Sent via SchoolMessenger on February 23, 2021
Dear South Orangetown Families,
On February 10, I shared that our District was exploring options for returning students to school in-person on a full-time basis this spring and asked our elementary parents to participate in a survey regarding their preferences.
We received 885 unique responses across grades K-5 (76% response rate overall):
- Kindergarten: Out of 176 total students: 111 votes for Option 1, 30 votes for Option 2, 35 did not vote
- Grade 1: Out of 195 total students: 100 votes for Option 1, 49 votes for Option 2, 46 did not vote
- Grade 2: Out of 209 total students: 124 votes for Option 1, 36 votes for Option 2, 49 did not vote
- Grade 3: Out of 197 total students: 93 votes for Option 1, 55 votes for Option 2, 45 did not vote
- Grade 4: Out of 186 total students: 88 votes for Option 1, 39 votes for Option 2, 59 did not vote
- Grade 5: Out of 207 total students: 96 votes for Option 1, 64 votes for Option 2, 47 did not vote
During our survey period, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance for K-12 schools focused on a layered mitigation approach to COVID-19 prevention with an emphasis on masking and physical distancing of at least six feet. To date, New York State Department of Health reopening guidelines remain unchanged.
Therefore, District planning must move forward in accordance with local, state and federal guidelines and maintain physical distancing of six feet, masking and all other health and safety procedures which have been in place since September.
Given these restrictions and the limited space available within our schools, we are planning to return kindergarten students only for full-time, in person instruction starting Tuesday, April 6. Parents will have the option to choose whether their children attend school on a full-time in person or full-time remote basis for the remainder of the school year. Detailed information regarding next steps will be shared with kindergarten parents next week.
Since September, the District has been examining in-person student attendance data to determine the feasibility of creating full-time, in-person learning opportunities on a limited basis within the current hybrid model. Based on class-specific enrollment and the number of fully-remote learners, schools were able to invite students with individualized education plans, those with 504 plans and those receiving English as a New Language services to attend school in person on a full-time basis. Remaining seats were recently offered to hybrid learners in grades K-8 with demonstrated need according to academic, behavioral and/or social emotional indicators, space permitting. Tappan Zee High School students who failed or are failing multiple courses have also been invited to attend school in person on a full-time basis.
Providing our youngest learners with the opportunity to return to school on a full-time basis is the next step in this process. This effort will require reconfiguring spaces and staffing assignments within William O. Schaefer Elementary School to ensure a safe, healthy and productive learning environment.
Introducing our kindergartners to full-time school attendance is our focus. We are all eager–students, parents, teachers and administrators–to return to school full-time. Rest assured that, should the guidance regarding physical distancing requirements change in the weeks ahead, we will reevaluate our capacity to accommodate students at additional grade levels.
Robert R. Pritchard, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools