Sunday, March 15, 2020

Rome CSD COVID-19 Update...

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has communities and schools throughout or state, country, and the world on edge and responding in ways that none of us could have ever imagined. While there continues to be no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our community, exposure and contact is all but inevitable, if not already here. As a precautionary measure to limit exposure and contact, the Rome City School District has decided to close student operations (no school for students) effective immediately. Students will return to school on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 baring any new developments or situations. While we all work through this, it is important to try and keep our minds free of false information and gossip. False information and gossip lead to fear, which leads to panic. While this crisis is scary, specifically for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, it is manageable. I remind people every day that there is not a professional alive that we can turn to and ask, "what did you do last time...". We don't have that luxury. For that reason, there continues to be more questions than answers related to the entire situation. The Governor continues to provide daily briefings, and our local legislators have also been at the forefront of keeping everyone informed. I urge you to follow their communication efforts and stay informed. Below are some quick pointers that are specifically related to the Rome City School District. As new information is available and things change, we will continue to provide updated information. At this time though, please know that our focus remains on the children that we serve and what we can/need/will do to help them make it through this crisis.

STUDENT ATTENDANCE: As of now, student operations are canceled until Tuesday, April 14, 2020. The Governor has waived the 180-day attendance element that is required for school districts. However, he has not provided any specific guidance on whether or not days must be made up to avoid financial penalty. What that means is, schools are not required to meet the 180-day mandate, but you could lose state aid if you do not meet the 180-day threshold. It is too early to panic about the potential loss of state aid for 2020-2021, but it certainly is something that we all need to keep an eye on as it will effect the budget in the coming weeks.

BOARD OPERATIONS: As of now, all previously planned/scheduled Board of Education operations are still planned to continue. The Board of Education will be discussing their plan for the future in the coming days and as soon as information is available regarding their meetings/schedule the district will publish that information.

FOOD SERVICES: We will be announcing our full food services plan on Monday, March 16 for the community. We have applied to the federal government to allow our district to enter into a food services mode that is similar to the summer feed program, which removes a lot of restrictions related to the providing of food for students. Currently, we will continue to operate two food pantries in conjunction with the Rome Alliance for Education and Connected Community Schools. However, the Bellamy pantry will be relocated to Staley Elementary and open for business this coming Wednesday, March 18. The Gansevoort food pantry will also open on Wednesday, March 18. Both pantries will. operate Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and food is pre-rationed by Connected Community Schools. Prior to this event, their guidelines were that each family was eligible for one visit a month and rationing was based on family size. That may change, so please keep an eye on information related to that. If you would like to donate to Connected Community Schools and our food pantries, please contact Melissa Roys or the Rome Alliance for Education through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RomeAFE/ . Regardless, the Rome City School District and the Rome Alliance for Education are committed to making sure our kids are fed during this prolonged closure.

STUDENT WORK/ASSIGNMENTS: At this time, we are asking staff members to provide students/families with one page lists of resource materials from which students can continue to maintain the knowledge that they have already learned. Due to access and equitability concerns, it is impossible for our staff to provide new material/instruction to students during this time. While school is not in session, there will be no graded work for students. Staff members are available electronically however to work with students during this time. This is most likely going to occur via email, but some staff may opt to provide virtual instruction, GoogleMeet options for their students. Also during this time, the districts online resources for students will remain available and can be accessed here: https://start.me/p/VjydLr/students . While some may believe that more needs to be done relative to continued instruction, there are a host of federal and state laws involved with education of students and equity. No district is prepared to meet the legal requirements of IDEA under these circumstances and it would be careless to try. For that reason, we are opting for a review model. For families that may need a device at home to access the internet, we are working to develop a lease program for our Chromebooks so that students can take them home (similar to a library book, no cost) and that should hopefully be ready to roll out by the end of week. Finally, Spectrum is also offering free internet services for up to 60 days for households with children in k-12 schools. For more information on that program, please go here: https://www.syracuse.com/coronavirus/2020/03/coronavirus-spectrum-to-offer-free-high-speed-internet-to-households-with-students.html .

GRADUATION/ASSESSMENTS: There is currently zero information that has been provided regarding either of these topics. There has been a document released that reminds districts of the make-up window for grade 3-8 assessments, which happens to end on April 14, 2020. I am of the belief that right now people are focused on the immediate and not thinking that far in advance yet. The stance of the Rome City School District is that this crisis should not negatively impact our students' academic standing. While there may knowledge that can not be learned due to this situation, it should not prevent a child from graduating high school or progressing in grade. For that reason, I do not feel it necessary to be overly worried about this topic.

THOUGHT EXCHANGE EVENT: The district is currently running a ThoughtExchange event for staff, students, and community to share with us their thoughts/concerns related to COVID-19. While most of the initial thoughts related to closing schools, there are still many thoughts/concerns that could be shared. We will be using the conversation through ThoughtExchange to develop a FAQ document for everyone. It is a completely anonymous program and helpful for our community. I encourage people to continue to participate in the current COVID-19 exchange that is ongoing. The end date for the current exchange is Wednesday, March 18 and the exchange can be found here: https://my.thoughtexchange.com/188867462 .

HELPFUL LINKS/INFORMATION :The following links have been provided by the CDC to help all members of our community be educated and prepared.
https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/index.html - CDC link on how to protect yourself and others from respiratory illnesses being spread within the community.  There is a section specific to schools and worksites. 
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html - CDC link to Coronavirus updates
https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/ - NYS DOH link to Coronavirus updates

In closing, the most important thing that I feel we need to continuously reiterate is that only information coming from the Superintendent's office or via direct Rome City School District sponsored media should be followed. There are a lot of rumors and falsehoods that can circulate quickly and I urge people to pay attention to official information at this time. Thank you all and be safe!