Overview of reopening plan available in advance of Aug. 4 community forum

Process & Timeline

As we prepare to submit our reopening plan to the state by the July 31 deadline, it is important to reflect on the measures we have taken to develop it. Since schools were closed by executive order in the spring, we have collaborated with regional education leadership groups coordinated by the Capital Region BOCES to brainstorm solutions to the many challenges we face, and share information and best practices to help our schools navigate uncharted territory. Throughout the past several weeks, district administrators and school leadership teams have discussed countless strategies for safely reopening our buildings this fall. In July, we received extensive health and safety guidelines for reopening from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED) that we reviewed carefully and that factored heavily in the district’s plan.

Our Reopening Committee – made up of faculty, administrators, staff, parents, students, school nurses, board members, healthcare professionals, and the Watervliet Chief of Police – participated in virtual meetings in July to discuss options for reopening and offer a range of perspectives. We have also reviewed data collected through our survey of parents and students from July 17-23, and have used the information to drive the development of our plan. We are meeting again this week with faculty and staff districtwide to receive their input and fine tune our plan to reopen schools.

We thank all who volunteered their time and energy to the process as well as those who responded to the survey ‒ all of which have helped guide us in the development of our reopening plan.

It is important to note that during the first week of August, Governor Andrew Cuomo has indicated he would determine, region by region, if schools can reopen in September based on specific benchmarks. The governor’s decision will be made using the following criteria:

  • Schools can OPEN in a region in Phase 4 where there is an infection rate at or below 5 percent (14-day average)
  • Schools will CLOSE if the regional infection rate rises above 9 percent (7-day average)

Community meeting set for August 4

We invite parents, students, staff and community members to a virtual community forum on Tuesday, August 4 from 5-7 p.m., where we will provide an overview of the reopening plan, answer questions and gather more feedback. The forum will be live streamed on YouTube. Please be sure to email your questions and comments about the plan to communications@vlietschools.org by 2 p.m. on August 4.

Summary of our plan

Our reopening plan, outlined below, prioritizes the health and safety of students and staff, and is designed to provide a robust educational experience in a safe, supportive learning environment. The plan complies with health and safety guidance for reopening as recommended by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

Please keep in mind that our school reopening plan is subject to change at any time during the year based on COVID-19 infection rates in our region and subsequent recommendations and guidance from local or state health agencies or if stay-at-home orders are issued by the governor.

Health and Safety

  • Students, teachers and staff will be required to wear face coverings AT ALL TIMES.
  • All students, staff and visitors will be required to perform an at-home temperature check and daily online health screening before being allowed to enter any school building. Anyone with a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above should NOT come to school.
  • Parents must complete the online health screening (daily attestation) for their child, and prior to boarding school buses or arriving at school each day. https://entry.neric.org/watervliet
  • Hand sanitizer will be readily available throughout both school buildings for students and staff.
  • Contact tracing will occur in coordination with the Albany County Department of Health.
  • Protocols will be implemented to identify, isolate and refer individuals with symptoms of illness or with risk of exposure to illness.
  • Mandatory cleaning and sanitizing of facilities and school buses will occur throughout the day.
  • Student supplies and textbooks will be individualized. Sharing of materials and/or personal property is prohibited for the safety of all children.
  • Visitation to school buildings will be limited to emergencies only or with prior permission from an administrator.
  • Student/staff trainings will include the appropriate face covering placement (nose and mouth), hand and respiratory hygiene, and identifying COVID-19 symptoms.

Assistant Superintendent Donald Stevens is the COVID-19 Safety Coordinator and can be reached by phone at 518-629-3456, or email: dstevens@vlietschools.org


Learning will be offered in-person and remotely for prekindergarten through grade 12. Parents will decide which option – remote or in-person learning – is best for their child/children. Staggered start and end times for grade-level classes are currently being developed, as well as definitive procedures to opt your child/children in or out of remote or in-person learning.  

  • Grades UPK-5: in-person or remote learning option 5 days per week. [IMPORTANT: To adhere to NYSDOH social distancing guidelines, grade level sections will increase, which will limit available learning space at Watervliet Elementary School and will require grade 6 students and teachers to move to the Watervliet Jr.-Sr. High School for the 2020-21 school year.]
  • Grade 6 in-person (at WJSHS) or remote learning five (5) days per week
  • Grades 7-8: hybrid model that combines in-person instruction four (4) days per week and remote learning one (1) day per week
  • Grades 9-10: hybrid model that combines in-person instruction two (2) days per week and remote learning three (3) days per week.
    • Grades 9-10 attend in-person (Monday-Tuesday for grade 9) (Thursday-Friday for grade 10)
  • Grades 11-12: hybrid model that combines in-person instruction (one) 1 day per week (Wednesday only) and remote learning four (4) days per week

Smaller Cohorts of Students

  • Students will be grouped in smaller cohorts of approximately 15 to 18 students.
  • Student cohorts will not co-mingle during the school day.
  • Student desks will be socially distanced by a minimum 6-feet separation.
  • Students will eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms with their cohort.
  • Encore teachers (art, music, physical education) will rotate into classrooms, keeping cohorts together.
  • Appropriate supports will be in place for children with special needs, English Language Learners (ELLs), and at-risk students.

Athletics and School Activities

  • Activities that involve close contact and strenuous breathing, such as physical education, singing or instrumental music, will require students maintain a minimum physical distance of 12 feet from one another.
  • Interscholastic athletics is prohibited across the state based on NYSDOH guideline, pending further guidance. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) has announced a delay for the start of the fall sports season to Sept. 21, and has canceled the 2020 fall state regionals and championships at the recommendation of its COVID-19 Task Force.
  • Extracurricular activities will be available on a limited basis as determined by school and district officials. Participation will be virtual.

Bus Transportation

  • NOTE: Transportation schedules are currently being developed.
  • Students who qualify for busing will be picked up within approximately 30 minutes of the start time of their classes/school day.
  • Students who ride the bus MUST wear a face covering at all times.
  • One (1) student per seat is permitted.
  • Twenty-two (22) children per bus is maximum capacity.
  • Siblings who live in the same household may sit together on the bus.
  • Buses will be sanitized every morning, in between runs, and in the evening.
  • Social distancing at bus stops is strongly encouraged as students wait for the bus to arrive.

Food Service

  • All students will receive free school breakfast and lunch.
  • Students will eat in their classrooms with their cohorts.
  • Multiple “grab-and-go” stops will be set up throughout the city to provide meals for students who are remote learning at home.

Stay informed

We will update families about reopening plans primarily via email and/or text messages (automated phone calls when necessary) through our One Call Now notification system. Please be sure to log into your Parent Portal account to confirm your contact information and preferences.

We also recommend that families check our website and your email regularly throughout the summer to stay as up-to-date as possible about this still-evolving plan to reopen/return to school.