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Superintendent Emails and Updates - January 2022
January 29, 2022 - Rapid Test Kit Expiration Dates
Dear Syosset Community,
Late yesterday, we were informed by the Department of Health that the FDA granted an extension to the expiration date of the CareStart COVID-19 Antigen Home Test kits provided by the state and distributed by the school district earlier this month. At the time of distribution, the review of the shelf-life was not yet complete and as such, we were advised to follow the expiration date printed on the box. The review is now complete, and it has been confirmed the test kits have an extended shelf life through April 30, 2022.
Complete information is available from the manufacturer at: https://accessbio.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/CareStart-COVID-19-Ag-Home-Test_Exp-Date-Extension-Notification_01.pdf.
As a reminder, should you need additional test kits, a new supply is available at each school building. Please contact the nurse’s office to arrange pick up.
Syosset Central School District
January 28, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Obviously, this has been an eventful week because of the unfolding legal developments regarding the State’s indoor mask mandate and its impact on school buildings. This afternoon, we were sent the following message from the NYS Education Department updating schools on the status of those developments.
“Earlier this week, the Appellate Division, Second Department issued a stay order which upheld the Department of Health’s mask requirement in schools (10 NYCRR 2.60). Although the court set a hearing deadline for today, the State Education Department has confirmed that this deadline pertained only to written submissions. SED anticipates that the court will issue a further ruling in the coming weeks. Until such time, the mask rule remains in effect. School districts must also abide by any commitment to mask wearing contained in their publicly posted reopening plans for the 2021-2022 school year.” (emphasis in original)
Based on the above, we anticipate that the mask requirement will be in place for school on Monday and we will continue to keep the community informed of any further developments.
Due to the impending snow storm, all weekend activities planned to take place at our school buildings, whether sponsored by the District or a community organization, will be canceled to provide our staff with time to clear the snow safely. Additionally, the COVID rapid test sites operating at the old Woodbury School and the high school will be closed Saturday, and will reopen at noon on Sunday.
COVID Rapid Test Kits
Our supply of rapid tests is steadily becoming more robust. If you need kits for any reason, please contact the nurse’s office at your child’s school to arrange to pick them up at your convenience.
We’re getting ready to kick off the spring semester of our popular Continuing Education program. You should have received the catalog outlining the courses this past week. You can also find the catalog on our website. We’ve added some exciting new courses for the spring taught by our stellar Syosset faculty members, so I encourage you to take a look. Registrations can be mailed in or there will be an in-person registration event taking place on the evening of February 7th.
Information from the NCPD
Nassau County Commissioner of Police Patrick Ryder recently shared important information regarding the distribution of counterfeit prescription medication in a letter shared with school districts to raise awareness of this issue. This letter can be found here: Counterfeit_Prescription_Pills_Laced_with_Fentanyl.pdf
I often say there is nothing that can stop our incredible Syosset students, and that’s especially true when they band together to accomplish lofty goals. SHS sophomores Aliyah Berkowitz, Samantha Elicks, Mia Kay, Julia Kessman, Ava Lubman, Neeka Oghli, Olivia Rollo, and Jessica Yao collaborated to establish Life’s Angels Kids, an organization that raises money to help local neighbors in need. To raise funds, the students marketed and executed a virtual Bingo Night in the fall that raised over $8,000 for Life’s Angels beneficiaries. The students are now brainstorming on their next event, and I can’t wait to see what they are able to accomplish next.
As a reminder, schools will be closed on Tuesday of next week in observance of Lunar New Year.
Please stay safe during the storm.
January 21, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope you were as delighted as I was to see this morning’s Newsday with Syosset seniors Ethan Chiu and Rohan Ghotra featured on the front page as Finalists in the prestigious Regeneron science competition. We are wishing them well (and keeping our fingers crossed) as they head to Washington DC for the final round of the competition. And it occurs to me that every student in our science research program is a winner – having worked since middle school to develop the skills and knowledge needed to pursue high-level research (we had 17 students prepare competition-worthy submissions this year!). That deep preparation will serve them well, no matter what their future holds. Ethan and Rohan are wonderful representatives for their peers, and for a program that illustrates the amazing synergy created through years of hard work and great teaching. Good luck!
The possible turning point in the Omicron surge I discussed at the January Board of Education meeting has persisted and we’re all relieved to see the number of cases falling sharply from their peak, which, in turn, has meant better student and staff attendance. It’s hard to believe that just 14 days ago, we were planning to close the High School if it hadn’t snowed.
This favorable trend has lent a sense of relief that I share, but we are not out of the woods yet. The average daily case count for Nassau County still remains more than 25% above the peak of the January 2021 surge. Fortunately, current COVID cases appear to be less likely to result in severe disease, either because the Omicron variant produces milder symptoms, or because of the protective effect of vaccines (or perhaps both). Nevertheless, hospitalizations are slightly higher than last January and the more serious Delta variant still makes up about 1 in 8 cases in the US. Put another way, if this ratio is reflective of Nassau County, there is still about as much Delta variant in circulation now as there was last November before Omicron arrived.
All of which is to illustrate that our optimism is not a reason to abandon caution. If anything, caution is likely contributing to these favorable trends that we all want to continue. We have not stopped focusing closely on this data and, just as we did last year, we are looking forward to methodically reintroducing more of the activities that make a Syosset school experience so special, as the situation hopefully continues to improve.
COVID Rapid Tests
The District has COVID rapid tests available at the nurse’s offices in each of our 10 buildings and we’re starting to see some continuing availability in our short-term supply chain from the State. So, if you need access to an additional rapid test, please contact your school’s main office or write to firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange pickup.
When I first arrived on Long Island in 2010, I had the privilege of serving on the Executive Committee of the Long Island Arts Alliance when fellow board member Hon. Regent Roger Tilles was spearheading an initiative to develop a recognition for artists akin to the Scholar-Athlete designation. The “LIAA Scholar-Artist” award was born and since its inception, Syosset has had a remarkable 15 students achieve this wonderful recognition. This year, that honor belongs to Max Bass and Kayley Ji who have both been featured in Newsday. We’re so proud of them and of our amazing programs in the fine and performing arts!!
It’s still cold out there! So bundle up, stay safe, and have a great weekend!
January 14, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Thank you for your patience as we’ve worked through a challenging 2 weeks of school marked by staffing and busing difficulties, bad weather and the highest levels of community spread that we’ve seen so far.
I’d like to express appreciation for the extraordinary job our teachers and substitutes have done covering for colleagues and shifting support for students who are out of school due to COVID restrictions. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also thank our building leaders for solving the shifting jigsaw puzzle of coverages every day.
We have also been working through shifting iterations of safety guidelines from the State, with the most impactful by far being the reduction in the amount of time required for Isolation (for COVID-positive individuals) and Quarantine (for those deemed “close contacts”) from 10 days to 5 days.
While we have been communicating new information and updates frequently to keep the community apprised on a timely basis, we recognize it may be challenging to stay on top of each new development. Therefore, we’ve put together a document summarizing the recent changes and what’s most important to know about the updated health and safety protocols in our schools. We are also providing links to helpful State documents that outline the rules and provide Question and Answer format information for parents:
New York State’s Approach to Isolation and Quarantine | Department of Health (ny.gov)
FAQ for Schools_01.13.22.pdf (ny.gov)
Clearance for Physical Education and Sports After a COVID-19 Infection
In rare instances, students who have recovered from COVID-19 may have some lingering cardiac health issues. Our district physician has advised that students should receive clearance from a family physician before returning to Physical Education class or participating on a sports team. However, given the challenges of scheduling such appointments at this time, we have developed a screening questionnaire and waiver option for parents. Should your child become ill, the school nurse will give you more information on this topic.
