Remote Instruction and its Delivery under Emergency Conditions Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
At the September 2022 meeting of the Board of Regents, the following regulatory amendments were adopted related to remote instruction, including delivery of remote instruction under emergency conditions:
Codification of the “Snow Day Pilot”
The Department previously authorized a “snow day pilot” program during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. This program allowed school districts to deliver instruction remotely on days in which it would otherwise have closed due to an emergency. To give districts greater predictability, the Board of Regents approved an amendment to §175.5(e) of the Commissioner’s regulations to codify this flexibility. Districts that would otherwise close due to an emergency may, but are not required to, remain in session and provide instruction through remote learning and count these instructional days towards the annual hours requirement for State Aid purposes. Questions about remote instructional days counting towards the annual hours requirement for State Aid purposes may be sent to the State Aid Office at OMSSAMS@nysed.gov or (518) 474-2977.
Inclusion of an Emergency Remote Instruction Plan in the District’s Safety Plan
Beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, all public schools, boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES), and county vocational education and extension boards must amend their district-wide school safety plans to include plans for remote instruction. The plans must include the methods by which public schools, BOCES and county vocational education and extension boards will ensure the availability of devices, internet access, provision of special education and related services for students with disabilities, and the expectations for time spent in different remote modalities.
The Department has provided further information about the six required components of the plans in the Emergency Remote Instruction Plan Guidance - May 2023. Questions on emergency remote instruction plans may be sent to the Office of Educational Design and Technology at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-474-5461.
Requirement to Report Data on Student Digital Access in Places of Residence
Each chief executive officer of each educational agency located within a public school district is required to report information on student access to computing devices and access to internet connectivity each year. Schools must enter their digital access data collection to the Student Information Repository System (SIRS) system each year. More information regarding this collection can be found in the Student-Level Digital Access Survey Memo from May 2022. For assistance with Digital Access data collection via SIRS, please contact your local Regional Information Center (RIC) or Big 5 Level 1 Reporting Center. For questions about reporting data in SIRS, please contact the Office of Information and Reporting Services Data Support.
Definition of Remote Instruction and Related Terms:
The Board of Regents adopted additions to §100.1 of Commissioner’s regulations to define the term “remote instruction.” This definition identifies various ways in which remote instruction may be delivered, including synchronous and asynchronous instruction. In all situations, remote instruction requires regular and substantive teacher-student interaction with an appropriately certified (or, for charter schools, qualified) teacher. Questions about remote instruction may be sent to the Office of Educational Design and Technology at email@example.com or 518-474-5461.
Option to Provide Remote Instruction under Emergency Conditions
- Q: Are schools required to offer remote instruction for students on emergency closure days?
A: No. Schools are not required to provide remote instruction for students on emergency closure days. The amendment establishes a permanent flexibility for districts that has been available since the 2020-21 school year, which is the ability to provide remote instruction during emergency closure days at their discretion.
- Q: Can the emergency closure days be used for staff professional development?
A: School districts and employees should refer to local policies and collective bargaining agreements to determine if this is allowed.
- Q: Can the emergency closure days be preplanned and added to the school calendar in advance?
A: No. This flexibility is only allowed when “a school district would otherwise close due to an emergency... on a previously scheduled session day.”
- Q: How should districts track attendance for emergency remote instruction days?
A: Districts should track attendance based on their emergency response plan, attendance policy, code of conduct, or other relevant local document. It is recommended that any policy regarding attendance includes provisions regarding attendance expectations during remote instruction.
- Q: What constitutes an “emergency?”
A: Emergency conditions include, but are not limited to, extraordinary adverse weather conditions, impairment of heating facilities, insufficiency of water supply, shortage of fuel, destruction of a school building, or a communicable disease outbreak.
Emergency Remote Instruction Plan
- Q: What must be included in the emergency remote instruction plan?
A: The plan must include the following:
- Policies and procedures to ensure computing devices will be made available to students or other means by which students will participate in synchronous instruction;
- Policies and procedures to ensure students receiving remote instruction under emergency conditions will access internet connectivity;
- Expectations for school staff as to the proportion of time spent in synchronous and asynchronous instruction of students on days of remote instruction under emergency conditions with an expectation that asynchronous instruction is supplementary to synchronous instruction;
- A description of how instruction will occur for those students for whom remote instruction by digital technology is not available or appropriate;
- A description of how special education and related services will be provided to students with disabilities and preschool students with disabilities, as applicable, in accordance with their individualized education programs to ensure the continued provision of a free appropriate public education; and
- For school districts that receive foundation aid, the estimated number of instructional hours the school district intends to claim for State aid purposes for each day spent in remote instruction due to emergency conditions pursuant to section 175.5 of this Chapter.
- Q: Do districts have to submit a remote learning plan to NYSED?
A: Districts must add provisions for emergency remote instruction to their District-wide school safety plans by September 2023. The requirements for these plans can be found in Commissioner’s Regulations 115.17(a), 115.17(b), and 115.17(c). After board adoption, district-wide school safety plans must be posted on the district website and the URL submitted to NYSED annually.
- Q: How will the public be given the opportunity to provide feedback on the emergency remote instruction plan?
A: School districts must accept public comment at least 30 days prior to their District-wide school safety plan adoption. Additionally, districts must convene at least one public hearing that allows for the participation of school personnel, parents, students and any other interested parties prior to plan adoption. Please contact the school district for further information.
- Q: If a district does not want to utilize remote learning for snow days or other emergencies, must the district still include an emergency remote instruction plan within their district-wide school safety plan?
A: Yes, beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, school districts must have an emergency remote instruction plan in place in the event of an unanticipated need to close due to extraordinary adverse weather conditions, impairment of heating facilities, insufficiency of water supply, shortage of fuel, destruction of a school building, or a communicable disease outbreak.
Requirement to Report Data on Student Digital Access
- Q: What is the “digital access data collection,” and when is it due to NYSED?
A: Commissioner’s regulation 115.17(f) outlines the annual data collection that districts must submit to SED every year by June 30. It requires public school districts to survey their families regarding internet and device access at the student’s place(s) of residence. Each chief executive officer of each educational agency located within a public school district shall survey students and parents and persons in parental relation to such students to obtain information on student access to computing devices and access to internet connectivity. This information will inform the district’s emergency remote instruction plan.
- Q: If a survey is returned incomplete, will the school be able to upload partial answers?
A: Yes, schools can upload partial responses from families. However, schools should make every effort to receive complete surveys so the data is as accurate as possible.
- Q: What should the school do if the parent or guardian does not return the survey?
A: In circumstances where obtaining information from a student’s parent or guardian has proven difficult, the Department encourages schools, districts, and BOCES to consider accepting responses from individuals with knowledge of the answers, such as older students, or, in limited cases, the classroom teacher. In addition, schools, districts, and BOCES are allowed to obtain responses from parents or guardians over the phone or through other communication channels, and are allowed to explain the questions in family- friendly terms to better ensure responses are accurate. In circumstances where a student has more than one residence or be in a situation where they may access instruction from more than one location, the school should report the data for the location with the least degree of access.
Definition of Remote Instruction and Related Terms
- Q: What is considered “remote instruction?”
A: The regulations define remote instruction as “instruction provided by an appropriately certified teacher, or in the case of a charter school an otherwise qualified teacher pursuant to Education Law §2854(3)(a-1), who is not in the same in-person physical location as the student(s) receiving the instruction, where there is regular and substantive daily interaction between the student and teacher.”
- Q: What is the difference between asynchronous and synchronous instruction?
A: The amendment defines each term as:
Asynchronous: students engage in learning without the direct presence (remote or in-person) of a teacher.
Synchronous: students engage in learning in the direct presence (remote or in-person) of a teacher in real time.
Other Reporting Requirements
- Q: Must districts receive prior authorization to provide remote instruction under emergency conditions?
A: No. Districts must report this instruction through the State Aid Management System at the end of the school year. If remote instruction is provided in response to a school closure that is due to an activation of the building level emergency response plan, not including routine snow days, it must also be reported in the Report of School Closure.
- Q: How will superintendents certify that an emergency condition existed and remote instruction was provided in accordance with the district’s emergency remote instruction plan?
A: After the close of the school year, superintendents reporting remote instructional days under emergency conditions through the State Aid Management System will certify at the time Form A is submitted as part of other required certifications.
Obligations to Nonpublic and Charter Schools
- Q: If a district provides remote instruction during emergency closure days, does the district need to provide transportation and other services for charter schools and nonpublic schools that remain open?
A: When a school district is in session, remotely or otherwise, pupil transportation must be provided to students attending religious and independent schools, charter schools or students whose individualized education program (IEP) have placed them out of district. In the event that the change to remote instruction is due to a snow or other weather emergency, such change will likely impact transportation for students attending school outside of the district. Decisions not to transport need to be based on real-time information relevant to the safety of students, staff and vehicles. School districts and religious and independent schools, charter schools and other programs are encouraged, and reminded, to work together to ensure continuity of education while ensuring that transportation can be provided in a safe and efficient manner.
State Aid Impact
- Q: Does remote instruction provided under emergency conditions count towards minimum instructional requirements?
A: Yes. So long as instruction provided is consistent with state regulations and district emergency remote instructional plans, remote instruction under emergency condition may be reported to count towards both the 180 day minimum and the annual hourly instructional minimum of 900 for grades K-6 and 990 for grades 7-12.
- Q: How many instructional hours should be reported for a day of remote instruction under emergency conditions?
A: Districts must report the number of instructional hours provided on these session days. For asynchronous instruction, in particular, it is important to accurately report the number of hours of instruction provided to all students.