GCSD 2020-21 Reopening Plan: Teaching and Learning

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The Guilderland Central School District will offer in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year, with an option for parents and families to engage in remote-only instruction if necessary or preferred.

  • The instructional schedules and models are meant to be flexible and based on transmission levels in the region.
  • School may start under one model, but as new information becomes available about health and safety, we may need to transition to a different model.
  • We have designed our reopening plan to ensure transitions between risk levels are seamless and predictable with daily schedules, teacher and course assignments, curricular expectations and technology integration, and assessment and grading practices remaining constant.

Staff-Only Training Days

The Guilderland school calendar includes three staff-only days before students’ official return to school. Acknowledging the challenges that our teachers and staff faced this spring delivering remote instruction under stressful circumstances, the district will focus these service days on providing the necessary training, professional development, and support as teachers and staff adapt their practices and routines.

Phased Reopening 

Additionally, on August 14, 2020, the Phased Reopening Plan was shared with the community.

  • During the week of September 7, 2020, there will be remote-only instruction for all students. This will give students the opportunity to get acquainted with their teachers and classmates, learn about class expectations and review health and safety rules.
  • In addition, students in Kindergarten, grade 5, grade 6, grade 8 and grade 9 will have the opportunity to go to their new school building and experience what it will be like when they attend in-person.

The start of the school year will also be a new experience for our returning, in-person students, as well as those who have opted for the virtual-only option. For all students, it will be imperative for teachers, administrators, and all staff members to establish positive and supportive relationships. Building learning communities, especially during the week of September 7, with those students who are in-person, as well as those who are at home, will be a primary focus for all employees. Understanding new expectations, and norms for interactions and collaborations will be key for students to find success and achieve during the 20-21 school year.

Teaching and Learning in the 2020-2021 School Year

At all grade levels, regular and substantive interactions will occur between students and teachers.

  • When in-person learning occurs, teachers will continue to plan and deliver standards-aligned lessons.
  • Specialized instruction will be provided, as appropriate, such as ESL or special education services required by the IEP for students with disabilities.
  • Full master schedules will be developed for each school where in-person learning will occur.
  • For students at grades 7-12 where a hybrid model will be followed, students may be engaged in independent (asynchronous) learning on the days they are not in the school building. To the extent possible, synchronous online connections between teachers and students will also be scheduled. This may include live-streamed lessons, remediation, or other engagements.

As we plan for the teaching and learning of the 2020-21 academic school year, we must ensure that all students have the opportunity to safely engage in learning regardless of the instructional model that will be in place for the school year: In-Person, Remote, or Hybrid, It is important to note that the potential to shift between each of these models is also possible given the uncertainty of the future course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For information relating to teaching and learning in BOCES special education and Career and Technical Education programs, please see the BOCES website.

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In-Person Learning (Grades K-6)

Staff and students will attend in-person on each scheduled school day for a full day of instruction where students will be actively involved in the school learning environment. 

All plans for in-person learning have been fully-informed by the health and safety guidelines released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New York State Department of the New York State Education Department. While we intend to begin the school year with in-person learning models as described below, we recognize flexibility in determining the scope of in-person instruction will be needed as the conditions in the region or state change.

For the 2020-21 school year, students in grades K-6 will experience

Grades K-6 Instructional Day

  • Grades K-2: 7:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. at their home elementary school.
  • Grades 3-4: 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at their home elementary school.
  • Grade 5: 9:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at Farnsworth Middle School in their home school classrooms that are in close proximity to each other. These students will be taught by their 5th-grade teachers and will follow their traditional elementary schedule.
  • Grade 6: 9:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at Farnsworth Middle School in their House Team and will follow an 8-period school day.

Read more about the Reopening Plan for School Schedules.

School Absences for Grades K-6

Added: Oct. 16, 2020

  • Students in grades K-6 cannot transition to remote instruction while at home during a period of school absence. This would require shifting to remote class sections, which are already established and we cannot accommodate. 
  • Absences for in-person students will be addressed as they have in the past prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. As soon as you are aware that your child will be absent, you should reach out to your child’s teacher to request missed assignments and guidance.
  • Student cannot join their class via Google Meet while absent. Teachers of students in grades K-6 are not expected to stream lessons to students who are at home due to absence.
  • Students in grades 6 and 6 are provided a Chromebook that they are able to bring home each night. Students in grades K-4 do not typically bring devices to and from school each day. If a student in grades K-4 will be absent, you can contact your school’s main office to make arrangements to pick up a Chromebook for use at home.

Health and Safety Guideline Considerations

All plans for in-person learning and class sizes will be based on several critical health and safety guidelines and other considerations. They include:

  • All students’ desks/seats will be positioned no less than six feet apart in all directions.
  • All employees and students will be required to wear a mask (that covers the nose and mouth) at all times, unless medically unable to or if a teacher is able to safely provide supervised “mask breaks” when he or she can ensure that students are seated, distanced, and not moving within a classroom. Students will be permitted to remove masks while eating or drinking during regularly scheduled lunches or snack breaks.
  • Accommodating a six-foot radius around students will necessitate that desks are positioned facing the same direction. Some classroom equipment, furniture, or materials may be removed or will be reconfigured to available space.
  • Some class sections will need to be split to meet social distancing requirements. Additional rooms or common-area spaces that may be identified and used as instructional space. In such instances, an instructional partner (teacher or teaching assistant will be assigned to the classroom teacher to support learning and provide additional supervision.
  • Student transitions from one class to another will be minimized whenever possible. To the extent possible, students will remain in small cohorts if/when leaving the classroom, such as for recess or any necessary transition, so as to reduce their exposure to additional people.
  • The District will adhere to a 12-foot distance between students when engaging in physical activity. Health guidelines require there is a 12-foot social distancing for physical education as well as chorus and band instruction. Whenever possible students will utilize outdoor space for physical education.
  • All instruction will continue to be aligned to the New York State Learning Standards.
  • There will be no assemblies, field trips and other large-group activities.
  • Special-area subjects, which are required by the NYSED (e.g., art, music, physical education) may be pushed into the classroom.

Staffing Considerations

Staffing levels will be carefully reviewed to determine if there are a sufficient number of teachers and/or teaching assistants to accommodate all of the additional spaces where students and classes will be distributed to ensure that social distancing can be maintained. Current staffing levels may be insufficient to accommodate the expanded number of class sections needed to ensure social distancing. As such, teachers and staff may be reassigned to accommodate in-person instruction needs at different grade levels.

  • Students will learn primarily from their classroom teachers, but may be supported by other school personnel during times of independent work or remote/live-streamed/pre-recorded lessons delivered to other spaces.
  • Support specialists/teachers may be reassigned to reduce class sizes and provide more direct in-class support and instruction for all students.
  • Special areas (art, library, music and PE) will primarily be push-in models, where teachers come to the classroom. Each child will receive special area instruction according to the following weekly rotation:
    • Art – 1 time per week for 30 minutes
    • Music – 1 time per week for 40 minutes
    • Phys Ed – 2 times per week for 30 minutes each
    • Library – 1 time per week for 30 minutes

Additionally, grade-level teachers may rotate between classrooms to provide daily direct instruction for each of our cohorts as detailed on the sample rotational schedules below.

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      Hybrid Instruction (Grades 7-12)

      Hybrid instruction is where groups of students will alternate between in-person learning and remote instruction. Students will be actively involved in the school learning environment in a smaller group setting. 

      • Students in grades 7-12 are divided into two groups by grade: Group 1 and Group 2.
      • To the greatest extent possible, students from the same household will be scheduled within the same group.
      • The number of students in each building will be reduced by approximately half at any one time, which will, in turn, reduce the risk of virus exposure and spread.
      • Social distancing measures will be in place and masks are to be worn when physically present in the school building.

      Learn more about how GCSD will make the hybrid model as successful as possible.

      For the 2020-21 school year, students in grade 7 will experience:

      • Grade 7 students will remain at Farnsworth Middle School with a schedule of 10:00 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.
      • Alternate day model with half of the students at school every other day for live in-person instruction while the other half receives remote instruction.
      • Students will continue to be part of the traditional House and Team structure.
      • Student cluster groups will be no larger than 14 students for all grade levels.
      • Attendance will be taken during both on-site and virtual learning days.
      • Students are expected to be present for all live, synchronous classes delivered remotely.
      • The program of studies includes: English Language Arts/Reading, Math, Social Studies, Science, Music, Art, Technology, Family and Consumer Science, Health, World Language, and Physical Education. Additionally, some students may have Academic Intervention Services, Special Education Services, ENL Services, Enrichment, or take Band, Chorus, or Orchestra.

      View the Sample 7th Grade Student Schedule

      For the 2020-21 school year, students in grade 8 will experience:

      • Students in grade 8 will attend on an alternating day schedule at GHS from 10:00 am to 4:15 pm.
      • Students will continue to be part of a team, and all 8th-grade teams will be located in one wing at GHS in order to replicate the usual house structure.
      • Half of the students on each team will attend school in person each day.
      • In-person school days will start with a short homeroom period with a team teacher followed by an 8-period schedule that includes the same program of studies typically offered in eighth grade.
      • On the days that students are not in person at GHS, they will engage in remote learning activities planned and created by the same teachers they see on attendance days.
      • The program of studies includes: English Language Arts/Reading, Math, Social Studies, Science, Music, Art, Technology, Family and Consumer Science, Health, World Language, and Physical Education.
      • Additionally, some students may have Academic Intervention Services, Special Education Services, ENL Services, or take Band, Chorus, or Orchestra.

      View the Sample 8th Grade Student Schedule

      For the 2020-21 school year, students in grades 9-12 will experience:

      • Students will be dropped off at the high school at approximately 10:00 A.M. and busses will depart at approximately 4:30 P.M.
      • The high school will be running our master schedule created based on last year’s student requests. All scheduled courses will run and be taught in this hybrid model.
      • Students will be broken into two groups: Group 1 and Group 2.
      • Each group will come to school for face-to-face instruction every other day.
      • When one group is in person for instruction the other group will be on remote instruction.
      • Students will follow their schedule whether in school or in remote instruction and attendance will be taken for both groups.
      • Instructional strategies for remote learning may include, but will not be limited to:
        • Live video teaching
        • Pre-recorded video teaching
        • Individual or Group Google Meet Check-In
        • Google Meet discussions
        • Live Google Documents
        • Google Forms
        • Project work – students may be asked to work remotely with other students
        • Independent work

      View the Sample 9-12th Grade Student Schedule

      Teaching Under the Hybrid Model

      Teaching under a hybrid model requires both planning and flexibility by all parties- teachers, parents, and students. Teachers will need to plan for a blended classroom –remote students and students in person. Lessons will need to be planned so that students at home can learn with the rest of the class without being physically in the class. 

      How We Will Make the Hybrid Model Successful

      Even if the students connect via Google Meets, it is not the same as being there. Active class via technology is often difficult to follow, the sound quality of discussions may be poor, and students will not be able to see all that is going on in the room. Still, it does provide some degree of community and allows the student to still feel, at least partially, a part of the class. So how will we do this? Below are strategies we will follow to make the hybrid model as successful as possible.

      A More Thorough Update in Google Classroom

      Teachers should post daily updates in Google Classroom. They need to explain all learning objectives and instructional goals for the day. Think of it as more of a “This is what you should have learned today,” rather than a list of “This is what I taught/we did today.”

      Screencasting (e.g. Loom, Screencastomatic)

      Teachers may screencast lectures and reviews whenever appropriate and post the link to Google Classroom. They can do this real-time in class, afterward, or as a dry-run while to prep for class. This strategy ensures that teachers will not have to try to catch individual students up later as the link will remain live. Screencasts work well for many purposes, not just a lecture or tutorial. Teachers may consider screencasting feedback to student work, or screencasting a model or sample (i.e. art project or lab). For labs, they may consider having the students in class run the lab and partner with a student at home to help do the analysis and write up via Google Doc.

      Pre-Recorded Lessons

      Pre-recorded lessons allow students to engage with a lesson when they’re able to, re-watch sections of the lessons to reinforce concepts and teachers can also save the recorded lessons for reuse with different groups.

      Preload Resources

      Teachers use a wide range of resources in all of our classes. Preloading handouts, instructional materials, guided notes, links, etc. into Google Classroom before class begins can be very helpful. That way, if a student is attending remotely, he or she will have access to the materials distributed in person. Teachers who use the board extensively in their lessons, may take a picture at the end of the period and post it to Google Classroom. If they have a physical copy that doesn’t yet exist in electronic form, they can take a picture of it (using an iPad, Chromebook or phone), or create a PDF using an app like Scannable. Again, this is more preparation upfront, but the resources can be used by both groups of students.


      Assessments with online students and in-person students
      will require some careful planning. It may be that students learning remotely cannot take the same assessments as those in school. Traditional assessments can put remote students in a tricky position where a quick Google search makes cheating both easy and tempting. It’s our job to create a learning environment that sets students up for success rather than for a moral dilemma. Teachers can always create two different types of assessments. They can create collaborative tests using google docs, individually assign assessments in Google Classroom, build tests in Google Classroom (with randomized test questions, one take only, and limited time windows for taking). They may also use online assessment tools such as Google Forms/Quizzes or eDoctrina . If they set limited time windows, they will remember that accommodations still apply. Students with individualized learning plans will need online accommodations just as much as they need in-person accommodations. Teachers may also choose to give students an alternative type of assessment (long-term project based learning, passion project, choice,for example).

      Check-in Points

      Teachers will need to check in with their remote students. In-person, this is easy as they will physically see them. How can they do this virtually? Do they want to do an update in Google Classroom with a quick thumbs up for those who have seen it? Do they want students to email them? Could they make a discussion board for students to post questions and issues they are having? Padlet is an excellent tool for online discussions and sharing. Teachers should encourage classmates to respond, too. The goal with these checkpoints is both to ensure students are following along and to share the responsibility of building and caring for the learning community with the rest of the class. It is essential that teachers check in with the remote students frequently to see how they are doing and so that they do not fall through the cracks. If students are slipping behind, a counselor or administrator will be notified and will follow up with the family as soon as possible.


      Teachers know how to adapt. (Fire drill during a Midterm? Senior skip day on the day of their favorite lesson? Emergency evacuations?) As teachers begin to think about the possibility of remote and hybrid learning, either for some or all students, they will be thinking of what is most essential for student learning. Some of the district’s existing expectations and policies may not serve students well in this unique moment. For example, how we approach late and make-up work will likely require some flexibility while students are working home. Keeping in mind that we are striving to ensure that all families have access to the Internet and devices, it may not be constant and there may be expectations that students share computers with family members. We will need to work with each student, trusting that they, too, are doing the best they can.

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      Remote-Only Learning Option

      If parents and families choose full-time remote learning, students will not attend school in the physical building. Instruction will be conducted digitally through online methods and tools. The structure of the classes, expectations for students and teachers, and protocols for taking attendance, delivering lessons and instructional materials, assessing student work, and grading/providing feedback will be explained. The continuity of learning for this model of instruction will require a modified curricular timeline and identification of essential learning standards. Additionally, digital resources for students to access the various curricular content areas will be available to our students to utilize as part of the instructional program.

      Remote learning at all levels will likely be a blend of live/synchronous learning facilitated by the classroom teacher with offline activities, projects, readings, and assignments to be completed by the students while at home. In some instances, a teacher may deliver instruction via live streaming a lesson or they may opt to provide a pre-recorded lesson or a screencast to deliver content. The primary difference from the spring will be that students at home will be expected to follow the full curriculum as students in school will follow. This means more science and social studies at the elementary level. Art, Library, PE and Music will be required as well. To be clear, however, the limitations of remote learning are well understood and will require significant prioritization of curriculum by assigned teachers. This means that remote learning will not be the same comprehensive learning experience for students learning remotely as those who will be in school for in-person learning.

      Grades K-5 Remote-Only Learning

      Elementary students participating in remote learning will be taught by an NYS certified elementary teacher. To do so and to ensure that all remote classes are of manageable size, students may be assigned teachers from any of our 5 elementary schools. To the extent possible, students will be assigned to a teacher from their home elementary school, but this may not always be possible.

      Online platforms/management systems will be established and used by all Guilderland teachers to ensure that students learning remotely or under a hybrid model are able to fully engage, participate, and manage their learning while online. Google Classroom will serve as the primary online management tool in Guilderland. Teachers at the primary grade (K-2) will likely use Seesaw which has been deemed more appropriate and engaging for our youngest learners.

      General Expectations for Grades K-5 Remote-Only Learning

      • The general structure is to provide daily work in the areas – Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies – on a weekly basis.
      • All teachers will establish an online platform at the start of the school year (Google Classroom or Seesaw).
      • All remote teachers will facilitate a “class meeting” every day to address social-emotional needs, develop relationships, foster class community, and provide an overview of the day’s learning activities.
      • Teachers will use the week of September 7 to build relationships, teach technology skills and establish online platforms for learning. Daily Google Meets will also be scheduled to build those relationships with either whole-group, small groups and/or individual students.
      • Instruction will be provided across all content areas: reading, math, social studies, science, and specials.
        • Reading Instruction- 4-5x/week live instruction with small group breakout sessions.
        • Writing Instruction- 4-5x/week live instruction with small group breakout sessions.
        • Math instruction- 4-5x/week live instruction with small group breakout sessions.
        • Social studies or science instruction- 3x/week live instruction or asynchronous.
      • Office hours will be scheduled to answer student questions and provide additional support to students.
      • Special Area instruction will be provided and students will be expected to complete/engage in assignments.
        • Art – 1x/week
        • Library – 1x/week
        • Music – 1x/week
        • PE – 1x/week
      • Students are expected to access Google Classroom or Seesaw during each day of Remote Learning.
      • Students are not expected to be online for 6 hours continually each day. The general guidelines for continual online learning are:
        • Grades K-1: 20 min/session
        • Grades 2-3: 30 min/session
        • Grades 4-5: 45 min/session
        • As time goes by and students build stamina they can extend.
      • To reduce screen fatigue, teachers may design traditional activities such as journal writing and/or use of actual books with students.
      • Math/Reading/ENL/Special Education teachers should continue to provide services with students through live and/or pre-recorded instruction and modified assignments.

      View the general guidelines for K-5 Remote Learning and Instruction

      Grades 6-12 Remote-Only Learning

      As students and families are implementing this Remote Learning Plan, teachers will need at-home support by:

      • Having students establish and follow regular daily routines to the greatest extent possible.
      • Ensuring students get enough sleep.
      • Designating a specific space to work on remote learning activities.
      • Setting sensible time limits for students’ technology use.
      • Reviewing communication from us as frequently as possible, but at least weekly.
      • Completing assigned activities to the greatest extent possible.
      • Discussing remote learning experiences and needs and communicating these with teachers and/or administrators.

      General Expectations for Grades 6-12 Remote-Only Learning

      • All 6-12 students should continue their normal courses as they would in their schools. Schools will work with their staff and families to determine the best way to engage in remote learning while maintaining the trajectory of learning that was occurring in person.
      • All teachers will establish an online platform at the start of the school year (Google Classroom).
      • Teachers will use the week of September 7 to build relationships, teach technology skills and establish online platforms for learning. Daily Google Meets will also be scheduled to build relationships and community with either whole-group, small groups and/or individual students.
      • Teachers may host synchronous classes throughout a week using Google Meets, or another approved online platform.
      • All classes will be scheduled according to their school’s master schedule. For example, high school students will be members of their assigned class and will be assigned to a group (Group 1 or Group 2) as described for the hybrid learning model. Students will follow the schedule for their classes.
      • Daily and class attendance will be taken.
      • Students will continue to use Google Classroom, and additional approved online platforms. Assignments and resources will be posted to Google Classroom and will be updated regularly by the teacher.
      • Remote students will be graded in accordance with school and class grading practices. Numeric quarterly grades will be issued to all remote students.
      • Instructional strategies for remote learning may include but will not be limited to:
        • Live video teaching
        • Pre-recorded video teaching
        • Individual or Group Google Meet Check-In
        • Google Meet discussions
        • Live Google Documents
        • Project work – students may be asked to work remotely with other students
        • Independent work
      • Teachers will maintain relationships through timely and encouraging communication, using various formats.

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      Terminology and Definitions


      Class interactions happen via the Learning Management System (Google Classroom) without real-time interaction. Students engage in class materials and complete work at their own pace, typically within a given timeframe, often using discussion boards to drive peer-to-peer engagement. Asynchronous learning may be supported with pre-recorded lessons and/or screencasts.


      Class interactions happen in real-time, at the same time.
      Students may virtually attend class together via video conference,
      live stream, or a Google Meet can be used for synchronous meetings. Most online courses are a blend of synchronous contact and asynchronous study/work. In describing their experience of shifting school completely online, Colleagues at the Concordia International School in Shanghai explained that asynchronous instruction worked best for deep learning, whereas synchronous instruction was essential for maintaining relationships.


      A digital video recording of your computer screen, usually including audio narration. Screencasts are a form of instructional video.
      Loom, Screencastify, WeVideo are common tools for screencasting.

      Video Conference

      A virtual meeting in which participants in different
      locations are able to communicate with each other with audio and video.
      Again, Google Meets will likely be used for this function.

      Additional Information and Resources can be viewed by visiting the Guilderland Central School District’s INSTRUCTIONAL MODELS, STRATEGIES AND TOOLS website.

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