• Update: June 19th, 2020

    This will be our “last” regular update in this format. Over the last four months, we have sent out over 88 pages of information, data, poems, eLearning updates, wellness resources, and more. Of course, we will continue to communicate about restart efforts and other important information throughout the summer in various formats. For our last edition, we will cover Juneteenth, congratulatory messages to our students and families, budget vote and election updates, and some thoughts on eLearning and feedback. Enjoy!

    Juneteenth: 

    On June 19, the United States recognizes the holiday Juneteenth. Also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, Juneteenth celebrates the day that the last enslaved African Americans in Texas were freed approximately two and a half years following the Emancipation Proclamation. There are many celebrations regionally today, and I encourage you to participate as you are able. Here is a list of activities in and around NYC.

    More resources on Juneteenth:

    https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-is-juneteenth/

    https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/juneteenth-birth-african-american-holiday-2/

    https://www.juneteenthny.com/

    You can also watch a short animated video about Juneteenth by clicking on today’s photo above the search field on Google’s home page (today only).

    Congratulations to SHS Seniors and those who are “Moving Up”:

    We want to recognize and celebrate the Scarsdale High School Class of 2020. You have been sources of joy, inspiration, and achievement not only through this unusual year, but throughout your years in the District. We will miss you, but know you have great futures ahead, ones that will continue to impact and influence our society and world. 

    To our 5th and 8th grade students - we also want to congratulate all of you. This represents an especially important year for you, as you begin your transition to Middle School and High School, respectively. We hope you have a wonderful summer, and look forward to seeing you (hopefully, in person) in September.

    To Everyone: We Made It!:

    To say this year has been “unique” and “challenging” does not fully capture what we have collectively experienced over the last four months. The events of the year have caused real and lasting toll on all of us--physically, emotionally, financially, and otherwise. Our kids have been deprived of many traditional experiences, and we, as educators and parents, suffered their disappointment alongside them. However, through these months we have also seen the best of our students: they have risen to challenges educationally, accepted and overcame emotional loss, and ultimately, they made the best of a bad situation. Additionally, in true Scarsdale fashion, many of our students actively worked to better our community, whether helping family members or neighbors, organizing community events, or taking on national issues through activism. It is safe to say that not a day went by without a teacher or administrator highlighting our students practicing non-sibi! So, I would like to congratulate all of our students, families, and staff on successfully completing the 2019-2020 school year! Enjoy the summer months ahead!

    2020-2021 School Budget and New School Board Members:

    The Scarsdale school budget passed with 78% percent favorable vote, ensuring that we can continue to offer the Scarsdale education and experience that our families and community expects. I extend a heartfelt thank you to the full community for your enduring support of our schools and children! 

    Congratulations are also in order for Robert Klein and Amber Yusuf for their election to the School Board. We look forward to working with you over the next three years!

    eLearning and the Role of Feedback:

    Beyond partnerships with colleges and universities for high-level blended learning courses, eLearning was new to Scarsdale at the onset of the pandemic. Early during the process, we knew that a feedback loop involving all members of the Scarsdale learning community was key. When seeking constructive feedback from students, teachers, and families, we have focused on two essential questions: (1) What has been most effective about eLearning? (2) What has been most challenging about eLearning? 

    Through a multi-pronged process, we received information on a variety of topics including effective instructional methods, student wellness, curricular adaptations, workload, technological platforms, and scheduling techniques:

    • Scarsdale families were surveyed in March and May to determine how eLearning was being received in households across the District K-12. Between the two surveys, we received over 1,000 responses from families; 
    • We held focus groups, received feedback directly with parents through email, zoom, and Board of Educations discussions; 
    • Building leadership teams engaged parents in ongoing discussions about eLearning and transferred that feedback across the District; 
    • Students at the secondary level were surveyed about their successes, struggles, and feedback on teaching methods;
    • Focus groups for secondary students were held at the Middle and High School;
    • An elementary Q & A webinar was held with students representing every grade from Kindergarten to fifth grade; and
    • (Most importantly), students provided teachers with regular and direct feedback about their engagement, difficulties, and breakthroughs. 

    This input has been and will continue to be the subject of ongoing professional dialog throughout the process. The sudden need for experimentation and innovation necessitated new structures to be established for teachers to collaborate and share resources, strategies, struggles, assessment tools, technologies, and teaching methods. At the High School and Middle School, the department and team structures have provided opportunities for feedback and sharing. At the elementary level, we created designated grade-level collaboration time during the week, and three planning days in which students were engaged in wellness activities, a celebration of specials, and a virtual field day. The products created by our faculty through these collaborations have become dynamic artifacts that have provided essential guidance, and are pointing us toward more robust structures and practices should eLearning need to continue next year. 

    While none of us would have chosen this instructional environment, we are grateful to our students, parents, faculty, and administration for engaging so thoughtfully in this forced experiment. We are committed to using this experience, in conjunction with the feedback and reflection, as a catalyst for our restart planning. 

    Warm regards and best wishes for the summer ahead,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    June 11th

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    Today’s update will cover our current restart planning and information released by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) about its first COVID-19 Task Force Meeting.

    Restart Planning:

    COVID 19 has caused one of the most impactful health crises in modern times, as we end the 2019-2020 school year we must look to September. Scarsdale Public Schools are committed to thoughtfully planning out the restart of school that adheres to our mission and principle while maintaining the health and safety of students, staff, and the community. We have developed a structure to include voices from all of our stakeholders to assure our plan has a broad understanding of the needs of students, faculty, staff, administrators, and families. We have seen schools around the world starting to reopen and all of these schools have opened with some level of social distancing, reduced capacity, and/or hybrid learning models. These examples are instructive but ultimately our plan will need to be based around the guidance we receive from New York State. Governor Cuomo has indicated that some level of guidance will be released in June, but aside from that, the State has not given us an understanding of what types of restrictions would be in place. With that being said, Scarsdale schools will implement any State guidance in a way that aligns with our educational philosophy and keeps meaningful connections for students and high-quality instruction at the center.  

    Given the situation, we are using a scenario planning process to identify, weigh, and develop potential solutions to the challenges that social distancing, in any form, creates for the school environment.  

    The Scenarios:

      • Face to face learning is allowed with:
        • Social distancing requirements in place
        • Reduction of large group activities (restricting group size to a class group)
        • Development of schedule structures to reduce crowding on arrival and dismissal and class to class transitions
    • Hybrid Learning
      • Reduced capacity allowed for face to face learning 
        • This could be 50% capacity with rotating days of attendance
        • This could be a restriction to small groups (10 students or less) 

    • Distance learning 
      • No allowance or extremely limited allowance of face to face learning 

    These scenarios include assumptions that we will work to keep student groups as static as possible and develop strict health and safety procedures to reduce the risk of transmission. The scenarios are drawn from paradigms used in other countries, the current CDC guidelines, and interpretation of how NYS’s business reopening restrictions could be applied in a school setting. While none of these scenarios may be completely in line with the eventual guidance, the concepts and ideas from any or all of them will be transferable and aid us in not only developing a final plan but, allowing us to adjust more quickly should the situation change during the next school year. 

    The Structure:

    This work could not be completed without the input from all stakeholders including faculty/staff, parents, and administrators. We have developed a steering committee structure with task-specific groups to take on this work. Here is how the groups are structured:   

    restart committee structure

    Each of these groups has representatives from the PTC, faculty/staff, building administrators, and Central Office.  

    The Steering Committee will task each of the groups to work through specific challenges and develop specific plans for implementing the health and safety restrictions, while also maximizing the ability to provide a school experience as close to normal as possible. Our groups will meet regularly throughout the Summer to assure we are ready to open in September.  

     

    The Timeline:

    As a District, we are committed to providing the community with an understanding of our restart plan as far in advance of September as possible. That being said, this planning is complex and very dependent on when the State provides guidance. Our initial timeline is as follows:

    Early June: provide the community with an understanding of the process and general timeline (this communication)

    Mid-June: launch a Web presence to be regularly updated with information around reopening

    June 22nd: presentation to the Board of Education on the initial work of the Planning Committees

    Mid-July: Progress report 

    • General understanding of the reopening plan (if State guidance has been received)
    • Progress report on scenario planning (if State guidance is not received)

    Early to Mid-August: Full Plan Release

    Complexities and Expectations:

    As we started thinking about the restart of school, it quickly became apparent that the process is fraught with competing needs that are often in opposition to one another. In a recent meeting at the High School, teachers framed some of these tensions well; this dialogue serves as an example of the realities of our current situation. 

    We want to know now what we are doing for September...

    but

    ...the world may look quite different on 9/1 or even 8/1.

    We want to make a definitive decision...

    but

    ...the State Education Department has been slow about sharing guidance.

    We want to get back to physical school...

    but

    ...we want to do it safely.

    We want to be safe...

    yet

    ...as we structure what seems to be “safe” we also want to preserve as much as we can of the usual SHS experience.

    We want to get back to physical school for all of the social and emotional positives that we value...

    but

    ...we don’t want to go back just to go back, if what we have to do to go back is worse, educationally, than distance learning.

    We know that education happens better in person...

    yet

    ...we are unlikely to create a scenario that will preserve all we value.

    We are unlikely to create a scenario that will preserve all we value...

    so

    ...we will experience a sense of loss as a community about some aspect (or many aspects) of the new normal.

    We want to build on other school districts’ experiences from around the world as they experiment with opening...

    yet

    ...we recognize that each district has unique qualities that make wholesale parallels somewhat unuseful.

    We want to design a reopening that can translate  into a fully online experience at a moment’s notice (if health issues multiply)...

    and

    ...we want to design a reopening that can translate into something much more closely resembling “normal” school (if health issues diminish).

     

    It is important to note that even when we return to in-person schooling, the experience will not be the one we experienced before the pandemic, and some of the things we value will look and feel different for all of us. However, together we can and will develop a plan that creates an environment that is as safe as possible, maximizes opportunities for students, understands the realities for educators, and acknowledges the needs of families. This is easily written, but in practice, it will require fundamental changes in the way we operate, the willingness to compromise, and, most importantly, compassion for each other. There are challenges ahead, but there are also opportunities. The whole of our community is equal to the task. 

    NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force Meeting

    Yesterday, Wednesday, June 10, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) held its first meeting of its COVID-19 Task Force.  Below are some excerpts from their press release which can be found here.

    The Task Force is comprised of school district superintendents, high school principals, athletic directors, NYSPHSAA officers, as well as a representative from the New York State Athletic Administrators Association, an athletic trainer, a district transportation director, and members of New York State Education Department and New York State Department of Health.

    During their meeting, the Task Force heard reports and updates from the Governor Cuomo’s office, the New York State Education Department, and the New York State Health Department pertaining to the COVID-19 crisis and the impact it has had upon education and the reopening of schools. NYSPHSAA President and Task Force Chair, Paul Harrica stated, “From the reports provided, it is clear school district facilities cannot be opened for student participation until Phase 4 is entered. The health and safety of our student-athletes remains our top priority.”

    On Friday, the Task Force will release guidance pertaining to on-campus summer conditioning workouts as well as an update to its Frequently Asked Questions document that NYSPHSAA released on May 7th. School districts are encouraged to get acclimated with CDC and local health department guidance as well Governor Cuomo's restrictions, local laws and policies.

    The Task Force also discussed and examined the result of a COVID-19 survey, distributed by NYSPHSAA, to gather a statewide perspective on the impacts and potential response to the COVID-19 crisis; roughly 6,000 athletic directors, administrators, and coaches submitted responses to the survey. Results of the survey can be found here.

    The next meeting of the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force will take place at the end of this month with a date and time to be announced next week.  We will keep you updated as information becomes available.

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    June 9th, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    Today’s update will cover updated Budget Vote and Election information, SHS graduation changes, Scarsdale schools annual retirees, and information on tomorrow’s District-wide elementary Virtual Spirit & Field Day.  

    Budget Vote and Election Information:

    As many of you likely know by now, the Governor issued an Executive Order yesterday that extends the timeline for submitting ballots. The language amends sections 2018-a and 2018-b of the Education Law.  It allows Districts to accept hand delivered ballots until Tuesday June 9, 2020 at 5pm. It further allows Districts to count any ballots received by mail through June 16, 2020 at 5 p.m. In anticipation of this announcement, on Sunday evening we created a plan to have a lockbox collection container in the Brewster Road Lobby of SHS, starting yesterday morning. This collection box will be available until 5 p.m. on June 9th. All other ballots will need to be received by mail by 5 p.m. on June 16th. There is still some confusion that ballots need to be postmarked by a certain date or time, but this is not the case. 

    We will begin counting the votes at or shortly after 5 p.m. on June 16th. We will have a short Board meeting on that day to announce the vote counting. At this juncture, we are not anticipating finishing this work on the 16th, and it is very likely that the counting will continue on June 17th. Once the votes are all tallied and verified, there will be a virtual Board meeting to announce the official tallies and certify the vote. We will be sending out more information in the days ahead on the specific process that we will be using for the count. We will also be streaming the full process. As we have been planning for the last month for this vote to occur tomorrow, this is obviously a big pivot for all of us. We appreciate everyone’s patience through this unfolding process. 

     Scarsdale High School Graduation Changes by the Governor:

    It has been reported that the Governor will allow graduation ceremonies to occur with restrictions. As there is not yet an Executive Order on this change, our tentative understanding comes from the news media; specifically, they have reported that graduation ceremonies may occur, starting June 26th for up to 150 people total. This comes with the provision that social distancing and PPEs will be used by all attendees. In anticipation of an Executive Order, Mr. Bonamo and the High School Senior Events Committee, who have been overseeing this work to date, are exploring options to provide High School seniors with a “live” graduation experience. Naturally, many questions are being raised about other, in person, ceremonies. At this point, there has been no indication from the Governor that he intends to broaden this exception beyond high school graduation. As with so many other issues, we will keep the community informed as we learn more. 

    Scarsdale Retirees Honored at Last Night’s Board Meeting:

    The following 10 retirees were acknowledged and recognized by the Board of Education and District at last night’s Board meeting:

     

    Retiree

    Position

    Location

    Years Service

    Syl Morrone

    Computer Aide

    Edgewood

    14

    Maria Valentin

    Social Studies Teacher

    High School

    18

    Vicki Presser

    Public Relations

    District

    18

    Josephine Accarino

    Teacher Aide

    Greenacres

    22

    Laura Estersohn

    Math Teacher

    High School

    23

    Luisa Gionta

    Teacher Aide

    Greenacres

    25

    Thomas Maguire

    Social Studies Teacher

    High School

    31

    Rene Lund

    Special Education Teacher

    Middle School

    32

    Heidi Kaplan

    Math Teacher

    Middle School

    39

    Elaine Dobrydnio

    Teacher Aide

    Edgewood

    40

     Here were some of my words excerpted from a longer statement: “To sum up an entire career in a few words is no easy feat, and you, as a collective group of retirees make that task particularly difficult. You have given us your work lives as trusted colleagues. You have inspired students and colleagues in immeasurable and indelible ways. You have taught us many life lessons through your actions and deeds. You have exemplified the best of public education, and the best that Scarsdale has to offer. When someone does this consistently for a handful of students, we call them a good educator. When one does this for several years with hundreds of students, we call them an expert. When one commits their life’s work to this, and shapes the lives of countless students, we proudly call them a Scarsdale retiree. And tonight, you are all a part of that special family.”

    June 10th District-Wide Elementary Virtual Spirit & Field Day

    The Elementary Physical Education and Health Department have been planning a virtual field day for our five elementary schools. Accordingly, the day will celebrate wellness, physical health, and Scarsdale spirit. This special day will begin with a live Zoom session, organized by school building and grade level as communicated in your child’s weekly schedule. Students will have the opportunity to participate in 15 different teacher-demonstrated challenges. All challenges are “by choice” and allow for students to participate to the extent they are comfortable. The activities will go live tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. and will be accessed here at:  https://sites.google.com/scarsdaleschools.org/elementary-field-days-2020/field-days-home. While our young learners are getting their bodies moving, our teachers will engage in a professional day focused on preparation for summer learning, curriculum adaptation, and the re-start of school.

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

     

    June 7, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    Tonight’s special update is in response to the anticipated Executive Order coming out later this evening by Governor Cuomo which is expected to include an extension of the school budget and election voting timeline. 

    School budget and school board election ballots will now be accepted by hand-delivery through 5pm on June 9th, or received via mail through June 16th. A collection box for hand delivery of ballots will be located inside the Brewster Road entrance of Scarsdale High School from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, June 8th and Tuesday, June 9th. Upon arrival, a Safety Monitor will greet you and direct you to the location of the locked collection box. As a reminder, there will not be access to any other portion of the building, and only the Brewster Road entrance is open at this time. Please remember that masks are required to enter the school building and social distancing should be maintained at all times.  

    As with other orders, there are many details that are not yet known. We will be providing more updated information as it becomes available.

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    June 5, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    Today’s update will cover information regarding the upcoming budget and election vote, an eLearning update, and the June 10th District-wide elementary Virtual Spirit & Field Day.  

    Budget Vote and Election News:

    We have had a number of questions regarding the upcoming budget vote and election. The Governor complicated matters even more today when he announced that there may be new and different guidance on ballot deadlines. Unfortunately, we won’t know if there are changes until sometime on Sunday. In the meantime, here is some additional information on questions we have received:

    Ballot Drop-Off 

    The Executive Order 202.26 provides specific language for mail in ballots and is silent on providing other means (such as drop boxes) to return ballots. In an abundance of caution, we are strictly adhering to the language of the Order.

    Oath Envelope Language 

    There is a discrepancy between the Executive Order and the oath required by Education Law §2018-a. The language on the oath envelope is prescribed by Education Law §2018-a, and the Executive Order does not permit the District to modify the statutory oath. The Executive Order does say that all voters are deemed to be unable to appear in person due to COVID-19 without the need to submit an application. Therefore, the text on the oath envelope stating that the individual will be unable to appear at the polling place is accurate. 

    Ballot Canvassing and Counting 

    According to our attorney, the District can begin the process of canvassing and counting of the absentee ballots earlier than 5:00 p.m. on June 9th for the following reasons: Executive Order 202.26 does not designate a formal time for when votes cast by absentee ballot must be counted. Additionally, under ordinary circumstances in annual school budget votes and elections, when ballots are cast by machine during the time polls are open, the machines are effectively “counting” each ballot (for or against a budget proposition and for each candidate listed on the ballot) as it is cast. By using poll workers to count each ballot, the District is simply substituting human “counters” for machine “counters.” 

    Privacy Concerns 

    As with every other year, the identity of the voter cannot be discerned by the election inspectors who are counting the ballots. When each oath envelope is opened, the folded ballot will be removed and separated from the oath envelope and then placed in a pile. When the election inspectors then begin counting the ballots, they will take them from the pile, and unfold them. At that time, there will be no way for the election inspector to know from whose envelope the ballot was removed. This is the same procedure that is followed for canvassing absentee ballots in all annual election and budget votes. 

    Process Observers and Community Involvement

    Unlike other years, our usual poll workers are not able to be utilized due to the current health situation. This has required the District to identify certain District employees as essential workers to count the ballots. These employees are drawn from our non-faculty and non-administrative staff. We are only permitted by the current Executive Orders to have essential workers on site, and not community members or others; however, as an interested community member, you can observe the process in two ways: The first, is to attend (via Zoom) the Board of Education Meetings during the day that will open and close the polls and, eventually, certify the vote. The links will be provided in a separate email. A second way to participate is to “observe” the live stream of the count process through our District website or cable channel 77 (SPS-TV).   

    eLearning Update

    Since our transition into eLearning, we have gone through various iterations in our expectations for our students, families, and teachers. There have been several BOE and written communications that have outlined our process and progress. In order to give you quick access to our guiding principles, updates, and feedback methods, we have gathered all of our information in one place. Please use the direct link below for immediate access to our eLearning website. This link lives in the Curriculum dropdown menu on the District’s website under “K-12 eLearning”: www.scarsdaleschools.org/elearning

    June 10th District-Wide Elementary Virtual Spirit & Field Day

    The Elementary Physical Education and Health Department have been planning a virtual field day for our five elementary schools. This special day will include 15 different teacher-demonstrated events beginning with a live Zoom session by grade. Accordingly, the day will celebrate wellness, physical health, and Scarsdale spirit.  While our young learners are getting their bodies moving, our teachers will engage in a professional day focused on preparation for summer learning, curriculum adaptation, and the re-start of school.

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    June 2nd, 2020
    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    I live in Harlem. One of the reasons I made this choice is because of the diversity of this area. Like many other places, the streets of Harlem are filled with protests right now. Thankfully, most of them are peaceful. That is not the case for many other parts of New York City or the rest of the United States for that matter. People are angry, hurt, frustrated, and afraid.

    After months of quarantine from one plague, we find ourselves, once again, confronting another: the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, along with the recent threat against Chris Cooper in Central Park. Of course, these are the stories that have become mainstream, they hardly capture the daily lives of so many who are regularly subjected to bias, prejudice, and violence because of the color of their skin, gender, sexuality, religion, disability, and the like.

    We have been thinking about issues like these for some time here in Scarsdale. In fact, at the beginning of the year, we asked everyone in our schools to do goal-setting in advance of our students' arrival, encouraging our teachers and administrators to be very intentional about how to create a safe and inclusive school communities in which all students feel welcome. This was predicated on the recognition that belonging is a basic human need—one with powerful implications and potentially significant ramifications, both for the disenfranchised and those around them. 

    As a subset of generational groupings, underrepresented individuals particularly struggle for validation and inclusion. Research has shown that minorities utilize “masking” and “code-switching”, for example, to hide or conceal their full identity in order to fit into the perceived mainstream. In fact, nearly 79% of African Americans and 83% of LGBTQ individuals use these practices regularly to assimilate into work, school, and community norms. And perhaps the most concerning aspect of this need to hide in plain sight, is that more often than not, it happens unintentionally and unconsciously, suggesting that our need to fit in is somehow baked into our DNA or, at least, into our survival instincts. 

    Beyond the wear and tear on the soul and psyche, prejudice and bias are deeply destructive forces to both the individuals affected and the communities in which they live. Intensifying this issue is our current socio-political environment, that not only allows for, but in fact, seems to encourage divisiveness and the demonization of otherness. When stereotyping and marginalization regularly comes from social and mainstream media, the entertainment industry, and even governmental offices, it legitimizes and normalizes objectifying and dehumanizing differences, making our work of creating open and welcoming communities all the more difficult. However unfair as it may seem, like so many other societal issues, it has become the responsibility of schools and educators to reestablish the norms of acceptance and inclusion on which our democratic society truly depends.

    What We Can Do?: Being Informed Is the First Step

    As educators it's not only important to discuss and understand these issues, but also to teach our students to be engaged citizens and exercise their civic duty to stand up for the rights of all people. Below are a number of resources compiled by our local BOCES  to help you understand multiple perspectives on race, riots, and social injustice and more:  

    75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice, by Corinne Shutack

    Standing Up To Racism Then and Now, by George Takei

    Dear White People: Let's Not Continue To Be Our Ancestors, by Natalie McCabe Zwerger she/her/ella

    Double Jeopardy: COVID-19 and Behavioral Health Disparities for Black and Latino Communities in the U.S. (link for PDF), SAMHSA

    Talking Tips for Black Parents Discussing the Riots, by Janice Robinson-Celeste

    Teachers Must Hold Themselves Accountable for Dismantling Racial Oppression, by Kelisa Wing

    Why Teaching Black Lives Matter Matter - Part I, by Jamilah Pitts

    Why Talk About Whiteness?, by Emily Chiariello

    Young Black People Are Killing Themselves, by Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler

     

    How to Talk to your Child About Race and Other Issues Related to Current Events in the News:

    We have been asked by several parents about resources that they might suggest to help talk to their children about race. WBUR in Boston published a list of resources that can help parents and teachers talk to their children about racial issues. Here are three of the news links that were shared:

    CNN: “How to talk to your children about protests and racism” - “As cities and social media explode with anger over the killing of yet another black man at the hands of police, worried parents struggle with how to protect their children from seeing the worst of the violence while simultaneously explaining the ravages of racism.”

    Chalkbeat Colorado: “Moments like now are why we teach’: Educators tackle tough conversations about race and violence - this time virtually” - Planning lessons on criminal justice reform for the fall — both in-person and remote, in case school buildings don’t reopen."

    USA Today: “George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What do we tell our children?” - “Should we tell the children? How?” Those are among the many questions parents are asking after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. 

    Scarsdale educators don’t shy away from complex issues, including difficult topics involving prejudice, discrimination, and institutionalized bias. Whether in brick-and-mortar class, or eLearning, students engage in the essential work of understanding, investigating, and confronting equity, access, and social justice in all its many forms. This work is ongoing in our educational settings, and will continue to be an important priority moving forward. 

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    May 27th, 2020

    Good Evening Scarsdale Families,

    Hopefully this note finds everyone in the community remaining healthy and enjoying this warm Spring day. In today’s update, you will find a video about this year’s budget, information about on-line perils for children, the Child mind Institute Survey, and Community Support groups by Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling.

    Video on Budget Vote: Get to Know the Facts:

    This year, due to the current pandemic, the school budget process has changed, all voting will be done by mail.  All registered voters will receive ballots in the coming days which must be received (not postmarked) by June 9th to be counted in this year's vote. Ballots will be accepted by mail only. 

    As you receive ballot information and prepare to vote, please make sure you are as informed as possible. Take a few minutes and watch the short--four and a half minute--video from my Cabinet on some important aspects of the budget. Additionally, you can find detailed budget and voting information at www.scarsdaleschools.org/voterinfo. On behalf of the entire District, I cannot stress enough how important it is to vote.

    Protect Your Children Online During the Pandemic:

    During the continued COVID-19 stay-at-home period, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office is calling on parents to be extra vigilant about their child’s online and mobile activity on social apps like TikTok and Instagram. Because of their added time online with schools closed, children, especially their tweens and teens, may be at increased risk of cyber bullying, sexual exploitation, scams, and other forms of digital abuse.

    In recent weeks, DA’s Cybercrime Bureau and criminal investigators have been made aware of a number of incidents in our area where young people have posted content or entered into online relationships that are sexual in nature via social media platforms including TikTok, Instagram and the gaming chat app, Discord. Others have been flagged for taking part in online scams and the dissemination of hate messaging. The FBI has reported an uptick in reported incidents. 

    The DA also added, “We are calling on parents to actively supervise and monitor their children’s usage and become familiar with popular apps, such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, interactive gaming platforms and chat rooms.”

    Parents can learn more about how to protect their children from potential online exploitation or bullying at Netsmartz.org, a service of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) or the Department of Justice.

    Child Mind Institute Survey--Children’s Experiences during COVID-19:

    After review and consultation with some of our school psychologists, we think it worthwhile to invite all parents and caregivers in the Scarsdale Schools community to participate in the Child Mind Institute’s research study focused on the experience of our children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participation is entirely voluntary, and no personally identifiable information is requested. The survey contains roughly 60 questions, and takes between 10-20 minutes to complete. If you are interested in participating in the study, please click on the following link and complete the survey: Click here

    Community Support Groups by Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling:

    Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service (SEFC) is offering no-fee support groups for Scarsdale and Edgemont adults affected by the COVID19 crisis. Groups will be arranged by both need and topic and will be facilitated by SFCS’s professional mental health staff. 

    The groups will be offered via video in four-week sections. Please be aware that groups will be limited to eight participants and last for 75 minutes so that each member will have time to participate. Both day and evening segments will be offered. Pre-registration is required. SEFC topics, meeting times, and contact persons are included below. 

    Topic I: Parents of Elementary Age Children

    Parents of K-2nd Grade Children:

    Beginning May 28th 2020: Thursdays- 1:00 – 2:15 PM & Thursdays- 7:00 – 8:15 PM

    If interested, please contact Shirley Azoulai, LMSW at sazoulai@sfcsinc.org

     

    Parents of 3rd & 4th Grade Children:

    Beginning May 27, 2020: Wednesday 3:00 - 4:15 PM & Wednesday 7:00-8:15 PM

    If interested, please contact Susan Panarella, LMSW at spanarella@sfcsinc.org

     

    Topic II: Family Members of Healthcare Professionals and First Responders

    Beginning June 1, and June 2, 2020: Monday 12:00- 1:15 PM & Tuesday 7:30-8:45 PM

    If interested, please contact Eric Kelly, LMFT at ekelly@sfcsinc.org

     

    Topic III: The Sandwich Generation (Caring for aging parents)

    Beginning May 26 and May 27, 2020: Tuesday 7:00- 8:15 PM & Wednesday 1:00-2:15 PM

    If interested, please contact Maryellen Saenger, LMHC at msaenger@sfcsinc.org

     If you are interested in participating in a group topic that is not listed, please contact: Jay Genova, LCSW at jgenova@sfcsinc.org

     

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    May 21st, 2020

    Good Evening Scarsdale Families,

    Today’s update will focus on the end of year calendar, end of year activities, and eLearning update.

    End of Year Calendar:

    Tonight, we are sharing a revised calendar outlining how we will end the 2019-20 school year. Below you will find a listing of the new end of year dates and activities. The schedule reflects our understanding that the Governor’s Executive Orders have overreached existing collective bargaining agreements that outline the number of workdays in a school year. Based on the opinions of both the New York State Council of School Superintendents and NYSUT, and comments made by members of the New York State School Boards Association, we believe we now have clearance to deviate from the original calendar. This revised calendar has been discussed with the full Administration, the Scarsdale Teachers Association, and the Board of Education in advance of sharing with the public.

          Revised Schedule:

    • June 18 - Last day of eLearning for students

    • June 19 - Elementary moving up events

               Middle School 8th grade event

    • June 22 - Faculty Planning Day

                    Rain date for ES and MS events

    • June 23 - HS Graduation

    • June 24 - Faculty Planning Day

                    Rain date for HS Graduation

    The plan above reflects an effort to arrive at a calendar that allows for student celebrations to occur for grades 5, 8, and 12; provides for planning time to tackle high-priority items in anticipation of reopening school in September; and honors the contractual number of work days for the STA (185) by ending remote learning first, then winding down two days earlier than planned to account for the loss of the April 13 and May 22 vacation days. The revised calendar accomplishes these goals by:

    • Identifying a uniform day District-wide for our 5th and 8th graders to have experiences that mark the end of an important phase of learning. The elementary experience will take place in the morning, while the middle school experience will take place in the afternoon. (further details about these events will be shared by your principal)
    • Scheduling graduation activities in such a way as to provide ample room for a make-up day, if necessary due to inclement weather.
    • Providing for two planning sessions (June 22nd and 24th) to engage in activities that will allow us to anticipate the 2020-21 school year and various possible scenarios.
    • Abiding by the contractual number of teacher days (185) by offsetting the two vacation days removed from the calendar by eliminating June 25 and 26 as teacher work days.
    • Eliminating our typical half-days for students (June 22-26), and making them staff-only days.

    It is our hope that you will understand and appreciate the revisions, and be able to plan for the rest of your year accordingly. 

    An eLearning Silver Lining:

    Dr. Marty Brooks, Director of the Tri-State Consortium, emailed regional superintendents recently with the following observation that bears mentioning. He wrote, “In the discussions I've had with many educators in Consortium districts, as well as what I've been reading, students are learning about self-regulation, perseverance and the allocation and use of time, and new technology applications. They are engaged in activities, some assigned by their teachers and others created by themselves, that demonstrate creativity and require critical thinking. They are exploring topics of interest not normally covered in school and learning how to conduct research on their own. They are identifying and solving meaningful problems encountered in their daily lives. They are using their imaginations to keep themselves occupied, both cognitively and physically. They are learning about collaboration and redefining relationships with family members. They are learning how to be good citizens by following social distancing guidelines. And, they are learning how to deal with fear, loneliness, uncertainty, disappointment and other factors that affect their social-emotional well being.”

    We know that in ways this has been a difficult time for students, families, and educators. We also know there will likely be content gaps due to remote eLearning. However, it is important to take stock and consider what important skills and dispositions students are learning during this unprecedented time that will continue to be important life skills. 

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    May 19, 2020

    Good Evening Scarsdale Families,

    Today’s update will focus on the budget vote ballot-related materials, the New York State Regional Dashboard, eLearning, and the status of Scarsdale Village summer camps. 

    Ballot-related Mailer and Other Information:

    We have been asked what our anticipated mailing schedule is for ballots and other materials related to the budget vote, scheduled for June 9, 2020. This is our anticipated schedule: introductory postcard - 5/21; Insight - 5/27; ballot package - 5/28; six-day postcard - 6/1. It is important to note that these are the days they will leave the publication house to be dropped off at the White Plains Post Office for processing. From there, they will be sent to the Scarsdale Post Office for distribution. We estimate that it will take another day or two to arrive in Scarsdale residents’ mailboxes. 

    Regional Dashboard Monitoring for Re-Opening New York:

    The Governor’s Office has been utilizing seven metrics in its deliberations to re-open New York State. We have been using the following dashboard (click here) to keep abreast of the latest changes. As you notice from this chart, five of the 10 regions are ready to, or currently in the process of, opening with five still making steady progress. This dashboard is updated every few days, so feel free to check back for updates on the  progress in each region.

    eLearning Update:

    Independent and asynchronous work continues to be an essential part of our education eLearning plan in Scarsdale. These posted assignments, taped lectures, and projects are important ways teachers can provide content, solicit feedback, and assess learning. We think most students and parents understand the purpose of this work. Having said that, there do seem to be some continued questions about the various forms of synchronous learning (or “live learning”) configurations students are engaged in throughout the District. The following is a list of different types of synchronous learning formats teachers are using, along with a description of their purpose:

      • Whole Class Lessons - This type of configuration gives the teacher an opportunity to interact with the entire class at once. The purpose can be to present a lesson, launch independent work, provide a time for student presentations, and engage in a whole group discussion. 
      • Small Group Lessons - This type of configuration gives the teacher an opportunity to work with smaller groups of students within a class to differentiate instruction, target content, and allow more student to student conversations. 

     

    • Split Group and Breakout Rooms - This configuration starts as a whole group lesson and then the teacher divides students into smaller sections to be facilitated by students. This hybrid form of large and small group configuration encourages student leadership, open conversation, and positively imitates a successful learning structure from in-person classrooms. After the break-out rooms, groups usually return to the large group for a share-out and summary. 
    • One-on-One - This is a one-on-one conversation or conference with a student and serves multiple purposes including individualized instruction, academic and wellness check-ins, and personal assessments. 

     

      • Morning Meetings, Afternoon Reviews -This type of configuration imitates a preview and review meeting of an in-person classroom. Teachers can use Morning Meetings to go through the upcoming day or week, preview expectations for assignments, and launch the day. An afternoon review provides an opportunity for a check-in, reflection on assignments, and an opportunity for student sharing. 

     

    • Problem-solving Routines - This experience provides students an opportunity to focus on complex problems as a group and share, explain and debate solutions. 
    • Question and Answer Periods - This open format provides a live opportunity for students to ask questions of their teacher and each other. The questions can relate to assignments, schedules, or anything that require teacher support.

     

    While each method is clearly distinct, each one of these synchronous formats gives teachers a wide and diverse set of tools to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of students. The formats will vary depending on student needs and learning goals. Teachers are continually working with their teams, grade levels, and building administrators to plan for, evaluate, and adapt their instructional methods and modalities. 

    Scarsdale Village Summer Camps Cancelled:

    Earlier today, the Village of Scarsdale announced that their annual Summer Camps (Camps Sagamore, Lenape, Wapetuck, Pathunke, Sports, Soccer, Teen Travel) will be canceled. To quote the press release, “Because of current restrictions imposed by NYS, the Westchester County Department of Health is unable to issue the necessary operating permits at this time. That, in combination with the amount of preparatory work and investment necessary to make the camps safe and successful, leaves us no alternative but to skip the 2020 Summer Camp season. We remain optimistic, however, that our weeklong camps may be offered in August or sooner.” The full press release from the Village can be found here

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    May 14th, 2020

    Good Evening Scarsdale Families,

    Today’s update will focus on the Board’s adoption of the budget, elementary report cards, and bringing school gardens to Scarsdale homes.

    Board of Education Adopts 2020-21 School Budget:

    The Board of Education adopted the 2020-21 School Budget in a unanimous vote of 7-0. The following resolution was passed: RESOLVED, that the sum of One Hundred Sixty Two Million, Six Hundred Ninety-Six Thousand, Three Hundred Sixteen Dollars ($162,696,316) shall be appropriated to meet the estimated expenditures for school purposes for the school year 2020-21, and that the Board of Education is authorized to levy the necessary taxes to meet the same. The projected tax rate increase to the Town of Scarsdale will be 1.5%; For the Town of Mamaroneck, it will be 2.31%. 

    The School Budget process this year will not be like past years. Voting will take place through mail-in ballots only, with ballots due to the District (not postmarked) by Tuesday, June 9, 2020, at 5 p.m. All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots, along with postage-paid return envelopes. A postcard notice will be sent to every qualified voter detailing the Vote date; the date of the Budget Hearing; the definition of a qualified voter; and the notification that the Vote will be by absentee ballot only. If a qualified voter has not previously registered to vote with the District or the Westchester County Board of Elections, they can complete and submit a request for an absentee ballot by going to the Voter Information page on the District website at www.scarsdaleschools.org/voterinfo.

    Additional information will be sent out shortly providing additional information and directions.

    Elementary Report Cards:

    A representative group of elementary teachers, administrators, and special area educators met yesterday to discuss adaptation to the end of the year elementary report card to reflect the complexities of eLearning. This team includes the voices and perspectives of grade level representatives from all elementary schools, Art, Music, PE, FLES, specialists, building administrators, curriculum coordinators, and District leadership. As we have adjusted our learning expectations, we are also working to modify our report card to both reflect our current learning environments and provide meaningful information to students, families and next September’s receiving teachers. We are in the process of synthesizing the feedback and discussing important revisions to format and content. 

    Bringing School Gardens to Scarsdale Homes:

    At the elementary level, we are all missing our gardens! There is good news, though. We are working with our outside garden partner, Kaleidoscope Garden Design (KGD) to video-stream and teach lessons in our elementary gardens to share with all families. The lessons are aligned with our learning goals, will be filmed in our actual gardens, and will involve an extension activity to reinforce the objective of the lessons. Here are some exciting examples of the themes and activities that students can expect. We are very happy to keep our garden growing and the learning alive during this time. 

    Kindergarten

    Theme:

    Life in a Garden

     

    Activity:

    Dinner Plate, Plant Inventory

     

    Extension:

    Discuss with your family all the names of plants in one of your dinner meals.  Draw a picture of each plant and label.

    1st Grade

    Theme:

    Life Cycles / Plant Growth

     

    Activity:

    Plant a seed and observe its growth

     

    Extension:

    Open your pantry and look for dried peas, beans, or quinoa seeds.  Plant in a cup with soil. Record observations, make a journal of your seed's growth.

    2nd Grade

    Theme:

    Garden Community (Plant and Animal Interactions)

     

    Activity:

    Decomposer Observation

     

    Extension:

    Lift up a rock or small log in your yard or a park. Observe the organisms you see. Draw a picture of three and make a voice recording of the ways the animals help plants. Share with your teacher

    3rd Grade

    Theme:

    Energy / Water Cycle / Math (geometry)

     

    Activity:

    Energy

     

    Extension:

    Sunlight provides the energy that people need to function.  Describe how the garden is involved in this process with a diagram and voice recording.

    4th Grade

    Theme:

    Ecosystems / Compost / Garden as Community

     

    Activity:

    Community-building

     

    Extension:

    Research "community gardens." The produce grown in your garden is going to be donated to a local food bank? Describe three other ways a garden can build community?

    5th Grade

    Theme:

    Sustainability and Community

     

    Activity:

    Important Garden People

     

    Extension:

    Search online databases and "meet" a famous gardener. Write a brief synopsis of that person and how they helped their community.

     

    Speaking of gardens, today is a beautiful day to be outdoors. If you haven’t already, try to find some time to visit a garden or take a walk. Fresh air, warm temperatures, and beautiful scenery can do wonders for the mind and body.

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    May 12, 2020

    Good Evening Scarsdale Families,

    Today’s update will provide updates on National Limerick Day, eLearning, and formal planning to restart school.

    National Limerick Day!:

    Observed annually on May 12th, National Limerick Day celebrates the birthday of English artist, illustrator, author, and poet Edward Lear (May 12, 1812 – Jan. 29, 1888). Lear is known mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry, prose, and limericks. The day also celebrates the limerick poem. Limerick poems were popularized by Edward Lear’s book “Book of Nonsense” in 1846. A limerick is a very short, humorous, nonsense poem. Within a limerick, there are five lines. The first two lines rhyme with the fifth line and the third and fourth line rhyme together. For an extension of your daily learning, try writing one today!

    Some Limericks to inspire you: 

    There was a young lady named Bright

    who traveled much faster than light.

    She set out one day

    in a relative way,

    and came back the previous night.

    --Unknown

     

    A flea and a fly in a flue

    Were imprisoned, so what could they do?

    Said the fly, "let us flee!"

    "Let us fly!" said the flea.

    So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

    —Ogden Nash

     

    Is Algebra a fruitless endeavor?

    It seems they’ve been trying for ever

    To find x, y, and z

    And it’s quite clear to me:

    If they’ve not found them yet, then they'll never.

    --Graham Lester

     

    eLearning Update (a Focus on Specials):

    May 6th was a productive planning day for elementary classroom teachers, and special area teachers spent the day collaborating in the areas of feedback, engagement, and assessment. There are complexities for our specialists during eLearning. In normal times, classroom teachers build their calendars around special teachers schedules, and in this time of eLearning, the opposite is true. Since Phase II, our Health & Physical Education, FLES, Art, and Music teachers have worked closely with building administration to build in their class times around established classroom synchronous schedules--no easy feat! 

    During the course of the day, a recurring theme arose: our special area teachers were committed to increasing the consistency, engagement, and level of participation in their activities. They crafted the following statement to share:

    “The elementary faculty specialists in the areas of Health & Physical Education, FLES, Art, and Music are dedicated to maintaining the Scarsdale standard of excellence in learning during this unprecedented time. As we continue to adapt instruction to the current eLearning environment, we remain focused on and committed to teaching, serving, and growing the Whole Child. The special areas eLearning curriculum is providing our students with creative, cultural, and academic experiences as well as a focus on social and emotional health and physical wellness. Therefore, student participation in core special subject lessons, both asynchronous and synchronous, is essential and is an expectation during this time. As a district, we continue to be sensitive to the unique circumstances and challenges experienced by some of our students and families who require flexibility during distance learning. We encourage you to reach out to building administration and our staff for any support that you may need. elementary special areas content can be found on your building’s distance learning homepage.” 

    As we continue to refine our practice, it is essential we remember that no area of our curriculum is “extra.” We are committed to nurturing well rounded students, even at this unique time. We believe that the arts, physical education, FLES, and music also allow our students to expand their learning in different and important ways. 

     

    Stated as a Limerick:

    Music and Art are essential

    FLES and PE build potential

    To miss them is tragic

    Because they are magic

    Indeed, they are far from tangential.

     

    Restart Planning:

    The District is fully committed to returning to school once the Governor deems it is safe to do so. We are committed to creatively planning ways to both keep our students safe while providing them with the most enriching experience possible. It is important to note that at this time, there is no guidance from New York State with regards to the opening of school in the Fall. The Governor has said that schools will need to file reopening plans for approval, but the requirements of those plans are yet to be announced. In the absence of this guidance, it is reasonable to assume there will be a significant level of restriction required upon reopening. To that end, the District has and will continue to plan for various scenarios informed by school and business practices inside and outside of the United States.   

    Over the past weeks the District has been working to explore possible scenarios and develop the structures we will use to plan the restart of school in September. Next week, the Scarsdale Restart Steering Committee will convene for the first time, and will formally discuss the process for developing a reentry plan. The Steering Committee will be comprised of administrators, teachers, and parents. This committee will be supported by ten task specific groups to facilitate planning in  athletics, building operations and instruction, communications, facilities, food service, human resources, medical/nursing, mental health, technology, and  transportation. Each of these task specific groups will consist of appropriate administrators, teachers, parents, and consultants.  These groups will work to identify challenges with social distancing and develop recommendations for the Steering Committee to consider. Initially, these groups will focus on an assumption that State restrictions will significantly limit group sizes, interaction, and physical proximity. As the process unfolds, we will periodically update the community, but the final plan will be heavily dependent on the eventual State guidance which is not expected in near future.

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    May5th, 2020

    Good Evening Scarsdale Families,

    John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Today’s update calls out special recognition to our faculty, both today and throughout the week.

    Today’s update will also provide updates on Wellness Wednesday, eLearning, Athletics Department community building, and Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.26. 

    Appreciation for Faculty, Nurses, and Other Service Providers:

    I would like to thank and honor our teachers as part of National Teacher Appreciation Day today, and National Teacher Appreciation Week, which started yesterday and extends throughout the entire week. It is also National Nurses Appreciation Day on Wednesday the 6th. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to each of them, along with our deans, psychologists, counselors, and other service providers, for the substantial and important work they do on behalf of our students and families every day.

    Wonder...Wander…Wellness...Wednesday:

    Due to popular demand, elementary students will have an opportunity to participate in unique eLearning activities tomorrow. On this special day, students will be provided with a catalog of activities from the District Central Office team focused on exploring the world around us, arts and culture, and personal wellness. Parents of elementary students can look for an email later today with more details.

    eLearning Update [From Dr. McIntosh]:

    As we review feedback from our elementary families, we appreciate the communications of support and encouragement as we move through this unique time. There are also continuing questions about differences across classes,  assessment of learning outcomes, the balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities, and the cohesion of practices across the District. 

     Ultimately, our elementary educators are looking at five essential questions regarding eLearning:

    1. How are the instructional methods, resources, and curriculum materials meeting the learning objectives for our students?
    2. How are we measuring learning?
    3. How are we connecting with our students to support their Social-Emotional Learning/Wellness needs?
    4. How are we creating multiple opportunities for real-time meaningful feedback and interaction throughout the week (i.e. synchronous)?
    5. How do we ensure that our practices are sustainable over the long term for students, families, and teachers?

    Because elementary eLearning is a new frontier, we are learning from outside experts, adapting previous lessons to fit into this mold, collaborating with colleagues, and rethinking the delivery of instruction. Freedom to experiment with a variety of platforms and methods have created a learning laboratory that is lifting all our practices. The effort has been tremendous. Most teachers are working beyond any traditional school days, many into the weekend. 

    We also recognize that elementary parents are partners in this work. We realize that several members of our community are in stretched and stressed positions and that families and students may need accommodation. This pandemic has also directly impacted many of our educators, requiring support and flexibility. This has and will continue to require creative substitutions, flexible schedules, and an enhanced sharing of resources. 

    Here are some expectations for our ongoing collaboration and growth in the days ahead:

    • There will be more sharing of resources across teachers in the District through structured and spontaneous meetings,  STI (Scarsdale Teacher Institute)  meetings, and responsive ST@Cs. (Small targeted workshops led by and for teacher/administrators) 
    • We will continue to explore enriched, multiple, and flexible use of synchronous learning platforms. One size does not fit all needs and synchronous engagements with students can include:
      • Whole class lessons 
      • Small group lessons 
      • Split group and breakout rooms
      • One on one 
      • Morning meetings, Afternoon reviews
      • Problem-solving routines
      • Question and answer periods
      • Live interactions in documents
    • Synchronous platforms can go well beyond Zoom and can include Google Hangouts, Facetime, collaborating using chat features on docs, and phone calls. 
    • Ongoing collaboration will result in more cohesion of effective practices (both synchronous and asynchronous) across the District. 
    • There will be cohesion of content, skill, and concept coverage of essential learning objectives through alignment work by grade. This work has already begun by teachers and curriculum leadership.  

    While these patterns emerge, what will remain is that each classroom teacher will be using their educational judgment and ongoing learning to address the five essential questions above with their building administration and with guidance from District leadership. As would normally be the case, building leadership and curriculum leaders will work directly with teachers on how they are meeting the needs of their students. And while no two classrooms will look exactly the same, the standards and expectations for learning are grade-aligned. 

    Planning is underway at the middle and high school as well: 

    May 13th, The middle school faculty will use the time to identify ways to support students in transition, both between buildings and grade levels. This will include how we transition our incoming 6th-grade students into the middle school and how we bid farewell to our 8th-grade students.

    May 8th, High School: Teachers will be working within departments and by grade-level and course teams to plan, adapt, and prioritize curriculum and assessment for the remainder of the year. 

    Feedback at all levels is important. A follow-up survey will be sent out to Scarsdale families at the end of this week. 

    Athletics:

    The Athletics Department is currently planning end-of-the-year activities to recognize our spring and senior student-athletes.  More information will be sent soon, as plans materialize. 

    Last Saturday night at 8:20 P.M. (20:20 military time), the Athletics Department reposted our Coaches’ Video Message in recognition of our student-athletes and the cancelled spring season. For the rest of the school year, each Friday evening, at 8:20 P.M., the Athletics Department will post a video message on Facebook (@scarsdaleathletics), Instagram (scarsdaleathletics), and Twitter (@ScarsdaleRaider). The message will be replayed at 8:20 P.M. on the following Saturday. The purpose of the message is to unite the community, compelling all of us to think about a singular theme that has emerged from dealing with COVID-19, and all of the ways it has affected our lives. This week’s theme is adversity. Between now and the Friday evening post, please think about the ways in which adversity has shaped your life, and how adversity has a unique way of revealing the character of people. Mostly, think about overcoming adversity and how that creates the opportunity to grow in positive ways when facing it. 

    To that end, we are taking this opportunity to define what it means to be a Scarsdale Raider, especially in this time of such adversity. Last week, we shared a questionnaire with some student-athletes to get started. Now we are reaching out to all students and faculty. At this time, you will need to be signed into your scarsdaleschools.org account to provide input. If you are so inclined, please use the following link to submit adjectives that you would select to describe the quintessential Scarsdale Raider.  https://forms.gle/yDqNTmqEz34KBeux8

    Executive Order 202.26 [Excerpted from my comments at last night’s Board meeting.]:

    As many of you know by now, on Friday, May 1, 2020, the Governor signed Executive Order 202.26. Obviously, the biggest news for school districts is the directive for New York State schools to remain closed for the remainder of the school year with remote learning continuing through that time. With this news, comes some certainty for our planning purposes, but also many questions. The District is engaged in dual processes of planning for the remainder of this school year, and creating a re-entry plan for the future. We understand that students, teachers, and parents alike have many questions with respect to both processes. The most pressing concerns and plans will address the remainder of this year, including picking up and returning items from school, moving up ceremonies, graduation and other high school plans, and a host of other issues. We are working on enterprise solutions to these questions, and we will be sharing them out in the near future as these plans are solidified. We know that this announcement also brings considerable grief to many, especially students who were looking forward to end of the year traditions and celebrations. We are deeply saddened by this turn of events, and are actively seeking out ways to celebrate these important milestones.

    Last Friday’s Executive Order also addresses the 2020 annual meeting, school board election, and budget vote. Some highlights of this new EO includes the date of the school board election and budget vote which will now be June 9th. The vote must be conducted only by absentee ballot. All qualified voters will receive postcard notices that will detail the Vote date and the budget hearing date.

    In addition to postcard notices, every qualified voter will be sent an absentee ballot with a postage paid return envelope. This year, absentee ballot applications are not required. However, a request form to register for an absentee ballot will be available on the District website. Moreover, school board candidate petitions do not require a minimum number of signatures this year in order to be listed on the ballot, although candidates must still satisfy all other requirements, including submitting the candidate petition by email to the District Clerk, Honore Adams, no later than May 11 at 5:00 p.m.

    As you can see, there are a lot of details to work through, and very tight timelines in which to do so. I am sure that there are many questions from the community on these proposed changes, and we are still awaiting clarifying guidance on many aspects of this announcement. We ask for patience as we work through these details. We still welcome questions and comments, understanding that we may not have all the information needed to answer or address them at this juncture.

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    May 1st, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    Breaking News: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo just announced that the State’s schools and colleges will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year and will continue distance learning to curb the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

    Cuomo said State officials don’t believe schools could develop a plan to reopen that would keep students and educators safe in time. He said a decision on regularly scheduled summer school will be announced at the end of May. 

    In the meantime, he said he’s asked the State’s school districts to develop a reopening plan. 

    “We want schools now to start developing a plan to reopen,” Cuomo said. “The plan has to have protocols in place that incorporate everything that we are now doing in society and everything that we learned.”

    If April showers bring May flowers, then we should all be surrounded by blooms in the weeks ahead! Today’s update will focus on the significance of May Day, a reminder that May is mental health awareness month, and how to get tech support for eLearning issues/needs.   

    Happy May Day!:

    May Day is a celebration with a long and varied history. Throughout the years, there have been many different events and festivities worldwide, most with the express purpose of welcoming in a change of season (spring in the Northern Hemisphere). In the 19th century, May Day took on a new meaning, as an International Workers’ Day grew out of the 19th-century labor movement for worker’s rights.

    In the earliest days, the Celts (of the British Isles) believed May 1 to be the most important day of the year, when the festival of Beltane was held. This May Day festival was thought to divide the year in half, between the light and the dark. When the Romans took over the British Isles, they brought with them a five-day celebration known as Floralia, devoted to the worship of the goddess of flowers, Flora. Taking place between April 20 and May 2, the rituals of this celebration were eventually combined with Beltane.

    The Maypole Dance is another popular tradition of May Day. While the exact origins of the maypole remain unknown, the annual traditions surrounding it can be traced back to medieval times when villagers would enter the woods to find a maypole, set it up in the middle of town, and design festivities of merriment around it, such as dancing around the pole with colorful streamers and ribbons.

    The maypole never really took root in America, where May Day celebrations were discouraged by the Puritans. But other forms of celebrations did find their way to the New World. During the 19th and 20th centuries, May Basket Day was celebrated across the country: baskets were created with flowers, candies, and other treats and hung on the doors of friends, neighbors, and loved ones on May 1.

    The connection between May Day and labor rights began in the United States. During the 19th century, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, thousands of men, women and children were dying every year from poor working conditions and long hours. On May 1, 1886, over 300,000 workers across the country staged a walkout that resulted in a series of clashes, protests, riots, and massacres. Eventually these led to workplace transformations, including a standardized 8-hour work day, recognition of weekends and holidays, and a variety of safety and other measures that recognized the value of, and protections for, workers.

    [Citations: History.com]

    May is Mental Health Awareness Month, #4Mind4Body (from Psychology Today):

    Approximately one in five adults in the United States, 43.8 million, or 18.5%, experiences a mental illness in a given year and approximately one in five youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental health disorder at some point during their lifetime. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%. Mental illness is not prejudiced; as mental health disorders affect men and women of all ages, races, and social classes. Since 1949, the month of May has been observed as Mental Health Month in the United States and many national organizations such as NAMI, Mental Health America, and other affiliates spotlight Mental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and to stop the stigma associated with mental health disorders. The theme for this year’s Mental Health Month is Fitness #4Mind4Body, meaning that health is an all-encompassing matter and we must take care of our minds just as much as we take care of our bodies. Mental health is important for our physical health and vice versa. A well-balanced diet, a healthy sleep schedule, exercise, gut health, and hydration all affect our mental health and our physical health equally. 

    Technology Support:

    The computer teachers, computer aides, and members of our technical support staff have been working with students and parents during normal school hours to help with eLearning device issues, as well as support related to remote learning platforms and video conferencing. Note that issues related to questions about assignments or student work should be directed to classroom teachers.

         Elementary: If you have an elementary school child who has trouble connecting to Zoom or other technical issues, the problem can be reported on this form. Once completed and submitted, a ticket will be sent to our District’s computer aides and tech team, who will respond to the issue.

         SMS: 6th and 7th grade Middle School students can access an app on their iPads called 1:1 Support where they can enter a tech support ticket. If they click it, it will take them to an online form, and their response will be automatically emailed to our District’s tech team. For Middle School students who do not have an iPad (8th graders), they can use the following link to fill out a tech support request: Middle School Tech Support Link.

         SHS: Students should email the Head Computer Teacher, Meredith Dutra, at mdutra@scarsdaleschools.org, and she will route the request to the appropriate person on the District’s tech team.

    As we enter into the first days of May, we are reminded of May Day and Intеrnаtіоnаl Wоrkеr’ѕ Dау, but other important dates lay ahead, including the 2nd Sunday оf Mау, which is celebrated as Intеrnаtіоnаl Mоthеr’ѕ Day. Students may want to use the weekend ahead to spend time in the garden or start planning something to celebrate mom!

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman


    April 29th, 2020 

    Good Afternoon Scarsdale Families,

    Today’s update will provide some uplifting student poetry from Heathcote students, an eLearning update that includes a special day for elementary students next week, and national recognition of our Wellness Week.

    Heathcote Poetry Week:

    From Principal Maria Stile: “We are thrilled to continue our tradition and be able to share it with you!

    This link will lead you to poems written by our students in grades K-5th.”

    https://sites.google.com/scarsdaleschools.org/heathcotegateway/poetry-festival

    Here’s just one from a 4th grade student to remind us that poetry is everywhere, even if we can’t always see it at first:

    Poetry Hides

    Poetry Hides in my head behind my clouds of thoughts.
    It hides in my notebooks in the drawers.

    Poetry Hides in words, sounding smooth or bumpy.
    It hides in every word that I speak.

    Poetry Hides in my family,
    And the books on the bookshelf too.

    Poetry Hides in my life, as it sits and wonders.
    It can hide anywhere.

    Enjoy all of our beautiful student poems and remember, tomorrow is Poem in Your Pocket Day!

     

    eLearning Update: 

    Due to popular demand, elementary students will have an opportunity to participate in unique eLearning activities on Wednesday, May 6th. On this special Wonder…Wander…Wellness...Wednesday, students will be provided with activities from the District Central Office team focused on exploring the world around us, arts and culture, and personal wellness.

    During this day, teachers will be engaged in day-long professional sharing and planning activities focused on curricular coherence and the sharing of effective practices. The purpose of this planning is to align learning expectations, and enhance and develop the District-wide practices in eLearning (synchronous and non-synchronous).

    Wellness Week Published in National Education Periodical: 

    As part of a series of articles highlighting the creativity of teachers during this challenging time of COVID-19-related school closures, the District was contacted to submit our creative teaching efforts during Wellness Week. The article, Creativity in crisis: How to hold a virtual wellness week, offered some samples of student work, illustrated the diversity of sessions, provided reflections on wellness and social emotional learning, and focused on connectedness. It was published last week in District Administration. You may find the article here:  https://districtadministration.com/wellness-sel-social-emotional-online-learning-classes-scarsdale-new-york/

    Later this week, we expect to hear guidance about school reopening from the Governor and we will share that news once we are able to process its implications for Scarsdale. As we enter our eighth week of closure, we recognize that nerves are fraying and frustrations are mounting. I want to take a moment to remind everyone we are in this together (reach out if you need us)! I encourage you to lift up those around you, find things to be grateful for, and call out people who are doing good things on behalf of our students, families, and community!

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman 

     

    April 21st, 2020

    Good Afternoon Scarsdale Families,

    What does advocacy, the earth, and play have in common? Well, first and foremost, you! As voting citizens and parents, we depend on you to advocate for your children and their schools. With the expected State budget shortfalls next year, this support is paramount and requires your immediate attention. We also depend on you to value the planet and the many resources on which we all depend. We also ask for your assistance to instill values of conservation and sustainability in the leaders of tomorrow: your children (and our students). And finally, we depend on you to be partners in the important work of educating your children (now more than ever!). Play is a critical component of that work as it is an essential ingredient in both academic and interpersonal maturation. 

    The second thing advocacy, the earth, and play have in common is that they are subjects of today’s Daily Updates. Enjoy!

    Advocacy Request from the Board of Education:

    The Board of Education needs your help to ensure Scarsdale continues to receive government financial aid to support our schools.

    In this unusual time, we must not only work to procure more public education funding, but we must guard the aid that has already been pledged to us. As part of the FY 2020 New York State Budget, the Division of Budget may now alter school aid packages at multiple points in the year. At our April 20, 2020 meeting, the Board agreed to ask the community for their participation in our advocacy efforts to secure federal funds to meet the state shortfall.

    We need Congress to approve additional funding to New York to fill the gap in the State budget and to protect the education of our children. To that end, our regional Westchester Putnam School Board Association has put together an advocacy letter for our community members to send to federal legislators, asking them to advocate for financial support from the Federal Government to ensure our State can continue to support public education.

    Please go to the following link, click on the box that reads “Federal Funds Needed for New York State,” read the Message Body, enter your information under Compose Your Message and hit the send button. It should only take a few minutes and will automatically send this important message to our representatives: Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representative Eliot Engel.

    CLICK HERE TO SEND ADVOCACY LETTERS

    Thank you for your continued support.

    Earth Day Reminders-Because Everyday Should Be Earth Day:

    Earth Day is a day when millions of people across the world come together to promote a cleaner, safer environment. Earth Day is held every year on April 22. The 50th anniversary of Earth Day was celebrated yesterday! But, of course, everyday should be considered Earth Day.

    The History of Earth Day starts with Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who is considered the “founder” of Earth Day. Nelson’s idea evolved over a seven-year period beginning in 1962 and resulted in the first Earth Day being held on April 22, 1970. The first Earth Day drew together more than 20 million Americans and became the largest grassroots demonstration in U.S. history. Participants took to the streets, lobbied Congress and began the modern environmental movement. Earth Day 1970 helped develop public support that led to the enactment of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The rest, as they say, is history. 

    Things You Can Do Everyday to Celebrate Earth Day include:

    • Reduce, reuse and recycle.
    • Conserve water.
    • Carpool, bike, walk, and ride the bus.
    • Use a reusable bag when you go shopping.
    • Find pollution solutions.
    • Drive Smart: Don't Idle.
    • Compost food and yard waste.
    • Keep storm drains free of trash.
    • Put litter in its place.
    • Adopt -a-Beach, -a-Lake, -a-Park, or -a-Stream.
    • Water your lawn only when it needs it.
    • Dispose of hazardous substances properly.
    • Research Environmental Grants for Your School or Business.
    • Be a Champion of the Environment and animal welfare.
    • Donate food to food banks and charities.
    • Buy earth-friendly products and material.

    From NYSED, Office of Early Learning: The Value of Play (excerpted):

    Play is an important component of early childhood that supports children’s healthy growth and development, particularly during the sensitive learning period between birth and age eight. Often described as children’s work, it is the primary vehicle for discovery, creativity, joy, and practice. Children have an inclination to play, and the role of play in providing a foundation for cognitive skill development, building children’s sense of belonging, and working through complex social and emotional scenarios has been studied extensively (e.g., Miller, 2009, Gray, 2011, Gilliam, 2006, & Singer, 2012). 

    During play, children are actively seeking and using skills such as negotiating, improvising, communicating, critical thinking, problem-solving, taking risks, sharing ideas, perspective-taking, creating, and learning from mistakes. The value of play for these reasons has sparked a renewed emphasis on its importance in all early childhood settings, including the early elementary grades. As schools grapple with instructional shifts to support 21st century skills, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a clinical report supporting play as a vehicle to attain such skills, stating that, “Play is fundamentally important for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity, which require the executive functioning skills that are critical for adult success”. 

    Though the importance of play is understood by many parents and educators, the nature of and opportunities for play have shifted significantly over the last two decades. The convergence of technology-based toys and games, highly scheduled and fast-paced family lifestyles, narrowly focused curriculum, increased adult-structured activities, perceived risk of play environments, and limited access to play spaces have contributed to reducing children’s opportunities for the types of play that foster 21st century skills and support their acquisition of healthy social and emotional skills (Singer, 2012). 

    This lack of play seems to be having lasting negative consequences, including rising rates of anxiety, depression, and problems of attention and self-control (Gray, 2011, Miller and Almon, 2009). For these reasons, it is more important than ever for parents and educators to rethink how play can serve as a powerful teaching tool across the birth-through- age-eight learning continuum. Play is essential for healthy development and academic success.

    Sudden and dramatic changes to our lives inevitably invite reflection. In turn, this leads us to reevaluate and prioritize values. When we do this as an entire community, we find that kids and their happiness, the vitality of our environment, and social connectedness--especially for children--re-emerge as foundational priorities in our common experience.

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    April 21st, 2020

    Good Afternoon Scarsdale Families,

    Last night we had a Board Meeting. For those of you unfamiliar with the format, it usually begins with opening comments from the Board President and myself. Since my comments focussed on students primarily, I wanted to share an excepted version of them again here:

    “...Tonight, I’d like to focus my remarks on our students. Adjectives that have become commonplace in describing this pandemic include unprecedented, challenging, uncertain, and scary. Although they are certainly accurate, they also don’t tell the full story. Each week brings days with high’s and low’s for all of us. For many of us adults, it hinges on the health of loved ones, the daily news, our own job status, the stockmarket’s peaks and valleys, and how our own kids and families are holding up.

    Our students are no different. As parents and educators, we notice children struggling with the lack of normalcy, routines, and peer interaction. We see them grapple with the complexity of doing what they must, often in the absence of what they want and, quite frankly, need. But, I do not want to focus on the half-full glass tonight because that doesn’t do service to the strength and resilience of most of our students. 

    There is ample evidence that constraints make us more creative. When put in a box, we are forced to think outside of it, imagining creative escapes and outlets. Wisdom tells us that the more constraints there are, the more creative we must become to overcome them. That means that challenging times create incubators for innovation. The more pressures put upon us, the more crucial, urgent, and vital the solutions become.

    In a sense, every crisis raises the question, Why? Why did it happen? Why didn’t I see it coming? Why can’t things be like they were? But, the real question, the one our students have been contemplating is, How? How can we fix it? How can we create viable options? How can we make the best out of it?

    In the past few weeks, our students have continued to reveal their creativity, innovation, and commitment to non sibi. Very early on in this crisis, students came forward wanting to create and donate masks and gloves to local hospitals and medical organizations. They have also been sponsoring food drives for local area food banks. There are also many stories about students creating care packages for friends, family, and neighbors. And, of course, they have been providing support and encouragement to their families and siblings, as they are able.

    Academically, our students have been active participants in both regular academics and those that support their physical and mental health….last week students not only deeply engaged in a myriad of activities provided during Wellness Week, but they often extended them to include friends and family members. Some artifacts of the week were incredible projects that highlighted our students creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. One such example is the art project, A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words--Now Recreate It, in which over 2,000 students reimagined famous art works using family members and household items. And, many of them were brilliant interpretations!

    Beyond regular school and volunteer work, our students have also been pursuing passion projects, including the creation of documentaries and eJournals to memorialize their current pandemic experiences. The HS Maroon Magazine continues to publish important news, now in a digital format. Jabberfest, the brainchild of the Scarsdale High School publication Jabberwocky, has just released virtually. And, student birthday parties locally are being celebrated through social-distancing, car parades, and yard signs. All of these are terrific, out-of-the-box ideas to make the most of our current reality.

    Individually and collectively, our students continue to inspire me with their hope, perseverance, and creativity. While we can all recognize the loss and sacrifice we have experienced in recent weeks, our students also remind us how to stand ready to confront and overcome any obstacles put in our way.”

    eLearning Update:

    At last night’s Board Meeting members of the Superintendent’s Cabinet provided an update on eLearning. The agenda included the following: Updates Since Last Report (Wellness Week, Survey Results, Phase II review); Evolution of eLearning, K-12 (Schedules & Attendance, Essential Learning Outcomes, Synchronous Opportunities); District Long-Term Planning; and Lessons Learned. The presentation can be viewed here.

    Highlights from Wellness Week:

    The overview of Wellness Week included a description of the development process and an analysis of participant reflections. It is important to note that Wellness Week was conceived, teacher-sourced, and constructed in one week. Over 125 teachers and administrators provided 57 live sessions and 23 asynchronous activities. Student participants provided over 9,000 responses, and an overwhelming number of those responses were positive. In addition, the District was nominated to share the Wellness Week development and implementation in a national, professional publication. 

    Each participant was asked to complete a daily reflection after attending three daily sessions. A total of 9,199 reflections were received. An initial, qualitative analysis revealed the most common words used within the reflections. This word cloud demonstrates that participants really enjoyed the workshops, especially those around yoga and meditation.

    A deeper review of the reflections showed a trend in the selection of topical areas. The five most frequent were:  meditation/mindfulness, yoga, scavenger hunts, read alouds, and art. Reflections were also analyzed for words that placed value or demonstrated benefit for the participant. The top ten values and benefits that were found were fun, like, wellness, interesting, relaxing, good, great, different, and favorite. A quote that epitomizes the positive responses is:

    “My experience today was enlightening. I thoroughly enjoyed the activities I participated in today, and feel much better about the coronavirus and this hard time we live in right now. The light-hearted activities that the teachers have made provided me with insight as to dealing with the struggles of quarantine. It's difficult to feel connected to others, but with this wellness week thus far I feel closer to the school community as a whole, and the activities give a chance to feel like something larger than myself. 

    Highlights on the Evolution of eLearning:

    In the area of curriculum adaptation, it should be noted that teachers are engaging in the wholesale transformation of their pedagogy to restructure units and lessons into new forms, formats, and applications. This requires new learning, experimentation, trial and error, and collaboration on a massive scale. A significant portion of that work is currently aimed at manipulating the content, both so that it “fits” into an eLearning modality and that it also reflects realistic learning goals. At the current time, teachers are working together grade by grade with administrators and curriculum/department leadership to align expectations for content attainment, skill development, and concept acquisition. This is important as we round out this school year and plan for a cohesive transition to the next school year, whether that is virtual or in “brick and mortar” school.

    Re-entry Planning:

    In addition to the work to ensure an aligned and coherent curriculum, the District is also actively planning for the eventual return to the buildings, which calls for a continued focus on health and facilities preparations. The State has yet to determine when, let alone how, students and staff will return to the buildings. Despite this, we anticipate that the return, either later this year or next, will include some level of public health interventions that will impact our usual operations. This could involve screening, masks, adjusted schedules, or any number of other protocols. Undoubtedly, these decisions will be based on how the virus manifests over the coming weeks and months, leaving us in the position of planning for multiple unknowns.  

    The District is procuring additional disinfectant anticipating the need to continue following enhanced cleaning procedures. We are also sourcing and ordering personal protective equipment, as available, to prepare for mandates that may require their use. Our Facilities team is addressing workforce issues that may arise if enhanced cleaning procedures are needed over a long period of time. From a school health perspective, administration is analyzing both day-to-day operations and special events that bring many children and staff together. These procedures may need to be adjusted in order to lower the incidence of large group contact. In addition to students and faculty gathering, we are exploring visitor policies and the use of technology to reduce the need for people other than staff and students to enter the buildings. Over the next weeks this planning will continue to be informed by the latest guidance and best practices used locally and regionally.

    Please keep in mind that all of this work is contingency-based and includes a variety of scenarios as we await further guidance from governmental officials. However, it is important that the District be prepared for eventualities given the often short implementation times under which we have had to work.  

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    April 17th, 2020

    Good Afternoon Scarsdale Families, 

    When I was kid, I used to love games and puzzles. I could play them for hours on end. In middle school, I was introduced to Algebra, and was immediately intrigued by the notion that, just like games, it was all about trying to figure out answers. The unknown, of course, is called a variable, and all you had to do was learn how to isolate it by manipulating an equation. If done correctly--voila!--you would find the solution. Of course, as I moved through math classes, I learned that some equations have only one solution. But, it is possible to have more than one solution in other types of equations that are not linear. In fact, it is possible to have no solutions at all, or infinite solutions, for that matter. The more complicated math became, the more I longed for the simplicity of one solution. 

    Fast forward a few years--well, more than a few years--and I find myself in a time where there are no easy or simple answers. Like most of us, I long for the routine, simplicity, and normalcy that is no longer in reach. In the absence of that, it is easy to wallow in self pity. Just as I felt myself slipping there today, math came to the rescue! It was in the form of a student poem:

    Situation: Swimming

    Calculations running through my head.

    The probability of making it. 

    Reaching for the wall. 

    Extending towards the infinity. 

    The variables I can’t control.

    Swarming exponentially. 

    Trying to divide them.

    Faster than they multiply.

    Equally exhausting.

    But the solution is there.

    Waiting to be proven. 

     

    ~Whitney Boeckel 

     

    However overwhelming this might feel to everyone, there are solutions, and we will make it through. We just all have to stay strong and connected. 

    Extension of Governor’s Executive Order:

    This was last updated on April 16, 2020, at 1:00 p.m., on the NYS Coronavirus webpage.

    What You Need to Know:

    1. Schools and nonessential businesses will stay closed through May 15th.
    2. Governor Cuomo issued an executive order requiring all people in New York to wear masks or face coverings in public, including when taking public or private transportation or riding in for-hire vehicles.
    3. An executive order directs employers to provide essential workers with masks free of charge to wear when interacting with the public.
    4. NYS will conduct antibody tests prioritizing frontline workers beginning this week.

    Governor Cuomo and several northeast state Governors announced the creation of a multi-state council to restore the economy.

    1. New COVID-19 testing facilities are opening downstate, primarily in minority communities. Find testing site locations and hours or operations.
    2. New Yorkers who have recovered from COVID-19 are encouraged to donate blood. Here’s information on how to donate.
    3. New Yorkers without health insurance can apply through NY State of Health through May 15, 2020; must apply within 60 days of losing coverage.
    4. New Yorkers can call the COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline at 1-844-863-9314 for mental health counseling.
    5. Testing is free for all eligible New Yorkers as ordered by a health care provider.
    6. Your local health department is your community contact for COVID-19 concerns.  
       

    Board Meeting Next Monday:

    The Board of Education of the Scarsdale Union Free School District will hold the following virtual meetings on Monday, April 20.  

    Board members and Administrators will be participating virtually via Zoom. To view the meetings live and to participate in Monday's public comment periods, click the respective links below or access them via the District Calendar.

         For the best experience, please download the Zoom client or Zoom mobile app to the device that you will be using to attend the meeting. If you already have Zoom installed, please check that you are on the latest version.

    • On Monday, April 20 at 5:15 p.m., the Board will hold a Special Meeting, at which it is anticipated that the Board will enter into an Executive Session to discuss collective bargaining matters.

    • On Monday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m., the Board will convene a Budget Study Session and Forum, which will include an update on the Draft Proposed 2020-21 Budget, followed by a Board discussion and community responses. Click here to attend this meeting.

    • Immediately following the Budget Forum, the Board will convene a Business Meeting. Highlights of the agenda include: Consent Agenda; Information and Discussion items, including an eLearning Update, Facilities update; and a proposed Board of Education Meeting Calendar for 2020-21. Action items will include a resolution to allow the Board of Education to accept electronically submitted bids.

    eLearning Update: 

    The Board Meeting Notice that went out earlier in the week neglected to include a presentation on eLearning in Information and Discussion Items. But, don’t despair! In fact, there will be a presentation which will include the following: 

    The educational updates will highlight the activities of Wellness Week, discuss in more depth the community survey results, review the work of Phase II, share long term planning, and describe lessons learned to date. The core of the presentation will be on  the evolution of eLearning (K-12) with a focus on schedules & attendance procedures, essential learning outcomes during eLearning, and synchronous learning.

     

    NYSED Guidance Related to Next Generation Learning Standards and Assessments:

    As per press release from JP O’Hare and Jeanne Bettie, April 7, 2020: In response to the COVID-19 crisis and related school closures, NYSED has released revised implementation of standards and assessment timelines for the Next Generation Learning Standards in Math (3-8), ELA (3-8), and Science. Revised Timelines are as follows:

         ELA (3-8) assessment rollout moved to spring 2022

         Math (3-8) assessment rollout moved to spring 2022

         Science assessment alignment will begin with grade 5 during Spring 2023

     

    A Message to Our Senior Spring Sports Student-Athletes, and to the Scarsdale Community:

    Today, a video message was sent out from our coaches to our high school seniors who are student-athletes in the spring. While this message started out as a tribute to our senior spring sports athletes, it has evolved into a positive message to all athletes, and all members of the Scarsdale community; as a community, we will continue to work and respond to every challenge that COVID-19 sends our way. We are Raiders. We are RaiderStrong! (https://vimeo.com/408889171)

     

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    April 15th, 2020

    Good Afternoon Scarsdale Families, 

    Today’s update includes the correction of the PEP link from Monday’s update, the continuing availability of asynchronous Wellness Week activities, an update on eLearning, and information about support groups offered by Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling. 

    Lessons from Goldilocks Redux:

    After sending out our update on Monday, it was pointed out to us that the Parent-Educator Partnership link to the K-5 section led to a blank document. This has been corrected.

    Wellness Week Materials and Continuing the Theme of Connectedness:

    Though the week of wellness activities for our students ended, the website (www.scarsdaleschools.org/wellness) continues to operate as a hub for asynchronous opportunities for our students to engage in mindfulness, relaxation, and reconnection to significant people in their lives. Continuing to acknowledge that life has changed in many ways, this website will allow for our students to access activities as needed and on their own schedule. 

    eLearning: 

    As a learning organization, we are guided by internal expertise, regional, national, and international colleagues and research into best practices. We are also informed through the input of our own educational community of teachers, specialists, and administrators who are engaging technologies, curriculum delivery methods, and instructional strategies. We have surveyed, held focus groups (including at the high school level) and received several emails of appreciation, praise, and critique from the Scarsdale community. 

    Through this robust feedback loop, we have adjusted, refined, and adapted our practices in the area of communication, technology, and instruction. We are also encouraging teachers to use our technologies to innovate, share, and engage in creative collaborations. Finally, we are focusing our support through a myriad of resources, professional development, and teacher mentorship. Dr. McIntosh looks forward to discussing our current evolutions during Monday’s April 20th Board of Education meeting. He will be highlighting the platforms, schedules, and methods educators are using to engage our students in new learning. 

    Community Support Groups from (SFCS):

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Scarsdale Community’s request for additional support services, Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service (SFCS) is offering support groups for Scarsdale and Edgemont adults affected by the crisis. Groups will be organized by need and topic. All groups will be facilitated by SFCS’s professional mental health staff. 

    The short-term, topic focused groups are on parenting elementary age students and the Sandwich generation, and they will be offered via video platform in four-week segments. Most of these are fee-based and pre-registration is required.                                                                                                                                  

    One workshop is for Healthcare Professionals and First Responders, and it is being offered for free. Here is more information on that workshop:

    “Health care professionals and first responders are our modern-day heroes, placing the care of others above their own health and safety and the needs of their families. But who cares for the caretakers? This FREE group is open to doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, police, firefighters and ambulance workers living or working in the greater Scarsdale area. Groups will provide these professionals with an opportunity to discuss their sadness, grief, fears, stressors, and family or marital tensions.” 

    The workshop begins April 20th and 21st, 2020: Monday 12:00- 1:15 PM & Tuesday 7:30-8:45 PM.

    If interested, please contact Eric Kelly, LMFT at ekelly@sfcsinc.org. For information on these workshops, in general, or other Scarsdale Edgemont Family counseling services, see their webpage at https://www.sfcsinc.org/

    It’s Wednesday, halfway through the sixth week of school closures, and, like many of you, I am consciously choosing to remain thankful. Our students have, by and large, settled into eLearning; the weather is getting warmer with more and more sunshine; and there continues to be some good news about the flattening of the coronavirus in NYS. I encourage all of us to take some time to focus on the positive, and to name and claim those things for which we remain grateful. As always, stay safe and be well.    

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

     

    April 13th, 2020

    Good Afternoon Scarsdale Families, 

    On days like this, it’s really important to remember that April showers really do bring May flowers (and, as it turns out, intermittent power and internet outages). Today’s storms impeded some of our faculty’s and students' ability to participate in eLearning. Should this happen again (to the extent possible), we will make every effort to communicate similarly to snow days to keep the community informed of expectations. The remainder of this update will address lessons learned from Goldilocks on communication, clarification on the duration of the current school closure, and information about eLearning and curriculum.

    Lessons from Goldilocks:

    Remember Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Goldilocks enters the home of the three bears and helps herself to their chairs, porridge bowls, and beds. In each case, she found two extremes (too hot/too cold, too hard/too soft, etc.) before settling on the most appealing option. The concept of finding the "just right” amount has come to be known across a wide array of fields as the Goldilocks principle. For Scarsdale schools, we have always depended upon open lines of communication between home and school to make sure that our students' needs are being attended to as fully as possible. As we enter into our second month of remote learning, we are still hearing there is too much, too little, and just right in a variety of contexts. It is important that parents continue to reach out to their children’s teachers with individual questions and concerns. The communication model set forth in the District’s Parents Educator Partnership agreement can foster the kind of mutual understanding needed as we continue our journey in eLearning. 

    Duration of Current School Closure:

    Over the weekend, Mayor De Blasio announced that NYC schools would be closed for the rest of the school year, slightly thereafter Governor Cuomo said no final decision had been made and all school closure decisions would be dictated by the State. Needless to say, this leaves everyone, including the District administration, questioning when, and if, schools will reopen this year. While the unknown is disconcerting, a measured approach is best. All educators would like nothing more than to return to school as quickly as possible, but everyone recognizes safety must come first. The District will keep the community informed of any decisions made by the State as soon as feasible.  

    eLearning and Curriculum: 

    Moving from a real classroom to a virtual classroom obviously means we need to look critically at “the how” (the instruction) we deliver instruction. It also means we need to look carefully at adapting the “what” (curriculum) we deliver.  In order to coordinate the essential understandings for students moving forward, we are outlining the essential skills, concepts, and content for the remainder of the virtual year. 

    As we move from “Wellness Week” into a “more normal” week of eLearning, I encourage everyone to remember to find the time and space to continue to care for yourselves and engage in activities and reflections that nurture all aspects of your wellness. As always, stay healthy and safe.

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman


    April 10, 2020
    Good Afternoon Scarsdale Families, today’s update will address the duration of the current school closure, recap Wellness Week, and communicate what to expect for next week.

    Clarification on Closure:

    There have been some questions about the duration of our school closure under the latest Executive Order. The Governor’s office has clarified that schools will be closed on Wednesday, April 29 and are expected to reopen on Thursday, April 30, assuming no further extension of the closure period. In the coming weeks, the Governor will be reevaluating the situation and informing schools of whether additional closures are necessary.

    Wellness Week Update:

    As we close our week of wellness activities for our students, I would like to thank all the Scarsdale teachers who presented 57 live sessions and 23 asynchronous learning activities for our students. I would also like to acknowledge my Cabinet and District Administration who worked tirelessly over the last two weeks to devise, build, and implement this very ambitious week. It would be a major oversight if I did not also acknowledge our students and families for their earnest participation. From the 9,000+ reflections received, we have learned that this was a meaningful endeavor for the masses. 

    Our goal for this week was to provide opportunities for our students to engage in mindfulness, relaxation, and reconnection to significant people in their lives. It is important to acknowledge that life has changed in many ways, and opportunities for reflection are necessary to evaluate how we are growing from this experience.

    Here are some examples of student reflections:

    “I had a very good experience doing the workshops. In the mindfulness in our everyday lives workshop, I learned to focus on what is going on around me and appreciate the outdoors. In the yoga and meditation workshop, I was focusing on my body and how to maintain balance.”

    “The first workshop I did was the sidewalk chalk journey, which I did with my brother. We went up almost half of our driveway. It was very relaxing to draw the patterns with the chalk, and sign our names in big bubble letters. The next one I did was mindful origami, I also did this with my brother. I learned how to make a cat and dog, then I went online and did a few others as well including a flower and an animal designed bookmark. The third workshop I did was the growth mindset yoga, which I did in my living room. I’m not too flexible but it was very relaxing and strengthening. The final workshop I did was mindful affirmations. I made everyone in my family a mindful affirmation bracelet, although I came up with them myself to suit each member of my family.”

    “I enjoyed being outside with the scavenger hunt, and spending time with my family. I also really enjoyed the National Parks activity! It was super interesting and engaging! Lastly, the conversation with deans was informative and helpful.”

    “Firstly I listened to teachers read Shakespeare sonnets, which I really enjoyed. I liked hearing their interpretations of such well known works, and I could hear their passion for English through their readings. The themes of the sonnets also brightened my day. Next I recreated a famous photo. For me, it was really fun to have time to be creative and try to capture the perfect shot. Finally, I did yoga and meditation, which helped to stretch my body after sitting down and being isolated for so long. I also enjoyed the mindfulness of it and having time in the day just for myself.”

    Finally, we also received many parent emails of support. Here is one example:

    “We are writing to commend you on this outstanding week of wellness activities. It was such a smart decision to focus the week on wellness, and the offerings are really rich, multidimensional, appropriate and creative. What a great opportunity for students to choose activities of interest and those that expand the boundary of what they are doing in the classroom. Thank you for the thought, time, creativity and effort that went into this.” 

    Next Week:

    Our Wellness Week allowed us a perfect opportunity to refuel, recharge, and plan for the future. Starting back fresh on Monday, students will be returning to a more familiar eLearning schedule with some important updates. Most noticeably will be the integration of more synchronous (or “live”) experiences in music, art, and physical education. In addition, expect that there will be special guests leading lessons, joining a class, or reading a story (from across the hall or from across the country)! 

    We continue to grow and evolve in our eLearning methods and approaches. We appreciate community feedback, but our greatest information comes from our students. How are they most engaged?  How are they learning best? We collect this through the work they produce, but also through reflections, and video-conference conversations. For example, last week District and High School administrators had a wonderful opportunity to Zoom with a focus group of thoughtful and articulate high school students. They expressed great appreciation for their teachers but, not surprisingly, missed the social opportunities that traditional high school classes provide. They also provided practical suggestions that would make their remote experiences even better. Collectively, the universal sentiment, from kindergarteners to seniors, is that everyone misses school. 

    Russell Ballard once said, “Crisis or transition of any kind reminds us of what matters most.” And, you my friends, matter most. Thank you, again, to all of the participants in this week’s activities.

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    April 9th, 2020

    SPECIAL DAILY UPDATE FROM BOE OFFICERS

    Good afternoon! As officers of the Board of Education, we thought we might share some thoughts in today’s daily update, especially given that it is the one-month anniversary of Scarsdale Schools’ closure.

    Throughout this month, we have watched with admiration as the administration confronted unique challenges by leading respectful, informed, and rigorous discussions with faculty and the broader Scarsdale community. Our District staff has made critical adjustments to secure the ongoing operations of our schools. We have seen our teachers quickly develop clever and creative approaches to online learning that are being replicated by neighboring districts. This week’s wellness offerings, including “The Scarsdale Read Aloud Project,” “Cosmic Kids Yoga,” “Sidewalk Chalk Journeys,” and “Fake Instrument Jam Session,” have shown particular ingenuity and inventiveness. As a result, we have watched our students and their families thrive, affirming a love of learning that will only continue to grow and develop.

    These are the values that make us such a strong community; a community committed to educating the leaders of tomorrow.  More than ever, we are proud to serve as officers on this District’s Board of Education.

    Thank you to our dedicated team of administrators, led by Superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman; and thank you to our incredible faculty for helping all our Board members quickly synthesize a great deal of information, both narrative and statistical. We also want to thank all the residents who took time from their hectic, upended schedules to email us or to participate in our Zoom meetings. Your experiences and opinions matter, and we need to keep hearing them!

    Have a Happy Passover and Easter!

    With gratitude,

    Pam Fuehrer & Alison Singer

    President & Vice President

     

    April 7th, 2020

    Good Afternoon Scarsdale Families, today’s update will address Regent Exams, a Wellness Week Update, Zoom Issues, and an inspiring poem from Danielle Kohn.

    Regents Exams:

    Yesterday, the New York State Education Department issued guidance canceling the June Regents Exams and outlining how this will affect students. Any students who have passed a course culminating in a Regents will not need to take the Regents for that course in order to graduate. This exemption is inclusive of students who have previously taken courses culminating in a Regents and passed, but who have not yet passed the Regents, and were scheduled to take the Regents in June. Here is a helpful FAQ from the State.

    Wellness Week Update:

    Over the last three days, Scarsdale teachers presented 57 live webinars and meetings for our students. Based upon over 7,000 responses, these live sessions were fun, enlightening, enjoyable, great ways to connect with family, calming, creative, interesting, relaxing, engaging, peaceful, insightful, challenging, and better than normal work. Tomorrow and Friday, please participate in the asynchronous activities as your family and religious obligations allow. Below is an example of one student’s experience around today’s learning:

    “My experience today was enlightening. I thoroughly enjoyed the activities I participated in today, and feel much better about the coronavirus and this hard time we live in right now. The light-hearted activities that the teachers have made provided me with insight as to dealing with the struggles of quarantine. It's difficult to feel connected to others, but with this wellness week thus far I feel closer to the school community as a whole, and the activities give a chance to feel like something larger than myself.”

    Zoom Data Privacy and Security: 

    Safeguarding data of our students and staff is of utmost importance to the District. Prior to engaging students and parents in Zoom meetings, the District carefully reviewed Zoom's privacy policy for schools, plus we had Zoom Video Communications sign the District’s data privacy agreement and Parents’ Bill of Rights as required under ED Law, 2-D. 

    The District is carefully monitoring the media coverage surrounding Zoom. We anticipated many of the items discussed in the media, and we took preemptive steps when we started to use Zoom and we adapted our practices as necessary. Right from the start, the District implemented the enterprise version of Zoom and generated accounts for staff and students. This provides us with many controls that are not available with the free “basic” version of Zoom, which is the version that is mostly discussed in the media. We have also configured the Zoom platform to provide our faculty with controls that protect their virtual classrooms and meetings. Best practices are being shared, and faculty is receiving professional development to help them manage their Zoom meetings and maximize student privacy.  

     

    A Poem from our Poet Laureate, Danielle Kohn:

     

    When Giving is All We Have

    One river gives

    Its journey to the next.

     

    We give because someone gave to us.

    We give because nobody gave to us.

     

    We give because giving has changed us.

    We give because giving could have changed us.

     

    We have been better for it,

    We have been wounded by it—

     

    Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,

    Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

     

    Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,

    But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

     

    Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,

    Mine to yours, yours to mine.

     

    You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.

    Together we are simple green. You gave me

     

    What you did not have, and I gave you

    What I had to give—together, we made

     

    Something greater from the difference.

     –Alberto Rios

     

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    April 6, 2020 

    Good Afternoon Scarsdale Families,

    The weather for the start of Wellness Week has lived up to the best of what April has to offer: warmer temperatures; light breezes; and clear, blue skies. In addition to sunnier climes, we hope our students enjoyed today’s learning activities--and remembered to do their attendance and reflection! This afternoon’s update will focus on the recently extended school closure, Regents Exams, and our kick off of Wellness Week.

    Extended closure: 

    Today, Governor Cuomo announced that mandatory school closures would continue through April 29th. This comes amidst some positive news about the possible plateauing of the virus in our area. Contemplating additional days of closure is disappointing, but the news that our efforts may be having a positive effect is heartening. Distance learning will continue after Wellness Week, and will evolve as teachers and administrators work to best meet students’ needs from a distance, and under these challenging circumstances.  

    Regents Exams:

    In addition to the closure announcement, the Board of Regents is expected to cancel all Regents exams tomorrow that were scheduled for June. Further guidance and logistics are expected sometime tomorrow.

    Wellness Week:

    “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”- Aristotle. 

    Marc Brackett, professor and social scientist from Yale University, highlights the research-based evidence connecting the role of social and emotional competencies to work-life successes and joy. Clearly from the quote above, Aristotle arrived at this conclusion first. Some have questioned this week's focus on emotional wellness, just when we “got the swing” of eLearning. For the District, this week was the perfect time for us to shift our focus to connectedness as a thoughtful and strategic way to regroup, relax, and prime ourselves for academic learning. For example, the simple joy of writing a positive chalk message on a sidewalk can create the mindspace, enthusiasm, and the energy to re-engage in other pursuits, such as a history paper, science inquiry, or long division in the days ahead.  

