ITHACA, N.Y. –– As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to affect the daily lives of people across the state, educators and students in New York are adjusting to the newly announced prolonged school closure, shifting state assessments and the best ways to deal with the distance educators are now expected to teach from.

Next Monday the Ithaca City School District (ICSD), will enact their “Distance Learning 2.0” plan in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that schools statewide will be closed through April 29.

An emergency declaration by County Administrator Jason Molino initially closed schools until April 13. That closure was superseded by Gov. Cuomo’s order, keeping schools and non-essential businesses closed through April 15, before announcing on Monday this closure would be extended until April 29.

Also announced on Monday were emergency actions being taken by the New York State Education Department’s Board of Regents, effectively canceling examinations for all New York State schools.

“The Department will amend the Commissioner’s regulations to provide that an alternative form of evaluation for students receiving home instruction, in lieu of an annual assessment, will be permitted for all grades in the 2019-20 school year due to the State of Emergency declared by the Governor,” a press release from the New York State Education Department (NYSED) said.

NYSED is expected to provide more information to the public on Regents examinations on Tuesday.

In addition, the federal government has provided New York State with a one-year waiver from provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) pertaining to State assessments and school and district accountability determinations due to COVID-19 crisis.

“Therefore, the Department amends the Commissioner’s regulations to specify that the Commissioner will not conduct a review of school and district performance using 2019-20 school year data. The accountability status of public schools and districts for the 2020-21 school year will remain the same as for the 2019-20 school year,” NYSED said in their statement.

Distance Learning 2.0

The ICSD Distance Learning 2.0 plan includes a combination of virtual classroom learning with teachers, and assignments to be done with or without educators present. The new plan includes the use of Chromebooks for many students, who will have the laptops delivered to their homes if they have not already. Teachers will be contacting students weekly through phone, email and if possible –– through virtual meetings or office hours.

“This combination of instructional delivery will allow for all students to learn and connect through a variety of methods,” ICSD Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown said in an announcement last week, preempting the Governor’s executive order.

ICSD created their plan during the last few weeks in preparation for extended school closure. In a letter to the community on March 27, Dr. Brown announced that “ICSD teachers, aides and teaching assistants, and administrators collaboratively designed our current plan, and we are now forming working groups to specifically design the what and how of the next phase of distance learning.”

During the week of April 6 through April 10, ICSD will continue to deliver meals, as well as, “connect with and provide learning opportunities for students.”

Distance Learning 2.0 will vary depending on grade level, but will include instruction time and connection, or one on one time with the teacher.

ICSD outlined their plan as follows:

Pre-K-1
Instruction:

  • Assignments and materials (books, workbooks, etc.) will be delivered to your home. We will be recommending supplemental digital resources as well. Students will be learning around 1 hour to 1.5 hours each day, doing work and connecting with their teachers.

Connection:

  • Daily contact (by a teacher – classroom, specialist or aide/TA) via phone, email or digitally as appropriate.
  • Weekly office hours hosted by Master Educators of Inclusion will be available should you have questions or concerns.

Grades 2-5
Instruction:

  • Chromebooks, along with print materials (books, workbooks, etc.) will be delivered to your home. Students in grades 2-3 will mostly use software, SeeSaw, and students in grades 4-5 will mostly use Google Classroom. Students will be learning 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours each day, completing assignments and connecting with their teachers.

Connection:

  • Daily contact (by a teacher – classroom, specialist or aide/TA) via phone, email or digitally as appropriate.
  • Weekly office hours hosted by Master Educators of Inclusion will be available should you have questions or concerns.

Grades 6-8
Instruction:

  • Chromebooks, if not already, will be delivered to your home. Grades 6-8 will continue the use of Google Classroom.  Students will be learning around 2.5 hours to 3.0 hours each day, doing work and connecting with their teachers.

Connection:

  • Each teacher will connect at least twice per week/per course through office hours and/or direct video lessons.
  • Weekly office hours hosted by Master Educators of Inclusion will be available should you have questions or concerns.

Grades 9-12
Instruction:

  • Chromebooks, if not already, will be delivered to your home. Grades 9-12 will continue the use of Google Classroom.  Students will be learning approximately 2.5 hours to 4.0 hours each day, doing work and connecting with their teachers and classmates.

Connection:

  • Each teacher will connect at least twice per week/per course through office hours and/or direct video lessons.
  • Weekly office hours offered by Master Educators of Inclusion will be available should you have questions or concerns.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com