Early Morning Bus Runs
We are happy to announce that the early morning bus runs at the elementary level will resume after the long weekend on Tuesday, January 18, and therefore morning orchestra, band, chorus and extra help will also resume on Tuesday.
Breakfast and Lunch Menu Substitutions
The District’s food service provider, Aramark, has been grappling with the nation-wide supply shortages impacting many industries. As a result, some substitutions to the breakfast and lunch menus may be necessary at times. Thank you for your understanding.
I am so proud of the many efforts by our student body to give back over the holidays. I’m sure this year started off a little brighter for many local children as a result of the toy drives held at both middle schools. At South Woods, the combined Future Leaders of America and Student Council drive benefitted the Michael Magro Foundation, whose mission is to better the lives of children with cancer and other chronic pediatric illnesses. And toys collected by HBT students benefited Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island, which has been making a positive difference in the lives of Long Island’s youth by developing and implementing a wide range of mentoring programs for over 40 years. What a great way to spread lasting holiday cheer!
The juxtaposition of the pandemic’s most dramatic surge against this weekend’s celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bring to mind Dr. King’s thoughts on perseverance:
“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
COVID case counts in Nassau County have been falling in the last few days, lending optimism that our perseverance may have sustained us through the winter peak. There were days last week when our staffing challenges nearly did bring us to a crawl. But if we can continue to follow Dr. King’s example of relentlessly moving forward, we know we will eventually come out on the other side and on our feet again.
January 11, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I wanted to update you on an important change that New York State has made to its quarantine and isolation guidance to school districts, effective immediately. These changes reduce the duration of a quarantine or isolation from 10 days to 5 days. There are some other changes in the guidance to share as well:
Quarantine – Students, teachers, or staff who are exposed to COVID-19, but who have not become symptomatic nor tested positive (i.e. close contacts), must quarantine – in case the exposure results in illness.
- The length of the quarantine has been shortened to 5 days from the date of exposure (was 10 days). For the remaining 5 days, the student/staff member must wear a “well-fitting mask” per the CDC.
- The date of exposure is considered “Day 0”, after 5 days of quarantine, the person may return on “Day 6”.
- Exemptions from quarantine have also changed:
- Fully vaccinated individuals (regardless of booster status) are now exempt from quarantine only for purposes of classroom instruction and riding the bus.
- To participate in extracurricular activities (after-school and athletics) during the 5 days following an exposure, any individual eligible for a booster (at least age 12 and appropriate interval since 2nd dose) must be fully vaccinated and boosted.
- When not in school, exempted individuals should still remain in quarantine (i.e. not circulate socially) for 5 days.
Isolation – Students, teachers, or staff who have become symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19, must isolate to avoid transmitting the virus to others.
- The length of the isolation has been shortened from 10 days to 5 days from the date symptoms first appeared (or from the date of the positive test for asymptomatic people);
- Release from isolation is not automatic. Please stay home until the following conditions are met:
- Symptoms must not persist;
- The person must be fever-free without medication for 24 hours.
These changes to the guidance will shorten the amount of time students spend receiving virtual instruction, and reduce the disruption to their participation in the school community.
Parents/guardians of students currently in quarantine or isolation will be contacted by email with a recalculated return date and contact information in case of questions.
As a reminder, we have designed the school setting with layered mitigation strategies to avoid transmission of the virus - because there is always the potential for an asymptomatic person to be present in the school setting. As a result of mask wearing, social distancing, and frequent hand washing, we have not seen much evidence of transmission in schools.
Rapid Test Kits
Thank you to everyone who registered to receive test kits. If you are registered on FamilyID (whether you registered a week ago or today) and haven’t received your kit yet, you will be sent an email tomorrow with instructions on how to pick up your kit. If you haven’t registered yet, the FamilyID portal will remain open until 9:00 pm tonight.
- Register by completing this FamilyID form: Syosset CSD Covid-19 Home Test Kit Registration | FamilyID You will receive a confirmation email. This link will remain open until 9:00 pm.
- After the registration window has closed, you will be sent an email with instructions for the next opportunity to pick up the Rapid Home test-kits.
Please be aware that at-home tests are useful for screening purposes but cannot be used for clearance to return to school. And please be sure to closely follow the instructions when taking or administering the tests.
Lastly, you may have read that New York State and the local health departments are phasing out contact tracing. The Syosset school district is not doing so at this time - the interview process is important to establish the start and end dates of quarantine/isolation and to notify any potential close contacts so they can protect themselves and their families.
Today my administrative cabinet and I met with my “elementary student cabinet” - 5th graders from every elementary school. I love hearing their assessment of how things are going (much more enjoyable than last year!) and their suggestions for how we can make it better. Some top ideas from these young leaders?
- Use all these new technology tools to create opportunities to make friends between the various buildings before going to middle school, maybe through friendly competitions;
- Provide virtual tours of the middle schools so we can visualize the next step in their Syosset journey;
- Take virtual field trips to places that are important to our parents or grandparents so we can share aspects of our family’s culture or history with our friends and classmates;
- Keep adding back fun events like Friday PJ day, Turkey Trots, and class parties; and …
- More experiments in science! (OK...who told them I was a science major in college???)
Brilliant ideas!! Challenge accepted!!
Our kids… So #SyoSmart!
January 9, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I’m writing to update you on the weekend’s developments so you can plan for the week.
- All Syosset schools will be open for in-person instruction tomorrow.
- Traditional and virtual snow days.
- Accessing test kits
As of 6:00 pm this evening, all buildings appear to have sufficient staff to open safely for in-person instruction. We have also checked with Huntington Coach and their staffing levels have improved slightly from the end of last week.
Obviously, our goal is to have a predictable system so that parents can plan appropriately. However, the last 2 weeks have shown that things are anything but predictable. We will need to continue to monitor staffing levels on a daily basis for the foreseeable future, and we will update you accordingly.
Rapid Test Kits
Any parents who were unable to sign up or to participate in the drive-through rapid test-kit distribution can sign up to receive test-kits. We were allocated test-kits for students enrolled in Syosset’s K-12 schools. If you have already registered, but were unable to pick up your test-kit, there is no need to re-register as your original registration will be honored.
Register by completing this FamilyID form: Syosset CSD Covid-19 Home Test Kit Registration | FamilyID You will receive a confirmation email. This link will reopen again tonight and remain open for 48 hours.
After the registration window has closed, you will be sent an email with instructions for the next opportunity to pick up the Rapid Home test-kits.
We received some questions about the approach to snow days this year. I mentioned at the December Board of Education meeting that we would approach snow days just as we did last year. By using a combination of virtual instruction and traditional snow days last year, we were able to ensure that we didn’t get backed into a corner late in a year that both weather and COVID had made so unpredictable, and we were able to preserve the breaks later in the year. Our use of the virtual instruction snow day last week makes it more likely that we will have the flexibility to use a traditional snow day in the future.
I hope everyone remains safe and warm now that winter appears to have officially arrived.
January 7, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope you and your families are safe after this morning’s snow storm. The pivot to virtual instruction for the day allowed us to preserve a day of instruction, which is beneficial at this point in the school year (especially with the unpredictability of the current circumstances), and keep everyone safe.
I’d like to provide some information on the following topics this evening:
- Mask Mandate
- Staffing Update
- COVID-19 Rapid Test Distribution
Mask Executive Order
You may have read that County Executive Bruce Blakeman issued an Executive Order yesterday directing Boards of Education to vote on whether to continue masking in schools. Later that same day, the Commissioner of Education issued a statement to school officials stating that “Counties do not have the legal authority to require boards of education to vote on specific issues”, and that school districts are required to comply with all New York State laws and regulations including the “COVID-19 face-coverings regulation (10 NYCRR 2.60)”.
