The Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES (Herkimer BOCES) reopening plan provides a framework to ensure that all students with disabilities continue to have available to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living in the least restrictive environment (LRE) which may include virtual integration due to the health and safety constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic. In consideration of the health, safety, and well-being of students, families, and staff, our plan is designed to enable transitioning between in-person, remote, and hybrid learning environments to ensure the provision of FAPE consistent with the changing health and safety conditions that exist.

Special education programs and services at Herkimer BOCES provide access to students with disabilities to general education content and general education peers in the least restrictive environment. Our students with disabilities have access to their modifications, accommodations, supplementary aids, and services as well as technology in all instructional environments. Herkimer BOCES will maintain documentation of students’ programs and services, progress toward goals as well as progress monitoring. The component schools that make up Herkimer BOCES are prioritizing students with disabilities, English language learners, and young children for in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible.

The Herkimer BOCES is committed to working collaboratively with our families and our districts. We are communicating regularly through letters/newsletters, telephone calls, texts, social media, and robocalls. We will continue this regular communication to ensure that all families are engaged with their child’s education. Please see the Technology & Connectivity part of our plan for more information on how we will assist parents and students with access issues.

Our communication also extends to our component districts. We are working collaboratively with our districts to ensure that all IEPs are implemented with fidelity and we recognize that some services will be provided virtually or remotely depending upon each student’s needs. We will continue to work with our districts’ Committees on Preschool Special Education and Committees on Special Education to ensure an understanding of the provision of services consistent with each child’s unique needs as well as parent requests whenever possible. Our plans will continue to include progress monitoring and consistent communication with our families and with our districts.

Herkimer BOCES will maintain records to document the implementation of each IEP. The documentation will include, but will not be limited to: narrative records of how the student is adjusting to live, hybrid, and remote instruction during 2020-21, a record of what instruction and services were provided, a record of formative, summative, and standardized assessments and their results as well as progress monitoring documentation, a record of school-family collaboration, and the provision of compensatory services records.

Given the possibility that communities may experience spikes in COVID-19 cases at any point during the school year, the Special Education program at the Herkimer BOCES has developed a learning model and schedule that can continue in a fully remote environment.

Student schedules will largely remain the same whether instruction is in-person or remote so that students do not encounter conflicts with other instructional commitments or therapy requirements. Instruction will include all subject areas. All instruction will continue to be aligned to the New York State Learning Standards whether in-person or learning remotely. Teachers will prioritize hands-on and lab-based learning experiences while they have the opportunity to engage students during in-person learning.

We will continue to work with families to support student attendance as we know that attendance positively influences student achievement. As with in-person instruction, teachers and therapists will continue to manage student attendance daily in order to track their performance and participation with classroom instruction. It is essential to a student’s academic success in a remote learning environment that they receive encouragement and support from their parents/guardians to log-on and participate fully. Student and parent/guardian accountability will continue to be important.

Though live lessons are a priority, we recognize that we may have to be flexible in a remote learning environment. We understand that students will attend live lessons or may need to watch recorded lessons at a later time in the day. Students, under parental supervision, are expected to attend live instruction or watch the recorded lesson, complete the daily instructional activities, and submit their work in Google Classroom and/or Nearpod.

To ensure an equitable and high-quality remote learning experience, a blended model of synchronous (live instruction) and asynchronous (recorded, Google Classroom, etc.) instructional delivery will be implemented to the greatest extent possible in order to support students with unique learning needs. Teachers will provide “live” instruction through video conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Google Meet. Live lessons provide important social opportunities for students to engage in discussions with their teacher and their peers as well as ask real-time questions.

Grading practices will continue to follow a standards-based framework designed to provide direct feedback regarding students’ mastery of course content. Completion of classroom assignments, quizzes and tests will be important elements that inform instruction. Students will receive vital feedback to support progress toward learning objectives.

Ongoing home-school communication will be even more important to your child’s success in a remote environment. Our teachers and therapists will utilize email, phone calls and Google Classroom to communicate with students and families.

For more information about how remote instruction information will be communicated to students and families, visit the Communication section of our reopening plan on the Herkimer BOCES webpage.