The closing of schools this year has had a lasting impact on all of us. While I cannot predict all of the challenges that may arise during the 2020-2021 school year, I want you to begin thinking about some of the things that might need to happen to ensure a safe and orderly return to school.
I have been following CDC guidelines in structuring a plan for our return, and I am awaiting guidance from the NYS Education Department, which is expected to be released in mid-July. I have convened a Reopening Taskforce with participants from all areas of our school in the hopes that our collaborative efforts will ensure a safe return for everyone. At this point I want you to begin considering the following as possibilities:
• All students may not be in school every day, and possibly, may only be allowed to report to school on an every other day basis, or on varied half days. I know that this will present child care issues for some, so I need you to begin thinking about options for your children if one of these scenarios becomes the case.
• The number of students allowed on buses will be drastically reduced. We are trying to be creative in how we structure bus runs. If you feel that you will be able to, or are planning to transport your child to school each day they are required to be here, please call the school main office to let us know. This will help in our planning.
• We can no longer accept bus notes and will not be utilizing PickUp Patrol. Each parent needs to designate a single pick up/drop off location for the year. Because of regulations, we are required to minimize the mixing of student populations. Therefore, any changes in where you need your child to go each day after school will need to be organized on your end from that drop-off point. I know that this is a very big change for us, so please plan accordingly.
• Parents must keep children home if they are not feeling well or if they have a fever. We are asking all parents to check their child’s temperature with a thermometer every day. If they have a fever, they cannot get on our buses or come to the school building as this would be putting every other student and staff member at risk. Depending on further guidance, we may also need to take temperatures when students get in school. Any student who has a fever at any point during the school day will need to be picked up immediately from school.
• Each student will be issued a district laptop/device so that the lack of a device does not become a barrier to student learning. We will also keep our internet access available from our parking lots throughout the school year.
• Students may need to wear masks in school when social distancing is not possible. Please begin having conversations with your children about the need to wear masks, the requirements to stay 6 feet apart from others, and refraining from touching/being right next to others. The district will issue 2 masks to each student at the start of the school year.
Students and parents must know that throughout the 20-21 school year, our school structure may change at any moment based on the regulation and requirements issued to schools. Students need to realize that this is the new normal for school, and they must participate accordingly. This means students need to attend school when assigned to be present, log on to online sessions, and complete work if they intend on passing classes and being promoted in the next school year.
Our teachers are working on delivery of courses for September so that learning is structured in a way that is more streamlined compared to this spring. This will allow students to work independently, with minimal parent intervention.
The success of each student is going to require a collaborative effort on your part and the part of all school employees. Please know that the staff and I are dedicated to each student’s success and recognize that, by participating in all required work, we will do whatever it takes to support them. Nothing about this situation is going to be easy for anyone, but we need to encourage each other’s efforts to make the best of it. I will continue to update you with more information as our plans become solidified.
I know there is a great deal of difficult information to digest in this letter, but I want to be transparent with you and make you aware of all of the challenges schools are facing. Re-opening and having students back in school is my greatest desire and it will take monumental efforts on all of our parts to make it happen. If I had one wish granted to me, it would be for school to go back to normal!
Unfortunately, my wish is unrealistic at this time as we need to follow the requirements during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you for your understanding and, as always, please do not hesitate to contact me with questions.
Annette D. Hammond, Superintendent