All education stakeholders should consider the effects of significant absences on student achievement and establish plans that not only ensure health and safety, but also consider continuity of learning to the extent feasible and appropriate. New York State schools must consider the needs of all students and strive to ensure that any plans for continuity of learning are equitable and available to all students. Guidance from the USDOE’s Readiness and Emergency Management in Schools Technical Assistance Center provides the continuity of learning key considerations such as:
- Designing for Unique Needs of All Students. Instructional design, course design and plans for support must be aligned with the skill level of age groups and abilities, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners, to the greatest extent possible. For example, those serving the elementary and middle-school levels might have to consider creating instructional materials for both students and parents, while high school students are likely more capable independent learners.
- Supporting System Orientation/Preparation. Orientation/preparation is necessary for faculty, staff, students, and parents on the use of continuity of learning systems to ensure true continuity and accessibility.
- Ensuring Accessibility. Not all students may have access to the Internet, phone lines, TV or radio at the same time, or at all, during a prolonged school closure or student absence. Therefore, it is important to offer a variety of methods of learning. Districts considering online learning will need to ensure that the means used complies with all applicable laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and Education Law § 2-d, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which provides accessibility guidelines for students with disabilities.
- Preparing for Short- and Long-Term School Closures. Tools that might be useful during the short-term might not work for long-term closures. School emergency management and continuity planning teams must assess which sets of tools work best for their schools and/or districts based on the anticipated length of closure, current resources available, student access, and grade level.