    Even with the occasional need for tech support, today was a success. Throughout the day, students wrote poetry; learned about exercise, mindfulness and meditation; created works of art; and conducted oral history interviews. Tomorrow, there will be a morning Bear Hunt with Ms. Guistino and many middle school students will fill out at least three squares of the PERMA bingo board through the Middle School site, and a Lunch and Learn on Mental Health with Drs. Oliverio and Faustino.  

    While the NYS Regents exams were cancelled, it doesn’t mean there will be an end to assessments. As we wait for the specific State expectations to be revealed, we will continue to focus on our careful and rigorous work of curricular alignment with attention to standards. An adapted scope and sequence will take into account the interruptions to our usual schedule. Scarsdale will continue to meet and go beyond expectations set forth by the Regents, State, and Nation. We will also continue to pay attention to wellness, well-being, and the whole child.

    Some reminders about tomorrow’s sessions:

    Logistics:

    Workshops and activities are listed by age range AND starting times (9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 1:00 p.m.) on Tuesday, and Wednesday. The synchronous (or live) workshops appear in a regular font and the asynchronous workshops (or taped or independent activities) are listed in BOLD

    The website with the day’s activities can be found at http://www.scarsdaleschools.org/wellness, and students can fill out daily attendance/reflection form here.

    Some Notes on Synchronous Activities (please read these directions carefully):

    For safety and security purposes, you will need to log into Zoom to access synchronous activities. Students in kindergarten and first grade will need an adult to log into Zoom. Students in grades two through twelve must log into Zoom with their Scarsdale Schools user account by clicking “Sign in with Google.”

    Some Notes on Asynchronous Activities:

    The asynchronous activities are generally self-guided activities. This means that they can be started, stopped, and revisited as desired. Remember on Google Slides presentations to advance these manually (with arrow keys), as they typically default to very quick transitions otherwise. For our elementary students, asynchronous activities will likely need a family member to navigate the sites and to read the text and/or directions. 

    We hope you enjoyed the first day’s activities, and we are looking forward to continuing the theme tomorrow.  Have a wonderful evening!

    Regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

    April 3rd, 2020

    The coronavirus has required us to be homebound for the better part of a month now, and we’ve learned some important life lessons: we have had multiple phases of eLearning, perfected social distancing and disinfecting, and learned how to push the buttons of the people we live and work with, both in person and virtually! However unusual all of this has been, the weather is starting to warm up; flowers are blooming; trees are burgeoning; and we are reminded that Spring is here, promising hope and new life. It’s been a rough road, but we will get through it.

    The next weeks remain uncertain in terms of governmental restrictions; continued school closures; and the physical, emotional, and financial impacts of the coronavirus, but, if the recent past is an indication of the near future, the days ahead will also bring many more examples of human kindness and compassion. 

    Wellness Week: 

    Next week’s Wellness Week, which focuses on connectedness, will offer students dozens of synchronous and asynchronous workshops and sessions on a range of topics. Some titles include, “Loving the National Parks--From a Distance,” “Communication is the Art of Listening,” “Sustainability: Connecting with the Land and World Around Us,” “Learning from our Family: Sharing our Family Stories through Flipgrid,” and “Connecting through Taekwondo.” Some activities will require digital streaming, while others call for students to detach from technology completely. Teachers from across the District are excited to share their passions and interests in the area of connectedness and wellbeing. 

    By Sunday afternoon, all Scarsdale families (and Middle and High School students) will be sent a full, digital catalog with an opportunity to preview and select the offerings for the week that they would like to participate in. It is important to note that the catalog will be “live,” and additional offerings will be added throughout the week. No prior sign up is required; however, Scarsdale students will be asked to fill out a brief reflection each day, along with a list of activities they have completed. While these activities are designed to be joyful, creative, and fun, they are also considered to be essential learning for all our students and look forward to 100% participation: On Monday through Wednesday, students will be asked to participate during each of the three available time slots (9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 1:00 p.m.). On Thursday and Friday, students will be asked to participate in the three sessions, as family religious observances allow. 

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    April 2nd, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    To start, some thoughts on connectedness by Dalai Lama:

    “A wider or more altruistic attitude is very relevant in today's world. If we look at the situation from various angles, such as the complexity and interconnectedness of the nature of modern existence, then we will gradually notice a change in our outlook, so that when we say 'others' and when we think of others, we will no longer dismiss them as something that is irrelevant to us. We will no longer feel indifferent.”

    Good evening! The planning for next week is in full swing, and we wanted to use this update to provide some additional details about next week. Thus far, over 120 teachers have been involved in planning the week’s activities, creating 53 separate learning activities--and more coming in every day!

    The development of our online catalog of K-12 activities, workshops, and experiences is in process. We expect to publish the full menu of selections on our website over the weekend. In addition to a rich menu of asynchronous activities, over 40 synchronous activities have also been planned and scheduled. 

    While our eLearning will have a different focus next week, all of our students are expected to participate. The week will follow a “conference-style” format, offering students a wide range of age-appropriate choices related to the theme of connectedness and wellness. The catalog will be organized by grade and time, with the opportunity for three separate experiences each day. Students will participate and then complete short reflections. On Monday through Wednesday, students will be asked to participate during each of the three available time slots. On Thursday and Friday, students will be asked to participate as their family religious observances allow. As our plans get finalized, we will share the catalog, along with any specific instructions. 

    As we all prepare ourselves for the week ahead, I am reminded of a poignant statement by Brene Brown, “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

     

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

      

    April 1st, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    It’s already mid-week, and today’s weekly update will focus on our planning for next week and discuss Zoom guidelines and data privacy.

    Wellness Week:

    We continue to plan for next week’s focus on “The Whole Child.” Since our last update, over 100 teachers have participated in developing sessions and activities around our theme of connectedness. These activities will include mindfulness practices, physical wellness, sustainability, community involvement, and virtual volunteerism, to name only a few. Many of these activities will be synchronous and involve opportunities for live connection with educators across the District. A digital, K-12 catalog of activities, workshops, and experiences will be sent to Scarsdale families over the weekend to help with week-long planning. There is no need to sign up beforehand and further directions will be provided. 

    Zoom Guidelines and Data Privacy: 

    There has been much media coverage about privacy issues surrounding the use of Zoom. It is important to know that the District anticipated the items currently discussed in the media, and we took preemptive steps to address the potential issues when we started to use Zoom for eLearning. These steps include the following:

    • The District implemented the enterprise version of Zoom and generated accounts for staff and students in grades 2 to 12. This provides us with many controls that are not available with the free basic version of Zoom. Students in grades K to 2 participate in Zoom classes using an adult’s account.

    • We reviewed Zoom's privacy policy for schools and had Zoom sign our District’s data privacy agreement and Parents’ Bill of Rights as required under ED Law, 2-D.

    • We configured the Zoom platform to provide teachers with controls that protect their virtual classrooms.

    • We shared best practices with teachers and are providing our faculty with professional development to help teachers manage their online Zoom classrooms and maximize student privacy. 

    Although we have implemented the proper Zoom control settings on our end, we need to review expectations and reminders around our use of instructional Zoom meetings. These include:

    • Zoom sessions with students are opportunities for students to connect with teachers and engage in learning. While our youngest students will need some parent support, we ask parents to allow students to participate as independently as possible at the younger grades and fully independently in grades 2-12. If parents would like to discuss issues with the teacher, please do that privately through email or by phone.

    • Photographing or recording Zoom sessions by students or parents is a serious violation of other students’ privacy, so please do not photograph or record video conferencing sessions.

    • Background noise and conversation (music/TVs, dogs barking, profanity, etc.) that is audible to students who are participating in the Zoom session detracts from learning. Please provide your student with a quiet, distraction (and sibling, when possible) free space to participate in synchronous sessions. 

    Our teachers are increasingly offering more video conferencing opportunities with students. In order for this to be successful, it requires everyone’s cooperation in maintaining appropriate Zoom-etiquette and Zoom-environments. Thank you for this cooperation! 

    I would like to thank our teachers for their flexibility and overwhelming response when called upon to develop a program for next week, particularly with such short notice. I would also like to thank our students and families for your continued support as we continue to iterate our eLearning plans. The week ahead will include an exciting array of classes and learning activities that will be available to help reconnect our students to the outside world!   

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    March 31st, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    We know that the past few weeks have been difficult ones, to say the least. Upending routines, providing instruction remotely, juggling personal and professional responsibilities, and limiting social circles have all had an impact on us. However, this is the sacrifice we all are being asked to make as part of the government’s effort to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and in an effort to flatten the curve on the spread of this insidious virus.   

    On March 27, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.11, which extended the time schools would be closed through April 15, 2020. In that Executive Order, Governor Cuomo also made clear that all schools must use any and all scheduled vacation days for remote learning. The Deputy Secretary of Education later clarified that this included the upcoming spring break week. The consequence of failing to abide by this mandate is a loss of state aid that could potentially jeopardize the ongoing 2020-21 budget process in a politically and economically unstable time. 

    With all of this in mind, and the fact that next week is a time for religious observance for many families and staff members, we will use the week as an opportunity for students to engage in eLearning that focuses on wellness, as well as “catch-up” time on current assignments, stress relief, introspection, and religious observance. Our theme for next week will be “connectedness” and the activities will focus on connecting with oneself, peers, immediate and extended family, and the world around us. 

    Our administrative team and teachers are planning lessons and activities over the next few days, and we will follow-up with additional details as soon as our schedule has been finalized.

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    March 30th, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    As a public service announcement, families should  beware of online scams, including the latest warnings released by the US Department of Justice. These scams often target our most vulnerable populations. The Internet safety company KnowBe4 prepared some excellent resources to help people understand potential risks from cybercriminals. You can find information here, as well as a one-page guide to protecting your phone from mobile attacks at this link.

    Today’s update will provide information about today’s Board of Education meeting, the Governor's new Executive Order, and several important technology tips and updates. 

    Also important to note is that after a month of daily updates, we will be shifting to a once weekly schedule for District updates. Please be assured that, if there is time sensitive information, we will not hesitate to inform the community.  

    Board Meeting Reminder:

    The Board of Education of the Scarsdale Union Free School District will hold a virtual meeting tonight, March 30, 2020. Board members and Administrators will be participating virtually via Zoom. To view the meeting live and to participate in the public comment periods, click here or access it via the District Calendar. For the best experience, please download the Zoom client or Zoom mobile app to the device that you will be using to attend the meeting. If you already have Zoom installed, please check that you are on the latest version.

    At 6:30 p.m. the Board will convene a Budget Study Session and Forum, which will include a presentation of an update to the Draft Proposed 2020-21 Budget, followed by a Board discussion and community responses.

    Immediately following the Budget Forum, the Board will convene a Business Meeting. Highlights of the agenda include: Information and Discussion items, including an update on eLearning, and Action items, including a bid for elevator projects at the High School and Middle School; and bids for heating and ventilation work at Edgewood and Fox Meadow Schools (part of the 2018 Bond project).

    Governor’s New Executive Order:

    Among other items addressed, the Governor has directed that any school board, library board, or village election scheduled to take place in April or May of 2020 is hereby postponed until at least June 1, 2020, and subject to further directive as to the timing, location or manner of voting for such elections. 

    Technology Tips and Reminders:

    As everyone continues to rely on technology during this time, the District has been engaged in providing ongoing professional development for teachers. These online sessions help teachers to support student eLearning, and our teachers can select from a menu of online workshops that are offered each week. The sessions are hosted by the ST@C, The Scarsdale Teachers Collaborative, a community of educators seeking to share ideas, collaborate, and learn together. These sessions are sponsored by the Scarsdale Teachers Institute.

    Our elementary students require help in managing their eLearning assignments, and it’s important for parents to understand how their child’s classroom teacher has structured his/her learning experiences. In grades K-2, teachers are typically using tools like SeeSaw to help share information with their students. In grades 3-5, many teachers are placing their lessons and resources on a “launching point” platform like Google Classroom, Schoolwires, a custom Website, or a Google Doc. These launching points can contain links to documents, websites, or online learning resources that live on other websites.

    At the secondary level, teachers also have selected a launching point for student learning, choosing from a number of tools at the High School level, to using a standardizing learning management system like Schoology at the Middle School.

    Examples of the types of resources used by teachers at all levels include: custom created screencasts and online lessons; online simulations; websites where students practice a skill or learn a new concept; reference-based services, including curated project pages, ebooks and a citation generator offered by our school libraries; and Online videos and short documentaries that provide information about a variety of curriculum areas.

    Setting up a space for learning for your child is also essential. If possible, a quiet space free from most distraction will help your child focus on their learning in both their synchronous and asynchronous experiences. When engaged in a video conference, students should be seated or standing in front of their device. The student’s head should be framed within the screen and visible to the teacher and classmates. If possible, students should wear headsets so that outside distractions are at a minimum and student attention is maximized. 

    The synchronized learning experience is for our students. Parents should allow students to participate in these sessions independently and free of parent and/or sibling interaction. 

    We would like to maintain the privacy of all students during these learning experiences, and as such, it is important to note that parents and students are not allowed to photograph or videotape Zoom or Google Hangout sessions.

    Finally, it’s important for students at all levels to balance school work with wellness, healthy habits, and some physical activity. Our team of elementary physical education and health teachers created two documents, in collaboration with our school psychologists, that outline important ideas about wellness. Even if you read them during our first week of our closure, it’s worth reviewing their guide to Movement and Mindfulness in grades K-2 and their document for grades 3-5.

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

     

    March 27th, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    Congratulations, you and your family have made it through week 3 of school closures related to the coronavirus outbreak. Today's daily update will include new closure information; a reminder about Monday’s Board meeting; a note on eLearning; an update on interscholastic athletics; some arts and culture recommendations for the weekend--and beyond; and another poem from our own Poet Laureate, Danielle Kohn.

    Governor Extends School Closures:

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this morning that schools would remain closed until April 15th because of the coronavirus pandemic, at which time the situation will be reassessed. Schools were initially supposed to be closed for two weeks from March 18th through March 31st as per the Governor's executive order issued on March 17th. Schools will be expected to continue with their plans for child care, meals and distance learning, and the 180-day waiver will remain in effect.

    Board Meeting Reminder:

    The Board of Education of the Scarsdale Union Free School District will hold the following virtual meetings on Monday, March 30, 2020. Board members and Administrators will be participating virtually via Zoom. To view the meeting live and to participate in the public comment periods, click here or access it via the District Calendar. For the best experience, please download the Zoom client or Zoom mobile app to the device that you will be using to attend the meeting. If you already have Zoom installed, please check that you are on the latest version.

    At 6:30 p.m. the Board will convene a Budget Study Session and Forum, which will include a presentation of the Draft Proposed 2020-21 Budget, followed by a Board discussion and community responses.

    Immediately following the Budget Forum, the Board will convene a Business Meeting. Highlights of the agenda include: Information and Discussion items, including an update on eLearning, and Action items, including a bid for elevator projects at the High School and Middle School; and bids for heating and ventilation work at Edgewood and Fox Meadow Schools (part of the 2018 Bond project).

    The meeting will replay on cable SPS-TV. The replay schedule will be published the following day at www.scarsdaleschools.k12.ny.us/tv. The video recording will also be posted online in the BOE Video Library.

    eLearning: 

    Feedback is important to all learning organizations, and, as such, we have been gathering important information about our eLearning plan through emails to the District and building administrators. This evening a survey is going out to Scarsdale parents with two essential questions. First, we are asking, what has been successful in our current eLearning plan? What has been going well? What platforms, methods, communications, and structures have helped your child(ren) learn? Secondly, we will be asking about the challenges that your child and family have had through our eLearning plan? What has gotten in the way of the learning? What structures are the most frustrating? By gathering this information, we are looking to continually refine and adapt our methods to best support student learning. We are also surveying educators and next week will proceed with gathering more formal feedback from our High School students through a survey and focus groups. 

    Interscholastic Athletics:

    Since school has been closed, the Athletics Department has been prepared to start the Spring season on the first day that we are allowed. Though that start date has been pushed back, our coaches have continued to prepare for an upcoming spring season. Our purpose has become focused on creating the most positive experiences for all participants.   

    On March 30, Section 1 will meet to discuss the upcoming Spring season related to competitive format and participation. During next week, they will focus on developing a framework for the regular season. On April 27, NYSPHSAA will examine the feasibility of Spring State Championships.

    Again, during this closure and postponement period, Scarsdale sports team try-outs, practices, training sessions, and team gatherings are suspended. Consistent with the District-wide school closure goal and CDC guidelines regarding social distancing, student-athletes should not participate in “captain’s practices” or other team get-togethers during this period. For this purpose, all fields will remain closed until further notice. Moreover, since the dates and structure of any post-season championship tournament will be developed as we move forward, it is important that we all respect this postponement in order to retain any potential eligibility for our spring season.

    Art & Culture for the Weekend:

    We’ve made it to the weekend and may need some new ideas and activities to engage your children over the weekend. The following are some links that you and your family may enjoy!

    • StayAtHomeFest features a calendar for online music events.
    • Mo Willems Lunch Doodles daily sessions with the Kennedy Center Fellow and author. Great fun for the whole family!
    • The Musée d'Orsay in Paris where pictures are worth more than a 1000 words.
    • The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam includes an exciting family game to solve eight fascinating Rijksmuseum mysteries.
    • Nightly Met Opera Streaming will be hosting different encore presentations from the company’s Live in HD series via the Met website.
    • Virtual Zoos, Museums, and Theme Parks allows you and your family to “walk” through some of the world's most prestigious cultural institutions, like The Met and The American Museum of Natural History, then go for a "ride" on Disney's new Frozen rollercoaster.
    • Guggenheim has a host of videos, audio files, books, and software to explore nearly endless possibilities.
    • Kanopy lets you stream more than 30,000 documentaries and movies using your Scarsdale library card.
    • The National Library and Audible offers children thousands of e-books for free.

    A Poem for Westchester’s Youth Poet Laureate:

    Scarsdale is honored to have our own Danielle Kohn (11th grade) recognized as the Youth Poet Laureate of Westchester! Today’s poem serves as an important reminder that everything in life should be enjoyed moderately, but we should make sure to have generous portions of tranquil emptiness in our lives as well:

     

    Empty Space

     

    Thirty spokes put together make a wheel,

    but it’s in the space where there is nothing

    that the usefulness of the wheel depends.

