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Superintendent Emails and Updates - September 2020
September 16, 2020
Dear Syosset Community,
The events of the last 2 days at South Woods Middle School were the first test of the extensive safety planning that was put into place this summer. They were also a reminder that while we are in Phase 4 and the positivity rate in our Region remains low, the virus is still present, and we must remain vigilant with the steps we are taking to keep everyone safe.
In our communications with the Nassau County Department of Health over the last 2 days, they were complimentary of the extensive and conservative protocols we have designed. Of course, that design relies on fidelity in implementation, so I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of its most important aspects.
Social distancing, wearing masks, and positioning students behind clear barriers are key components in our plan to keep our community safe, and all played important roles in minimizing those identified as “close contacts” of a confirmed COVID-19 case. It is essential we prioritize continued adherence to these procedures. We’ve had some questions from parents recently regarding masks, so we’ve outlined our mask protocols in the attached one-page document, which is also posted to the reopening section of the District website.
We know this year will be a test of our patience as we deal with conditions that are less than ideal for the daily activities of a school community. As that test of patience evolves into a test of stamina, I’m encouraged by the incredible perseverance of Nelson Mandela who said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
I’m proud of how our whole learning community is handling the transition back to school, adjusting to our new environment and supporting each other. I’m certain that our best success is yet to come, and confident that our perseverance will prove equal to any challenges ahead.
September 4, 2020
Dear Syosset Community,
As the final weekend of summer approaches, we are still very much in high gear getting ready for the opening of school on Tuesday. From the building staff to the administrators and teachers, we’ve worked harder than ever before to make schools as safe as possible for the return of students and staff. Please click here for a video message welcoming you back and outlining our reopening efforts.
As you know, there have been a number of changes this year, and we’ve received some questions from parents that I’m sure are of interest to the whole community. As you finalize your own preparations for the start of school, I hope you find the following helpful.
Masks – As we mentioned earlier, we are following the latest guidance on mask use. Surgical masks are usually the best option, and we’ll have plenty of extras on hand should anyone need one. We’ll also permit multi-layer cloth masks. Disposable masks should be changed daily; cloth masks should be laundered daily. Masks, gaiters, or bandanas made of stretchy materials (like swimsuit cloth or loose cotton) don’t provide enough protection. Similarly, masks with valves do not provide adequate protection.
Lunch – We are not permitting the drop-off of lunches at schools, to avoid the need to have multiple people handling the bags, or having students moving through the hallway unnecessarily to retrieve them. I realize there will be occasions when a lunch is forgotten and we can make exceptions, but regular dropoff will not be possible to do safely.
At the high school, we know there are some students who take 9 classes per day, leaving themselves no time for lunch. Since it will not be permissible to eat in classrooms, those students will have to go to designated spaces for eating during passing time. We’ve spoke with a number of families who have decided to adopt a less demanding schedule, understanding that this will be a very challenging year already.
Carpooling – We know parents are anxious to return to work, and that the pandemic has been hard on families and employers. It’s for that reason that we worked so hard to develop a 5-day per week plan for grades K-8 and SCOPE after-school care. We also realize that many families may have planned transportation arrangements with neighbors to avoid busing. However, arrival and dismissal will present schools with unprecedented logistical challenges and safety concerns. It is our hope to be able to eventually facilitate carpooling arrangements, but they increase the risk of a child leaving with the wrong adult, or getting lost at dismissal. As soon as we feel we can confidently manage these safety risks, we will make this option available to parents.
COVID Symptoms and Return to School – This year, based on guidance from the NYS Department of Health, students exhibiting a symptom of COVID-19 (like a cough or a fever) will have to see a doctor and present a negative COVID test in order to return to school (see page 3 of the NYSDOH guidance). We recognize this will present a significant hardship to families, and we understand that the NYSDOH has been asked to review this guidance. Until and unless this guidance is revised, we will have to follow it (please don’t blame our nurses). The District has identified several local testing sites to facilitate return-to-school. If the State guidance changes, we will revise our procedures accordingly.
We understand there may still be some unanswered questions. We will be updating the Reopening section of the District website frequently with the most up to date information and will continue to communicate with you regularly.
There will still be a great deal of facilities work continuing over the weekend. I’d ask everyone to be mindful that our campuses will be construction projects right up until the first day of school. I’m hoping that everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend and we’re looking forward to seeing you soon!