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Superintendent Emails and Updates - October 2020
October 30, 2020
Dear Syosset Community,
Lately we’ve been hearing about “COVID fatigue”, where people weary of following health and safety precautions may let their guard down. I get it, it’s been 8 long months and I sometimes feel a little worn out too. But, as I walk around our buildings, I see all of the faces -- both young and, well, young at heart -- and I’m reenergized to do my part to keep them safe!
I am confident: COVID fatigue is no match for SyoStrong!
This once-in-a-generation situation will be a test of stamina. One that requires us to be consistently proactive to protect the health of our community and our families.
We have worked hard to make our schools the toughest place around for the virus to spread. Our facilities have been revamped, our teachers have transformed how they approach instruction, and our students have adapted amazingly well to this new learning environment. So far, we have been able to avoid lengthy school closures and keep in-person instruction going after our students missed out for so long.
But no safeguard in school is strong enough to protect our students once they leave. Our early successes shouldn’t signal we can afford to begin taking risks; quite the opposite - it’s an indication our plan with your partnership is working as hoped. Please stay vigilant about following the CDC guidance: practice social distancing, wear a mask, avoid large gatherings, and wash your hands frequently. Our community’s health and continued schooling depends on it.
This Halloween may not be the best of “treats”, and I understand that kids want to socialize and return to their normal pre-pandemic lives. I want that for them too. The “trick” is knowing that the quickest way to move forward is to avoid going backwards. Let’s demonstrate the importance of a community working together, so when our young people face some future challenge in their adult lives, they’ll be inspired by our example. Let’s stay #SyoStrong to #StoptheSpread.
I hope all our students have a fun and safe Halloween weekend. In case you missed it, here are some tips for a safe Halloween from the NYSDOH.
Tom Rogers, Superintendent
October 23, 2020
Dear Syosset Community,
This Wednesday was Unity Day, a special day during National Bullying Prevention Month to focus on kindness, acceptance, and inclusion and to take a stand against bullying. I really enjoyed observing some activities that took place in our school buildings this month, such as the “Kindness in Chalk” event at Walt Whitman. The insightful, kind, and positive messages written by our young students on sidewalks around the campus were so inspiring and fun to read. From the youngest students in the elementary schools to our mature students at the Anti-Defamation League-designated “No Place for Hate” secondary schools, I’m so proud of all the work our students have done to foster inclusive and supportive environments.
October is also National Principal’s Month, and I hope you’re as appreciative as I am of the job they have each done to develop safe building reopening plans, manage incredible logistical challenges, and keep the learning going whether in person or virtually here in Syosset! My thanks to all!
As we head into the weekend, I’d like to provide you with some updates from the District.
Facilities Update: At the Monthly Board of Education meeting this week, I provided an update on the many projects recently completed to modernize our instructional spaces, enhance security, improve traffic flow around our buildings and perform much needed building repairs and updates. It is so gratifying to see students taking advantage of the new spaces and hearing the positive feedback from the community, and I can’t even imagine what we’d be doing now if we hadn’t started the traffic projects 2 years ago! Once again, I’d like to thank the community for supporting this important work so that our facilities can further enhance the exceptional experience of a Syosset education.
Request for In-Person Instruction: As we are already nearing the end of the first marking quarter at the secondary schools, we sent out a brief survey to parents and guardians of students enrolled in the fully virtual instructional model to gauge the level of interest in requesting placement in the in-person instructional model. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond. Next week, information will be sent out to parents and guardians of students enrolled in the virtual model at the secondary level for how to make a formal request for an in-person placement. Information for the elementary level will be provided later in November. We are working diligently to maximize the number of students we can accommodate in our school buildings, though the need to remain in compliance with NYS social distancing guidelines may limit the number of requests that can be granted at the elementary and middle schools.
Reporting of a Confirmed Case of COVID-19: It is very important that we coordinate quickly with the Department of Health. In order to streamline the process for parents, guardians and staff, and position ourselves to react as swiftly as possible, we have created an email address, monitored after-hours, to directly report a COVID-postive case to the District. If you or your child has tested positive for COVID-19, please email firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. Please include your contact information, and your child’s building and grade level.
SCSD COVID-19 Report Card: The New York State Department of Health maintains a “COVID-19 Report Card” to track COVID cases among students and staff at New York schools. To further keep our community updated, we have created a Syosset Central School District COVID-19 Report Card, which details positive cases by school that are current, and those that have cleared the isolation period. You can find the SCSD COVID Report Card, which is updated daily, in the Reopening section of the District website.
A Safe and Healthy Halloween: Recently, Governor Cuomo issued guidance on engaging in safe and healthy activities to celebrate Halloween this year. Our kids certainly deserve to have some fun this Halloween, and this document has some creative ideas to celebrate in a manner that will keep them, and our community, safe. As we head into cold and flu season, and a period of increased vigilance for another wave of COVID infections, we all must continue to do our part in safeguarding our community’s health and well-being.
I wish you all a wonderful, healthy and safe weekend.
Dr. Tom Rogers, Superintendent
#staysafe #staystrong #syostrong
October 9, 2020
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope you are all healthy and well and enjoying an absolutely perfect fall season.
It’s been a month since we reopened our schools under extraordinary conditions, in the midst of a global pandemic that has impacted our lives in ways we could have never envisioned. I am pleased with how well our reopening plan held up to the many unknowns we encountered in these first few weeks, and want to again voice my appreciation for the thoughtful work of our task force.
Of course, the first few weeks have been a learning experience, and we iterated several times over the course of these weeks to streamline arrival and dismissal, improve teachers’ tools for virtual instruction, and develop classroom materials that translate well to both the online and in-person environments. An important goal of our reopening plans was to be able to make a “seamless” transition from live to virtual, if needed, and I was so pleased to see how well South Woods Middle School pivoted instruction during its brief closure 3 weeks ago.
Many things are different this year from what we are accustomed to; but our Syosset spirit, our Syosset PRIDE, and our sense of community have never been stronger. Syosset has proven to be smart, resilient, resourceful, and dedicated.
As we move through our second month of school, I wanted to reflect a little on what we’ve learned so far, some of the changes we’ve made, and what we anticipate ahead.
Our primary focus was, of course, the health and safety of our students and staff, but we didn’t want that safety to come at the expense of a wonderful year of teaching, learning and growing. I am so proud of how our students and teachers have adapted to this environment and its challenges, I’ve received so many emails from parents commending our teachers - both live and virtual - for their creativity, innovation, and dedication under these new conditions. They’re wonderful to read! Keep them coming!
I’m also very proud of the level of personal responsibility our learning community has taken to keep one another safe. We’ve had extraordinary cooperation and candor from parents and staff as we’ve worked through a series of potential exposures this last month. Our ability to give timely, accurate information to the Health Department has been instrumental in moving through the contact tracing process quickly.
As was inevitable, we’ve had a few positive COVID-19 cases within our learning community. Working with the Department of Health during the contact tracing investigations, we have been fortunate that so few people have had to quarantine as a result of potential exposure. The reason for this has been simple: our health and safety protocols -- wearing a mask, using desktop barriers, and maintaining appropriate social distancing -- has kept other people from being deemed “close contacts.”
I know we are fatigued from these measures. We promised that at the end of September we’d reevaluate them. What we’ve learned is how highly the Health Department values these protocols which, along with vigorous cleaning and sanitizing of our buildings, have played a key role in mitigating exposure to others. We’ve thus avoided the need to quarantine large groups or have lengthy school closures. I’m more convinced than ever that these key steps remain essential to keep our learning community safe and avoid dramatic interventions.
However, I can’t emphasize enough that these measures are only as good as our compliance, and I appreciate your support in reinforcing their importance with your children. My fear is that success will breed complacency, and all we’ve accomplished could be quickly undone. We must calibrate our stamina for a marathon pace, and not abandon the very steps that have gotten us this far.
In the same vein, we need your partnership just as much outside the school day. It won’t matter how much effort we put into making schools safe, if unnecessary risks taken outside the school walls walk back into the classroom the next morning. Please remember to remind children to wash their hands frequently, avoid large gatherings, maintain social distance, and wear a mask when in company of others outside your household. I know we all long for a return to normalcy (me too!), but as New York’s numbers creep up, we are reminded that we cannot let our guard (or our mask) down.
That doesn’t mean we can’t take some smart “baby steps”. Last week, we began some after-school sports and wellness activities at the high school - carefully designed for safety - to give students a social and physical health outlet. It has been so wonderful to see our kids on the fields and in the new fitness center after a long 6 months away.
We’ll shortly be announcing the procedures for returning to in-person learning at the end of the trimester (elementary) or quarter (secondary) for those who wish. We’ve seen an increase in virtual learners since the start of the year, so there is some space available, but it is limited and unevenly distributed.
As the fall season and cooler weather is upon us, we’re inevitably entering cold and flu season. Please consider a flu shot for yourself and your family if you haven’t already done so (I’m getting mine Tuesday), and I’d like to remind everyone to complete the Daily Health Screening form prior to your child arriving at the school or boarding the bus.
- In March, SHS sophomore Sabrina Guo founded a COVID relief and charitable student-run organization named Long Island Against COVID-19 (LILAC). Working with SHS peers Eric Wang, Azam Lalani and Marla Hakim, and over 40 dedicated members, the organization have raised more than $90,000 with a GoFundMe campaign, donated 140,000+ PPE items to more than 30 facilities in LI/NYC and beyond, and served tens of thousands of frontline and essential workers, high-risk groups, and financially disadvantaged areas in south shore and Queens communities.
- HBT student Matthew Kusnetz combined the findings of a research project he completed in seventh grade with a community service project and donated over 10 pounds of vegetables to local food pantries. He was recognized by Legislator Lafazan for his accomplishment.
- SHS junior Prisha Arora began teaching young students how to paint over the summer. After seeing the positive reaction, she continued her work by creating painting tutorials on a YouTube channel, providing a creative outlet and stress reliever for children during these uncertain times.
As we head into the long weekend, please remember that the NYSDOH has issued a travel advisory for anyone returning from states that have a significant degree of community-wide spread of COVID-19. The current list of states can be found at the following link: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory
I wish you all a wonderful long weekend.
Stay safe. Stay vigilant. Stay strong. #syostrong