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Achievement First Achievement First

The 2020-21 school year will be one unlike any that we’ve ever encountered – and it will be one that we will need to face together as a community. We know returning to school next year brings up a lot of questions, challenges, anxieties, and fears. We feel them too. Nothing is more paramount than the safety of our students and staff, and we did our best to honor that in these draft plans.

This document provides our best current thinking for how we’ll re-open schools in 20-21. School and network leaders worked together to develop this plan based on feedback from staff, students, and families about what worked and didn’t work during remote learning, and what our students need the most. We are hosting Town Halls across all of our regions between July 21-27 for both staff and families to get more feedback. As we incorporate your input and as the situation surrounding the pandemic changes, these plans will be refined.

All of our states (CT, RI, NY) have asked us to prepare for 3 scenarios:

  1. Most students return in-person: All of our students (whose families want them to) are able to return to in-person school each day.
  2. Reduced capacity: Some of our students are able to attend school in-person, but not everyone can due to the need for 6 ft social distancing in the classroom and thus smaller class sizes. In this scenario, our students rotate (example: in-person on M-Tu, at home on W-Th).
  3. Fully remote: All of our students are remote.

As public schools, we follow the rules set by the governors in our states. Right now, the governors in both Connecticut and Rhode Island have said they want us to plan to start the year with Option #1 (nearly all students back in-person each day) and, in New York, we have been asked to plan for Option #2 (where we operate with reduced capacity in person, and our students rotate days). While this is the guidance we have received thus far, it can always change as the situation develops.

Guiding Principles

When designing our plan for these scenarios, we began by asking ourselves: what do we want our scholars to say about the 20-21 school year? Our goal – regardless of whether a student is learning in-person or remotely – is for all of our students to say:

“I am known, safe, loved, and learning.”

In order to create this environment for our scholars, our plan follows several guiding principles.

  • Safety first

    • We will implement all state health guidance and safety measures – and, in many cases, go beyond them – in order to ensure the health and safety of our scholars, staff, and families.
  • Family choice

    • Our families should be able to choose whether they want to have their scholar learn remotely or in-person based on what they think is best, and we will ensure that both options are high quality.
  • Prioritize our youngest scholars

    • If we are not able to serve all of our students in-person, we will prioritize the in-person learning of our youngest scholars (K-2 especially) since they struggle the most during remote learning, and their families are often in the greatest need of childcare.
  • Flexibility

    • We don’t know everything that will happen next year, but we do know that things will change. We must build a flexible plan that can adapt based on feedback from scholars, families and staff – and that can move seamlessly between fully in-person, hybrid, and remote.
  • Strong socioemotional support

    • We must create an environment that builds love, connection, and relationships within our school community
  • Strong student learning

    • Our job is to provide engaging live instruction in all core subjects as well as opportunities for tutoring and enrichment to ensure our scholars continue to learn, grow, and achieve.

