Superintendent's Update - October 23, 2020
October 23, 2020
Dear Garden City School Community,
Last Friday, Board of Education President William Holub and I had the opportunity to meet virtually with parents during a Town Hall forum. We discussed our District’s reopening thus far and listened to the input of those in attendance. This past Tuesday at the Board of Education meeting, we continued our conversation about reopening and heard from additional members of our school community, including students.
Many at the Board of Education meeting, in particular, have expressed their desire for a return to full-time, in-person instruction at the secondary level. We also have heard from numerous parents who are pleased with the current structure and do not want any changes. While parents may have different opinions, I’m sure we can all agree that a return to full-time, in-person instruction is ideal for all students – not only for their academic growth, but for their social-emotional well-being, as well.
Unfortunately, current health and safety guidance from the local and State departments of health, along with the limited space in our secondary buildings, does not allow for this scenario at this time.
With that said, however, we ARE able to gradually increase the number of students allowed in the high school on a daily basis while still adhering to all health and safety guidelines. Our goal is to invite all members of the senior class to return to the high school building on a full-time basis by Thanksgiving.
We believe that our seniors will benefit from attending school in-person every day because they will have more frequent and direct access to their teachers, guidance counselors, the Writing Center and Math Lab, and one another, for example. We are able to welcome our seniors back by adhering to our hybrid – in -school model. Because of space restrictions and current health and safety guidance, we cannot permit full capacity in our classrooms. However, we will make every effort to include as many students as possible in our classrooms for in-person instruction. Students will continue to attend classes with their teachers on their cohort days. Students in the other cohort will attend school on their hybrid remote days in alternate locations in the building and will connect into classes virtually and in person when possible.
High School Principal Kevin Steingruebner will be sending a separate note home to senior parents outlining the plan in full detail. We are hopeful that this plan is a step toward some sense of “normalcy” for our senior class and will provide them with the social-emotional supports and instructional supports that are so vital in their final year of high school.
In addition to our senior class, middle school administration is working on a plan to have our middle school co-taught special education students back to full-time, in-person instruction.
Within the next two weeks, Dr. Nezowitz will be sending more information regarding their return.
The Board of Education, administration, and I will continue to reassess our instructional delivery plan, the current COVID-19 data for our area and current guidance from Nassau County Department of Health and the CDC. This information will help us to determine if we can further increase capacity safely within our secondary buildings. At this time we are going to continue to adhere to the advised six feet guidelines but will monitor and make adjustments based on any new information we receive.
On that note, I do want to alert you to a change in CDC guidelines concerning the definition of a “close contact.” They now define a close contact as “someone who was within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.”
We will monitor guidance from our local health department carefully, as this change in definition has the potential to increase the number of students who must quarantine based on positive COVID-19 cases. Please know that the Nassau County Department of Health continues to recommend the safety measures that Garden City and most districts have in place. As always, we will keep you updated with any developments or change in guidance.
I have also received several communications from parents regarding our K-5 specials. Many parents are disappointed that we do not have a similar specials program as last year. With the challenges of this year, we needed to utilize all special area teachers in order to fully bring back our K-5 students. Due to our building capacity and staffing, we needed to split numerous classes and utilize special area teachers to assist within the classroom setting.
At this time, we are providing our students opportunities in physical education, art, and music through asynchronous activities where teachers are posting lessons within their Google Classroom. Our teachers are encouraged to embed art and music within their lessons. In addition, physical education teachers are providing activities to be utilized during mask breaks. Our principals along with our Director of Physical Education and Athletics and Coordinator of Music and Art are working with teachers to continue to bring these important experiences to our students. We will continue to reassess and strengthen these programs to enrich our students’ experiences. Our K-5 parents will be receiving additional information on specials next week from principals.
Finally, thank you for your continued input and participation. Please enjoy the weekend and stay safe.
Kusum Sinha, Ed.D.