Please continue to monitor your email for communications from the District, and have backup plans in place should we need to alter the normal school schedule. We will do our very best to notify you as soon as possible, but in some cases, we may not have a final staffing count until the morning should absences be communicated to us overnight.
Also, as a reminder, due to the current shortage of bus drivers, the early morning elementary school bus pickup for before school activities has been canceled until the staffing situation improves. Consequently, morning orchestra, band, chorus and extra help have been paused at the elementary level. We will advise you as soon as we are able to resume these programs.
COVID-19 Rapid Test kit Distribution
As I mentioned in my update last night, we distributed thousands of rapid test kits to parents this week (and had quite a bit of fun doing it!). It was great to have the opportunity to see so many of you, and we sincerely appreciate the positive feedback we received. A huge thank you to our staff members (and several members of our Board of Education) who braved the cold and worked so hard to distribute the kits so efficiently. We also thank Ms. Panjvani and the Robbins Lane PTA, and the Cheng, Park, and Singer families who all dropped off provisions for the workers!
For anyone who registered to receive a test kit but was unable to pick it up this week, we will be providing instructions on how to pick it up shortly.
You may have noticed that the expiration date indicated on the box of kits is January, 2022. We were initially informed by the State that the tests were covered by the FDA’s 90-day extension of tests, but earlier this afternoon, we were notified that the kits do expire at the end of January. Earlier today, the Governor’s office indicated that additional kits had been ordered and will be delivered to schools. We’ll keep you updated on their status.
Five years ago, the SHS Association of Creative Thespians began what has become an annual tradition of performing for the residents of the assisted living facility at the Northport Veterans Administration Hospital. Like most organizations, they have had to adapt past practices to keep everyone safe during the pandemic. This holiday season, the students recorded and edited a video performance for the residents and marshaled their artistic resources to create holiday cards to share their appreciation for those who so selflessly served our country. The link to the touching recorded performance is below. I encourage you to watch it and extend the holiday cheer!
Stay safe and warm!
January 6, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
This has been the most challenging week so far of the entire pandemic. Yet our team has been able to preserve in-person instruction for the first 4 days of the year despite tremendous headwinds. And we successfully executed 3 events to distribute COVID-19 rapid test kits to parents of students in the district. I’d like to thank the many staff members who volunteered to help distribute the kits so efficiently and safely.
I want to update you on 2 important developments:
- Virtual Instruction Snow Day tomorrow (Friday 1/7/22)
- Future Staffing Concerns
Virtual Instruction Snow Day 1/7/22
As we announced earlier today, based on the current weather forecast for snow, we will be pivoting to a day of remote instruction tomorrow. This will allow us to preserve a day of instruction on the calendar while staying safe. Ordinarily, with a forecast of between 4-8” of snow, we would wait until 5:00 am to make the decision, in case the snow totals were at the low end of the range.
However, the current situation is anything but ordinary. Our Facilities team is diminished by quarantines/illnesses, and to open during snowfall, we must have enough crew to clear snow from not only the parking lots and entrances, but also from all the sidewalks, rescue/escape windows, emergency exits and assembly points & paths in case of evacuation. It is a big job even with a full crew, but we simply do not have sufficient staff to do so safely tomorrow.
Ongoing Staffing Concerns
However, even if there weren’t snow tomorrow, it would still have been necessary for Syosset High School to shift to remote instruction. At this point, we have about one-quarter of the instructional staff in quarantine or isolation. Our teachers, substitutes, and even administrators have been heroic in covering multiple classes for colleagues daily, but should staffing levels dip further, it will be necessary to continue virtual instruction until staffing levels recover.
We will monitor staffing through the weekend to determine whether the shift to virtual instruction must be maintained for the high school on Monday, and we will update the community Sunday night.
In addition, there are other schools where staffing levels are approaching minimum safe levels. If it is necessary for any other building to pivot to virtual instruction, we will make that announcement on Sunday as well. Please be sure to have a backup plan in place should we need to alter the normal school schedule.
Today, four Syosset High School students were named semifinalists in the esteemed Regeneron Science Talent Search 2022 competition. Congratulations to Sabrina Chen, Ethan Chiu, Rohan Ghotra and Eric Huang! These students join an elite group of only 300 semifinalists from the entire national and international competition. We want to additionally congratulate the teachers who worked so hard to shepherd these students to their success. The perseverance of these students and educators amid the challenges presented by the pandemic is extraordinary!
Please be safe tomorrow during the storm.
January 3, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
We apologize for the frequency of communication, but as the last 2 years have shown, things can change quickly and we are now in an extremely fluid period of the pandemic. Our goal is to ensure our families are updated with important information as timely as possible. Tonight:
- Rapid Test Distribution Instructions for tomorrow (Tuesday) at Robbins Lane.
- Bus Driver shortages update and alert.
Rapid Test Distribution
The District will continue distributing rapid tests for Syosset students tomorrow night (Tuesday, 1/4/22) at Robbins Lane elementary school from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. Based on the success of our distribution yesterday at Syosset High School, we accepted additional registrations, however, we have reached the maximum number of registrations we can safely process for Tuesday night. The online registration form will reopen Tuesday at 8 p.m. for the Thursday evening distribution, also taking place at Robbins Lane from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
The Robbins Lane campus is smaller than the high school, therefore, please follow these instructions so we can have another smooth distribution.
- Please stagger arrival by child’s last name so everyone doesn’t arrive at once:
- A - H 5:00 pm
- I - O 6:00 pm
- P - Z 7:00 pm
- Please enter at the far south end of the campus into the faculty parking lot.
- Please have a screenshot of your FamilyID confirmation on your phone to show to the security guard. We cannot provide test kits without a confirmation.
- Bring a pen. When you arrive, you will be asked to fill out a short form you will leave with us when you receive your test kits.
- For the safety of staff distributing tests, masks are required to be worn by everyone while picking up the kit(s), even though this is outdoors.
- When you exit, please turn right as long waits to make a left turn at the stoplight will slow the whole line down.
Any tests remaining after the distribution event on Thursday will be distributed via individual schools to families who have not received test kits yet. Thank you for your patience.
Bus Driver Shortages
Thank you for your patience as we assessed bus driver levels coming back from the break this morning. We were pleased we were able to ensure we had sufficient drivers and could continue in-person education.
Unfortunately, shortages will remain the norm until the current COVID surge ends. We will return to the plan in place when we opened school in the fall:
- If in the evening we are certain that we have too few drivers for the following day, we will announce a pivot to virtual learning for the entire district.
- Otherwise, we will plan to operate on a normal schedule the following day, but it is possible that some drivers may wake up sick and all substitute drivers are already deployed to cover other absences. If a bus run has no driver available, we will communicate directly with the families impacted.
- Ideally, parents of affected students would drive their children to school;
- If that is not possible, we will make other pickup arrangements, but they will be delayed until after another bus has completed all its runs and is free to assist.
We realize this situation is far from ideal. We have consolidated several routes in order to free up additional drivers, and Huntington Coach has been hiring aggressively all fall. But the virus is spreading far faster than newly hired substitutes can be found.
In addition, the early morning elementary school bus pickup for before school activities will be canceled until the situation improves. Therefore, morning orchestra, band, chorus and extra help will be paused at the elementary level, beginning immediately. We will advise you as soon as we are able to resume these programs.
One advantage to frequent communication is that it allows us to showcase more of our amazing young people! It’s hard to think of a brighter spot on the planet than Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve! But that’s where sophomore Alex Chen, junior Alan Huang and 8th grader Katie Yan were featured performing traditional Shaolin Wushu as well as Tai Chi, which originated in the Henan province of China. Take a moment to watch the video and see these Bright Spots shine!
Digging deep for some more #SyoStamina!