Pittsford letter - starting to see the pattern?
Dear Families and Staff:
A lot has happened in this past week. The Governor released guidance on opening schools on Tuesday and the New York State Education Department released guidance late yesterday. It’s important to note that although the word “guidance” sounds like we have a choice to follow it or not, these are required protocols with little discretion as to how they are implemented.
These guidance documents on opening schools places the onus on school districts to prepare and submit plans for three different scenarios within a two-week window, starting today. These scenarios are as follows:
Remote learning – students attend classes online only
Hybrid model – combination of in-school and remote learning
Full opening – students attend school full time
As is typical, when guidance is given, we seek clarification as many areas remain unclear. In this particular case, we are seeking clarification on whether or not six-feet social distancing is mandatory in classrooms if students are wearing masks. We are also seeking clarification about masks/social distancing on buses, as well as pre-screening protocols.
Unlike our typical strategic planning (which would take years and involve committees and public forums) we are faced with a two week deadline to re-create schooling based on guidance we received as late as yesterday. With that said, we are poised to move forward given our very unique sense of collaboration with and among our many stakeholder groups including parents, staff, administrators, and board members.
In preparation for the release of these guidance materials, we have been compiling and studying recommendations from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation of Teachers, NYS United Teachers, and NYS Department of Health. We have also reviewed multiple reopening plans from other states and countries and have held weekly meetings with county and state officials in an effort to ascertain what parameters for reopening we should be considering priorities.
Two-Day PCSD Stakeholder Workshop
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we held a two-day workshop with over 70 stakeholders to discuss and brainstorm the opening details of school this fall. Our focus for the workshop was to create a plan that would allow as many students as possible to return to school, in-person, with priorities given to our youngest learners (given childcare and developmental appropriateness with independent remote learning), and to our students with special needs.
We also spent considerable time discussing remote learning models. This option will be available for students who cannot return to school due to medical issues and/or as a mechanism within the hybrid model if our region has a spike in COVID-19 cases that requires us to close again.
Finally, the hybrid model was explored. We are currently working through the logistics of this
model, but it will most likely include student cohorts alternating between in-person and remote learning. If the state guidance requires six-feet of social distancing while students are wearing masks, we would be forced to essentially reduce our student class sizes to half (generally speaking). This means doubling the amount of classrooms needed and staffing these additional classrooms. In other words, physical space and staffing become the primary decision makers.
The hybrid model will be reserved in the event we cannot accommodate a social distancing mandate due to space and staffing limitations.
In all of our reopening scenarios, we have prioritized mental health and the social-emotional well-being of students. After being away from school for six months due to the global pandemic, we expect there will be a heightened level of anxiety, and students will need to re-acclimate to the daily routines and expectations of school. We are not prepared to share our options at this point as guidance was just released and we have many more logistical items to process. In no scenario do I envision students working from home more than 50% of the time, at worst, unless they need to remain home for remote learning or our region’s infection rate spikes and the state calls for a move to remote learning only.
When plans are finished, including the mandatory elements outlined in the NYSED’s School Reopening Guidance Document, they will be posted on the PCSD website. Updates on the progress of these plans will be shared in my email updates and on the District website at www.pittsfordschools.org.
Parent Survey Results for Reopening Schools
Earlier this month PCSD sent a survey to parents/guardians asking for their input about the reopening of schools in the fall. This perceptual survey was designed to capture the sentiment of our families at the three levels, elementary, middle and high, about their children returning to school in the fall. To review the full survey results, please click here.
Fall Sports Update
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) released a statement on July 16 regarding modifications to the 2020 Fall Sports Season due to COVID-19 considerations. The Officers of NYSPHSAA announced a delay in the official start date of the Fall 2020 Sports Season to Monday, September 21. They also announced the cancelation of the Fall 2020 Regional and State Championships and a tentative plan to implement a condensed season schedule in January 2021 if high school sports remain prohibited throughout 2020 due to COVID-19. The decision also includes waiving the seven-day practice rule, maintaining current practice requirements, encouraging geographic scheduling for games and contests, and giving schools the option, if permitted by state officials, to offer off-season conditioning workouts. To view the tentative condensed season plan and view the full statement from NYSPHSAA, click on this link.
Board of Education Leadership Announced
In addition to the critical work conducted towards the reopening of schools, the PCSD Board of Education held its annual reorganization meeting on July 14. Amy Thomas was re-elected as president, and Ted Aroesty was elected as vice president. Mrs. Thomas is in her fourth term on the Board of Education. She has served as president since 2017 and previously served as vice president from 2016-17. Mr. Aroesty is serving his third term on the Board of Education. For additional Board of Education information, please visit the Board of Education pages of the District website at www.pittsfordschools.org/BOE.
As we progress through the summer and continue to prepare various contingency plans for learning based on what COVID-19 levels may dictate at any given time, I encourage you to reach out with any questions and connect with us via the website, Facebook and Twitter, where updates will be posted as they occur.
Enjoy the weekend and stay well!
Michael Pero Superintendent of Schools