2/3 Update from the Superintendent
Returning to Full In-Person Learning
Update: FEBRUARY 3 2021
The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Dear Harrison Families,
The power of science, our district's due diligence and preparedness, the extraordinary work of administrators, teachers, and staff, and your partnership allow me to announce plans to return all students to in-person learning.
Throughout the pandemic, I have studied the most current and respected research on safety and instruction. One enduring lesson learned is vigilance in monitoring the ever-changing coronavirus. And while I am optimistic we will succeed in returning all students to school safely, we will continuously adapt plans and protocols as information and science evolve. My optimism is tempered by pragmatism, research, and, most importantly, an abiding commitment to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe.
New Tools to Prevent Spread of Covid-19
We have new tools to help ensure the safe return of students. Our multi-phase plan for return to full in-person instruction is predicated on enacting three new resources:
Accessing a vaccine for faculty and staff. Our aspiration is for every faculty and staff member, if medically appropriate, to be vaccinated before the end of February.
Administering weekly Covid-19 screening tests to 10% of each school population beginning soon after February break. We need your help to achieve this goal. If you have not already done so, please grant permission for this non-invasive testing.
Installing state of the art air filtration technology in all instructional spaces. The units utilize three distinct filtration systems to remove and kill viruses in the air: Merv and HEPA filtration and UV light. They cleanse the air in a typical classroom between three and five times per hour. Delivery begins in late February.
Returning Students to School
While our timeframe is aggressive, it is also fluid. As our staff becomes vaccinated and air filtration units are placed in classrooms, we will begin returning students to full in-person instruction. Beginning in late February, our goal is to phase the return of all students to full in-person instruction by April. Timing will be affected by external circumstances, and the timeline will be updated regularly as more precise information becomes available. The return to school plan will be implemented in four phases:
Phase One: Kindergarten students return to elementary schools
Phase Two: Grades 1-5 return to elementary schools
Phase Three: High school students return to HHS
Phase Four: Middle school students return to LMK
Parents may continue or opt for virtual learning for their children anytime throughout the remainder of the school year.
Planning for Your Child’s Emotional Well-Being Upon Return
Bringing your children back to school is not just a physical act; it is an emotional one. They have endured many changes and stressors. We consider their emotional well-being and successful return to full-time, in-person learning our primary focus and most important responsibility. Our teachers, psychological staff, counselors, assistant principals, and principals will welcome your children back, mindful and prepared to meet their social and emotional needs.
Review of All Programs and Protocols
Vaccines, Covid-19 testing, and air filtration are essential new tools but only part of our plan for returning students to school. We continue to reassess and redesign safety protocols in preparation for students' return. Providing space during lunch periods to ensure 6 feet of social distance and reorganizing passing from classes are two examples. We will modify drop-off and pick-up procedures to reduce congestion in each school. We ask for your continued support in transporting your children to school to help us maintain social distance on buses. Masks and social distancing are still required in all aspects of school life.
Our leadership team continues to re-evaluate building operations and will share school-specific modifications at upcoming parent information sessions.
Virtual Parent Information Sessions
We are sure you will have many questions and concerns not addressed in this letter. To provide parents an opportunity to ask questions and understand our plans, we will hold information sessions in each school community. Dates for these sessions are forthcoming.
Planning Summer Programs for a Successful September 2021
We have monitored student progress using multiple assessments and are currently redesigning and expanding student summer programs to address learning needs. We also are redesigning summer professional development to assure teachers are prepared to return to a more familiar yet changed school environment in September.
A Call to Action: How You Can Help
There are many challenges ahead that require your support and action to bring our students safely back to school.
Please continue to adhere to health professionals’ guidance, wear masks, socially distance, and avoid unsafe social events. Community behavior directly impacts our ability to maintain safe and healthy schools.
We need your help to make sure faculty and staff have access to vaccinations before the end of February; it is critical to our reopening plan. The Board will ask parents to join in advocating the governor, county executive, and the New York State Department of Health to accelerate access to vaccinations for all faculty and staff. More information to follow.
When I closed school last March, I wrote, the health and welfare of your children and of your neighbors are inextricably linked, never has that been more apparent. Our collective care for one another remains the key to your children's safe return to school. Choose optimism, choose science, help us successfully return students to their schools.
Louis N. Wool, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools