Novel Coronavirus COVID-19
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
- Syosset Central School Dist
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
District Communications Regarding COVID-19
July 20, 2020 Reopening Survey, Community Engagement, BOE Meetings
Dear Syosset Community,
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to respond to the Fall 2020 Reopening survey. Governor Cuomo has required all school districts to develop 3 reopening plans - one in-person; one virtual; and one a hybrid of the two. Your feedback on the types of plans under consideration helps inform our effort to refine the models to maximize health and safety, deliver a high-quality instructional program, and support the mental well-being of students.
The survey will remain open until noon on Wednesday, July 22. If you have not already responded, please access the survey by clicking the link below:
Reopening Plan Process
To evaluate the plans under consideration, evaluate community feedback and keep the public informed, the Board has scheduled additional meetings and feedback opportunities to specifically focus on the fall reopening planning process.
Board Workshop (Thursday, July 23): The Board and administration will be conducting a workshop meeting which the public may observe via livestream. At this meeting, the Board will review the District’s preliminary reopening plans as well as the survey data collected (presentations to the Board will also be posted to the website). A link to access the livestream will be posted to the District website and Facebook page.
ThoughtExchange (Friday July 24): The District has already received over 1,200 public comments through the survey. Once the preliminary plans have been made public, we will be using an online tool called ThoughtExchange (previously used for our investigation into the high school start time) to collect feedback and reaction for the Board to consider. Please monitor your email for more information, which will be provided later this week.
Special Board of Education Meeting (Wednesday, July 29): Based on the Board’s workshop and the ThoughtExchange feedback, the District will develop final reopening plans to be reviewed by the Board prior to submission to the State on July 31. A link to access the livestream will be posted to the District website and Facebook page.
Please be aware that paving work will begin tomorrow in a portion of the parking lot at South Woods Middle School and behind the track and field bleachers. During this time, staff and community members will be unable to park in the small lot to the west of the track. Access to the track will remain open at the northwest gate (which is located by the shot put area). The main SWMS parking lot and the SHS student lot will remain open.
Additional paving work to repair sidewalks by the tennis courts and expand the parking lot outside the pool will begin shortly. Tennis courts will remain open during this work, though access to the courts will be through the rear gates (facing the track). As a reminder, per Board policy, the courts and track are for recreational use only and no organized activities are permitted, including private lessons.
- While caring for an ailing grandparent during the pandemic, rising SHS junior Nina Rashid fulfilled a dream by founding an interfaith coalition named “Changemaker Interfaith Group”. The mission is to unite members of all faiths to work together to relieve pandemic concerns. Nina and her peers from other high schools raised $1,000 for the Domestic Harmony Foundation. She was recently recognized by Nassau County Office of Asian Affairs. We are so very proud of Nina and this important work.
I’d like to close by reminding everyone of the importance of continuing to take proper precautions to safeguard the health of our community. Please engage in social distancing whenever possible, and wear a mask when unable to maintain appropriate distance from others outside your immediate family/household. Working together as a community is essential, now more than ever.
I hope you are all staying cool, healthy and safe. #syostrong
July 16, 2020 Update on State Guidance for Reopening
Dear Syosset Community,
This afternoon, the State Education Department released guidance to school districts on the reopening of schools for the fall of 2020. Their guidance builds on health and safety guidance issued by the Governor and New York State Department of Health released earlier this week. Together, these documents outline what will be required of school districts to safeguard the health of our learning community.
We are reviewing these documents in light of the work performed by our Reopening Task Force. Tomorrow, we will be releasing a parent survey based on the guidance to further inform our decision-making moving forward. Please keep an eye out for the survey and complete it as soon as possible, and I thank you in advance for providing us with your feedback.
The State is requiring us to prepare 3 plans:
- A plan to maximize the number of students who return to school;
- A “hybrid” plan where students alternate between remote learning and attending school; and
- A plan for all students to continue learning from home (or for students who are unwilling or unable to return to school).
All of these plans will require compromises and involve significant limitations in order to increase social distance, reduce risk and preserve as much educational progress as possible. While the health and safety of our learning community is at the forefront of our planning, we are committed to delivering a high-quality instructional program (whether in-person or remote) and nurturing the social-emotional and mental wellness of our students.
These plans are required to be completed by July 31. Governor Cuomo has indicated that he will then make a decision on whether schools reopen based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in each region of the state. That decision will be made during the first week of August.
One thing that is clear from all of the guidance is how interdependent we all are to stay safe. Staff who are unwell must remain home; children should not be sent to school ill, even if their fever symptoms are managed with aspirin or tylenol.
I’d also like to note that today, the NYS Public High School Athletic Association announced the official start date of the Fall 2020 sports season has been delayed to September 21. In addition, Fall Regional and State Championship events have been cancelled. More information can be found here.
- Samantha Smith, a rising junior at SHS, has been collecting graduation caps and gowns to help those less fortunate in an initiative she launched and named “Share A Moment.” Once collected, the gowns will be washed and shipped to school districts, which will distribute the graduation garb to those in need.
- Sally Biondo, a 6th grader, helped organize a drive-in movie with County Legislator Josh Lafazan to benefit Peoples Pantry in Oyster Bay. Over $1,300 was raised for the pantry that serves 200 people every Friday.
Please remember to look for the email to come tomorrow with a link to the parent survey regarding our reopening planning. We sincerely value and appreciate your feedback.
I hope you are all healthy and safe and enjoying the summer.
July 2, 2020 Fall Reopening Planning
Dear Syosset Community,
Congratulations to the SHS seniors on their graduation and to our 5th and 8th grade students “moving up” in their educational journeys. Although the celebrations looked quite different this year, the unique and festive ways we were able to celebrate our students while keeping everyone safe gave me joy and, I hope, conveyed just how proud the District is of their accomplishments. And to the entire student body, at the end of this most unique school year, I’d like you to know that you have been a source of inspiration for me and the community during this trying time, and I commend you on your resilience, creativity and passion for making our world a better place.
As this school year comes to a close, the District has been engaged in thoughtful and comprehensive planning for the reopening of schools in the fall that supports the high caliber of a Syosset education while keeping our learning community safe. I’d like to provide you with a quick update on this work and our next steps.
In early May, Governor Cuomo announced that schools would receive reopening guidance in June in order to create plans for State approval sometime in July. However, this past weekend he announced that he was delaying this guidance to monitor the national upsurge in infection rate and progression of the disease.
While it presents a challenge to solidify plans without knowing what restrictions will be in place, the District has not been idle as we wait for this guidance. We’ve convened working groups that are focused on:
- Teaching and Learning, with special attention given to fleshing out the various hybrid models;
- Health and Safety, with focus on developing strict health and safety procedures to reduce risk should students return to the in-person environment;
- Facilities and Operations, focused on how our facilities, busing and food services would accommodate in-person instruction; and
- Athletics, Activities and Ensembles, which is in the process of identifying new ways to maintain large group experiences in the safest manner possible.
The work of the Task Force is centralized around minimizing risk that cannot be eliminated, developing protocols to quickly address outbreaks, ensuring the curriculum keeps pace whether live or virtual and providing a seamless transition between the two environments, and addressing the social-emotional needs of students.
Once the State guidance is released, we hope to identify scenarios that would be permitted under the regulations (and possible within our physical infrastructure) in order to seek public input prior to submitting a plan for the State’s approval. We understand the difficulty changes to the typical school day present to many in our community, and we recognize that any plan will likely be a compromise of some kind.
Whatever the guidance, our priorities remain the same: the health and safety of our students and staff is paramount, and we wish to maximize the educational progress students make despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic. This will require flexibility, ingenuity, and a reliance on science and data. But I have no doubt that Syosset will find a way to navigate this challenging time.
- SWMS student Krishiv Shah created an app, “Social Distancing”, to help people maintain an appropriate distance from others and stay safe. After his Health teacher, Ms. Scheffer, proudly tweeted a link to his video, author and educator Brian Aspinall invited Krishiv and to appear on his weekly podcast, Code Breaker, and complimented him on “sharing some wicked positivity.”
- Siblings Sam and Sophie Bravo have found ways to pursue their interests while staying safe at home. Sam has been learning to speak modern Hebrew using an app and Sophie has been following her entrepreneurial dreams, expanding her baking business. Sophie has been baking 6-15 cakes weekly and learning the ropes of managing a business, all while keeping up with her schoolwork. Stories like these remind me there is always a silver lining in any situation.
I would again like to thank the community for its support, patience and understanding. I wish you all a wonderful 4th of July weekend.
June 30, 2020 Summer Food Services
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Meals will be available for all District students at no charge during the summer.
- Breakfast and lunch meals will be available for pickup at Syosset High School, 70 South Woods Road, Syosset, between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on the scheduled dates listed below.
- The distribution location will be from the south side of the building. Please use the southernmost driveway entrance and proceed to the door directly past the grey storage unit. Please note there will be no access to the interior of the school building.
- The meals will be available to bring home as the cafeterias are unavailable for congregation.
Summer Meal Distribution Schedule:
Beginning July 13th, meals will be available on every Tuesday and Friday (with the exception of the holiday on Friday, July 31, for which meals will be available on Thursday, July 30).
If you have any questions please call the Food Services Director at 364-5849 or email email@example.com.
Syosset Central School District
June 7, 2020 District Budget Vote Update
Dear Community Member,
As a reminder, this year‘s school board election and annual budget vote will conclude on Tuesday, June 9. Any community member wishing to drop off their absentee ballot in person, may do so between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Monday and 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday at the office of the district clerk, 99 Pell Lane, Syosset NY 11791.
Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced that ballots received through the Postal Service after Tuesday may also count towards the election. We are awaiting clarification on whether the ballot must be postmarked by June 9. We will inform the public once that clarification is received.
In the meantime, residents can be assured that any ballot dropped off in person before 5:00 PM on Tuesday, June 9 will be accepted for this year‘s vote. Please visit www.syossetschools.org/budget for detailed budget information.
Syosset Central School District
June 3, 2020 Summer School, Budget Vote, Fall 2020, Track, IT Support
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope that everyone is healthy and safe. I have been watching current events over the last week with horror at lives senselessly lost to racism and sadness that we seem so far from becoming a “more perfect union”. I’ve struggled to summon the usual words of hope that mark graduation seasons. Instead, I find myself pondering the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Four years ago, Syosset high school students started an initiative called Breaking Borders hosting frank and courageous conversations between students in Syosset and Freeport, which grew to include districts across Nassau and Suffolk counties in coordination with Erase Racism. These young people understood that mutual respect and friendship would weaken the barriers that divide us and build the trust that unites us. They cared enough to “be the change” and offered concrete suggestions for the District to consider.
Week after week, I’ve proudly shared recent “bright spots” of our young people's efforts during the pandemic. Today I acknowledge our students fighting against the virus of racism. Their light and love can drive out both darkness and hate; and in their example I rediscover hope.
Governor Cuomo recently announced that summer school must be “conducted through distance learning” during the summer of 2020. As a result, we are finalizing the virtual-only contingency scenario that we were developing and will share more information with the community shortly about available offerings.
In addition to remedial courses and services for students, we will be offering online enrichment opportunities for students as well. The Syosset Summer School Brochure will be coming out shortly with directions for registration.
District Budget Vote
The District held its 2020-21 school budget hearing last Wednesday, May 27th. A link to the presentation and a video archive of the meeting, along with detailed information on the school budget, can be found at www.syossetschools.org/budget. The District has developed a list of common questions and answers relative to this year’s budget which can be found here. Please remember all ballots must be received by Monday, June 9, at 5 p.m.
The list of registered voters is maintained by the Nassau County Board of Elections, which furnishes that list to school districts. By law, a list of voters who were issued absentee ballots for the June 9, 2020 budget vote and school election may be obtained from the district clerk by emailing the district clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Minute Voter Registration
All ballots based on the voter list and final addendum from the Board of Elections have now been transmitted. However, voters may still register through the Department of Motor Vehicles, and then must contact the District Clerk to request a ballot at email@example.com. The District Clerk will provide instructions for how to return the ballot if there is insufficient time to use US Mail.
Plans for Fall 2020
Governor Cuomo announced that his office will soon provide guidance to schools on reopening in the Fall. Schools will then be responsible for preparing plans for State approval some time in July. Once that guidance is released, we will begin to seek input on how to shape our plans for the future.
The track and turf field has now been re-opened for community use, along with the District tennis courts. When using the facilities, please remember to follow proper social distancing guidelines and the direction of our security personnel at all times.
As a reminder, District IT staff is available to assist with technology-related issues, including support with Chromebooks. Please visit the Technology Support page of the District website. For convenience, there is a direct link on the homepage.
- Our most recent bright spot comes from South Woods Middle School student Samantha Weingarten, who sold lawn signs so that families can show their pride in students moving up to the high school while simultaneously raising money for the St. Edward's food pantry. This is a great example of one of the many student-led efforts to not only support, but bring joy to, the community during this time.
- Take a few moments to listen to this Memorial Day tribute by the South Woods Middle School 6th grade band. In an incredible collaborative effort, Ms. Boonshaft directed 79 student musicians for a virtual performance of “Battle Quest” by Mike Forbes. The performance is remarkable, and it filled me with joy to once again hear our students playing together.
Please remember to return your absentee ballots so that they are received by the District no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, June 9th. I wish you and your families health and peace.
May 22, 2020 Summer School, Fall, Proposed 2020-21 Budget
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope your Memorial Day weekend is off to a nice start, and that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. Before I provide you with a few important updates, I would like to express my gratitude for all our fallen heroes and honor our veterans and active service members who sacrifice so much to serve and protect our nation.
Yesterday, the governor announced that summer school will be conducted through distance learning. In anticipation of this announcement, we have been actively planning for this possibility. More information will be released once the plans are finalized.
Fall 2020 “Recovery” Plans
No decision has been made yet on how schools will reopen in September. Governor Cuomo announced that sometime in June, the State would issue guidelines on what would be needed to reopen schools safely. Based on those guidelines, school districts must develop and submit plans for State approval in July. The District will be working in earnest on these plans, and once the state guidance takes shape, will share more information with the community in order to consider public feedback.
Proposed 2020-21 Budget
The Board of Education adopted the 2020-21 Budget during the May monthly meeting. You can find detailed information on the proposed budget on our website: www.syossetschools.org/budget. The Budget Hearing will take place on Wednesday, May 27 at 8 p.m., via live stream. A link to the live stream will be posted on the District website and on the District Facebook page. Questions regarding the budget may be directed to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to address questions received by noon on May 27 during the hearing. We will also post a follow up Q&A document online.
Please remember that the voting process will be by absentee ballot only this year. There will be no in-person voting. The District will mail each qualified voter in the Syosset Central School District an absentee ballot with a postage paid envelope to return the ballot by US Mail. All ballots must be received by 5:00 p.m. on June 9, 2020.
I miss our students and entire learning community very much, especially now when the schools are typically filled with end-of-year celebrations and ceremonies. Every building’s leadership is working hard to provide celebratory experiences for our students worthy of their accomplishments. I thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through the logistical details to ensure everyone’s health and safety.
I wish you a Memorial Day weekend filled with pride in our country and all those who serve it.
Stay healthy, stay safe, stay strong. #syostrong
May 19, 2020 Syosset Online Learning Plan
Dear Syosset Parents and Guardians,
We find ourselves living through extraordinary times and the pandemic’s appetite for Herculean effort seems bottomless. We have pulled together to support our first responders and essential workers, support each other and, perhaps most importantly, support the youngest members of our community as they have had their worlds turned upside down.
I am incredibly proud of the work our teachers have done to literally “turn on a dime” and adapt teaching from the brick-and-mortar world to an online environment. In a message I sent to the faculty last night, I shared my belief that when the history of this pandemic is written, this will be regarded as teachers’ “Apollo 13” moment of ingenuity under pressure. However, the speed of this transition has masked its difficulty. Teachers left behind classroom libraries, lessons designed around group work, smart boards and math “manipulatives” - resources they had developed and honed over years.
In their place, teachers have reconstructed classrooms online by adapting lessons, optimizing the use of the District’s extensive digital resources for the online environment, and providing voluminous written feedback that substitutes for what might have otherwise been a quick face-to-face conversation in the classroom. The effort required to develop weeks and weeks of new instruction, all while maintaining their supportive relationships with students, has been extraordinary. I am convinced they are working harder than ever, while simultaneously dealing with personal demands as parents or caregivers, and I am deeply appreciative.
It’s hard to believe that we are only a little more than 8 weeks into online learning. While that would ordinarily be an incredibly brief trial for even a modest change in instruction to take root and be evaluated, these are hardly ordinary times.
Our culture of innovation and iteration in Syosset drives us to adapt and improve. We have gained valuable experience from our initial efforts to shift to an online platform and we have listened to feedback from our community. Employing that knowledge and experience, we are implementing some shifts in our online program. Our goal is always to do what is best for kids: we built our model based on research, and it evolves based on experience.
The research suggests that a mix of “synchronous” (teacher and student interacting in real-time) and “asynchronous” (students working independently and receiving teacher feedback) learning experiences is the most effective learning design. Our initial online learning plans were built from this research, and teachers complimented their live teaching with rich, thoughtful asynchronous assignments that provided students with generous, individualized feedback. I have marveled at the extraordinary investment of effort that level of personalization has required from our faculty, which is essentially invisible to all but that student.
From our experience, and a great deal of feedback from parents facilitated by PTA leaders, we know that students and parents alike recognize the value of time spent interacting directly with their Syosset teachers; small group interaction is engaging for students who feel isolated from the classroom; and the online environment requires a level of attention and stamina that we would not typically expect developmentally from younger children. (We also received feedback about some of the logistical challenges, including technology-related issues such as assignments posted in multiple platforms, Google alerts, etc. Please know we’re working on those too.)
So the research is not at odds with our experience. Rather, both suggest there is a balance point between synchronous and asynchronous learning that we must refine, knowing that teacher time is finite, and that every aspect of the online environment is more challenging and time-consuming for teachers to perform at the high level of quality that is our norm in Syosset. Teachers across Syosset have thoughtfully chosen different balance points - based on the curriculum they teach, and the developmental readiness of their students.
However, I have asked teachers with the largest proportion of asynchronous work to make a shift - trying to strike the right balance between their individual professional judgement and the consistency of student experience that is Syosset bedrock. This shift may result in some rescheduling and I apologize in advance for the disruption this may cause some families. Additional information and schedules will be coming shortly from building principals.
Looking ahead, I am serving on a committee of local superintendents charged with evaluating plans for how to reopen in the fall, knowing that we must entertain the possibility of having to continue some or all instruction in the virtual environment. There are nearly as many models for online instruction as there are school districts - ranging from those sending home “packets” of student work, to others, like Syosset, which have built rich virtual classroom environments. While we are all exhausted from the demands of the last 2 months, we may still be in the early stages of this crisis. So however we reopen in the fall, sustainability must be part of the design.
I’m often asked what makes Syosset so special. I always offer the same answer -- its people -- brilliant students, incredible investment from parents and the community, and a faculty second to none. Whether we’re physically together or apart, as long as those 3 pillars remain strong and united, we will weather this storm, no matter its length or fury.
Tomorrow is national “Thank a Teacher Day”. So as we head into this weekend where we reflect our gratitude for our veterans’ service and sacrifice, please also remember to #thankAteacher.
Stay safe, stay strong, stay united.
May 14, 2020 School Calendar, Retrieval of Personal Items, Tennis Courts
Dear Syosset Community,
It is my continued hope that this message finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe.
This week, lawn signs were distributed to our seniors from the front of the high school. I had the opportunity to stop by and wave hello to some students and parents as they drove by in cars adorned with Syosset colors and college commitments. I was simultaneously struck by the raw emotion of how much I have missed seeing our teachers, parents, and especially students, and the surreality of seeing everyone wearing masks and gloves, with our kids confined to cars. My sincere thanks goes out to the PTSA, staff and high school administration for making the lawn signs available and for making this time unforgettable for the Class of 2020 despite the many challenges.
The next Budget Information Meeting and monthly Board of Education meeting will be held via livestream on Tuesday, May 19th at 7:45 p.m. I encourage you to virtually join us. A link to view the livestream will be posted on the District website and on Facebook.
2019-2020 School Calendar
Please note the following information related to the school calendar. Consistent with the printed calendar, all instructional activity will be paused Thursday through Tuesday, May 21 - May 26. This includes observance of Memorial Day and the unused “snow makeup days”. The last day of classes for students will be Wednesday, June 17, 2020. This date is earlier than indicated in the printed District calendar as a result of school being open during the originally-scheduled April Spring Recess. The State has not made any announcements about schooling beyond June 7; should a future Executive Order impact the school calendar, we will make a further announcement.
Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome
As you may have heard in the news, there are emerging cases of a potentially COVID-related illness in children. The syndrome predominantly affects school-aged children and the symptoms resemble Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome. Please review this NYS Department of Health Alert for more information.
Retrieval of Student’s Personal Items
Information was sent out yesterday regarding pickup of locker contents from the high school, and information is coming shortly from the middle and elementary schools.
I’m happy to announce that, consistent with the Governor’s announcement earlier this week, the District will reopen the tennis courts located at Syosset High School and HB Thompson Middle School beginning tomorrow. Please note, per the Governor’s directive, only singles will be permitted and players must follow proper social distancing guidelines and the direction of our security personnel at all times. As always, tennis lessons are not permitted.
The Syosset Robotics program has always blown me away, but now more than ever, I am so impressed by the drive, creativity and ingenuity of this special group of students.
- Syborgs 10696, a SHS Robotics team, started a global initiative named #TYfromFIRST, to show the collective gratitude the entire FIRST Robotics community has for our heroic healthcare workers, police and firemen, and other essential workers. Faith Chen, Rhea Sharma and Ethan Silverstein worked with approximately one hundred (and counting!) teams globally to produce this heartfelt video. It is when things feel dark that these points of light shine brightest. I am so proud of these students for their uplifting spirit. I encourage you to view the brief video, which I’m sure will leave you with the same feeling.
- In an impressive collaborative effort between teachers and the freshman Robotics team Syosset ELITE, over 240 face shields were created and donated to nursing homes and hospitals.
- Files were reformatted for Makerbot printers by Robotics team member Ketan Raghu and sent to Club Advisor John Chae, who printed over 200 visors on the District’s 3-D printers.
- Robotics team member Yashwant Sinha, then assembled the visors into 200+ face shields.
- Robotics team members Krishiv Dhupar and Anoushka Rishi then delivered the shields to nursing homes and health centers across Long Island.
Ordinarily, this would be a season of celebrations. From PTA staff appreciations to spring concerts and recitals, sports seasons headed towards playoffs, graduations and moving up ceremonies, there are so many rituals that we look forward to that will be shifted this year. I’m struck by the realization that these milestones we once celebrated in person are really a celebration of our spirit and effort, neither of which can be diminished by social distance. If anything, they remind us even more of how that spirit unites us even when we’re apart.
May 4, 2020 Schools Closed for Remainder of Academic Year
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope you and your loved ones are well, and that you had some time to enjoy the sunshine this past weekend.
Although it was not unexpected, it was still a disappointment when the governor announced on Friday that all New York schools will remain physically closed through the end of the academic year to curb the spread of COVID-19 and keep students and staff safe.
I know this will be especially hard on our seniors as many of the culminating events they have anticipated for years will have to shift during this time, and the in-school opportunity to see and say goodbye to friends will be lost. Please know the District, in collaboration with Student Government, has already begun working on alternate plans to honor and celebrate our students who are graduating and moving up.
For now, online learning from home will continue during the extended closure. We’ve made significant progress in only 6 weeks, and we intend to build on this solid foundation to further evolve and refine our practices to best meet the educational and emotional needs of all our students during this period of uncertainty.
Like you, we are thinking ahead to summer school and fall. In his announcement, the governor stated that he would make decisions relative to summer school “by the end of May”. In preparation, we have begun planning for multiple potential scenarios ranging from traditional summer school to virtual schooling (or perhaps something in-between).
Obviously, if the decision about whether to reopen for summer school is several weeks away, then the decision about reopening in September is probably months away. Again, we have started planning ahead to be ready for a range of scenarios, but it seems likely that none of them will look quite like school as usual.
The District will work closely with state and local officials to implement any new safety protocols, educators will work to transition students back to the classroom and catch them up if necessary, and our mental health team will support our students as they adapt to any changes to the school environment.
We are in the process of making arrangements for the safe return of students’ personal belongings - details will be provided shortly from building principals.
Syosset was one of the last districts to close its campuses to the public. Hopefully, we can also be one of the first to reopen, once it is safe to do so.
Budget Vote and Election
The Governor has rescheduled the school budget vote and board election for June 9. Due to the pandemic, the vote will be conducted entirely by absentee ballot. Voters will be sent an absentee ballot with a postage paid return envelope. For more information, please click here.
Meals will continue to be available for all District students at no charge during the school closure. Breakfast and lunch may be picked up daily between the hours of 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. at Syosset High School, 70 South Woods Road. If you have any questions, please call the Food Services Director at 364-5849 or email email@example.com. Childcare for essential workers will also continue to be available through the SCOPE program housed at Baylis Elementary School.
- I would like to extend my congratulations to the inductees to the World Language Honor Society, the National Art Honor Society, and the Tri-M Music Honor Society. While we were unable to hold the induction ceremonies to honor these students in person, I wish for the community to know just how proud we are of their accomplishments.
- I often say how proud I am of the entire student body and the inspiring ways they have handled themselves during this challenging situation. The District was happy to participate in the “Light up the Night” movement on Friday night to honor our students by streaming a special dedication online, which can be viewed on the District homepage. We hope this gesture signaled to our students how much we support them, love them, and appreciate their important contributions to our community.
I know that living through an experience like this will have long-lasting impacts on us all, especially our students. Hopefully our students will learn many valuable life lessons, including the importance of a community pulling together to support each other, doing something difficult - like social distancing - for the greater good, and being resilient and persevering when things are out of our control. While likely none of us would choose our current state of events, we will get through this together as a community.
Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Strong -- #SyoStrong
April 17, 2020 Closure Extension, Parent Support, School Events
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope this message finds you healthy and safe, and for those observing holidays this month, I hope you have found ways to connect with loved ones to share in those celebrations and enjoy some quality family time.
Before I provide some updates related to the school closure, I’d like to extend my congratulations to the 344 Syosset High School National Honor Society honorees. The District was unable to honor these students at the annual induction ceremony, but I want each and every honoree to know how proud we are of the hard work and dedication that went into this achievement. For a list of these students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character, please click here.
School Closure Extension
Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s stay-at-home measures, including closing schools, will continue through May 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, at this time we know that schools will not reopen prior to Monday, May 18. The Governor has indicated he will coordinate his decision on when to reopen schools with six other states in the Northeast. Last evening, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran echoed: “...the decision has not been made yet about whether or not schools will reopen this year.” She added “we’re in constant communication with the State about what the status is going to be, and I support Governor Andrew Cuomo’s regional approach.”
I will continue to keep you updated as new information becomes available. In the meantime, we continue to flesh out our online learning platform and I’m happy to hear the positive feedback as students and faculty become more comfortable and fluent in this method of learning. The District has created an Instagram account to highlight the engaging work taking place and share some pictures of students and staff, whose faces we miss seeing so much. Please follow us @SyoStrong.
We understand how challenging this situation has been on our families and students. We know it is difficult, to put it mildly, for families to balance work obligations while assisting children with online learning, and to deal with the emotional toll of the state of current events. We want to help support you at this time.
We have built an expanded Parent Resource platform including video tutorials, guidance and resources related to mental wellness during a pandemic, navigating online learning, and assistance with behavioral challenges with children at home. You can find the information here: https://www.syossetschools.org/parentsupport. I encourage you to take advantage of the helpful resources provided, and please remember building psychologists, social workers, and/or students’ counselors are available for any student needing support.
I know that many families have questions and concerns about end-of-year events and celebrations, including graduations and moving up ceremonies. While we don’t yet have any indications beyond May 15, SHS principal Dr. Durante has been working in collaboration with students to identify some creative options should alternate plans be necessary. Please be assured we will honor and celebrate our deserving students to the very best of our ability while making the right decisions to keep students and families safe.
Health Insurance Information
Families’ health insurance may be fragile at this time. NY State of Health has asked us to share the following information on access to affordable, quality health insurance for all New Yorkers so they can get the care they need during this state of emergency. Please see this letter from NY State of Health for more information.
I continue to be astounded by the Syosset community’s giant, generous heart. Even in the worst of times, we are among the best of people.
- I am floored by the amazing work of SHS students Uma Kaushik, Eesha Kaushik and Sabrina Guo. The Kaushik sisters have raised more than $23,000 through their GoFundMe account to purchase and deliver masks and personal protective equipment to healthcare workers. And Sabrina founded the non-profit organization LILAC - Long Island Laboring Against Covid-19 to raise funds to purchase and deliver personal protective equipment (PPE). Working with Congressman Thomas Suozzi and Legislator Joshua Lafazan, her organization has raised over $14,000 to donate KN95 masks to Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation and the Oyster Bay Fire Department. You can read more about the amazing accomplishments of these students in this article published by the Syosset Jericho Tribune.
- Three local families, the Weiskopfs, Arkers and Gallows, have been organizing community BINGO games to raise money for the Northwell COVID-19 Emergency Fund and Island Harvest's COVID-19 Emergency efforts, as well as support local businesses impacted by current events. Many families joined the virtual BINGO games and over $7,600 was raised so far. Winners receive gift cards to spend at local businesses and restaurants. Their next BINGO game will take place this weekend and will support the INN and their efforts to continue to feed the hungry and homeless during this crisis.
I hope you find these efforts as inspiring as I do. They remind me of a quote by Jacqueline Woodson, “This is what kindness does... each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple into the world.” Who knows where these ripples will flow and what wave of good they will join? I’m just so proud they’re radiating from here.
Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Strong -- #SyoStrong
April 7, 2020 Closure Extension, Regents, State Budget, Mental Wellness
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope that you and your families are safe and well and managing all of the uncertainties that come with these challenging times. I’m writing to update you on developments of significance to our learning community.
Governor Cuomo announced that he will extend the order closing schools until April 28th. If this closure is not extended further, schools would reopen on Wednesday, April 29th. We are examining the order to determine if there are any additional requirements that come along with this extension, and will keep the community updated.
The Syosset faculty has anticipated this extended closure and engagement in the online learning platform will continue during this time. Last week the District entered the second phase of its online learning plan with more daily interaction between teachers and students, and we have received a lot of positive feedback from both our staff and families. I am so impressed with how quickly our staff has shifted to this new instructional medium and how their momentum continues to build. I’m particularly appreciative of their professionalism in the face of evolving demands, and shifting State expectations. Their “can do” approach, despite the challenges, has been inspiring.
I know there are many concerns about the academic impact of the school closure on students and worries they may fall behind where they would ordinarily be by the end of this school year. Schools across the country are facing this challenge and will have varying degrees of success meeting it. But I firmly believe Syosset will lead - both by finding ways to maximize the potential of this time of “learning apart”, and as we always have when “learning together”, our faculty will provide students whatever support is needed to catch them up.
The childcare program for children of first responders and meal service for those in need will be extended during the closure. However, all District campuses and facilities still remain closed.
Below are a few additional developments of which you should be aware.
Regents Exams Cancelled
Yesterday, the New York State Board of Regents announced that Regents Examinations for this June will be cancelled. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) issued more detailed guidance today which can be found here. In short, students currently enrolled in a course of study that would normally end in a Regents exam can receive full credit for the course and it will count towards graduation, as long as they have a passing grade in the class. Students would not have to retake the course or sit for the exam in the future to receive full credit.
Now that this guidance has been released, an update from your secondary principal will be coming with additional information on how curriculum may be prioritized, the grading policy for 4th quarter grades, and information on how we will calculate final course grades for transcript purposes. Our goal will be to avoid having any student disadvantaged by these unprecedented circumstances.
On April 3, the governor signed the 2020-21 State Budget. While the District’s state aid allocation from Albany is essentially flat, there are a few important considerations I’d like to point out to the community.
- We are relieved that the State did not propose to cut aid to the school district given the deep funding shortfall the Governor has projected.
- However, the funding is significantly less than the inflationary increase that was proposed in January and thus will require the District to identify some economies to close the gap.
- This coming year’s State budget is predicated on receiving billions of dollars as part of an additional federal stimulus package that has yet to be enacted. Should those funds not materialize (or if other tax revenues fall short), the Governor has reserved the right to reduce funding to school districts - even after local voters have approved the school budget.
We are working hard with the Syosset Board of Education to build a budget plan that acknowledges the local impact of a stalled economy and has the flexibility to deal with potential mid-year state cuts while preserving the programs and services that make a Syosset education so special. Budget information will be shared at upcoming monthly Board of Education meetings. As a reminder, the school Budget Vote and Board Election are postponed until at least June 1, 2020.
While the announcement of an extended school closure beyond April 20th was not unexpected, it is a reminder that the battle is far from over. I understand there are many who may be struggling with the prolonged absence from school and physical isolation, and we have begun hearing heartbreaking stories of families, students, and staff personally affected by the pandemic. We know the stress and sadness may get worse before it gets better. Our thoughts go out to every member of our learning community and our psychologists, social workers, and guidance counselors remain available to support our students. We are continuing to add resources to the Mental Wellness section of the District website, where you will also find contact information for our student support staff if needed.
In the face of darkness, points of light shine ever brighter. I’d thought you’d share my inspiration to learn of the following news.
- A South Woods 7th grader has started a fundraiser to furnish therapeutic art supplies for persons with mental health challenges who have become isolated due to COVID19.
- Ethan Silverstein, a Syosset High School 10th grader, worked with First Robotics to donate 600 goggles to St. Francis hospital and has been donating face masks made on his 3D printer as well! I’ve included his picture with the much-needed masks below.
- In coordination with the Nassau Police Department, the Syosset School District made a donation to local hospitals of gloves and other protective equipment from our inventory and science labs.
All of these efforts remind me of the incredible spirit of the Syosset community that always finds opportunity to help others, despite challenges.
It is my sincere hope that you are all well and safe at home, and taking all the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of this illness. My gratitude goes out to all essential workers and their families and I’m proud that Syosset is doing its part to support them.
Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Strong.
April 3, 2020 Spring Recess
Dear Parents and Guardians,
As I mentioned earlier this week, the Governor has issued an Executive Order which will require schools to continue “continuity of instruction” each weekday through April 14 (the last day - for now - of the mandated school building closure). This order prevents us from pausing online learning during the originally scheduled Spring Recess.
I indicated that we would have an update on how we will respect and accommodate family and staff religious obligations and observances during this time while also complying with the Executive Order.
We will plan to continue “continuity of instruction activities”, but on April 9th and 10th, the “synchronous” (“live”) instruction will be paused. Teachers will still post learning activities for students to take advantage of on those two days. However, recognizing that large numbers of students may also be engaged in observances, those activities will be designed to enrich or review current instruction, but not to create assignments or advance new instruction that would disadvantage those unable to participate.
Families wishing their children to observe any holidays that fall during the period of school closure may pause their child’s participation for the day(s) of observances.
These are obviously challenging times that have required difficult compromises. We thank both our parents and our staff for helping strike the right balance during this unprecedented event.
April 1, 2020 Spring Recess, Budget/BOE Vote, School Campus Closure, Technology
Dear Syosset Community,
As I noted last week, we have learned that our school closure is going to be extended until at least April 15, and will be reevaluated again at that time. I also shared my belief that it seems inevitable to assume a closure that will last far longer.
