(Questions are posted as submitted. This page will be updated as needed)
Question: Mental Health. What Social/Emotional supports are currently in place for children? If hybrid/remote learning is continuing through this school year- what can additionally be added. Some schools are offering Lunch Bunch type programs, but many parents do not think additional forced screen time is the answer and aren’t sure if their students would willingly participate. Parents are also concerned about the emotional deficiencies that are a result of lack of socialization between students/teachers/school support staff.
Our school psychologists, social workers, social work assistants, counselors, principals, and all our employees are aware of the pandemic’s impact on the social emotional health of students. The impact extends to our staff, families, and community. Like parents, the district is concerned about fewer opportunities for socialization and connection between students, teachers, and support staff.
As we developed our plan for the 2020-21 school year, we engaged an entire team of stakeholders to discuss how to address the social and emotional needs of our students. Staff members participated in training at the beginning of the year, and we are providing additional training and discussion opportunities throughout the year on topics including relationship skills and social awareness, self-awareness and self-management, and strategies for disengaged students. Our teachers are making themselves available for students as they always have, often staying online after class or setting up a time to connect outside of class, especially on Wednesdays throughout the day for those who need assistance.
Our schools have been offering various small group and virtual activities to help our students with social emotional needs and opportunities to connect. The staff in our schools have worked hard to develop and implement activities to show our care and concern for our students, and to maintain and increase school spirit and morale. In-person activities such as “lunch bunch” and other programs are limited to small groups due to safety protocols, but they are occurring in our schools both virtually and in-person. Our school personnel are working hard to meet the social and emotional needs of our students. It is a collaborative effort; schools are not the only place where students get emotional support for socialization, and we must work together to effectively identify and meet the needs of our students both during school and outside school hours. Unfortunately, all our norms for this socialization have temporarily been changed due to COVID-19. We all must work to assist in meeting the social needs of these children as best we can during this challenging time.
We encourage parents/guardians to reach out to teachers or principals, as well as community organizations, for more information as we all work on meeting the social/emotional needs of our students.
Question: Screen time. How can we reduce or improve the time students are spending on screens? Many parents have expressed concerns over the amount of daily screen time- this varies by grade level. Some parents were reporting their students are on their screens up to 10 hours a day- with virtual classes and then additional work. Additionally, much of this time can be distracted screen time- spending time on multiple screens with their laptops/computers/phones/TV’s etc. Parents (and teachers) have reported vision and headache issues as a result.
We are all concerned about the societal issue of screen time; it was an issue prior to the pandemic and of course a greater issue now. With parents choosing remote for safety, medical, or other reasons, there will always be students requiring to connect via a screen. During instructional time, teachers are building in breaks and encouraging students to move away from the screen when possible and making sure they are physically moving throughout the day. We ask parents/guardians to encourage their children to do the same when at home and finished with instruction, and to talk with children about screen usage outside schoolwork, monitoring this use if possible. If there is a continued excessive amount of screen time, a parent needs to check in with either the student's teacher or building administrator to discuss the issue and see if there is a mutual way of addressing the concern as we are in an educational format that will require a certain amount of screen time. Please remember that parents and guardians can minimize this time at home and work with teachers on maximizing the learning time needed for education. There are also items such as blue/yellow light glasses that can help lessen the effects of more screen usage on the eyes.
Here are some resources for information on screen time:
Question: What will the district policy be on the COVID vaccination?
All COVID–19 vaccines are currently approved under “Emergency Use Authorization” only. Therefore, the district has been informed by the New York State Department of Health that these COVID–19 vaccines are currently not allowed to be mandated for use. As a result, there is currently no official district policy or regulation on a COVID-19 vaccination for students. The Horseheads Central School District will follow the regulations and/or laws put into place regarding COVID-19 vaccinations in the future as they relate to public educational institutions.
Question: Attendance. what is the district policy on attendance? There seems to be some confusion on live instruction attendance vs. School Tool/ Official School record attendance? Parents expressed concern on their children being marked absent if unable to attend live instruction but watch the instruction later in the evening. Many parents expressed frustration at the lack of understanding/ acknowledgement/empathy of parents who are working outside the home.
Our schools have shared information on attendance during remote and hybrid instruction. We have stressed that students should attend all the live sessions that they can. This helps address the interaction concern as well as attendance. Students are marked ‘absent’ in the moment of a live class, but if they access itslearning before midnight that day, the absence is moved to ‘present.’
Students can also connect with their teacher during office hours offered by the teacher either in their routine or established through the student or parent requesting time with their teacher. If students or parents/ guardians have questions about attendance, they can always reach out to their teacher or school office for clarity.
Question: High School final exams. The question was raised, and many parents engaged with this question- how/ why are high school students still being given final exams that will be approximately 10-20% of their grade? How are remote students being monitored for these exams vs. hybrid students who will take them in person? Given the current climate and all the different variables that are coming into play- is this the best and most accurate way to gauge their knowledge? NYSED has cancelled Regents exams- why is Horseheads not cancelling finals? A suggestion was made that perhaps projects, speeches, presentations or videos depicting their understanding of course content may be a more accurate method of assessment.
