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Superintendent Emails and Updates - July 2020
July 31, 2020
Dear Syosset Community,
Today, the District submitted its plan to the State for the reopening of our schools for the 2020-21 school year.
Our Reopening Plan was created with input from parents, teachers, district-wide staff, architects, safety consultants, and council from regional authorities and agencies, led by a 97-member Reopening and Recovery Task Force. We would like to thank our learning community for engaging with us in this process and providing thoughtful and constructive feedback.
Please click here to access the 2020-2021 Reopening Plan.
As you may know, the decision to return to in-person learning will be made by Governor Cuomo some time during the first week of August. If the direction from the governor’s office is that students may return to school, we will adopt a Full In-Person learning model for Grades K-8 and a Hybrid model for grades 9-12, given the space limitations of the high school building. The details of this plan are outlined in the Reopening Plan.
Our plan is focused on the health and safety of our community, first and foremost. While all risk cannot be eliminated completely, with small class sizes, adherence to extensive health and safety protocols, and modifications to our facilities, we feel confident that we can provide a safe environment for our staff and children.
If the circumstances or NYSED guidance changes, we may need to adopt a Hybrid learning model for additional grade levels or a Remote learning model for all or some grade levels district-wide. Specific details regarding these learning structures, as well as the established protocols and procedures, are outlined in the Plan.
As we look ahead to a new way of operating that provides the safest learning environment possible, we are committed to delivering a high-quality instructional program (whether in-person or remote), nurturing the social-emotional and mental wellness of our students, and minimizing risk that cannot be eliminated.
In the near future, we will be creating a companion document that addresses some of the frequently asked questions that appeared in our survey of parents and staff, and we’ll periodically update it as new questions arise.
What this process has made clear is that whether we reopen virtually or in person, a successful start to school will require the entire learning community -- staff, students, and families -- to pull together and support one another. There will be challenges and strains, and despite our best planning, we will likely need to make refinements once we see those plans in action. The new year will be a “new normal” -- an effort to maintain our momentum in the face of a generational crisis. I know Syosset is a community strong enough to confront any challenge and together, we will.
July 20, 2020
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 24): 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 25): 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
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 8, 2020
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope your summer is off to a great start. As I communicated last week, the District is engaged in planning scenarios for the safe reopening of schools in the fall while we await State guidance that was originally expected in early June.
Today, Governor Cuomo announced the guidance will be released on July 13. We will narrow our scenarios based on what is permissible, and will solicit feedback from the community. The resulting plans will be due to the state by July 31. The governor indicated that no decision on the reopening of schools will be made until the first week of August.
While the reopening work takes priority, the ongoing work of the school district continues in earnest as well. I’d like to provide you with some updates related to discussions that took place at the Board of Education meeting last night, and District operations and facilities.
Inclusivity and Diversity Initiatives
At the June Board meeting, I provided an overview of the work the District has been engaged in over the last few years to build on our cultural diversity and inclusivity, and last night I updated the Board on a meeting with high school student-leaders representing cultural clubs and student government. Students candidly shared both positive and challenging experiences about growing up in a diverse community, as well as their thoughts on the District’s successes and opportunities for growth. I have been proud of the tangible efforts Syosset has made to embrace our diversity, and the students’ perspectives provide important context and detail which will further inform and enhance this ongoing work.
Potential Amazon Warehouse
The District recently sent two letters related to the potential Amazon warehouse development on the former Cerro Wire property. One was to the Nassau County IDA expressing the opinion that Amazon shouldn’t be afforded tax incentives at the expense of Syosset taxpayers. The second was to the Town of Oyster Bay reiterating the Board’s position that if there were to be development on the property, there should be independent environmental testing first. The Nassau IDA has not yet replied, but the District did receive a response from the Town, which can be found here.
District-wide School Safety Plan
At the July Board of Education meeting last night, a hearing was held on the District-wide School Safety Plan. As required by law, the plan will be available on our website for public comment for 30 days before being adopted at the August BOE meeting. The plan can be found here. Comments can be shared with email@example.com.
Lead in Water Results
New York State Laws and regulations require all public school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to test drinking water for lead contamination. If any fixture exceeds the lead action level (15 micrograms per liter), it must be immediately taken out of service until actions are taken to mitigate the lead levels. The District completed testing for lead in water in March 2020. None of the District’s 53 filtered “hydration stations” that are students’ and staff’s main sources of drinking water exceeded the limits. Full results can be found here.
Over the summer, some paving work will take place around the tennis court and track and field areas, which may require the closure of the courts and track briefly to the public. We will keep you updated on the timing of this project. I would also like to remind everyone that, as per Board policy, the courts and track are for recreational use only and there are no organized activities permitted, including private lessons.
I hope you are all healthy and safe, and I look forward to sharing additional information next week on the options for reopening of schools in September.