North Colonie Central School District tests safe classroom standards during summer program


COLONIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Even without clear guidelines from the state, North Colonie Central School District forged ahead with its own plan to keep the extended school year going. Director of Pupil Services Casey Bardin says students in need of individualized education programs just couldn’t wait any longer.

“Many of those students are students that are medically fragile or they have various behavioral challenges, things like that. What we’ve learned from the closure is that online learning and virtual learning is very challenging for this population of students,” Bardin explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

“These students have very specialized programs and specific services that are designated within their IEP,” he goes on.

Bardin also says the district conducted a survey with parents and students and found engagement levels with online learning were low with IEP students.

“For so many of our students, that driver and motivation to do well in school and to learn is because of the social relationships that they have. Whether that’s with their teachers, their peers and so on. So what we realize they’re missing is that interaction,” he says.

Bardin says the school district cleared the current plan with the Department of Health. Temperature check stations are set up in areas for both students and staff before they enter any building. Bus drivers are also checked daily and entering teachers have to fill out a risk assessment survey every day.

The new classroom designs space desks six feet apart and more teachers have been brought on to accommodate the smaller class sizes.

“And also a schedule for hand washing and a schedule for bathroom breaks so that we can be sure that we are cleaning thoroughly after every one of those time frames,” Bardin goes on to explain.

He says masks will be worn by all teachers, staff, and student where it does not hinder the learning environment.

“For those students who are receiving speech services, we may have staff wearing face shields, so that can become a more fluid process for them,” he adds.

Bardin says this is just a part of three or four different plans the district is testing for the Fall semester. He says they’re monitoring the summer program carefully.

“For instance, how are the students responding to the social distancing protocols that we have in place? We weren’t sure. We weren’t sure how students were going to do with a full day of having to wear a mask and so on,” he says.

Governor Cuomo announced Monday an in-classroom Fall semester still isn’t guaranteed. Bardin says North Colonie and other school districts can make all the plans in the world, but it won’t mean much without a baseline.

“What we really need to get from New York State is more guidance to really understand what those protocols will look like in the fall so that we can make some concrete decisions for what opening one might look like,” he says.

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