March 25, 2020
Dear South Orangetown Families,
As our administrative team has been navigating Executive Orders and New York State Education Department guidance over the past few weeks, we’ve focused our work on the key priority areas of student nutrition, family supports, health and safety, and equitable access to educational resources and technology for all students.
Please read this entire email, as it contains important information for our families and staff.
Free, grab-and-go breakfast and lunch service for all District children ages 18 and under began on Monday, March 23, in addition to home-delivery of weekly meals. For information, visit the Food Service webpage.
Our District Hotline ([email protected] | new number: 845-680-1090) has been fielding questions from families regarding meal service and home delivery, non-emergency counseling needs, technology support and various other topics related to the closure, Monday through Friday, 9:00AM-2:00PM. The District Hotline will remain in place throughout the closure; calls and emails will be responded to within 24 hours.
Health and Safety
Our custodial and maintenance staff have done an outstanding job cleaning and disinfecting our classrooms and ensuring that our schools remain well-maintained and secure during the closure.
In anticipation of a directive from Governor Cuomo and/or County Executive Day regarding the extension of school closures, we plan to transition to distance learning next Tuesday, March 31.
Prior to our school closure, our building administrators surveyed K-8 students regarding access to technology and/or internet (wifi) at home to support their learning. (High school has had a 1:1 Chromebook program in place for several years.) Based on students’ responses, additional devices were ordered and distributed. If your child does not have access to technology and/or internet (wifi) at home, please contact the District Hotline ([email protected] | 845-680-1090). Vendors have indicated that supplies are low and that new device orders may be delayed.
Distance learning must meet the needs of all students. For our English Language Learners, our English as a New Language team has planned to provide language and learning supports in collaboration with classroom teachers. For students with disabilities and 504 plans, our Special Education Team has worked to develop plans that integrate accessibility supports. Each child’s case manager will remain in place and be the primary contact for our parents and students. Email remains the best way to contact our special education teachers with questions or concerns.
On Tuesday, March 31, teachers will check in with each of their classes to make sure that students are able to access the web-based resources required for distance learning. Students are strongly encouraged to log on to their teachers’ Google Classrooms and/or websites to access learning resources and activities now in preparation for the start of distance learning.
Lessons will begin on Wednesday, April 1. Students should expect to engage in assignments, collaborate virtually with classmates and receive feedback on their work from their teachers. Daily attendance and participation will be required.
Detailed information regarding the District’s distance learning plan, including a parent guide, will be sent to families this Thursday, March 26.
Based on guidance issued to and restrictions placed on school districts by the governor, our 2019-20 school calendar has been revised to ensure that we remain within the 180-day (990/900-hour) requirement. The most notable change is the shift of the April Spring Recess and May 25 (Memorial Day) to cover the period from March 19-30. (The March 20 Superintendent’s Conference Day and two unused snow days were utilized March 16-18.) View the revised calendar here.
Please realize that this revised calendar is based on information we have today and is subject to further revision as additional directives are issued by state officials. May 25 may be restored as a holiday pending New York State clarification.
In terms of school events and activities, our administrative team is reviewing the calendar through the end of April. Please check the School Events and Trips webpage (linked on the Coronavirus webpage under under Communications) regularly for updates.
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I recognize that this is a lot of information to digest. The reality is that there are many critical details for which we are still waiting for guidance, from whether the current closure will be extended and, if so, for how long to what type of distance learning the New York State Education Department will accept toward meeting the 180-day (990/900-hour) requirement. Despite this uncertainty, we are working hard to make the most responsible decisions possible and to communicate them to you as quickly and transparently as possible.
We can no longer wait to move forward. Your continued support and patience is greatly appreciated.
Robert R. Pritchard, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools