Several summer updates from Supt. Johnson

Summer updates on reopening, staff shifts & more
Posted on 07/30/2021

As we pass the midpoint of summer, I want to share a few critical updates regarding preparations for what we expect will be a full in-person reopening in September.

Work continues this summer to fill staff vacancies. Thanks to everyone involved in the screening process, including staff, parents and students. Below are updates regarding some administrative changes in the district and the recommendation plans for the two administrative vacancies at our Aug. 12th Board of Education meeting. These include the K-12 Director of Instruction - STEAM and the next principal of Rogers Middle School.

You will also read what we anticipate the NYSDOH fall reopening may include based on recent national and international news. Although we don't have a crystal ball, we feel we can confidently set plans and adjust as needed before our doors open for students. Masking is a part of the plan. Until vaccinations are approved and available for children of this age, we must prioritize their safety by still wearing face coverings indoors.

We hope you find these updates helpful and wish you all the best for the remainder of the summer. Stay safe, have fun and read a good book!

Anticipated NYSDOH K-12 School Reopening Guidelines (unofficial)
What you currently see reported nationally and locally is what schools know. There has not been any official guidance from NYSDOH, NYSED or Monroe County Dept. of Public Health (MCDPH). We are aware of the recent update issued by the CDC for the fall reopening of schools (CLICK HERE) and the subsequent statement from the American Association of Pediatrics (CLICK HERE). Combined, we are basing our planning for a full reopening of K-12 schools in-person for September with the following basic assumptions:

  • Must maintain at least 3 feet of distance between students in classrooms and other instructional spaces.
  • K-6: Students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors due to lack of available vaccination. Vaccinated staff may remove masks while working professionally outside the presence of students (i.e., planning and other time).
  • Grades 7-12: It very likely students and staff, regardless of their vaccination status, will be required to wear masks based on the latest CDC update.
  • K-6 students will be seated 6 feet apart during lunch.
  • Grades 7-12 students will be seated 3 feet apart during lunch, with seating areas included that are 6 feet apart for use by unvaccinated students.
  • It is unclear if we can, will or be required to collect proof of vaccination from students/staff.
  • Every school will maintain a quarantine area within their building designated for any unvaccinated person identified with COVID-like symptoms.
  • Continued cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing protocols.
  • No daily temperature checks or health screens.

Please remember these are PROJECTIONS based on the guidance we currently have. We must wait for official guidance to make final decisions.

CURRICULUM & INSTRUCTION UPDATE
During the week of July 12th, a survey was sent home to families to help us prioritize how the district may spend federal funding (ARP ESSER). We had nearly 600 families respond - thank you! The highest priority area was academic instruction, interventions and supports; 90.2% of all respondents felt this was a high (32.7%) or highest (57.5%) priority. Other top priorities were mental health supports (76.1%), social-emotional supports (75%) and professional development for staff (63.8%).

We already have begun to support the highest priority area through our summer programs and professional development. We are holding our typical summer labs and extended school year programs for K-8 students. This summer, however, we were able to enhance these opportunities by reducing the teacher-student ratio during the labs and with the addition of a summer tutoring program. The K-6 summer tutoring program supports students in small groups or 1:1 to strengthen skills and increase student confidence and engagement in learning.

At the 9-12 level, we partnered with BOCES to provide a hybrid summer school for our students in need of credit recovery for Regents courses/exams. Additionally, high school staff was able to provide supplemental support to IHS students attending the BOCES program who struggled in the hybrid learning model. This allowed for students to meet with our staff on the program’s virtual days to receive additional tutoring.

We have also been providing professional development to teachers for academic student support. Ninth-grade teachers engaged in three days of work focused on bridging the transition from Dake to IHS through supporting student executive functioning, content literacy skills and SEL strategies. Teams of grades 5-6 and 7-8 teachers met to develop Humanities and STEAM curriculum to best support gap closure and student engagement. Elementary teachers completed LETRS training to support science-based reading practices.

Additionally, we are hiring more staff as we return to five-day per week instruction in September. We are hiring two additional K-6 Intervention teachers to support reading and math, two additional special education teachers to support our integrated co-taught classrooms, as well as two COVID Transition specialists. Each specialist will be either a school social worker or psychologist at elementary and secondary levels to support increased mental health needs of our students.

We will continue to provide communication on additional opportunities for our students through the federal funds. For example, we will be providing an Intensive Tutoring Program for students in Grades K-12 starting in October. This will essentially be an after-school tutoring program available to our students and will look slightly different depending on the grade level.

ADMINISTRATIVE SHIFTS
In addition to those changes, we’ve made some administrative shifts to better support students at IHS and Dake Jr. High School. Ms. Jennifer Brooker, formerly K-12 Science Curriculum Supervisor, is a new assistant principal at Dake. At IHS, Ms. Barbara Harford is a new assistant principal. Harford was formerly the district’s K-12 Mathematics Curriculum Supervisor. Each veteran educator started in their new roles July 1.

After serving as an Interim Assistant Principal at IHS (grades 10 & 12) last school year, Ms. Casey Nelan will start full-time in that role next week. In addition, Mr. Chuck Miller starts on Sunday, Aug. 1 as the Interim Principal at Rogers Middle School. He succeeds Ms. Michelle Flood, who is stepping down after four years to return to teaching. Mr. Miller was Principal at Iroquois MS for more than a decade before becoming the district’s Data Director. We expect to welcome the new Rogers’ principal Sept. 13th.

CHANGE IN LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT
Last year our district formally recognized the grounds on which our school district buildings reside as the ancestral homelands of Indigenous people of this region. Thanks to ongoing learning by our staff this summer, we discovered the language of our Land Acknowledgment should be altered to improve its accuracy. The new statement, which we expect to be approved at the Aug. 12 Board of Education meeting, will read:

“The West Irondequoit Central School District acknowledges the Indigenous People of this region and that this school district building sits on the homelands of the Onöndowa'ga:´ (Seneca) of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. It is on these lands that we teach, learn, and live.”

FALL SPORTS REGISTRATION
Registration is now open for the fall season for JV/Varsity sports and closes Aug. 16th. It opens for Modified sports tomorrow (July 31) and closes for that group Aug. 23. Fall sports start for JV/Varsity on Monday, Aug. 23rd and for modified football on Aug. 30th. Practices start for other modified sports vary. Go to westirondequoit.org/athletics to register via FamilyID or for more information. Questions? Call the Athletics Office at (585) 336-2936.

In partnership,

Aaron Johnson signature

Aaron R. Johnson, Ed. D

Superintendent of Schools

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