today:.
- Half K-5 come in for half a day, morning, the other half of K-5 come in for half a day, afternoon. Transportation will be challenging. Cleaning will be a challenge.
- A/B - one half of students on remote learning and the other half of students come in and then switch - popular model. Childcare issues for this model are immense. If we were to shut down abruptly K-2 would have difficulty with remote learning.
Would like more feedback on option 2. Asking medical doctors for input.
Doctor/Parent: If students and teachers are responsible for cleaning off their own areas or there is an opportunity to have cleaning by custodial staff, it won’t be an issue. I don’t think that will be an issue in terms of health safety. In children in grades K-5 the ability to spread Covid is a lot less than in other children. Social emotional component to consider. Health is a priority. We could have all K-5 in school all day. Childcare and transportation point to eliminating a half day model as an option. Cannot see how teachers could do A/B model. Doesn’t understand how NYC will do this. For everyone social emotional health is important. Can’t see it.
Doctor/Parent: Agrees with other doctor/parent. K-5 should be in school every day. The chance of spread is low.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction: The number one challenge will be social distance classrooms. On average in an elementary school, space will be a problem. The Massachusetts model is 3 feet; this is a different conversation. Governor Cuomo is in a contract with New Jersey and Connecticut. We anticipate a 6 foot distancing requirement.
Superintendent: All feedback appreciated.
Principal - elementary level: Principal reaction: I did the math and can come up with 9 to 10 additional rooms. We could split K-2 at hybrid #1 model. TA’s will be with students but classes will be half the size. Agree with the substitute teacher/TA situation. This is a problem.
Hybrid #2. Not realistic to ask teachers or kids to clean. Teachers need lunch and prep. Cleaning would need to be solely based on custodial staff to do it.
Model #3. I Understand the daycare issues. Discussions are taking place within the community. Going back to the 6 foot rule, I did a mock up and 6 feet between desks is impactful.
Superintendent: What is your reaction to all students in school?
Principal - elementary level: Some camps are closing because kids and adults got Covid. I am not arguing with the Doctor, but wonder if kids are the carriers, or if parents get it and kids are carriers and bring it to school.
Coordinator of Health Services: It is one thing to look at data and another to look at what is happening. Even one case of Covid will cause worry.
Principal - elementary level: One district opened high school sports, then coaches and students got it and now they can’t even open schools.
Doctor/Parent: We cannot open schools without expecting Covid to be in the buildings. The sleepaway camps that closed had campers in bunk together. Day camp had it because of a parent coming in. Data is preliminary, but generally speaking schools at the elementary level that are in other countries have remained open for a long period of time. Social emotional models can be done.
Doctor/Parent: A family could be expected to quarantine but not necessarily the entire school.
School Nurse: Suggest siblings in class together?
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction: We are open to all suggestions from parents and looking at all opportunities for students that make sense for stakeholders.
Parent: The model of K-2 full time and grades 3-5 50% of the time in school, I am not a fan of as a parent. It will be a difficult time getting kids out of the house. Some stay, some go. The best model as a parent is 50% of students in school in the morning and the other 50% of students in school in the afternoon. Can we have outside vendors come to schools to do cleaning so teachers can have break and eat lunch?
If each student has their own desk, wouldn’t that mean there would be alternation? I Understand doctors say it is safe to come back to school K-5 every day, but parents will not feel comfortable with that model. Parents are scared and nervous to trust what we put out there. We need to look at a better cleaning protocol. Outside cleaning vendors coming in. We can not rely on teachers and students to clean. Third model A/B: I do not like it. Take into consideration families and keeping on the same schedule.
I like the half day model. We need to consider parents comfort levels. We need to look at hiring an outside cleaning service. Even with a full day of school we need to make parents comfortable.
School Nurse: I wear two hats, I am a nurse at an elementary school. I understand less kids in the building is safer. As a parent with an incoming K and two 4th graders, childcare and getting kids on the bus and going to work would not work. I am hoping for all kids going all day, maybe three to four days a week and virtual learning the rest of the time. If we use all the space we could get all the kids in.
Superintendent: How could this impact childcare?
School Nurse: in March, school nurses worked in daycares. It worked out well. Maybe we could continue that program for all, not just the essential workers. We could assign staff to utilize at a daycare center.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction: Please restate your idea.
School Nurse: K-5 all attend school at same time. Maybe not 5 days a week. Start with 2,3 or 4 days. Use off days to thoroughly disinfect the school. Kids return to a clean school.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction: With the numbers of spaces we can’t physically have all K-5 students socially distance at the same time. The 6 foot social distance requirement is the problem with all K-5 returning to school at the same time. The math doesn't add up.
Member of the Board of Education: Suggest desk dividers. Hard plastic on sides. Clear in the front. Could this work with a return to school of all students?
Assistant Superintendent of Business: Social distance requirements are expected to be set at 6 feet. We need to be careful about investing time and money in dividers if it does not change the social distance requirement. We need to know the requirements that will be announced on Monday to decide. Massachusetts came up with a 3 foot social distance requirement. When they set up a classroom, students are required to wear masks. The 6 foot social distance requirement does not require the children to wear a mask while at their desk. This changes the dynamic of a child's experience throughout the day. Some have talked about polycarbonate separators. This idea doesn’t seem appropriate if It won’t change social distance requirements. The idea of an assigned desk where student A has one desk and student B has another desk is a bit of a problem. All guidance suggests we should remove as much furniture as possible. It helps sanitizing and cleaning. It encourages and increases air flow, and thirdly, we can’t expect the younger students not to touch another student’s desk. This is an engineering, math and physical space problem as much as a staffing problem.
AM and PM model: The hour and a half in between morning and afternoon is not enough time to appropriately clean buildings and bathrooms and shared spaces. We all may have an opinion about cleaning and disinfection, but there will be requirements according to the Department of Health. We will need to implement those requirements.
Transportation: If we do an am/pm program and you have half the kids in the morning and other half in the afternoon, we are doubling the transportation costs over what it is today. It is comparable to two school days in one day. Driver hours and fuel consumption would double to effect that change. Most of our drivers are retired people as well. Doubling transportation requirements would be a difficult requirement to meet.
Director of Transportation: Bus maintenance is done between school transportation times. Inspection is done during the school day. We couldn’t maintain our vehicles on this model.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction: Secondary level we examined an A/B model as well A/B/C model. We feel the A/B model would be challenging to implement. Would require collapsing of classes.
Hybrid model: A/B/C model. Students come 2 days within a 6 day rotation. Many administrators have asked for 100 percent virtual. One principal suggested giving up HS so K-5 could come in every day. A/B/C over a 6 day rotation is the only way to start the school year potentially.
Student: Interesting perspective as a high school student looking at the K-5 models. Think we are on a good track right now. Starting to narrow down questions. Good job as a group. Interesting to hear from everyone.
Superintendent: Any thought on the A/B/C model?
Student: That would be a challenge to start and get it running. I agree it would be beneficial. If we need to make sacrifices at higher levels, students could make those sacrifices.
Superintendent: It’s a starting place?
Teacher - elementary level: I feel fortunate to be part of these discussions. It is important work being done at the grassroots.
All models - hybrid - have significant staffing issues. We mix across classes constantly. Concerned about providing students services they are entitled. I am challenged to find a solution right now, but am thinking on how this can be achieved. Appreciative of the respectful nature of the conversations.
Superintendent: Is there anything in particular that jumps out at you?
Teacher - elementary level: Everyone sees things through their own lens. For K-5 students, anyone who has a related service receives it 3-5 times a week. How would we deliver services? Logistically, a lot to consider.
Superintendent: K-2, what is your view on equity?
Teacher - elementary level: Equity cannot always be equal. If equal, not equitable. Split schedule would not be equitable.
Superintendent: Thank you for your patience and listening patiently. Asks Director of Business Services for your thoughts? We have more to do.
Director of Business Services: I don’t think anyone could have said it better than our last teacher speaking. It is so important for groups to engage in the complexity of this problem. It requires endless rounds of conversation to meet the needs of stakeholders. As our Superintendent said, After July 13, it will be game on. The Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction mentioned surveys and the nuances of details will be important. A lot more to come. Thank you for the engagement today.
Superintendent: Spot on. We will hear from the governor. Concept of synergy. Out of it comes blended ideas. Refer to School Nurse’s response as a good example.How much room moving forward for synergy, weighing all ideas and moving forward.
Director of Business Services: Hopefully we will take all ideas, and land on a “golden spot” . Everyone will need to accept a compromise in order to return students to school in the safest way possible for students and staff.
Superintendent: I appreciate being a partner in education with all of you. Enjoy the weekend.