We have reached the end of our second week of instruction from home. Our staff have been connecting with families in many ways over the past two weeks (email, phone calls, virtual meetings, and digital media). The biggest issue that we are hearing from our families is that many folks are feeling overwhelmed by the educational tasks at hand. This is uncharted territory for all of us and we wanted for you to know that we fully understand your concerns.
The governor has finally updated us on his intentions for NY schools, stating today that we will remain closed with a return date of April 15, 2020, which is during our April break. What this likely means is that we will continue on remote instruction and will still be able to take a breather during our April break which will begin on Friday, April 10, 2020. We will be sharing a more definitive answer in the next few days and/or when the information from the Governor becomes available.
The remainder of this letter is broken up into sections to help you navigate it’s important content:
Instruction: In an effort to address some of our family’s concerns, our staff are continuing to refine and improve our learning resources, including a more substantial implementation of:
- Assigned virtual office hours for teachers
- Flipped classroom (recorded lessons that can be viewed with a follow up virtual class for discussion)
- Suggested daily learning schedule for students/families
- Pacing guides to assist in knowing how to dedicate student time on task
The most important thing that we recognize is that everyone’s situation at home right now is different, families and staff alike. We cannot presume that everyone has the same access to resources, childcare, or even time to focus and attend to lessons at home. Based on guidance from the New York State Education Department, we have been on “pause” with grading and have focused on reinforcing prior learning. Our instruction over the past two weeks was intended to maintain the skill and knowledge or our students, with no new content. As this closure progresses, we may begin to introduce new instruction. Here is our informative Work From Home website.
The State has fully acknowledged that there will be expected “holes” in the content and skills for all students in New York State. They have already cancelled all grade 3-8 testing and are considering how to implement Regents exams at the end of the year. As mentioned, New York State expects that there will be gaps in instruction due to closure and they will need to take appropriate action concerning the Regents exams. Please do not stress about the impact that our closure has had on your child’s grades; we are also on a grading “pause.” Any grades that have been issued during the closure thus far are only being used as reference points for student understanding, not for student averages. Our RCS children will be on an equal playing field with all students across the state.
Resources and Materials: Please continue to access materials online as much as possible by visiting our district’s Work from Home website. If, for whatever reason, you cannot access your child’s materials digitally, please reach out to your child’s building principal to discuss receiving available resources. Books and other printed materials can be made available for pickup at your child’s building. Please contact your child’s main office if you are in need.
Contact Information for Teachers and Other Staff: https://www.rcscsd.org/contact-us/ On this page you will find the teacher’s email and phone extension. Teachers’ email addresses are also hyperlinked in our Work from Home website. You may email the staff at any time. If you call into school, please leave your name, your child’s name, and your phone number so that our staff can call you back.
Internet Access Providers: A number of local internet providers have offered discounted or free access for our community members, who are new clients, for the next two months. Having internet access significantly increases student access to educational resources and we want as many families as possible to have this opportunity. Select that provider below that services your area of RCS:
- 1-844-488-8395 or https://www.spectrum.com/
- 1-800-342-5400 or http://www.mhcable.net/
- 1-518-731-6128 or https://www.statetel.com/
RCS has also developed a plan to provide families with assistance with access to technology.
Food for Students: Through a federal grant, we are able to continue to provide food for our district children under the age of 18. Pickup is occurring at each school building on Mondays and Wednesdays, between the hours of 7-10 am. We recognize that some families may be homebound and still need access to available food. RCS will offer delivery service to those in need. This is an option reserved ONLY for those individuals who do not have transportation to or from any pick-up locations. We are happy to help, but please only access this service if you are truly in need. To make a delivery request, please contact your youngest child’s school at:
- AWB (518) 756-5200 ext. 5002
- PBC (518) 756-5200 ext 4002
- MS (518) 756-5200 ext. 3003
- HS (518) 756-5200 ext. 2003
Community Mental Health Support: This is a trying time for all of us. Albany County has instituted a Mental Health Support Line for those dealing with stress and anxiety while remaining in their homes. That number is operational seven days a week from 8am to 5pm by calling (518) 269-6634. Anyone experiencing a psychiatric emergency should still call the Albany County Mobile Crisis Team at 518-549–6500. In the district, our own counselors and social workers are available to speak with students in need. Assistance may be found by calling the main office of any school through our main number, 518-756-5200.
District Facilities and Grounds: All of our buildings are closed to public access. At this point, access to playgrounds is still permissible. It is important to note that we are not cleaning these public areas and families who access them should take suitable precautions if choosing to utilize these spaces, including the use of social distancing.
Update on Spring Sports: As per Section II, all scrimmages, non-league and league contests cannot occur prior to April 19, 2020. If practices were to proceed, they could begin no earlier than April 15, 2020. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has established April 27th as the decision date to determine if State Championships can be conducted.
Childcare: If you are a parent or caregiver who is an “essential worker,” as defined by the governor, you may find child care by completing this parent need for child care survey parent need for child care survey.
Based on the information you provide about your job, employer, number of children, and financial need, OCFS may be able to help you find the child program you need. It may be a challenge to find child care due to COVID-19 related program closures, however the staff at OCFS are trying their best to support families to find the high quality child care that they need. More information may be found here.
Board of Education Meetings: The Board of Education will be holding its meetings remotely until further notice. Check our website prior to the meeting for information on how to view it live, and know that recordings of all meetings may be found here.
Budget Development: Although there are many uncertainties, the district still has a legal obligation to continue with the budget development process. We will continue to meet all of our notification and hearing obligations. Our board meetings and budget presentations will continue throughout the spring and each of them may be found here.
As always, please access our district website for the most up to date information at www.rcscsd.org. There is a running headline across the top of our page that will offer direct information about our status as we respond to COVID-19. We are thinking about you and your children during this difficult time and are excited for the day when we can return to regular school attendance.
Dr. Brian Bailey