In the awarding of credit for a course, there has always been a culminating event to measure students’ learning. This practice will continue, but with a reduction of the value of the final from 20% of the final grade to 10% for first semester courses (second semester will follow the same course of action if Regents exams are canceled).
Current grading procedures will have teachers rely more on the interactions throughout the semester, with knowledge building throughout the length of the course. Depending upon the course, there will be authentic assessments as in the past: projects, presentations, portfolios, etc. Teachers have been using a variety of methods for measuring students’ knowledge and skills in assigned quizzes, tests, homework, and classwork throughout this year. Our secondary teachers have been discussing the finals for their courses with their students. We encourage any student who has questions to reach out to their teachers.
Question: Extracurricular/Athletics. What is the plan to bring these back safely, as soon as permitted by NYS? A few surrounding districts (although they were in a different colored Zone) have been running some of their programming safely and successfully since Sept, again when permitted by NYS. Many parents feel their children are at a disadvantage.
The district’s plan has and always will be to follow the guidance from the state, section, and league athletic associations, as well as the Governor’s directions for athletic participation. Our section and league moved the start of all three seasons until after January 4, 2021. This move was made by the entire section to gain greater clarity from state agencies and officials on safety issues, as well as to try to make sure all sports could have a season, even if shorter than usual.
The district began allowable sports on January 4, as promised, according to the state's guidelines on risk levels. We intend to continue this athletic and extracurricular implementation as safely as possible and according to the established guidelines and recommendations, for the rest of the year and if the Governor, section, and leagues allow schools to continue. Unfortunately, the Governor has specifically restricted certain sports deemed high-risk since the start of the school year.
High Risk Sports, as designated by the state:
Winter (January 4): Basketball (Boys/Girls), Wrestling, Competitive Cheerleading
Fall 2 (March 1): Football, Volleyball
Spring (April 19): Lacrosse (Boys) Unified Basketball
The Governor has held his position on this restriction of high-risk sports and as such, these sports are not allowed to compete at this time. The district is currently holding in-season conditioning sessions, or ‘open gyms’, for each of the restricted programs, as well as off-season workouts according to our past procedures, so student athletes can stay in shape and work out with their teams. Of course, these sessions and workouts will follow state guidelines and safety protocols.
Districts outside of our county and/or section have been allowed to have this non-contact off season practice sessions prior to January 4, 2021. This is because these districts (Corning, Ithaca, and others) are located in areas that were not put into a restricted zone designation by Governor Cuomo. This restricted zone designation by the governor did not allow the school district to offer any of these in season and/or off-season sessions until just recently (January 4, 2021). The district was prepared to offer these opportunities to our students back in October 2020 when all schools were scheduled to reopen from the 12-day move to remote learning due to a staffing shortage and COVID-19 outbreak earlier that month. Unfortunately, this was when the Governor designated nearly the entire county as an Orange zone and restricted operations just when we were ready to restart instructional, athletic, and extracurricular programs. Our district and our students had no other option to participate until the state changed their guidance for designated micro-cluster zones.
Please see the information below for more information on athletics.
Additional Athletic Information for seasons and competitions
(subject to adjustments, as needed, by district and state)
Spectators at Practices and/or Contests
The Horseheads Central School District will allow only limited spectators at home athletic events:
- Spectators will be only allowed at home competitions when feasible. This is due to COVID-19 guidelines and/or capacity limits for safety and to keep our sports programs open.
- Competition capacity limited for each sports venue will be set by the athletic director.
- All spectators will be required to follow health screening protocols and temperature checks to attend any competition.
- There may be events that have no spectators, only one spectator, or a maximum of two spectators per family. (This will be set ahead of the competition by the athletic office and communicated via coaches.)
- Senior Night events will also be limited. The district will reserve these events for spectators of the seniors’ families only in order to honor their high school career.
- Away athletic events are governed by the away school. If spectators are allowed, all spectators are required to follow the away schools' procedures and/or protocols. (families should check with the coach prior to any away competition for away school districts rules and/or limitations prior to attending any event.)
- Any non-compliance with school district rules, protocols, and/or safety procedures may result in a person's removal from the school event(s).
The district will compete in athletic competitions that are allowed by the state, section, and/or league. Our school athletic teams will compete in events with masking requirements for competition according to New York State guidelines. Students in the Horseheads Central School District will be required to wear a face mask during practices and competitions. The wearing of the face mask is defined as follows: a mask is to be secured to the head and covering the area of the bridge of the nose, over the mouth, and under the chin. Students must wear an appropriate mask to participate on school property. Only a confirmed medical reason, verified and supported by the school district’s physician, will allow a student athlete to compete without a mask.
When it comes to competing against other teams, the Horseheads Central School District athletic teams will only compete against other sports teams who will also wear face masks during the entire competition. These masking requirements will apply to all 2021 league, non-league, sectional, and state level contests. In the event an opponent is not willing to appropriately wear a mask during competition, in either non-league, league, sectional, and/or state events, the coach of any Horseheads athletic team is to inform the athletic director and game officials of the safety issue and remove the team from the situation and return to school. The athletic director and coach will confirm masking compliance and intentions of away schools prior to competition dates.
Question: What is the cutoff date for remote students wanting switch to hybrid? Parents would like clarification on when and how they make the switch.
We have told parents/guardians of students on remote instruction that at the end of the first semester, or midway through the year in January, we would revisit the idea to determine if moves from remote to hybrid instruction are feasible. To determine this, we need to know how many of our remote families would like their child to move to hybrid instruction.
The district sent a questionnaire to parents/guardians of remote students only the week of January 11 asking if they would like their child to move to hybrid instruction for the second semester. This information will assist the district in determining if we can maintain current class sizes and safety protocols in the event many families wish to make the move to hybrid instruction for their children. There are also mandatory busing issues the district must consider as we work to meet parent/guardian requests to return students to the district’s in-person hybrid instructional schedule. We will let remote parents/guardians know if we can accommodate these moves, as well as any other information needed to continue the learning model developed used by our district stakeholder team for this year.
Question: What are the results of both surveys done by the district? Is it possible to do another survey to include hybrid at 2 days a week, hybrid at 3 days-2 days rotating, 5 days a week in person and 100% remote? Parents are looking for choice.
The district’s decisions on instructional delivery were made in the summer based on extensive guidance from the state an in line with safety parameters set by the state health and education departments. A committee of stakeholder representatives, from across the district, analyzed and discussed several different models as mentioned above and made recommendations to the district based on instruction, social emotional, transportation, food service, and daycare needs.
The first survey completed in August was created to gather information from parents/guardians on a variety of topics. It was to gather relevant information on how families were choosing their educational modality, given the recommendations of our representative stakeholder groups utilized to formulate the district's plan. The survey was not a decision-making tool for any district actions and should not be interpreted as representative of the entire district's positions by families.
Specifically, the survey only represented 62% of potential respondents and there were also duplicate responses submitted by many, which may skew any potential results. Additionally, the survey was not to be utilized to derive new systems of instructional delivery. The survey results have been available on the district plan section of the district website since the start of the school year.
The survey the district conducted for specific parental selection of educational programming and other choice options is not for public dissemination. It was for operational needs and contains personally identifiable information and would not be provided for public review.
Question: What is the district’s plan for providing public forum on the Board of Education meetings, as required by law?
While school board meetings must be open to the public, there is no requirement that school boards allow members of the public to speak. The Commissioner of Education encourages boards to allow members of the public to speak whenever possible, and as such the district has long maintained a comments and questions section on each board meeting agenda. COVID-19 has shifted standard operations throughout the past year and as a result, the Board and administration have continuously tried to adjust to the needs of this ever-changing pandemic environment.
The Board of Education is revamping its Public Comment section for the upcoming January meeting, via the district’s remote broadcasting of monthly board meetings. During the pandemic, the Horseheads Board of Education has allowed public comment at meetings through Board Policy 2370 as best it could. The COVID-19 procedure of submitting a comment or question to the district prior to any scheduled meeting of the Board has been announced publicly to the community at each board meeting since March. In addition, all meetings of the Board of Education (BOE) during remote meeting times have been recorded and posted for transparency of the Horseheads Central School District.
Beginning in January, the public will be able to personally participate in the comments section of district’s BOE meetings following board procedure.
For those who wish to make a comment at the board meeting, this will be accomplished by the following procedure:
- Arriving at 5:50 pm at the designated location for the stated board meeting.
- Checking in, completing health screening, and following all school safety protocols (Individuals should be aware that failure to meet the health screening requirements or adhere to safety protocols will restrict the individual from entering and/or remaining on school property and speaking to the Board of Education.)
- Using the established socially distanced, remote computer connection to participate.
- Following Board of Education Policy 2370 for Public Participation at Board Meetings
- Adhering to participation time limits.
- Checking out and leaving premises upon completion of participation
Please check the Board of Education Meeting section on the district website for location, time, and check in procedures for speaking at the any future Board of Education meetings. Final information on these details will be posted at the same time the monthly Board of Education Agenda is made public.
If you have questions you'd like answered here, please contact the district at email@example.com.
School Contact Information:
Horseheads High School - Principal Kris Earl, firstname.lastname@example.org, 795-2500
Horseheads Middle School - Principal Ron Holloway, email@example.com, 739-6357
Horseheads Intermediate School - Principal Michael Bostwick, firstname.lastname@example.org, 739-6366
Big Flats Elementary School - Principal Elizabeth Scaptura, email@example.com, 739-6373
Center Street Elementary School - Principal Patricia Sotero, firstname.lastname@example.org, 795-2580
Gardner Road Elementary School - Principal Patrick Patterson, email@example.com, 739-6347
Ridge Road Elementary School - Principal Anne-Marie Bailey, firstname.lastname@example.org, 739-6351
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