Reopening FAQs

Reopening FAQs

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Operational Model and General Reopening

Q: If Allegheny County remains in Green, does that mean the North HIlls School District will open traditionally with in-person instruction for all students five days a week?
A: No. When Allegheny County is Green, we can choose to operate as any of the four models -- Traditional, Blended, Hybrid or Virtual, detailed here. If Allegheny County is in Yellow, we lose the Traditional option. If Allegheny County is in Red, our only option is virtual. Red is the only phase where we have only one choice and that choice is Virtual.

Q: Is delaying the start of the school year an option due to the rising COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County?
A: No. The district will resume instruction on August 25 in the best interest of our students.

Q: Does virtual instruction count toward the 180-day, 900/990-hour state mandate?
A: Yes. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has issued new guidance for the 2020-21 school year providing flexibility for schools to meet the day and hour requirements while using remote learning.

Q: Can I choose Traditional, Blended, Hybrid or Virtual for my student(s) regardless of how NHSD chooses to operate?
A: No. Families have two choices: Follow the district’s operational model (Traditional, Blended, Hybrid or Virtual) as designated OR enroll in the Online Academy at North Hills. The Online Academy is the only 100 percent virtual option when the district is operating a Traditional, Blended or Hybrid model.  Complete information about the Online Academy is available here.

Q: How does the Online Academy at North Hills differ from the district’s Virtual operating model?
A: The Online Academy at North Hills is the district’s cyber school option that has existed since 2006. It is the only 100 percent virtual option offered by NHSD when the district is operating an in-person instructional model (Traditional, Blended or Hybrid). The district’s Virtual model will be run through Google Classroom and other platforms designed by the district and/or teacher.

Q: Is the virtual instruction through the Online Academy at North Hills when the district is operating in a Blended or Hybrid model?
A: No. The district’s instruction will be virtual through Google Classroom and other platforms designed by the district and/or teacher.

Q: Who can enroll in the Online Academy at North Hills?
A: Any student can choose to enroll in the Online Academy at North Hills and there is no limit on the number of students who can attend. To help us plan and accommodate students, we are asking enrollment for the 2020-21 school year be completed no later than August 10.

 Additional FAQs pertaining specifically to the Online Academy at North Hills can be found here.

Q: If operating a Virtual model, will the Virtual instruction include live lessons?
A: Yes. The teaching and learning will be a mix of synchronous, asynchronous and independent, but lessons will be conducted live and streamed to students via Zoom daily. Live lessons will be recorded and posted in the teacher’s Google Classroom so students can watch when it’s convenient for them if they couldn’t attend the live class or re-watch if further explanation or clarification is needed.

Q: When virtual, are students required to attend every live lesson?
A: No. Students are not required to attend every live session but it’s encouraged whenever possible. Live lessons will be recorded and uploaded to the teacher’s Google Classroom for students to watch at their convenience.

Q: If operating a Hybrid model, will the teachers live stream their in-person lessons for the students learning virtually?
A: Yes. The virtual teaching and learning when students are not in the classroom will be a mix of synchronous, asynchronous and independent, and students working remotely will have access to a teacher’s live lessons happening in the classroom via video stream.

Q: In the Blended model, will the virtual instruction include live lessons?
A: No. The virtual teaching and learning when students are not in the classroom will be asynchronous and independent. In grades K-8, the live instruction will occur when the student is in school in-person and students will be sent home with their virtual assignments. Live instruction for students in grades 9-12 will also occur in the classroom only.

Q: What will virtual GATE classes look like?
A: Gifted teachers will remain focused on project-based learning to meet the goals outlined in the student’s GIEP. They will also hold live sessions for interaction with small groups of students just as they would in a traditional environment. All gifted teachers will also have Google Classrooms just as all teachers will for the 2020-21 school year.

Q: How will individualized education plans (IEPs) and 504 plans be handled in the virtual environment?
A: Teachers will be asked to look at each student’s IEP and 504 plan to make sure all accommodations are considered and met, where possible, in the online program. IEP teams will reconvene to revise SDIs to determine which are appropriate and applicable for online instruction.

Q: Will there be additional help in a Virtual model for students who might be struggling in subjects such as reading or math?
A: Yes. We will be assigning support staff to provide additional support to students who are having difficulty with their school work.

Q. If operating a Virtual model, will those who receive free and reduced lunches still be able to receive meals?
A: Yes. Meals will be available to all students just as they were in the spring. Details are forthcoming.

