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Superintendent Emails and Updates - February 2022
February 27, 2022 - NYS Mask Mandate Update
Dear Syosset Community,
Earlier today, Governor Hochul announced that the mask mandate in schools would no longer be in effect as of Wednesday, March 2nd.
Accordingly, masks will be required in schools tomorrow (Monday 2/28/22) and Tuesday (3/1/22). However, wearing masks will become optional beginning on Wednesday (3/2/22). Students or staff may continue to wear masks if they choose. Effective 3/2/22, individuals will no longer be required to wear masks indoors (masks have been optional outdoors since last spring).
Although the CDC is amending its guidance on mask wearing on buses, during her press conference, Governor Hochul indicated that this change is still under review in New York. Accordingly, mask wearing will be required on buses for now.
We have been informed that the State will be issuing updated guidance to school districts shortly. Once that guidance has been made available, we will summarize it and issue an FAQ document to the community that will hopefully address questions around implementation.
As a community, we have done a remarkable job of pulling together during these past 2 years. As we move into a phase where people will make differing choices with a very visible mitigation measure, it will be important for every member of the learning community, adults and students alike, to respect the choices others make and to treat everyone with the same kindness and understanding we would want for ourselves.
I hope everyone had a peaceful and restful break.
February 18, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
What an apropos week for third grade students at Robbins Lane to experiment with constructing houses built to withstand a hurricane as part of their current science unit! I hope you were all safe during the blustery conditions overnight and today.
The District has been buzzing with excitement and activity lately. The students (and staff) have been having so much fun engaging in activities centered around Spirit Week, Global Day of Play, Random Act of Kindness Day, Olympic celebrations, and playoff runs for athletic teams.
Before we take a break for Presidents Week recess, I have just a few updates to share.
COVID Test Sites
As a reminder, both COVID test sites operating on our campuses will be closed on Monday, February 21, in observance of Presidents Day. The site operating at the old Woodbury Grade School will reopen on Tuesday and remain open during the break. The site operating at the high school will reopen on Saturday, February 26.
Additionally, please be aware that we will not be reporting positive cases to the community during the break. We will resume reporting the week of February 28.
Art Exhibit at Syosset Library
If you’re looking for something to do over the break, stop by the Syosset Library where you’ll find HBT student artwork displayed in the Children’s section.
I’m so proud of all the student-athletes in the Syosset Athletic program and am continually blown away by their success. We’re looking forward to celebrating the accomplishments of all our winter student athletes at the March Board of Education meeting taking place on March 21, but here are a few of the most recent highlights.
- Girls Basketball (playing the quarterfinals at 5:00 tonight)
- Boys Basketball (playing the quarterfinals tomorrow at noon)
- Varsity Girls Gymnastics won the Nassau County Championship, with 8 All-County gymnasts, and 4 All-State gymnasts.
- Varsity Cheerleading competed in the National competition in Orlando, and will be competing in the County Championship this Sunday at Hofstra.
- Boys Swimming and Diving team - 4-time county champions, and 10 boys qualified for the State meet
- Girls Track 4 x 8 relay team were named County Champions
- Boys Track Team was named Team County Champions
- Two of our wrestlers will be competing at States
There’s even more good news to share. We’re going to have a full Winter Season wrap-up in our next update! Good luck to the Varsity Boys and Girls Basketball teams in their quarterfinal matches tonight and tomorrow!
Bonus Bright Spot
An email found its way to me from the Section VIII Winter Track organizers that had this wonderful little story in it.
“On the boys side it came down to the final heats of the night. Syosset was in the "fast" heat of the 4 x 2 and Massapequa was in the "fastest" heat of the 4 x 2. Whichever team finished ahead was going to win. Syosset pulled it out from the 3rd heat to win 80 - 77. One of my favorite moments of the entire week came when the boys team scores were announced. Without any prompting from either coaching staff, the Syosset and Massapequa athletes came together on the infield to congratulate each other and show the level of respect they each had for the competition that night. An incredible show of sportsmanship after battling all night.”
I can’t tell you how much I love these glimpses of sportsmanship from our athletes (and their rivals!). I’m obviously thrilled with their success, but truly proud of their character.
I wish you all a wonderful, restful break next week. Safe travels to anyone on the move.
February 11, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
As they do most years, many elementary schools today marked the 100th day of school with fun learning activities centered around the number “100.” I joined the staff welcoming students to Berry Hill where we celebrated the culminating event of a week of efforts to reduce bullying, promote kindness and support mental wellness: “PS: I Love You Day”! I was serenaded by some first grade Kindness Rangers with a hearty rendition of “Kindness is a Muscle” (“Gotta flex it everyday! We kids will show you the way!”).
For me, today was a milestone of another sort as well. On March 13, 2020, we had just learned of a potential COVID exposure to a member of our learning community and had announced that we would be closing the following Monday to assess how to proceed safely. Sensing the gravity of where we were headed, the administrative team gathered their courage as we contemplated our next steps. Though we all felt sobered, I left them with this thought — no matter what happens next, our job is very simple: make one day’s worth of good decisions, sleep, and repeat. Today marks the 700th day of doing our very best to keep people safe and keep kids learning against the backdrop of evolving: research, variants, regulations, and community sentiments.