Safety First

  • Scholars and staff members will be asked to stay home and contact their medical provider if they are experiencing any COVID symptoms or live with someone who is experiencing COVID symptoms. 
  • If one of our scholars or staff members has tested positive for COVID or lives with someone who has tested positive, they must let AF know immediately. We will contact our local health department and follow their guidance (e.g., proper notification of individuals who they have been in contact with, thorough building cleaning, any required testing or quarantining).  We anticipate required 14-day quarantines for any staff member or student who has had sustained contact with the individual who has tested positive (the CDC defines “sustained contact” as anyone who has been within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes or direct physical contact).   
  • We will mandate that staff and students participate in daily symptoms check – including temperature checks. Anyone who is showing any symptoms of COVID-19 – including a fever of over 100 degrees – will not be permitted to attend in-person school
  • We are exploring the option of providing COVID testing for staff, and we are asking our staff for input on this and gathering final cost estimates.
  • Everyone – staff, scholars, and families – will be required to wear a mask during arrival, dismissal, and inside the school building (unless a doctor provides a documented reason not to).  Each school will provide up to 2 washable, reusable masks to scholars (and 1 to staff members); Scholars and staff are required to bring a mask with them every day.  We will build in strategic mask breaks during meals, recess, and at other times when social distancing can be clearly maintained and especially when students are outdoors. We are also exploring additional safety measures we can use for any staff member/scholar who is medically unable to wear a mask.
  • Scholar desks will be spaced apart and will face in the same direction, and – if weather and building conditions permit — windows and doors will be open. 
  • We have extended arrival and dismissal windows so that we can maintain social distancing during these times.
  • We will install signage and markings in our buildings to support social distancing, signs of COVID, handwashing tips, how to wear a mask, how to sneeze/cough into elbows, and other reminders of essential healthy behaviors.
  • Please see here for specific guidelines by region:
  • All students will be in stable groups throughout the day—limiting contact with other students. Students will remain in one classroom at an assigned desk that will be just for that individual student so that we limit exposure to other surfaces. We will ensure safe movement and social distancing protocol during breaks (recess, PE, other breaks). As much as possible, we will work to have these breaks occur outside.
  • In elementary schools, most teachers will be assigned to a specific group and will not rotate. When that is not possible due to the need for specific content expertise (mostly middle and high school teachers), these teachers will be restricted to working with only one grade, wear masks, and keep their distance. There are a few exceptions (enrichment teachers, school leaders, etc.) who work across grades—these teammates will wear masks and take extra distancing precautions for increased safety.  
  • Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be served in individual classrooms. Meals will likely be “grab and go” so scholars can eat with limited contact with more adults. 
  • During recess, scholars will be able to go outside when weather permits and will continue to practice social distancing.
  • We will coordinate transitions/bathroom usage such that we avoid crowding in hallways. 
  • We will minimize visitor access to school buildings and schedule virtual meetings, school visits, etc. for families as often as possible
  • We will increase routines for scholars to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer at regular intervals throughout the day. This includes before and after meals and recess. 
  • Teachers and operations staff will sanitize high-touch surfaces (i.e., door handles) throughout the day. Classrooms will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected every evening. 
  • Every scholar will be assigned a Chromebook and set of supplies (i.e., pencils, pens) at the start of the school year that will stay with them and not be shared with others. 
  • All scholars should bring a water bottle to school daily.  Water fountains will be disabled.

Our Hybrid Learning Model

  • Reopening Timeline and Details (CT/NY)

      • We believe in family choice and understand that our families will have differing levels of comfort in sending their scholars back to in-person school. All families will have the choice of whether to have their scholar learn remotely or in-person next year. It is our job to ensure that our scholars have access to the education they deserve, regardless of whether they are learning at home or in a school building.
      • We are segmenting the year into ~2-month “chapters” and asking families to share their preference of whether to return to in-person school or remain remote for that next chapter (e.g., do you want your child to attend live school during September-October?). Families will be able to make a new choice for the new chapter.
      • At the end of July, families will receive a survey asking whether you would like to send your child back to in-person school for September/October.  Families will have the opportunity to make a new selection for November/December.
      • We are committed to family choice, and we are also committed to safety. If more students want to return than we are able to accommodate while still maintaining social distancing, we will prioritize in-person learning for our scholars in Grades K-2. Our goal is to accommodate K-2 scholars in school each day. We made this decision because these students are served best through in-person learning and because our families benefit the most if their youngest scholars are learning in school.
      • Given the strict limits on the number of students allowed in each classroom, this may mean that some of our fourth-grade students will have to attend school in their future middle school building. Schools will communicate with families directly if this is the case.
      • The pandemic also impacts busing. Unfortunately, given the size of buses, it is not possible to accommodate social distancing while maintaining our normal capacity, which may mean that transportation will be unavailable for some families. We are currently working with our local districts and vendors and will share more details with families in August.
      • Since we are prioritizing our families’ ability to choose whether they want to have their child return to in-person school, we anticipate needing almost all of our staff to teach and work in-person in order to maintain safe, small classrooms.
        • We deeply understand the worry that this creates for our staff and that is why we are attempting to do everything we can to keep our school community safe. As Team Talent Operations shared in mid-June, we have structured a thoughtful process in line with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to ensure our staff members who have disabilities that may make it impossible for them to work in-person to request an accommodation. Also, in accordance with FFCRA and FMLA, we want to ensure everyone knows what options are available to them if a leave of absence best suits their needs (e.g., if they require one due to lack of access to childcare due to COVID). Thank you to those who have already started the process.
        • For others who need more information on how to request an ADA accommodation or a leave of absence, please contact your DSO as soon as possible in order to submit the necessary documentation, ideally by July 31.
      • We have also heard from staff who are worried because they live with someone with an underlying, high-risk health condition that puts them at increased risk if they contract COVID. We are committed to going above and beyond our legal requirement to create an equitable process for staff, and thus will allow those in this position to request a remote work arrangement. While we can’t ensure we can grant these requests, we will try our best. Team Talent Operations will send a request form for staff members in this position. Stay tuned for more information on how to request this after the staff town hall meetings, but no later than Tuesday, July 28.
      • Due to the potential for rapid developments with this pandemic, we need to start our school year assuming that we will transition fluidly between mostly in-person to hybrid to fully remote learning – and then back again. Depending on the number of confirmed cases, a class, school building, or an entire region may need to transition to full remote learning. This is why we have designed our program so that the in-school and remote learning models are very closely aligned, and students and staff can transition fairly seamlessly between them.
  • Reopening Timeline and Details (RI)

      • In RI, to promote social distancing of 6 feet between all scholars, we will restrict the number of scholars in every classroom to 15-18.
      • Each week, we have a half-day of instructions for scholars. On the afternoon of this half-day for scholars, our team comes together for professional development. In 20-21, to minimize risk, we are going to convert this half-day to be remote only for all scholars and staff. In addition, previously our half-day was on Friday. In 20-21, we will move our half-day to be on Monday to better align with the state’s calendar and to avoid missing instruction on the several holidays that fall on a Monday.
      • While so much about the 20-21 school year is unknown, we believe that the chances are extremely high that some of our learning will be conducted remotely. As a result, we will begin our school year on August 31 remote for all scholars in Grades 2-8 so that our scholars, staff, and families can get up to speed on our remote learning systems, begin to build strong relationships, and prepare for a safe beginning of in-person instruction. For Kindergarten and First Grade students, we WILL begin in-person on August 31 since we believe we will be better able to serve our youngest students in-person on their first day of school rather than remotely. All students will resume in-person instruction on September 15.
      • We are breaking the year up into ~2 month “chapters” and asking families to share their preference of whether to return to in-person school or remain remote for that next chapter (e.g., do you want your child to attend live school during September-October?). Families will be able to make a new choice for the new chapter. On August 3, families will receive a survey (due back by August 6) asking whether they’d like to send their child back to in-person school for September/October. Families will have the opportunity to make a new selection for November/December.
      •  Elementary Schools (Grades K-4)Middle Schools (Grades 5-8)
        August 31
        (half-day)
        Kindergarten (in-person for students attending in-person & remote)Grade 5 (remote)
        Sept 1
        (half-day)
        Kindergarten and 1st Grade (in-person for students attending in-person & remote) Grades 5-8 (remote)
        Sept 2-4
        (half-days)
        Kindergarten and 1st Grade (in-person for students attending in-person & remote)

        Grades 2-4 (remote)
        Grades 5-8 (remote)
        Sept 7Labor Day (No school for students & staff) Labor Day (No school for students & staff)
        Sept 8Primary Election Day (No School for scholars, PD/set up day for staff) Primary Election Day (No School for scholars, PD/set up day for staff)
        Sept 9-11
        (full days)
        Kindergarten and 1st Grade (in-person for students attending in-person & remote)

        Grades 2-4 (remote)
        Grades 5-8 (remote)
        Sept 14No School for scholars, PD/set up day for staff

        Full school-based training days to prepare for in-person
        No School for scholars, PD/set up day for staff

        Full school-based training days to prepare for in-person
        Sept 15
        (half-day)
        First day in-person for grades 2-4

        Grades K-4 (remote, for students attending remote)
        Grades 5-8 (in-person, for students attending in-person)

        Grades 5-8 (remote, for students attending remote + in person group B)
        Sept 16
        (half day)
        Grades K-4 (in-person, for students attending in-person)

        Grades K-4 (remote, for students attending remote)
        First day in-person for MS with grade 5-8 stagger group B

        Grades 5-8 (in-person, for students attending in-person)

        Grades 5-8 (remote, for students attending remote + in person group A)
        Sept 17
        (half day)
        Grades K-4 (in-person, for students attending in-person)

        Grades K-4 (remote, for students attending remote)
        First day in-person for MS with grade 5-8 stagger group B

        Grades 5-8 (in-person, for students attending in-person)

        Grades 5-8 (remote, for students attending remote + in person group A)
        Sept 18
        (half day)
        Grades K-4 (in-person, for students attending in-person)

        Grades K-4 (remote, for students attending remote)
        Grades 5-8 (in-person, for students attending in-person)

        Grades 5-8 (remote, for students attending remote + in person group A)
      • Within a “chapter” of the year (e.g., September and October), we ask that families honor their initial selection and have their child remain remote/in-person during that time period. If a family becomes uncomfortable with in-person school, they can request to switch to remote but we ask that they give the school a few days to make all the necessary arrangements.
      • We are committed to family choice, but we are also committed to safety. We highly recommend our remote option if that can work for our families. It will have “live” classes taught by a teacher all day long. For families that prefer in-person school, we guarantee that we will be able to provide 2 days a week of in-person instruction and 3 days of remote instruction. We are working to provide 4 days a week of in-person instruction as much as possible but will depend on whether we have the space and staff to make that happen.
  • Strong Socioemotional Support

    • We want our school buildings to be joyful, caring environments where scholars and adults have positive relationships. Here’s how we’ll make that happen:
      • Advisory / Morning Meeting
        • Our school day will begin with an Advisory / Morning Meeting for all scholars. This time in the day will create an environment that supports the social/emotional wellbeing of our scholars, while also helping to build habits that will allow students to thrive.
      • On-site Support
        • Each school will have a social worker or school counselor trained in recognizing signs of distress and helping students develop healthy coping strategies for both in-person and remote scholars.
        • We have partnered with an expert outside organization (Ramapo for Children) so that a team from all AF schools will receive training on how to support scholars dealing with trauma.
      • Family Support and Partnership
        • Schools will continue to create open lines of communication with families, frequently seek input/feedback, and work in partnership with families to support scholars.
  • Strong Student Learning

    • Whether in-person or remote, we must provide engaging live instruction in all core subjects as well as opportunities for tutoring and enrichment to ensure our scholars continue to learn, grow, and achieve.
      • Live instruction with teacher and student interactions (both remote and in-person)
        • Scholars will receive daily instruction in all content areas where teachers will deliver lessons in real-time either in-person or via Zoom. Based on your feedback from the Spring, for elementary and middle school students, there will be no solely “video-based” learning where scholars watch a video and perform work independently of a class/teacher. We have shifted to more actively engaging lessons in response to staff and family concerns around passive screen time. Remote classrooms still require significant screen time, and the research is clear that the more actively engaged students are during screen time, the better it is.
        • For high school students, most courses will be split between live classes in the morning and independent work in the afternoon.  The high school design team wanted to use this time to build our scholars’ academic independence, which we have found to be an essential college success factor.
      • Thoughtfully structured school day
        • The school day will be similar for both our “remote” and “in-person” scholars.  See below for specific schedules for our elementary, middle and high schools.
        • For all of our scholars, we have structured the day such that students have frequent breaks and opportunities for movement.
        • In addition to academic content, scholars will also have time for tutoring and enrichment daily
        • Though social distancing may change the format of extracurricular activities (e.g., no live choir practice), our staff are working to adjust our existing extracurricular activities for MS and HS scholars to allow for as many activities as possible to continue remotely in 20-21.
      • Supporting all scholars
        • Specially designed instruction and accommodations will be provided to scholars who require them based on their IEP/504 Plan in both remote and in-person. Scholars will also receive testing accommodations both remote and in-person
        • We will continue to provide related services (counseling, speech, OT, and PT).
        • We will continue with all formal special education processes (e.g., IEP meetings)
        • We are still waiting for guidance on how to implement behavior intervention plans and, in NY, how paraprofessionals will be able to provide services to scholars.
      • Familiar Tech Tools and Platforms
        • Building on our Spring remote learning efforts, we will use many of the same tools and programs, including Zoom and Google Classroom.
        • In addition, our Teaching and Learning Team researched the top tech platforms for each specific content area.

Want to see what a day in the life of a remote or in-person scholar will look like in 2020-21? Watch this video!

¿Quieres ver cómo será un día de clases en persona o remoto en el 2020-21?
¡Abre el video!

This information provides our best thinking based on guidance from public health officials, district best practices, and—most importantly—the input of our school community. In partnership with our school community, we have faith that we can provide our scholars with the safe and meaningful experience, education, and community they deserve.