- Syosset Central School Dist
See the most recent Superintendent's Updates listed below.
Click the links on the left to access past updates that have been sent to the Syosset community.
April 9, 2021
Dear Syosset Community,
Following my email earlier in the week, I wanted to provide a few more updates as we head into the weekend.
Testing Commissioner Rosa and Chancellor Young issued a statement criticizing the Federal decision to require standardized testing and I concur with the points raised in their critique of that decision. Nevertheless we are required to offer the grades 3-8 tests and the Regents tests. However, neither must be administered to all-virtual students and recording the score of the Regents test on a transcript is optional.
The success of our contact tracing effort so far has been due to its conservatism. Some quarantined people ultimately develop COVID, but most do not. Quarantines are a success when they prevent any further transmission and to do so, it’s necessary to quarantine even low-risk contacts, just to be sure. We consult with the Nassau Department of Health in tricky situations, but their approach mirrors ours - if there is a borderline case, the safest thing to do is quarantine. Until there is a cure, avoidance is the highest priority.
Some COVID reminders…
- If you are sick, stay home. The number one thing to remember is that if you have a symptom of any kind, you should stay home. Even if you have a negative rapid test, you should not return to school until the symptoms have completely resolved for 48 hours.
- If you are awaiting PCR results, you must stay home. We require a negative test result to return to school after experiencing symptoms. However, if a physician administers both a rapid test and a PCR test, you must wait until both results are received before returning to school.
- A positive is a positive is a positive. Although no COVID test (rapid or PCR) is 100% accurate, DOH rules state there is no way to identify a “false positive” through subsequent testing to avoid quarantine. Any positive test, even if later contradicted by another test (like a PCR) is still considered to be a COVID infection.
- It is not possible to “test out” of close contact. Although most infections develop within 4-5 days of exposure, some have taken longer. Having a negative test on day 5 only means you’re not positive yet, not that you’re risk-free.
- Please let us know about exposure or positive test results ASAP. The contact tracing team has been working until late in the evening to ensure we clear all close contacts before opening the building the next day. Late information not only makes their day longer unnecessarily, it puts in-person learning at risk because they do eventually need to sleep. Help us do our best work, let us know immediately if you’ve learned you may have been exposed, or if you get a positive test.
I’m encouraged to learn that so many older folks and at-risk people have been able to access the vaccine for so many weeks now - it certainly means that relatives living at home are less at risk, but it does not mean that COVID’s sting is gone. Our pediatrician continues to advise that young people are at risk for cardio-myopathy and other systemic complications, which studies show can happen even when the COVID symptoms themselves are mild. We must continue to take COVID seriously.
Still, we are anxious to continue our progress on our way back to “normal” and I wanted to update you on the points I raised in my March 19 update:
- the Governor indicated that we should receive new guidance on the CDC’s analysis of social distance in schools sometime next week, and
- the Syosset-Woodbury community’s rate of COVID cases did spike after the break. For most of the pandemic, we have been comfortably below the County average and while we’re not yet dramatically above the rest of the county, we closed the gap quickly and don’t yet see a peak. But it also means that bending that curve is also within our power if we go back to doing what had been working all year.
Once we get that spike under control, we can begin the next steps.
End of Year Activities
We’re looking ahead to end of year activities and we have been working with Hofstra to see if the stadium seating rules the State announced for sporting events could apply to commencement exercises. If so, their stadium should be large enough to accommodate a single commencement ceremony, although the rules currently require negative tests (or vaccinations) for spectators. Nevertheless, we are excited to explore this opportunity. As we learn more, we’ll continue to share.
Speaking of sharing information, I want to thank everyone who registered to attend the community engagement meetings regarding the Stillwell propositions we announced in the March 26 community update, and let you know that there is still time to register for the first meeting taking place next Wednesday. The meetings will be held in person at South Woods Middle School and also live streamed. Information on attending the meetings, viewing the live stream, and submitting your questions and comments can be found here.
We all know amazing things can happen when students come together united with a common cause, and Syosset High School students Maggie Liu and Abigail Wu certainly demonstrated the power students can have. Working with Caroline Zhu and the Students Combat Corona club, they recruited the help of many Syosset High School and other local high school clubs, and partnered with the Office of Legislator Lafazan and the Woodbury Jewish Center to host a Spring Drive for the homeless. The result of their efforts was 2 tons (yes, really!) of food, clothing, and supplies donated to the Mary Brennan Inn, Long Island Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, and the People Loving People food pantry. After the event Caroline commented “We want to show that every student here in Syosset has the opportunity and resources to create something amazing from nothing, as long as they have the motivation and drive to carry it through!” Sounds like a life lesson to me!
Enjoy the weekend: chin up, mask up, thumbs up!
April 7, 2021
The Friday update is arriving a little early this week. We appear to be entering a new phase in our fight against COVID and I wanted to provide some perspective and context.
Much of the news is good. Hospitalizations are down overall, deaths continue to decline, and over 40% of Nassau County residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
It’s tempting to see this news and assume we’re out of the woods. But that would be premature.
The drop in fatalities and hospitalizations appears more due to the high rate of vaccination among older persons than receding COVID transmission. Look beneath the headlines and find the rate of hospitalization of younger persons is climbing and despite growing numbers of vaccinated people, the drop in Nassau County’s positivity rate and daily cases has been stalled for over 5 weeks.
- In the last 14 days of February, Nassau County was averaging 611 cases/day with less than 8% of the population fully vaccinated.
- For the last 14 days, Nassau County has been averaging 621 cases/day, even though twice as much of the population is fully vaccinated and 40% is now partially vaccinated.
The obvious implication is that the transmission rate is rising among the shrinking pool of unvaccinated people (which includes students). This, in turn, may be driven by two highly transmissible variants (B.1.117 and B.1.526) that now appear to account for nearly 70% of cases in New York City.
While we have still not seen any evidence of transmission in a Syosset classroom, there has been a sharp increase in the number of positive cases among members of our learning community. I know Monday’s report of 26 cases was eye-opening, and we have had 2 January-like days since. A little context may be helpful: some of those cases were students already in quarantine for earlier close contact; others occurred during the break and we were simply notified after the holidays. Neither circumstance presents a risk of school-based transmission. Still, it’s a noticeable uptick and as a whole community we should react.
The transmission we’re seeing is occurring mostly through social events and travel. What’s new is that events that would have been unlikely to result in transmission last fall are now resulting in some transmission. It’s unclear whether that’s the result of the variants, or lax mask-wearing, distancing, hand-washing etc., but it is a new development that we’re taking seriously.
What is clear is that allowing a more transmissible variant any toe-hold in Syosset will set back all of our plans for a return to “normal”. Here’s where we must remain #Syostrong. Just like our track athletes who push hardest in the exhausting last leg of their race, we have to dig deep into our reserves of stamina and endurance a little longer. Early on, we speculated that this would be an 18-month crisis. Given the encouraging news about vaccinations for younger children, the tail end of that 18-month period may coincide with the availability of a vaccine for all age groups.
But we’re not there yet, so we can’t start letting our guard down after we’ve accomplished so much these last 13 months. Stay vigilant until COVID and its nasty siblings have literally run out of places to go.
Until then, let’s keep our chins up, our masks up, and our hopes up.
You may have just read in Newsday about Syosset High School students Evan Cheng and Michael Lan, who started a program in May 2019 named “Music Relief” to share their talent and offer music education to students who couldn’t afford professional lessons. Undeterred by the pandemic, they switched to virtual sessions, and even expanded their reach as far as California! They’ve recruited teachers who share their passion from Syosset and other local high schools, and their team of at least 18 have now served over 100 students nationwide. Donations received from parents have been used to provide food to the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island.
They are just 2 of the amazing student artists who are a large part of the reason our District was just named a Best Community for Music Education for the 21st time! But according to Fine and Performing Arts coordinator Michael Salzman, this year’s recognition has been the most meaningful. To keep music alive in the pandemic, the District ensured students would not have to share wind instruments, obtained access to SmartMusic technology and a host of other computer applications such as electronic music textbooks. We hired a remarkable group of “Co-Pilots” so that all elementary music classes would continue to be taught by certified music educators. And while other districts turned them away, we took on the best student teachers to assist with individual instruction. Syosset pilot-tested the NYSSMA virtual festival platform that was ultimately used by 30,000 students across the State to keep competitions alive. Despite a year filled with scheduling and logistical headwinds, our music incredible educators sailed ahead!
Stay safe, make good decisions, and stay #Syostrong just a little longer,