Late Monday, we received updated guidance from the State Education Department indicating that the Governor’s order closing schools for an additional 2 weeks would also require schools to continue online learning activities “every weekday between April 1, 2020 and April 14, 2020, even if the district is scheduled to be on spring break”. We studied this guidance closely yesterday as it is a reversal from the Governor’s previous orders and presents conflicts with some important religious observances. Over the next several days we will be issuing our own guidance on how we will comply with this new mandate while accommodating the religious rights of families and staff.
In advance of that next calendar update, I’d like to share with you some other important developments:
Budget and Board of Education Vote
Per Governor Andrew Cuomo's Executive Order 202-13, the school Budget Vote and Board Election are postponed until at least June 1, 2020. I will provide an update once the final date is determined, including timelines for absentee ballots or signatures.
School Campus Closures
All public parks have been closed and today Governor Cuomo announced the closure of all playgrounds in New York City to better enforce social distancing and mitigate the spread of coronavirus. It has become necessary for the District to follow suit and our school campuses will now be closed to the public. Effective immediately, all District outdoor facilities including playgrounds, fields, and the track, are closed until further notice. Once we are able to safely lift this restriction, we will do so.
OCFS Child Care Survey
In an effort to develop a plan surrounding child care during this time, the NYS Office of Children and Family Services asks that you please take a moment to complete the following survey. The information collected will aid in understanding current child care needs surrounding the COVID-19 crisis. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3HSNNYJ
As a reminder, the District has partnered with SCOPE to offer child care for the children of first responders and health care professionals at no charge as they serve our community.
As communicated yesterday, we are advancing our Online Learning Plan for students to include more daily interaction with teachers and structure for students. Please assist your children in finding a quiet place to work, free from distraction (as much as possible), and remind them that proper classroom etiquette still applies in an online environment. As we engage in more online lessons, we nevertheless maintain an obligation to maintain the privacy of all students, and as such, photographing, recording, or parental participation in online sessions is not permitted and could be a violation of law. Parents’ partnership in enforcement of these rules will be critical to our success as teachers review online learning etiquette with students.
Today’s Bright Spot
The Governor ends his daily email updates with a “Deep Breath Moment”; I’d like to add one of my own. Syosset students have been doing their part to join the fight against the coronavirus. Two high school students have raised more than $13,000 to purchase and deliver additional gloves, masks and protective equipment for health care workers in local hospitals, while student government has been organizing a campaign to send cards, videos and messages of support to health care workers on the front lines, and nursing home residents no longer permitted to see visitors. These students’ amazing spirit buoys me.
They are doing what the best of us do in a crisis -- finding ways to work together, to make a contribution, to turn worry into action. I’m grateful to them for letting our first responders, health care workers and seniors know that Syosset admires, appreciates, and loves them.
Stay safe. Stay healthy.
March 31, 2020 Update on Online Learning Plan
Dear Syosset Community,
I sincerely hope that you are well and safe, and that your families and friends are healthy.
As previously announced, the Governor has extended the school closure for at least an additional two weeks, at which time the situation will be reevaluated. Since the Governor has indicated that the rate of COVID-19 infection is estimated to continue to grow for another three weeks before peaking, it is prudent to prepare for a closure that may last through that peak and the downslope beyond. The District’s leadership team and faculty have been planning for this possibility over the last several weeks.
For many of our students, school represents a place of stability, of family, of belonging. Our role, and students’ relationships with teachers, have never been more important than now. We have restructured our Online Learning Plan to include some daily interaction between teachers and students from among a range of online tools that could include live meetings, coaching or feedback, and many of the interactive online tools already implemented in our physical classrooms.
This will look different for students at the Elementary, Middle, and High School levels, and teachers will use their professional judgement to employ varied instructional tools and methods to achieve the same set of goals.
You will receive a communication shortly from your building principal with more details. As always, we do our best work in partnership with you. Our goal is to provide online learning experiences in real time with teachers as well as independent activities that help students extend their learning.
We recognize the many challenges our Syosset families and staff are facing as a result of this pandemic. Our first priority is always the health and well-being of our learning community. So we are working hard to strike the right balance between enough structure for our students and enough flexibility to accommodate the demands on parents’ schedules, while being cognizant of the emotional impact of this situation. As always, please keep an open line of communication with your child’s teacher.
More than anything, we want you to know we are still very much here for you!
- If your child needs more emotional support, building psychologists remain available to assist students struggling with the disruption and anxiety this situation causes.
- If food for your children is becoming challenging, the District has daily breakfast and lunch service available through Aramark.
- If you are a critical health care worker, or first responder, we have in-person childcare available to you.
- If your family needs additional support, our District social workers can assist you.
Though physically scattered, we nevertheless remain a community united in our common purpose - to raise a generation of children to be successful in the future we imagine and the one they’ll discover. Living through the unimaginable doesn’t invalidate that mission, it underscores it! The days ahead will not be easy for some time to come, but they are made easier knowing that none of us is in this alone.
That is why I repeat: “If we pull together, we’ll surely pull through”.
Stay safe, stay healthy,