At the Board meeting Monday night, we had a wonderful presentation from our 4 Regeneron winners, explaining their award-winning research. Their advisor, Ms. Ade, calls this competition “the Nobel prize” of student research, and they were indeed amazing. In my report, I also:
- reported on encouraging trends in COVID data showing the Omicron surge appears to be in its last phase;
- highlighted the many activities that we have restored in the schools since the pandemic started, and
- outlined the next group of activities to restart now that our “pause” during the Omicron surge is coming to an end.
By now, the elementary principals have each communicated to their learning communities more detail about those next steps. At the secondary level we’ve tweaked the ventilation and filtration system in the high school gymnasium to support more spectator participation as we enter the senior night and playoff season. As more activities are restored, principals will continue to communicate with their families.
At the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, the Board of Education decided to send a letter to Governor Hochul and Health Commissioner Bassett requesting detail about the data and benchmarks the State is using to inform their decision-making around COVID mitigation measures, so the District can better anticipate when they might change, to assist with planning and thus avoid the disruption caused by abrupt changes in protocols.
Yesterday, an effort to have the State’s highest court to overturn the “stay” issued by the Appellate Division proved unsuccessful, so the existing mask mandate remains in force. According to Governor Hochul, although masks are no longer required in businesses, changes in mask requirements for schools are unlikely to take place until sometime after the February break.
Over the last couple of weeks, students across the District thoughtfully crafted Valentine’s Day cards for veterans to express their gratitude to our brave service men and women. The cards are filled with artwork and inspirational messages sure to warm hearts and spread kindness beyond our school walls. Through a program organized by the Town of Oyster Bay, the cards will be delivered to veterans at American Legion and Veteran of Foreign War (VFW) Posts, as well as hospitals and nursing homes.
Just before I sign off, I want to send positive thoughts to all of our athletic teams in the playoffs, with a special mention for our Hockey club, competing in the Semi-finals against Massapequa at Long Beach Arena later tonight at 9:15 pm and Boys Fencing competing against Great Neck in the County final at Valley Stream Central at noon tomorrow. Good luck to all!!
February 4, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I hope everyone stays safe during tonight’s unsettled weather. Every time we have a storm like the one last weekend, my appreciation for all of the people who dig us out is renewed. After being reminded how much effort my own little driveway takes, I then multiply it by the acres of parking lots, sidewalks, rescue windows and assembly points our folks must clear to keep us running, not to mention the hundreds of miles of plowing the Town must do. Wow and thanks!
It’s that exciting time of year again when we prepare to welcome a new class of lifelong learners to the District! Kindergarten registration for the 2022-2023 school year is now open. Information can be found on our website. Please feel free to pass this information on to neighbors who do not yet have children in the District and may not yet be on our mailing list. The earlier we know who is coming, the better we can prepare for their arrival!
COVID Test Site Operating Hours
As the demand for testing has declined over the past couple of weeks (this is a good thing!), the hours for the testing site operating on the high school campus will be adjusted to 9:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekends. The site operating at the old Woodbury Grade School will continue to operate between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Please also note both sites will be closed on President’s Day, Monday, February 21, but will be open the remainder of the school break.
The very encouraging news is that COVID rates continue to fall sharply. However, it’s a sign of the extremity of the recent Omicron surge that even after several weeks of steep decline, COVID cases still remain elevated above the Delta peak of last September. Over the past 23 months, we have made tremendous progress methodically and deliberately restoring as many pre-pandemic activities as possible. While that progress was understandably paused while we endured the Omicron surge that nearly shut us down, we will soon fall below the Delta surge levels and resume those efforts.
We will soon make a series of announcements about:
- in-person activities for elementary families being planned once the weather improves,
- in-person Kindergarten and new (elementary) parent orientations,
- changes to indoor athletic spectator limitations,
- wonderful activities planned to recognize our “graduating” 5th graders, and
- some new conveniences in how building operations are structured that we think parents will appreciate.
Most importantly, despite the incredible Omicron surge, we didn’t retreat, and we are now regaining our forward momentum. Many of these updates will come from your building principal, so keep an eye on your email.
Last year, I told you about then HBT, now SHS, student Henry Berkowitz’s impressive efforts to raise funds for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). His younger sibling Chloe Berkowitz is now making her own contributions to the organization, continuing a family tradition that started with their grandmother Rosemary Aace. Chloe, a fifth grade student at A.P. Willits, put together a team that raised more than $5,000 for the 20th Annual NAMI Collier County Walk at Baker Park, FL. That’s pretty impressive for anyone, especially a 10-year old! And it’s an important reminder for all of us of the importance of maintaining good mental health. Great job Chloe!
I know the last 2 months have taken a toll on all of us, staff and community alike, and in many ways they’ve been the hardest months of the pandemic so far. Last year there were 574 cases of COVID identified in the Syosset school district for the entire 2020-21 school year; this year we have had almost twice as many — 1,124 — just since Christmas Eve. But I’ve also been amazed at our resilience and perseverance in the face of this adversity and I’m relieved that the wave has passed and we’ve regained our footing and restarted our progress.
February 1, 2022 - Mask Regulation Update
Dear Syosset Community,
As reported by the media last night, a state appellate court granted a full stay on the mask mandate for indoor places, including schools, for the duration of the state’s appeal. Until a ruling on the lawsuit has been issued, the mask regulation will remain in effect for all schools in the state.
We will continue to keep you updated as information becomes available.
Syosset Central School District