    Clay that’s shaped will make a pot,

    but it’s in the space where there is nothing

    that the usefulness of the pot depends

    Wood that’s cut will make a house,

    but it’s in the space where there is nothing

    that the usefulness of the house depends.

    Therefore we should not value only what is,

    but also what is not.

     –Lao Tzu (from Tao Te Ching)


    In closing, the Governor’s announcement today is bittersweet; it is comforting to know we are still following a course which promises to “flatten the curve” and keep our students and community safe, but it also means additional weeks of removal from our former normalcy. Over the past week, my colleagues and I have received many emails of support and praise for our teachers. I share in that deep admiration for our teachers as well, and their individual and collective responses to this crisis just continues to add to that joy and pride. Our students also deserve to be acknowledged for their grit and perseverance. We know they miss their friends, teachers, and daily routines, but they continue to impress me with their incredible tenacity and optimism. And finally, thank you again to our entire community for supporting our students and our teachers through this unusual time. I have said from the beginning that this will prove to be a marathon, take time this weekend to enjoy, relax, and engage in your passions. 

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    March 26th, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    Happy Thursday! The sun is shining again, and hopefully the warmth is lifting our collective spirits. Today's daily update will include some thoughts on eLearning, a letter from Safe Coalition’s Coordinator Lauren Pomerantz, and a poem from our own Poet Laureate, Danielle Kohn. 

    eLearning: 

    For classroom teachers eLearning presents some new and novel challenges; however, being a distance-learning student is also very different. Consider your child’s new reality. Gone is the closeness of friends, of easily getting together for group projects, study sessions, conversations and discussions. Gone is their ability to meet with teachers after class for extra help, or to ask a follow-up question. Everything now is being mediated by a computer screen. Students may or may not function well in an online environment so being prepared around some of their challenges is important. Additionally, when not in school, some students may be tempted to do other things than school work, so managing student motivation and attendance can become an issue—it is easy to fall behind, especially with asynchronous distance learning models. We continue to hear some parents report that their children have little or no work; however, when teachers or principals are contacted, inevitably there is curriculum to be reviewed and learning activities to be completed. In this unique learning situation, we encourage families to set up structures where children can show off the work they have been engaged in, giving you a chance to verify they are able to access and successfully work through the learning materials and activities.

    Beyond working on content mastery, our model of eLearning engages students in ways that require that they strengthen other skills. Synchronous (live) lessons give students a chance to check in with, and learn directly from, their teachers, but importantly, asynchronous lessons give them an opportunity for other essential learning. Because they are required to work independently, monitor their understanding, and organize their work, students are practicing important skills in the area of executive functioning. We know that these skills will serve them well throughout their years in Scarsdale, as well as in college, career, and life. And while, as has been said, there is no substitute for the in-person classroom environment, eLearning is a true opportunity to develop, practice, and master these skills. 

    A Letter from the Safe Coalition:

    While we are all experiencing the stresses of this outbreak, many of us are also experiencing a silver lining, reconnecting with those closest to us. Unfortunately, some homes do not experience this benefit, and the Scarsdale Safe Coalition has released the information below. If anyone is experiencing difficulty, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the resources below or to call any one in the school administration and we can help guide you to the right resources.

    The Safe Coalition: Children, Families, Community would like to share some vital information during these difficult times. For many people, forced to be at home is not only unsettling but also dangerous. Those who regularly experience family violence (domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse) may see this behavior exacerbated during such stressful times. Survivors and victims need resources and support now more than ever. 

    Included in this message (below) are local and national resources for both violence and mental health support, action steps to encourage our government to consider survivors and victims, and information about orders of protection and other emergency actions related to family violence.

    It is our hope that the Scarsdale community will continue to consider the most vulnerable populations during this time. We wish you all peace, health, and safety. 

    The Safe Coalition
    Lauren Pomerantz, LCSW
    lpomerantz@sfcsinc.org

    Resources mentioned above: Click Here

    A Poem for Westchester’s Youth Poet Laureate:

    Scarsdale is honored to have our own Danielle Kohn (11th grade) recognized as the Youth Poet Laureate of Westchester! Danielle has and continues to work with the Youth Bureau to get more children to read and love poetry. Her goal is to institute a month of poetry reading in elementary school. We applaud her efforts and will bring to you a selection of poetry she has curated:

    And the People Stayed Home

    And the people stayed home. 
    And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, 
    and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. 
    And listened more deeply. 
    Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. 
    Some met their shadows. 
    And the people began to think differently.

    And the people healed. 
    And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, 
    the earth began to heal.

    And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, 
    they grieved their losses, and made new choices, 
    and dreamed new images, 
    and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, 
    as they had been healed. 

    –Irene Vella (translated from the Italian by Kitty O’Meara)

    For those of you who wish to stay engaged in a time of social distancing, I invite you to seek out opportunities to help our community through volunteerism. Volunteer New York! has set a Virtual Volunteer Center with opportunities to support your community while homebound. As always, my thoughts are with you and yours, stay healthy and safe!

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman
     

    March 25th, 2020

    Dear Scarsdale Families,

    Welcome to the week’s halfway point! Today's daily update will address a clarification on Spring Break, some tips on staying healthy from our friends at Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling, and some thoughts on communication and advocacy.

    Spring Break Clarification:

    It has been brought to our attention that there was some confusion regarding yesterday’s announcement that Spring Break is on from Monday, April 6 - Friday, April 10. To be clear, although we are currently scheduled to return to school on April 1st, we do not believe there is a very high probability that this will happen. We fully expect further guidance from the State or County level requiring further closures, but we are still awaiting official word. Even if closed, we will be observing the Spring Break window without eLearning taking place during that time.

    If there are questions about this, or other District matters, I do urge you to contact the appropriate District personnel to get answers and facts, rather than relying on social media resources for answers that may or may not be accurate. 

    SEFC Mental Health Tips for Families:

    Practice a daily attitude of gratitude. Begin to develop a habit of listing 3 things you are grateful for. You may want to add this to your family’s morning routine, write these down somewhere you will see them and be reminded of them throughout the day, or turn this into a fun art project with your kids. 

    Stay active! Whether it’s playing outside with your kids, yoga or making time for a home workout, physical activity can be one of the most effective stress relievers.

    Take time to be in nature. Get outside, go for a walk or a run, take the family on a hike. State parks are open and encouraging people to come enjoy the fresh air. A little sunshine and fresh air can do wonders for mental health and wellness. It can also be a good time to disconnect from the news and constant information.

    Connect with friends and family. Physical distance does not have to mean emotional disconnect or social isolation. Pick up the phone and call your friends, family and neighbors. One benefit of living in this technology age is video calling (Not just for work meetings), this can be a great way to stay connected with those in your social circle. 

    Manage your own expectations. Be kind to yourself and those around you.

    Take one day at time. Try not to project too far into the future. Remember this is temporary and you are not alone.

    Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control. https://insighttimer.com/blog/54321-grounding-technique/

    The Power of Communication:

    In so many ways, eLearning has shifted the way we run a day-to-day “classroom”. We are adapting our methodology and expectations to match this new way of learning. And while we are adjusting our instruction and curriculum, some processes are very similar. Our communication structure, for example, is close to how it’s always been. Beyond our early childhood learners, the major point of communication remains between our students and teachers for questions, clarifications, and demonstrations. The method may be different (email, google docs, Zoom), but we encourage as much independence as possible. One of our goals for Scarsdale students is for them to be independent, self advocates who seek the answers to their own questions. For our youngest students, communication naturally involves parents directly. Because at this time we are truly partnering with families to organize resources and learning environments, additional questions may arise. We encourage parents to take advantage of the teacher’s “office hours” for help, support, and clarification especially around workload and management. The building administrators can also provide support and answers related to questions about expectations and issues beyond the virtual classroom. 

    Clear and ongoing communication is always important, but perhaps more essential now than ever. 

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    March 24th, 2020

    Today's daily update will address Spring Break, last night’s Board Meeting, report cards and K-2 Parent-Teacher conferences, and student privacy issues. There is a lot of important information today, please read the full update.

    Spring Break, To Be or Not to Be:

    Many parents (and students!) have asked about Spring Break and whether those days would need to be made up in light of our extended closure. The short answer is yes: we will have Spring Break, albeit a day shorter, running from Monday, April 6 - Friday, April 10. Due to our closure, which began on March 9, we will have to use Monday, April 13th and Friday, May 22nd as instructional days to meet the mandated 180 days of session. The Governor's Executive Order has exempted school districts from the 180 instructional day mandate, but only by the number of school days incorporated into the March 18 - March 31, 2020, closure. Note that it is possible that the State will honor the seven days we were closed prior to the Executive Order, but we are still awaiting guidance on that. We will certainly update the community if there are any further changes.

    Last Night’s Board Meeting:

    As noted previously, the Board of Education held two virtual meetings last night: a Budget Study Session at 6:30 p.m. followed by a Business Meeting.

    At the 6:30 p.m. Budget Session, the District reviewed with the Board considerations for a significantly revised draft proposed budget. The presentation by Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey included an updated timeline for meetings involving the budget, an update on financial conditions and significant unknowns, projected financial impact scenarios for the current year (2019-20), and considerations for reductions to the proposed 2020-21budget plan. A total of $3.67 million in expenditure reductions were considered, alongside a few additions and estimated changes in revenues. After public comment and much discussion, the Board tasked my Cabinet to look at further budget reductions in the area of personnel for the next Board meeting on Monday, March 30th.

    During the regular Business meeting, Assistant Superintendent Edgar McIntosh highlighted the instructional shifts, professional learning, and communication around Phase II of Scarsdale continuity of education plan. In addition to discussing the updated plan, resources were shared through the Scarsdale Curriculum Office website: K-12 eLearning Overview. A community survey will be distributed to families to determine the successes and struggles of the current plan. 

    The meeting can be viewed on playback on SPS-TV here, and is now also online here. Board Highlights will be coming out shortly that will provide an update on other Board matters discussed and action items that were approved.

    Report Cards and K-2 Parent-Teacher Conferences:

    Report cards will be available in Infinite Campus Parent Portal tomorrow, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. An email will be sent from the Curriculum Office signalling when the cards are uploaded and can be viewed. Please understand that during the closure, teachers have not had regular access to school buildings, where some of the student work that is used to guide report card completion still resides. As a result, teachers will communicate any additional information after the report card’s release directly with parents, as needed.

    K-2 Parent-Teacher Conferences are no longer scheduled. Like our practice in grades 3-5, where only the Fall conference period exists, teachers will identify any students for whom a parent-teacher conference is deemed essential, and will reach out to schedule a time to have a discussion via phone. This approach means that most families should not expect a March conference. However, as is always the case, parents are invited to reach out via email or phone to engage their child’s teacher with information about their child, along with questions and/or concerns. Teacher “office hours” can support this effort.

    Reminders About Student Privacy in the Era of Zoom and Google Hangout:

    As everyone continues to transition to remote learning, please remember that it’s important to protect the privacy of our children, and we need everyone’s cooperation to do this. Here are some important guidelines:

    Parents should not take photos or videos of Zoom or Google Hangout sessions. Teachers may post photos of classes, but they have been instructed to hide the names of any students if they do so.

    Parents may be tempted to sign up for a variety of free services that vendors are currently offering to families. Note that virtually all of these vendors are only offering these services for a limited amount of time. Also, these vendors may collect personally identifiable information from you or your children. Make sure that you read the privacy policy of any site where information is shared.

    Finally, and unfortunately, during times of crisis, people are increasingly targeted by online scammers who will try to steal your personal information. Make sure that you carefully review your email messages, especially if they appear to come from a bank, the IRS, or a commercial service like Netflix or Amazon. You should not click on any links or open attachments in a suspicious email.

    In closing, unlike yesterday, today feels like Spring again. I encourage all of you to go outside and get a dose of fresh air and Vitamin D (with appropriate social distancing, of course) as it does a world of good! My continued thanks to the community for your enduring support; the teachers for your incredible, hard work; and the students and parents for your on-going perseverance.

    Warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    March 23rd, 2020

    Today's daily update will address tonight’s Board Meeting and provide some guidance on maintaining realistic expectations during the next weeks as we work to mitigate the COVID-19 spread.

    Tonight’s Board Meeting:

    As noted previously, the Board of Education of the Scarsdale Union Free School District will hold two virtual meetings on Monday, March 23, 2020: a Budget Study Session/Forum at 6:30 pm, and a Business Meeting following the Session/Forum.

    At the 6:30 pm Budget Session/Forum, the District will review with the Board of Education considerations for a significantly revised draft proposed budget. The presentation by Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey will include an updated timeline for meetings involving the budget, an update on financial conditions and significant unknowns, projected financial impact scenarios for the current year (2019-20), and considerations for reductions to the proposed 2020-21budget plan. A total of $3.67 million in expenditure reductions will be considered, alongside a few additions and estimated changes in revenues. 

    Following the Budget Session, tonight’s education report will focus on the next phase of Scarsdale’s eLearning plan. Assistant Superintendent Edgar McIntosh will be highlighting the instructional shifts, professional learning, communication between home and school, and addressing common asked questions about our process, goals, and next steps. He will also describe how we will use ongoing assessments, as well as student, educator, and community feedback to adjust and adapt our plan going forward.  

    The revised draft of the Board meeting may be accessed on the District website, under District Information/Board of Education/Board Meeting Agendas/BoardDocs/March 23 Meeting Agenda, here.

    Scarsdale residents are urged to tune in to the Public Forum via Zoom to learn more about the new proposed considerations, and take part in the public comment period.

    Guidance from Scarsdale’s Director of Psychologists, Dr. Elliot Cohen:

    “I hope this note finds you and your families well during this unprecedented time in our history. With so many in isolation, quarantine or social distancing, I would like to offer some basic guidance. First, I would like to remind you that it can be helpful to acknowledge the situation you are experiencing and what you are feeling. Next, work on perspective – set realistic expectations about what can be done, with the understanding that some of the facts are fluid and we will deal with them as they unfold.  I would like to share some recommended activities and self-care /strategies:

    • Try to set up some basic routines (including sleep/wake) schedules, bathing and getting adequate rest and exercise, maintain a healthy diet (balance and hydration) and cut back unhealthy ones. Get dressed in different clothing from what you sleep in (i.e. don’t stay in pajamas all day). Ideally, consider matching your attire (at least somewhat) for the activity (e.g. work meeting clothing versus hanging out with friend attire). I do understand if there is reluctance to do this, but associative conditioning and other psychological principles tell us this can help our mental health and well-being. Try it.

    • To the extent possible, try to delineate areas for certain activities that are distinct from the spaces you use for other activities. For example, a place to work versus relax/play. Beds should be for sleep only. Even in a small area, try to distinguish distinct areas.

    • 10,000 Steps: Cardiovascular exercise (running, elliptical etc.) has tremendous physical and mental health benefits. In addition, there is research that supports the benefit of walking. Try to take 10,000 steps per day. I know this might seem like a lot, but if you let yourself be creative, you will find it works. Personally, I have been rotating between doing laps in my yard around my tetherball pole and walking back and forth in neat lines, simulating lawn mowing. Use your cell phone step counter.

    • Go outside and get sunlight: Whether you do your 10,000 steps inside or out, try to go outside - especially in the daytime. Sunlight during the day will help with sleep at night and has many other benefits.   

    • Positive psychology teaches us the key determinants of well-being. Commonly, these determinants are reflected by the acronym PERMA plus the development of Character Strengths. Character strengths are briefly covered below (and can be the subject of a subsequent strategy list), but for now I would like to break down PERMA and focus on one aspect that we need to think more about during this COVID 19 crisis. P= Positive emotional experiences; E = Engagement; R = Relationships; M = Meaning/Purpose; A = Accomplishment. Relationships is the factor in focus. The fact that we are all engaging in social distancing could mean that we are also restricting the well-being “Relationships” factor. Since research suggests that Relationships is likely the most critical of all the determinants of well-being, at this time, it behooves us to find ways to strengthen it in our lives.  So how do we foster relationships while simultaneously engaging in social distancing? Here are some ideas:

      • Use technology to connect. Zoom, Face-time, Google Hangouts etc. Also, take a moment to make sure that you are actually using your device to socially connect and build relationships, and not exclusively using it for work, which for many of us has moved to an entirely digital platform. This is not to say that relationships at work do not matter – they can be critical for enriching our lives. The point is that if I am at my device typing a report all day (and night), I have not yet used it for social purposes.  
      • Check on others – this includes family members, neighbors, colleagues, friends. It can especially boost your well-being to check on someone who might be in more need (such as someone who is elderly, sick, lonely, stressed etc.) as that can increase your “R” as well as your “M”;  it reminds us that we really are all connected pieces of something bigger than ourselves – and that is a good thing for well-being. You will also be improving the “R” for someone else, and that is wonderful.
      • It might seem a bit strange at first, but it is important to recognize that one silver lining in the COVID 19 situation is that it can allow us the time, reflection and perspective to begin to forge relationships with others whom we might have previously spoken with less frequently. In other words, in addition to maintaining and strengthening your relationships with those already in your close orbit, consider expanding to those who are in the next arc. Paradoxically, this time of social distancing might be the best opportunity to grow our connections.

    • Limit the amount of time and attention you give to media exposure on the Coronavirus. We know from research that over-attending (i.e. overly repetitive exposure) to upsetting news can be psychologically unhealthy and it can have a compounding impact. For example, 9-11 trauma research found that individuals who repeatedly watched the images of the planes crashing were more likely to experience post event trauma.  Therefore, if you (or your child) are over-focusing on a 24/7 news cycle, it could be helpful to try to balance that with other activities (both cognitive and physical). Do not saturate your exposure to COVID-19. Be aware of what’s going on in the world, but limit yourself to more reliable sources of information (CDC; WHO).  Also, try not to make the mistake of letting a 24/7 news feed infiltrate your place of work, play and relaxation. So, if you are someone who has been glued to the news, try to set up some limits – maybe try 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the late afternoon, and you can even whittle it down from there.  

    • Sift through the healthy stress management practice information that you have been receiving to find the gems that are helpful for you. By this, I mean the many links to mindfulness, breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided visual imagery exercises. I will not repeat them here because I think you might be saturated with this, but feel free to contact your school psychologist, if you need links and leads. The important thing is to experiment and find what works for you. 
        
    • Think a bit about your special character strengths and how you can bring them forward to help you in this new situation. This is also a time when you can work on growing other strengths as well. This will be a topic for another correspondence, but for the curious and proactive try https://www.viacharacter.org/ to learn more about character strengths and how to identify and work with them.

