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Superintendent’s Update, July 24, 2020: School Reopening Plans

Hendrick Hudson School District Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter provides a first look at what school may look like in September. Below are highlights from his July 24, 2020 audio update:

Over the past few weeks, the State Education Department and NYS Department of Health have provided changing and conflicting guidelines for school districts regarding reopening. However, based on recent clarification from the governor, we believe that we finally have some clear guidance.

SED is asking school districts to provide reentry plans that address social distancing, mask wearing, reducing the number of students on buses and in classrooms, meal requirements, reducing hallway traffic, etc. Preparing these plans has been a monumental task, and I would like to thank our team members who have been leading meetings and discussions in getting these plans off the ground.

I’d also like to thank all of our school district families, who have provided input on two recent surveys. We have provided the results from the first one on our website, and we will be providing results from the second, the ThoughtExchange survey, as soon as they are available.

As we plan on a return to school with very stringent, yet appropriate, guidelines, we have divided the task of creating these plans into three work groups: Instructional, Social Emotional and Operational.

The Operational Work Group, led by Assistant Superintendent for Business Enrique Catalan, is working on all required safety measures related to facilities and transportation.

The Operational Work Group will:

  • Redesign classrooms and schools based on guidelines
  • Revise transportations routes based on guidelines
  • Coordinate school breakfast and lunch programs
  • Train and prepare respective staff for cleaning protocols, etc.

The Social Emotional Well-Being Group, led by Executive Director of Pupil Personnel Services Lisa Schuchman and PPS department staff, will make sure the district has plans and supports in place around social/emotional issues for students.

The Social Emotional Well-Being Group will:

  • Identify struggling students and prescribe supports
  • Review and revise related services to students in-school and remotely
  • Identify community-based services to support families, etc.

The Instructional Group, led by Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Margaret Ruller and Executive Director of Educational Support Services Laura Neier, is preparing plans related to scheduling, academic expectations and curriculum.

The Instructional Group will:

  • Strengthen our Digital Learning Program
  • Review all Technology needs
  • Revise Curriculum based on smaller classes in-school and digital learning

Click here to watch the July 8, 2020 Board of Education meeting, during which these three teams presented on their work.

We are building a schedule where all K-5 grade students will return to school in September, Monday through Friday, with normal school hours. However, that may be subject to change, depending on staffing and transportation.

Middle and high school students will be split into two groups (A and B), with each group attending school in person, two days a week. Group A will come to school on Monday and Tuesday, and Group B will come in on Thursday and Friday. All students will receive remote instruction on Wednesday.

The student experience at both the middle school and the high school will be a little different. Both schools are putting together a block schedule, which will reduce classes and transitions and help reduce traffic in the hallways. It will also provide some additional academic focus for students, as they will only need to prepare for three or four courses on their days in school.

Principals Jim Mackin and John Owens are continuing to work with their teams on these plans, and specifics will be available much later in August. However, we wanted to give parents to an understanding of what they and their children can expect at the middle and high schools.

We are still awaiting guidance with regards to parents who choose not to send their students to school in September. The current guidance is ambiguous, and we are seeking further clarity.

Students who are medically frail or have other medical needs may be eligible for remote instruction, and the district will handle those cases on an individual basis.

Transportation will be available, with capacity greatly reduced on school buses and masks mandated.

Masks will also be required in classes when students cannot be six feet apart. The district will provide masks to students and staff who forget to bring their masks to school.

We still have a number of questions before we can finalize our plan, but it is really important that parents understand, conceptually, what they and their children can expect.

The state has given schools a deadline of Friday, July 31 to submit our plans and post them on our website. Once our plan is complete, we will provide you with a link to review it.

Please remember that the state also considers these plans to be a work in progress, and remain flexible, and we will make adjustments as we see fit. However, this provides families with as much info as possible.

We know families have a lot of questions, and throughout August, we’ll host a series of feedback meetings, virtually, and post FAQs as we do our best to get everyone’s questions answered.

We know there is a lot of anxiety, frustration and stress right now, and we share many of the same emotions. Please know that we are all in this together. Our teams have been actively engaged, and your input in the surveys has been a tremendous help and in some ways allowed us to move even quicker through this planning process.

Please be aware that, particularly regarding the K-5 schedule, we may need to adjust the schedule and add a remote day on Wednesdays for school/bus cleanings and teachers’ professional learning. Nothing is set in stone at this point, but these schedules are what we believe we will be able to execute and should allow our families to begin to make appropriate arrangements and plans.

We are working with childcare providers and Mother Connection to see if they have any additional needs or space requirements.

We feel good about where we are at this point. We’ve networked with many of our colleagues in the region and New York State, during this unprecedented time. We are basically rebuilding our schools from scratch under very specific time constraints.

We will continue to send updates through email and post them on our website. We’ll use the month of August to reconnect with our families and go through the plan in greater detail.

This community has always rallied together to support its schools and students and this is no different, and we thank you for all of your involvement and understanding.

Click here to listen to the audio update: 07-24-20 Audio Update