As I write this column we are completing our highly successful second week of instruction in our hybrid model. Our elementary, middle, and high school students have, in exemplary fashion, followed the health and safety protocols outlined for them. Our students have stepped up and met the expectations placed upon them. I couldn’t be prouder of our students, teachers, administrators, and support staff. Everyone has worked extremely hard to stay safe and adjust to our new normal. The kids are happy to be back at school and there is a genuine positive vibe in the buildings.
Creating the reopening plan was a major challenge. Implementing the plan has presented even more challenges. Guidance from the Department of Health and the State Education Department has evolved, and our plan has needed to evolve with it. Sometimes it is difficult to make sense of the guidance, but we have erred on the side of health and safety at each turn.
The most crucial element of our educational organization are the teachers. They spent the summer rewriting curriculum, engaging in professional development, providing feedback on the reopening plan, and creatively planning for a brand new instructional model. Like the students, our teachers have had to relearn, adapt, and restructure their thinking about school. I am exceedingly impressed with their efforts to meaningfully and substantively engage students instructionally both in person and remotely.
Our administrators created multiple procedures in their buildings to maintain health and safety. They have spent the first two weeks ironing out any issues that surfaced. There are procedures on arrival, dismissal, mask breaks, safety drills, passing time, disinfecting, attendance, faculty meetings, and student mental health needs. The administrators are problem solvers and they have done an excellent job during the reopening.
This week we introduced our health screening app. We are requesting that parents screen their children each day they are scheduled at school. The NYS Department of Health requires the District to use a daily screening questionnaire for students, faculty and staff reporting to school and they strongly recommend using an electronic survey. Our app asks parents to attest to four questions and if they can’t, the child should be kept home, and the school nurse and primary care physician should be contacted.
I want to thank our community for participating in the online forums, asking questions, and providing feedback. Our plan is stronger because of your input.
Geoffrey M. Hicks, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools