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Scarsdale Schools Reveals Restart Plan: Elementary School Parents Dismayed-

qr7The long awaited Restart Plan for the Scarsdale Schools to be submitted to the New York State Education Department on August 7 was debuted to to the community on the evening of Monday August 3rd. Though parents were most eager to know how school would be scheduled for the fall, the 83-page document offers much detail on how the district can meet the health and safety challenges posed by COVID, and the school schedule is just one of many elements of the document.

The state asked the district to provide three plans for 1) 100% in school learning, 2) a hybrid plan and 3) An all remote plan. Since the COVID -transmission rate in New York now falls below the required threshold, it is generally assumed that the district will open with the hybrid plan, and that is the cause for concern among parents of young children in Scarsdale.

The plan seeks to mitigate, but not totally eliminate, the risk of COVID in the schools and requires both six feet of social distancing and the wearing of masks in classrooms, hallways and throughout the day. In order to keep everyone six feet apart, all school populations are reduced to at least 50% attendance in the buildings at any given time.

Parents were anxiously awaiting details about the school schedule for their children in the fall, but did not find that information until reaching page 52 of the document.

Last week, details of the plan were leaked to the public and the community heard rumors that the Restart Plan provided for five days of school for elementary school students, with the fourth and fifth graders housed in the high school. However, as a consequence, high school students would be learning remotely, with no school attendance.

This sparked an outcry from high school parents and students which may have caused the Restart Committee to rethink their plans.

Elementary School Program

elementaryhybrid

As a result, the plan released on August 3 calls for elementary school students to attend school two days a week from 9am to 1 pm for a total of seven hours of in school instruction per week. Classes are split into two groups of 10-12 students who attend school two days per week. There is no in-person school on Wednesdays which is set aside for “teacher planning, alignment, assessment, specials, and special services.” However, at the beginning and end of the day there will be remote sessions with the classroom teacher.

Classes will remain in their assigned rooms for the majority of the school day and class groups will not be allowed to mix with other class groups.

On the days the students are not in school they will have Spanish, Art and asynchronous work which can involve watching prerecorded lessons, doing assigned work or projects.

Middle School Program

MiddleSchoolSchedule

Middle school students will be assigned to a cohort of about 50 students and will attend school at least two days a week.

Group A attends school in person on Monday and Thursday, eLearning takes place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

Group B attends school in person on Tuesday and Friday, eLearning takes place on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

According to the plan, “The day will follow an 8 period schedule and will include lunch in the building. Students will have two 50 minute in-person classes and asynchronous learning experiences each week. These experiences will support the in-person instruction and may take the form of self-guided learning activities and independent practice.”

At the middle school, students will be assigned to a group of 20-25 students and will remain with that group for their House and Quarterly classes. Students will remain in one classroom/desk (homebase) and teachers will rotate from room to room.

High School Program

HighSchoolSchedule

The hybrid schedule for Scarsdale High School calls for students to come to school for two half-days per week in the morning to receive in-person instruction and provides students two half-days per week in the afternoon to receive remote synchronous instruction at home. This schedule splits the school population into two cohorts, A and B. The A group comes to school on Monday and Thursday mornings for 5 periods and has corresponding virtual classes for those same periods on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. The B group comes to school on Tuesday and Friday mornings for 5 periods and has corresponding virtual classes for those same periods on Monday and Thursday afternoons. So, for a class that would meet four times a week in regular school, the student will have a 50-minute in-person class and a 35-minute zoom class for that class.

Technology

To insure that all students have similar technological devices, the district will distribute iPads and Chromebooks to all K-8 students and any high school students who want them.

Athletics

About the athletic program, the document says, “Generally, most Extracurricular Activities will be on pause during Phases 1-2. The District will continue to evaluate opportunities to make these activities available based on State guidance. The use of school facilities by outside groups will be limited to only those deemed essential by the District. Should the District make a determination to provide some Extracurricular Activities, they will generally focus on those with little or no physical contact.”

Questions

The document provides detailed information about safety protocols, cleaning, busing and operations but leaves many basic questions unanswered. Parents of elementary school students, who feel their children need more in school instruction, are wondering why certain opportunities to provide more classroom space were not considered.

For instance, the district recently embarked on expansion plans which added a library and media room at Edgewood, a large multi purpose cafeteria at Greenacres and a cafeteria at Heathcote. In addition, all of the elementary schools have music and art rooms, gyms, libraries, computer rooms and other extra rooms. Why is the district unable to use these to provide extra space for elementary school students for additional hours of in-school learning?

On page 38 of the report it says, “Some large common areas such as auditoriums and gymnasiums may be repurposed as instructional spaces to accommodate a larger number of students in the same class.” However, it appears that the plan is providing minimal in-school instruction and failing to utilize these large spaces.

Another option to provide more synchronous learning is to livestream the classroom to the children who are at home, rather than have them engaged in asynchronous activities. The report does not provide that as an option or explain why that cannot be done.

Others are questioning why the school day will end at 1 pm rather than 3 pm. With the kids already in school, why wrap up the day so early? And why is there little or no school on Wednesdays for the entire district?

Still others are wondering why Scarsdale’s elementary school students will receive fewer hours of instruction than neighboring districts. They have reviewed plans submitted by other districts and question why Scarsdale, which has a reputation as a leading district is trailing the pack on in-school hours. See letters from concerned parents here.

Last, what is the stand of the teachers’ union on the return to work.? Did they made specific demands and if so, what’re they? Knowing where the teachers stand on the return to school would help to enlighten the community on the basis for the district’s decisions.

For many, the issue comes down to transparency. If the community was aware of what the obstacles are to providing more school hours, they could fully understand the issues and also propose solutions.

Perhaps some of this information will come to light over the next two weeks when the following is planned:

On August 5 the district will release a recorded presentation to review and explain plan details.

On August 6 they will host a public forum webinar from 1-2:30 pm to answer questions, followed by a Board of Education meeting from 2:30-4 pm to discuss the Restart Plan.

On August 11, the Board will hold another meeting and the Restart Plan will be on the agenda.

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