Q: If the district is operating a Hybrid model or Blended-Hybrid model for students in grades 9-12, will stepfamilies with children whose last names fall in opposite ends of the alphabet be able to attend in-person instruction together?
A: Yes Arrangements can be made by calling the school(s) where the students attend.

Q: If the district is operating a Hybrid model or Blended-Hybrid model for students in grades 9-12, can a student or students request to be in Group A versus Group B or vice versa?
A: Depending on the circumstances, it is possible. Please contact the student’s school to make this request.

Q: What are the benefits of the Blended model for K-8 students?
A: The Blended option puts K-8 students in a traditional environment with face-to-face instruction for the majority of the school day five days a week. Dismissing K-8 students prior to lunch avoids the challenge of using cafeterias and keeping students six feet apart with no masks while eating.

Q: How are A.W. Beattie students affected in each operational model?
A: North Hills School District A.W. Beattie students will follow the operational model chosen by Beattie and begin their classes on Monday, Aug. 31. 

  • If Beattie is Virtual and North Hills is Virtual, students will attend their Beattie classes virtually in the morning and their North Hills classes virtually in the afternoon as scheduled.
  • If Beattie is Hybrid and North Hills is Virtual, students will attend their Beattie classes in-person for the AM Session on Monday and Tuesday and their North Hills classes virtually in the afternoon as scheduled. Students will be transported directly to Beattie from their home bus stop. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, students will attend their Beattie classes virtually in the morning and their North Hills classes virtually in the afternoon as scheduled.
  • If Beattie is Hybrid and North Hills is Hybrid, all A.W. Beattie students will be placed in Group A so they can attend their A.W. Beattie classes in-person for the AM Session and their North Hills classes in-person at the high school as scheduled on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, students will attend their Beattie classes virtually in the morning and their North Hills classes virtually in the afternoon as scheduled.

Q: How often might an operational model change once in place?
A: The operational model might need to change immediately should a known COVID-19 case occur in our district or if guidelines or requirements change at the county, state or federal level. If operating at a more restrictive model than required and moving to a less-restrictive model, we will give families as much advance notice as possible. Our current operating phase will be evaluated often and discussed at each school board meeting. School board meetings are typically held twice a month.

Q: Because of the burden of arranging childcare and work schedules, would the district be willing to commit to changing in a set time increment unless the COVID-19 situation worsens?
A: Yes. We understand the situation many of our families face and we will do whatever we can to make the transition between operating models smoother for our families.

Q: What will trigger the decision to return to a more restrictive setting, i.e. Hybrid to Virtual? Will it be based solely on county, state or federal guidance?
A: No. In addition to county, state or federal guidance, we will make decisions based on the needs of our staff members and students and their families.

Q: If children return to school in-person, will parents be required to self-certify that they have checked their child’s temperature and can answer no to all COVID-19 screening questions on a daily basis?
A: Yes. We are currently working on a process for parents/guardians to indicate their student(s) is healthy prior to in-person instruction and plan to use a Google form to accomplish this.

Q: What types of COVID-19 exposure will trigger a notification to parents/guardians? Will it be when a student or teacher tests positive? Will we be notified when a classmate or teacher has been required to quarantine due to exposure?
A: Parents/guardians will be notified of all COVID-19 exposure and cases known to the district through our normal modes of communication including district email, website, app and social media.

Q: Can athletics and activities continue if the district is operating a Virtual model when not required by the state?
A: Yes. Athletics and Activities can continue as long as they are not suspended by the governing body like the PIAA or the WPIAL, or by orders of the Health Departments, or the Governor’s office. Athletics and activities that are being conducted must follow the district approved Return to Play Plan in order to ensure the health and safety of all participants, coaches, and sponsors.

Health Monitoring and Communications

Q: What is the district's protocol should a student or staff member fall ill?
A: At school, the student or staff member will be quarantined in the health office immediately. If at home, the school should be contacted immediately. In both cases, NHSD will contact the Allegheny County Health Department and follow their guidance regarding school closure, who must quarantine and for how long, and whether the operational model must change. All families and staff members will be notified of all positive COVID-19 cases through the district’s normal modes of communication including email, district website, app and social media.

Q: What happens when there’s a positive COVID-19 case in one of our buildings?
A: If in school, the student or staff member will be immediately quarantined in the health office. NHSD will notify the Allegheny County Health Department and follow their guidance regarding school closure, who must quarantine and for how long, and whether the instructional operation model must change. All families and staff will be notified via the district’s normal modes of communication, i.e. email, district website, app and social media.

Q: How will families be notified in the event of a positive COVID-19 case?
A: All families will be notified in the event there is a positive COVID-19 case in the district. Families will be per recommendation of the Allegheny County Health Department if a student and/or staff member comes in contact with a positive COVID-19 case. All notifications will come via the district's normal means of communication; email newsletter, social media posts, district website and district app.

Q: What if a student or staff member comes in contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19?
A: If there is a known COVID-19 case in a student or staff member’s household, Superintendent Dr. Patrick Mannarino’s office should be contacted immediately and action by the district will be taken as necessary based on guidance from the Allegheny County Health Department and CDC.

Q: What are the daily requirements of parents prior to sending their student(s) to school, i.e. temperature checks?
A: Parents/guardians must only send their students to school if they are healthy with no fever or symptoms of illness and have not been exposed to COVID-19. Students who are exhibiting signs of illness must stay home. Staff must self-monitor and stay home if ill.

Q: What is the return to school protocol after feeling ill?
A: Students and staff with symptoms should not return to school until they are free of all symptoms and without a fever for at least 24 hours. Additional guidance from the Allegheny County Health Department and CDC will be followed as necessary.

Q: Who will ensure students wash and sanitize their hands properly?
A: School nurses will develop and share resources with staff, students and parents regarding good hygiene practices and handwashing techniques. This behavior will be reinforced by staff and CDC recommended signage will be posted throughout our buildings. Hand sanitizing stations will be present in each classroom and additional hand washing and sanitizing stations will be added in hallways, stairwells, cafeterias and other commonplaces to allow for frequent hand washing and sanitizing.

Q: What is the district’s plan to hire and retain substitutes for staff members who are out of school due to COVID-19 or other illness?
A: The district will follow collective bargaining agreement language to strategically deploy staff to meet its needs as necessary.

Physical Distancing

Q: How many students will be in a classroom?
A: We will follow class size policy guidelines for each class in the district. Classes such as chorus and band may have more than the 24 students currently recommended by CDC but physical distancing practices will be in place in those classes.

Q: How will desks be spaced apart and how far?
A: Student desks and seats will be separated and facing the same direction allowing for a minimum distance of no less than four feet and no greater than six feet to the extent possible.

Q: Will there be plexiglass or other shields around each desk or work station?
A: We are in the process of identifying where plexiglass shields may be needed in the schools.

Q: Will lockers be used?
A: Lockers will be assigned at the secondary schools. However, students are encouraged to simply carry their materials via a backpack or bookbag to ensure social distancing is maintained.

Q: Will rooms used by different classes or groups of students be disinfected in between each class?
A: Yes.

Q: Will volunteers be permitted in our school buildings?
A: No. Non-essential visitors and classroom volunteers will not be permitted at any time.

Face Coverings

Q: Are face coverings required and how will they be enforced?
A: Yes. Face masks or any other covering that will remain in place over a person’s nose and mouth are required for all staff members and all students at all times while in school. Face coverings are also required on district transportation. Appropriate face coverings are defined per the Pennsylvania Department of Heath's order to include face masks, face shields, face scarfs or any other face covering that will remain in place over a person’s nose and mouth without being held in place. Enforcement of face coverings will be addressed by the building administration.

Q: If a student removes or refuses to wear a mask, will they be refused entry or sent home?
A: Yes. Not wearing a mask without proper documentation from a doctor will be handled as a violation of our school dress code and students will be discipled and sent home.

Q: If a student cannot wear a mask for health or behavioral issues, what is required?
A: Medical documentation stating why the student cannot wear a mask from the child’s doctor must be submitted to school for the development of a school service plan. The district will consider adaptations and alternatives in this plan that could include a placement in the Online Academy at North Hills.

Transportation

Q: How many students will each bus carry and how many students per seat?
A: The district will assign no more than 56 students per bus, a capacity of two children per seat. Students will be assigned seats and siblings will sit together. Buses will be loaded from the back to front as students enter. Parents/guardians will also transport students when willing and able.

Q: Can families still make arrangements for children to be picked up and dropped off alternate bus stops, i.e. with a neighbor/family member?
A: Yes. Requests that were accommodated in previous years will continue to be accommodated. Please fill out the bus stop change form here.

Q: Will there be morning care and after school care?
A: Yes. If we operate an in-person teaching and learning model (Traditional, Blended or Hybrid), we will continue both our morning care program run by the district and the after school program run by the YMCA. This will look different depending on the operating model and additional details will be available as soon as possible.

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