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Coronavirus Update July 24: Reopening of Schools

Update from the Superintendent of Schools

Update: JULY 24 2020


Dear Harrison Families,

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, I hope that you enjoyed your family during this quarantine-imposed summer. 

The common theme I hear from parents, teachers, students, politicians and health experts is they are certain that they are uncertain about reopening school. We are hopeful this letter alleviates some of your concerns. 

The District is required to develop three plans for the reopening of school. Our plans are based on the most up to date analysis of information available on maintaining the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff. The plans adhere to the key constraints mandated in all published guidelines, most significantly the constraints of social distancing and the required wearing of masks. 

Parent Survey
As these plans are finalized, we seek critical information about your child, and ask questions about partnering with us to ensure the safe and sustained reopening of school. Please take the time to complete the Parent Survey. This letter and survey is  sent under separate cover in Spanish and Japanese. The survey allows you to provide critical information about each of your children; thank you for completing the survey by August 1, 2020.

Publishing Reopening Plans by July 31, 2020
All school districts in New York are required to seek approval from the New York State Departments of Education and Health for three reopening plans: 100% in person instruction, a hybrid model (in-person & virtual learning), and 100% virtual learning. In all cases, ensuring the health and safety of students, faculty and staff is our foremost priority. When finalized, the District’s plans will be posted on our website.

A Thorough Review of Requirements for Reopening
The District has been researching and exploring options for reopening from across the country and around the world. Reviews were conducted of the requirements from the Governor's Office and the Department of Health released on July 13, New York State Education Department guidance issued on July 16, and CDC guidelines for reopening schools issued on July 23.  There are inconsistencies in the guidance documents, and we have worked to understand, clarify, and resolve them as we finalize plans for Harrison’s Schools. 

Who decides if schools will open?
As of now, all public schools in New York State are expected to open in September for some degree of in-person instruction, unless the Governor’s Office determines infection rates dictate otherwise. The New York State Department of Health and the Westchester County Department of Health will make final determinations about the opening and closing of schools.

How will schools reopen?
A comprehensive plan regarding the opening of schools, including schedules, will be provided to parents and posted on our website in early August. There are many considerations, and we are exploring them thoroughly and thoughtfully. 

If infection rates remain stable, our schools will be required to open under a hybrid model. The requirement of social distancing outlined in each of the guidance documents limits the number of students we can bring to school at one time.  

Based on these constraints, schools can operate safely at about 50% capacity.  Our hybrid model is being developed using past experience and feedback from students, parents, and teachers. Our plan places a premium on teachers interacting with their students in real-time and includes a commitment to more synchronous learning for every student. Synchronous learning is critical to student success, and we want to ensure students have rich school experiences both in person and virtually.  

If the District is required to implement a 100% virtual model, in order to minimize student and family disruption, student schedules will not change from the hybrid model. We will provide sample daily instruction schedules for the elementary, middle, and high school in our published plan. 

The District will adhere to social distancing mandates, and the wearing of masks will be required at all times in schools and on school property.

Preparing Teachers for Hybrid & Virtual Learning
We have spent the summer preparing our faculty for the possibility of extended virtual learning. This summer, our Professional Development Program offers 70 courses to improve teacher skills and curriculum design for virtual learning. I'm confident our faculty will be even better prepared to engage students in meaningful learning experiences.

Summer Support for Students
This summer, more than 700 students are enrolled in the District’s Summer Learning From Home virtual programs K-12.  Teachers developed learning experiences that include direct instruction, guided instruction, and independent practice to deepen student understanding. 

In addition the District has developed Summer Learning Resources, a set of subject-specific resources to support students during the summer months. These resources provide an overview of our curriculum by grade and subject area and include lessons and materials to introduce students to content through independent study. We encourage parents and students to access these resources.

Despite the many challenges we are all facing as we reopen school, our entire learning community is eager to welcome your children back to school. We have missed them. We will make the reopening of school as welcoming and as normal as possible. 

Thank you for your patience as we work together to support our students.


Louis N. Wool Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools