Reopening Fall 2020 Plan

2020 /2021 COVID-19 Reopening Plan

Operations & Finance  /  Academics  /  Social-Emotional Learning  /  Well-Being & Culture


From the Superintendent

To our Syracuse Family,

In preparation for a new school year, we are grateful for all of the leadership and dedication shown by our staff, families, and students during unprecedented times. It is said that character is revealed when pressure is applied, and the character of Syracuse has revealed that we are a resilient and adaptive community.
There have been many discussions and planning sessions to make the return to buildings as safe, equitable, and collaborative as possible, as well as valuable input received from the community. Our number one priority is the general health and safety of our staff, students, and larger Syracuse family. The decisions that are being made on reopening are with this priority in mind, as well as guidance released by the state and the Center for Disease Control based on what is currently known about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In addition, we are operating under the current timeline:

April 2020

SCSD assembles a Reopening Planning Committee consisting of district instructional and operational leaders.

May 2020

Reopening Planning Committee begins planning for three scenarios for reopening across four subcommittees. Core values for planning scenarios, and key components confirmed.

June 2020

Reopening subcommittees engage in a series of activities to finalize modules, prototypes, and guidance for a return to school under each scenario.

July 2020

New York State released guidance for reopening. Reopening project team conducts series of focus groups and surveys to gather feedback across all community stakeholder groups.

Early August 2020

State expected to make final decisions on school reopenings.

Mid-August 2020

SCSD to release final plans for reopening in Fall 2020.

With that, I wanted to share some key details for reopening in September:
  • The 2020-21 school year is expected to begin September 14, 2020, with a 100% remote learning model through at least October 2, 2020.
  • It is the goal of SCSD to revisit state guidance, health considerations, community feedback, and teacher input in late September to plan for a phased return to a hybrid model including in-person instruction.
Please be aware that each department and school building team will work together to ensure proper leadership for social distancing while students and staff are in buildings and implement. For now, we appreciate your patience, feedback, and flexibility as we work toward a school year that will be unlike any other. We are so proud of how our community has come together and the persistence shown by leaders of the reopening committee, school buildings, and our greater community.
Wishing you and your family health and comfort,

Jaime Alicea
Superintendent of Syracuse City School District


Our Approach

Syracuse City School District will keep students’ health, safety, and learning at the forefront of all plans for continuous learning as we navigate the return to school in SY 20-21. We will communicate with families with a sense of urgency and a commitment to transparency as situations arise that may impact the location or schedules of educational activities. 

We will prioritize the safety and well-being of every member of our team. Syracuse City School District will provide support for faculty and staff as they adapt to the changing conditions of educating students through these challenging conditions. 

Guiding values for reopening in the Fall of 2020 were informed by Syracuse City School District’s Core Beliefs and Commitments. 

Stakeholder Engagement

SCSD conducted a series of Focus Groups for the following stakeholder groups: families, students, non-instructional staff, instructional staff, and district admin. The purpose of this focus groups were:
  • To assess the differences in perceptions, desires, and beliefs about reopening in school year 2020-2021 as it relates to current and previous experiences.
  • To identify areas of opportunity to tailor the reopening plan to the needs of the Syracuse community.
  • To inform next steps and recommendations for the Reopening Committee to consider as they finalize reopening plans.
Our methodology included interviewing more than 500 stakeholders individually or in small focus groups. Participants were encouraged to share honestly. To foster this, the conversations were framed in that trends would be shared but individual statements or identifying details would not be disclosed. The findings of the focus groups are below.


While we are planning to start the school year in a remote learning model, due to the high number of knowns and unknowns and continued uncertainty about changing health conditions, there are countless realities the district will be prepared for before, during, and in the months after reopening in-person operations in School Year 2020-2021. Below, we have simplified this uncertainty by highlighting three possible changing realities that might emerge. These are intended to orient the team and district toward different and equally important scenarios that may potentially become necessary if health and safety conditions change.
The key decisions, modules and prototypes outlined in this document were identified by considering all three scenarios. Some apply to only one scenario, and some apply to more than one. By planning for all three scenarios (or a combination thereof), SCSD will be prepared for a more fluid shift if we need to pivot during the school year.
High school students wearing masks Student wearing mask Student working at home

Scenario 1

Every grade levels comes back to brick-and-mortar buildings in the fall with increased safety procedures and social distancing protocols.

Scenario 2

A Hybrid model where K-8th grades are split into two cohorts with some in-person instruction and some remote instruction; 9-12th grades will attend in-person one day a week and receieve remote instruction four days a week.

Scenario 3

100% remote instruction and learning for students across grade levels.


Guiding Values For Reopening Schools


The health and safety of our students, staff, and families is a top priority. We are following the guidelines of the Onondaga County Health Department, the New York State Health Department, and the Center for Disease control to minimize the risks to the health of our community, and ensure a safe learning environment.  

We believe in equity and ensuring opportunities for all students. We will prioritize access to academic, health, and social and emotional supports for our most vulnerable students, including language learners, students with disabilities, students experiencing poverty, students of color who have been historically disadvantaged, and students who are experiencing the impact of COVID 19.

We believe in the importance of the whole community in ensuring positive outcomes for our students. We will solicit stakeholder feedback, and make decisions in collaboration with families and community members. We will be responsive to new data as it becomes available.