    • Set goals. If setting goals is difficult, then try a simple, effective mental contrasting strategy called WOOP (Wish, Objective, Obstacle, Plan) - where you figure out what your WISH (goal) is, visualize how it would feel to reach the OBJECTIVE, identify the OBSTACLE that most often thwarts your goal and then make a PLAN for how you will deal with the obstacle when it arises. Once you identify the goal and the obstacle, plan-fully create and write out an if-then statement which you will refer to when the thwarting moment inevitably comes. If... (obstacle you named), then I will ... (action or thought you named). For example, if my goal is to complete this document, but notifications on my phone pop-up and draw me away from my goal, I would create a written if-then contingency such as “ If a notification pops up I will turn off notifications until I complete my document”. When the notification pops-up, I look at my plan and actively engage the contingency. The easiest way to become an expert at this is to go to https://woopmylife.org/ to watch a 3 minute video, sign up and download all the materials you will need. Many parents, colleagues and students have already reported this to be of great help. Please just remember – the WOOP goal setting strategy only works for goals that an individual sets for him/herself. It is not effective when we set WOOP goals upon someone else, though we can help others to figure out what they might wish to accomplish. Of course, it can also help to make to-do lists and cross out items when done – this is not WOOP, just a good basic system that enables us to feel a sense of order and accomplishment; also valuable.

    • Know that we are here for you. Our district school psychologists are an exceptional  group of well- trained, caring professionals available to support and help you.”   

     

    I would like to thank Dr. Cohen for his guidance and work. Our community is lucky to have a group of highly qualified, dedicated, and caring psychologists and other faculty and staff working to help us cope with these unique and challenging times.  

    I look forward to the community’s participation in tonight’s Board meeting and continuing the work needed to balance the emerging economic realities and the preservation of the outstanding educational program of the Scarsdale Schools. 

     

    With warm regards,

    Dr. Thomas Hagerman

     

    March 20th, 2020

     
    Today's daily update will address embracing the "new normal", grades 3-8 State Testing, an upcoming virtual Board Meeting on March 23, playgrounds and field closures, and a final note about hope. There will not be any updates over the weekend, but they will resume next week, as needed.

    Our New "Normal":
    As we end another challenging week, my thoughts go out to all of you. Our everyday lives have been led in the context of crisis for the past few weeks. Our current reality is filled with uncertainty, that uncertainty leads to anxiety, questions, and the perceived need to find lasting solutions immediately. Unlike most crises, this situation is not visible like a natural disaster, war, or other "normal" emergency. The Coronavirus outbreak leaves the majority of us practicing extraordinary measures in a world that looks otherwise normal. It also has the potential to have great impacts on our economy. With that in mind, I ask us all to try and lessen the context of crisis and develop a new "normal" approach to the developing situation. Focus on the need for time off from the situation, develop regular routines within the day that focus on enjoying family, exploring interests, and just allowing yourselves to relax. This new reality promises to be a marathon rather than a sprint, and unless we adjust to that, we will not be able to keep up. That being said, we should also remember this is an extraordinary time that will end and the real normal will return.

    3-8 State Testing:
    A short while ago, I received a memo from Betty Rosa, Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents. An excerpt of this memo reads, "The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) is suspending all NYS Elementary- and Intermediate-Level State Assessments for the remainder of the school year in response to the statewide closures of schools and districts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This suspension for the remainder of the school year applies to the following State testing programs:  
    New York State Grades 3-8 English Language Arts Tests  
    New York State Grades 3-8 Mathematics Tests  
    New York State Grade 4 Elementary-Level Science Test  
    New York State Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test  
    New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) in Grades K-12  New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) for students with severe cognitive disabilities in Grades 3-8 and high school"

    At this point, we have not heard about High School Regents exams, but we will notify the community as soon as we do.

    Upcoming virtual Board Meeting on March 23:
    Hopefully, everyone has received the notice for a Board Meeting Monday, March 23th at 6:30 p.m. The Board Meeting will begin with a Budget Forum, immediately followed by a regular Business Meeting. Board members and administrators will be participating virtually via Zoom. To view the meeting "live" and to participate in the public comment periods, make sure you click on the link within the Board Meeting notice. For the best experience, please download the Zoom client or Zoom mobile app to the device that you will be using to attend the meeting. If you already have Zoom installed, please check that you are on the latest version. The Budget Forum will include significant changes, based on feedback provided at the March 18th meeting. 

    Last Wednesday's education report provided an overview of both the current e-learning plan (Phase I) and the major shifts moving into next week (Phase II). Monday's education presentation will focus on the new expectations for e-learning across the District. Edgar McIntosh, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, will focus on the phasing in of new expectations related to asynchronous and synchronous learning, communication protocols, and the accountability of learning goals. He will also respond to questions from the community about the future of e-learning and its ongoing adaptations. 

    Outdoor Facilities:
    Over the past few days, we have been receiving reports about the use of our outdoor facilities relative to social distancing guidelines. Though we were hopeful to keep these open-air spaces available for our community, the District has decided to close the Butler Track & Field at Scarsdale High School. In light of new guidance on social distancing and our understanding of the current use, we can no longer keep these spaces open. Effective immediately, all District outdoor facilities including playgrounds, fields, and the track are closed indefinitely. We will communicate when we decide to reopen these spaces.

    On Hope:
    Last night on CNN, Anderson Cooper read excerpts of the following poem by Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan brother from Ireland. The poem is entitled "Lockdown." I've included the first half of it here. If you enjoy it, I encourage you to read the rest on-line.
     
    Lockdown
    Yes there is fear.
    Yes there is isolation.
    Yes there is panic buying.
    Yes there is sickness.
    Yes there is even death.
    But,
    They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
    You can hear the birds again.
    They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
    The sky is no longer thick with fumes
    But blue and grey and clear.
    They say that in the streets of Assisi
    People are singing to each other
    across the empty squares,
    keeping their windows open
    so that those who are alone
    may hear the sounds of family around them.
    They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
    Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
    Today a young woman I know
    is busy spreading fliers with her number
    through the neighbourhood
    So that the elders may have someone to call on.
    Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
    are preparing to welcome
    and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
    All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
    All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
    All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
    To how big we really are.
    To how little control we really have.
    To what really matters.
    To Love.

    With warm regards and much hope,
    Dr. Thomas Hagerman
     
     
     
    March 19th, 2020
    Today's daily update will address highlights from last night's Board meeting related to the Coronavirus, namely the Superintendent's opening remarks and an overview of my Cabinet's presentation. In light of the many mental health issues associated with COVID-19, remote working, and e-learning, this update will also include mental health reminders from our partners at Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Services (SEFC). SEFC has partnered with the Scarsdale Schools and the Village of Scarsdale through the Youth Services Project for almost 40 years, and we have added information about their continuation of services during the outbreak.    
     
     
    Superintendent's Opening Comments
    As a career-long educator, I have always understood the central role of schools for students, not only academically, but also socially and emotionally. What I have thought less about is the overall impact that schooling has on families, specifically, and society, more generally. The current structure of school calendars and days contributes to a larger organizational system that allows adults to conduct independent lives and fulfill workplace duties and other obligations. When schools are forced to close, like we are now due to COVID-19, the impacts are profound and wide-ranging, affecting us all.
     
    That being said, this is a generation-defining moment. Responding to this crisis will undoubtedly test our mettle, both individually and collectively, but more importantly, it will define who we are as a learning institution for years to come. This weighs heavily on me, as I know it does on many of you.
     
    To the Scarsdale community as a whole, I would like to say "thank you" both on behalf of the Scarsdale School system, but also for myself, personally. Everyone in this community has had to make difficult decisions and significant life changes. While this sacrifice has not been easy, it has invariably contributed to the health and lives of members of our community and beyond.
     
    I'd also like to take a moment to specifically acknowledge our students. I am always amazed at the tenacity and adaptability that our students exemplify on a daily basis. They are strong, resilient, and courageous. They also continue to find the silver lining in life, even when the adults around them sometimes falter in this respect. While shouldering these sudden changes with bravery, I am reminded that there are losses that we won't be able to recover, ranging from daily, face-to-face time with friends and other social engagements, to loss of academic and athletic experiences, to a myriad of other goals and dreams that are being held at bay. We know these losses are real and painful, and we yearn to restore normalcy to our students as soon as it is safe to do so.
     
    To our class of 2020 and our students in other pivotal transition years--I am speaking to our Seniors, 8th graders, and 5th graders--this is a particularly momentous year for all of you, a year when your accomplishments, milestones, and traditions are to be acknowledged, lauded, and treasured, especially in these last few months of school that serves as a capstone of your educational career to date. For each of you, this loss of time, shared experience, and camaraderie is particularly difficult. While the next many weeks, perhaps even months, are unclear, you have our commitment to try to make the remaining time that we have together as meaningful as possible under the circumstances. This virus cannot take away from you the sense of accomplishment and achievement that you have earned.
     
    To our staff, I have said many times that you are my heroes. Under normal circumstances, you give freely of your time, talent, and energy. You are fully present with your students, often extending your availability long after traditional work hours. You engage our students as individuals with unique learning needs, and inspire the entire community with passion, creativity, and commitment. To do this at school every day is quite an accomplishment in its own rite. To do this at home, while attending to personal health issues, childcare and family obligations, technology and resource challenges, is truly remarkable. A High School teacher emailed earlier today, and she said it best, "I hope to be at school soon, with health and safety concerns addressed first, of course. I also wanted you to know that we are conferencing with each other and working endless hours to find online resources to best help our students. We are a community and this hasn't changed that in the slightest." She was right, we are a community--and for our students, our teachers are at the very heart of that community. 
     
    These are difficult times for all of us, but it is heartening to know that we are in this together, both in the safeguarding of public health and in the continued education of our children. I wish the circumstances were different, but since I have no control over that, I am thankful to know that, with the support and encouragement of our entire Scarsdale Schools community, we will get through this together.

    Coronavirus Update by Superintendent's Cabinet:
    The Cabinet provided an update on the District's response to the Coronavirus crisis, including a timeline of the crisis as it unfolded and impacted the District; the marshaling of services during the closure, including the provision of meals, and of childcare for first responder families, as needed; the rapid organization and implementation of e-Learning for all students, K-12, and plans to expand those approaches even further in the coming weeks; support for students receiving special education and related services; support for wellness activities at home, and planning for the resumption of athletics activities; Human Resources issues and responses; facilities and finance issues and arrangements; and technology and other logistics, including providing nearly 200 students with devices this week.

    To view the full update in its entirety, please visit https://vimeo.com/398848359
    The presentation begins at the 4:39 mark.
     

    Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Services:
     
    The Scarsdale Community Youth Services Project, individual private counseling, and the Aging in Place initiatives are all operational via virtual platforms.  
     
     
    Scarsdale Comminuty Youth Services Project
    Our five Community Youth Outreach Workers are available to middle school and high school age youth and families for individual, family, and group support.
     

    Parent Support Groups will resume beginning Monday 3/23 via group video conferencing and will help provide guidance on structuring time for children, managing anxieties, and remaining vigilant about teen alcohol and other drug use.

    Community Prevention Coalitions such as the Scarsdale Drug and Alcohol Task Force and Scarsdale Safe Coalition will all resume meetings and virtual activities next week.

    Community members and students are encouraged to contact their Youth Outreach Workers via email.

    Individual and Family Counseling Services:
    Counseling services are being provided for our existing clients and families.  A waitlist is in place for those seeking service.  

    Aging In Place:  
    SEFC is maintaining contact with Scarsdale's most venerable residents via phone.  

    Delivery services for essential items are being coordinated and wellness checks are being provided as necessary. 

    Existing or prospective clients for any of their programs should call SEFCS at (914) 723-3281.

    We urge you or your family members to take advantage of these resources, as needed, as we all navigate these uncertain times.

    Warm regards,
    Dr. Thomas Hagerman
     

     
    March 18th, 2020
    Today's daily update will address tonight's Board meeting, ongoing mental health issues, and ancillary community services.

    The Board of Education of the Scarsdale Union Free School District will hold a special, virtual meeting tonight, Wednesday, March 18. Board members and administrators will be participating virtually via Zoom. To view the meeting live and to participate in the public comment periods, click here. Note: For the best experience, please download the Zoom client or Zoom mobile app to the device that you will be using to attend the meeting. If you already have Zoom installed, please check that you are on the latest version.

    On the Board Meeting Notice sent out a few days ago, a number of topics were listed. Significantly, there is a Board Budget Presentation, starting at 6:30 p.m., followed by a regular Business Meeting thereafter. There will be a Coronavirus presentation by the Superintendent's Cabinet as the first Information/Discussion item. We encourage the community to watch this either live or via video on demand (at your convenience once published) to better understand the full extent of the scope of work around this issue. It should also be noted that a few other items (policies, the Compact for Learning - District Plan, and BoE calendar) will be eliminated from the agenda to provide more time to focus on our most important work at this time.

    As for the continued conversation of self-care and mental health services, the past few weeks have brought major changes to families, schedules, and routines. Parents and children, alike, are removed from their normal schedules and social interactions and are being asked to establish new family norms, to learn and work from home, and to find creative outlets for their energy while social distancing from others. This can be a stressful experience for all. Children may also not have the language or self-understanding to verbalize stress and/or anxiety in a healthy way leading to misunderstanding and additional stress. Not all children experience stress in the same way, seemingly unrelated behavioral changes can be indicators of stress and/or fear surrounding the current situation. These can include regression to behaviors previously outgrown, loss of interest in preferred activities, excessive moodiness or anger, withdrawal, or unexplained aches and pains. The CDC has put together resources for recognizing and managing stress which may be helpful. Additionally, if you need help managing your children's feelings or emotional health please reach out by email to your child's school psychologist. While this is a challenging situation, we should try to focus on how we used this newfound family time to strengthen those relationships. 

    Shifting from social-emotional to physical needs, the District is beginning food services for families in need, according to the Governor's executive order, on Thursday, March 19, 2020.  If you did not sign up and would still like to access this service please email Eric Rauschenbach, Director of Student Services at erauschenbach@scarsdaleschools.org. This service will continue throughout the declared state of emergency. Childcare plans have also been put in place for our vital healthcare workers and first responders. We thank them for their service during this particularly challenging time.

    Thank you for your continued support of our work on behalf of our community's children and youth, and please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns.

    Warm regards,
    Dr. Thomas Hagerman
     
     
     
    March 17th, 2020
    Today's daily update will cover a variety of topics, ranging from wellness and self-care to playground/field use to e-learning reminders. We ask that you read through all of this information and continue to let us know if you have questions and concerns on these or other issues. 
     
    Wellness and Self-Care
    In a recent article, Dr. Doreen Marshall explains, "Human beings like certainty. We are hard-wired to want to know what is happening when and to notice things that feel threatening to us. When things feel uncertain or when we don't generally feel safe, it's normal to feel stressed...A large part of anxiety comes from a sense of what we think we should be able to control, but can't." Whether it is not attending school and work, not going out for a meal, or not being able to socialize as usual, many of us can probably relate to the feeling of powerlessness associated with the recent loss of autonomy and control over some of the most basic aspects of our lives. And yet, there are ways that we can continue to care for ourselves, our children, and others. Dr. Marshall goes on to explain that there are some simple steps which we can take to mitigate these challenges. Roughly paraphrased, we can: 

    Separate what is in your control from what is not. There are things you can do, and it's helpful to focus on those. Wash your hands. Remind others to wash theirs. Take your vitamins. Limit your consumption of catastrophic news.
     
    Do what helps you feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, and it's important not to compare yourself to others. While we are all social distancing due to the potential for sickness, we can continue to interact with friends and family through safe means.
     
    Get outside in nature-even if you are avoiding crowds. Sometimes nothing feels better than to get some fresh air. Exercise also helps both your physical and mental health.
     
    Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding-you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn't happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
     
    Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it's ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support. You don't have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.
     
    Scarsdale Middle School "Close Contacts" Update
    As of this afternoon, 21 of the 36 "close contacts" initially identified have tested negative. Several are awaiting results, and at least 3 have been advised they will not be tested after being interviewed by the DoH. Wednesday marks the end of the original 14-day quarantine period for those individuals. However, all Scarsdale families should continue to self-monitor for symptoms associated with COVID-19. We look forward to more negative tests, and we very much hope everyone is feeling well!

    Social Distancing and Playground Fields
    While schools are closed, many of us are doing our best to balance the demands of work, school, and family. Understandably, we are seeking places, close to home, where we can be active and outdoors. Over the past few days, guidance about social distancing has become increasingly more stringent. In order to reduce the rate at which COVID-19 will spread, we are being asked to limit our contact with groups of people. In our own Scarsdale community, this has real, practical implications, especially in places where we normally congregate. For the foreseeable future, we are asking families to restrict their use of playgrounds. Potentially, these spaces can allow germs to live for extended periods of time and can provide greater opportunity for transmission from person to person. For now, natural grass fields in the District continue to be closed. So any use is prohibited. While Butler Track & Field is not open for authorized use, we ask that everyone use this space respectfully, maintaining sufficient distance, and limiting the number of users at any given time.

    Board Meeting Reminder
    Hopefully, everyone has received the notice for a Board Meeting tomorrow night, March 18th at 6:30 p.m. The Board Meeting will begin with Budget Study Session #3, immediately followed by a regular Business Meeting. This meeting was scheduled to replace the meeting that was canceled on Monday, March 9th. Board members and administrators will be participating virtually via Zoom. To view the meeting live and to participate in the public comment periods, make sure you click on the link within the Board Meeting notice that went out earlier today. For the best experience, please download the Zoom client or Zoom mobile app to the device that you will be using to attend the meeting. If you already have Zoom installed, please check that you are on the latest version. Coronavirus updates will be one of the prominent agenda items under Discussion Items.

    eLearning Advancements 
    While our short term e-learning plan is underway, teachers and administrators are preparing for a cohesive shift towards more synchronous and technology-supported learning at all levels. This transition is supported through ongoing and flexible training, Google/Zoom collaboration and needs surveys, and the establishment of clear guidelines at all levels. We continue to appreciate your constructive feedback and support as we move into our next eLearning phase. 

    Update on State Testing
    The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has suspended the shipments of Grades 3-8 English Language Arts and has stated: "During the time of closure, schools need not focus on State assessments and can devote their efforts toward local school and community needs." The State, however, is still evaluating whether the tests will be delayed or fully suspended. 
     
    In closing, a number of years ago Margaret Wheatley, an American writer and management consultant who studies organizational behavior, prophetically wrote an article entitled, When Change is Out of Our Control. In this piece, she reminds us that, "In order to counter the negative...dynamics stimulated by stress and uncertainty, we must give full attention to the quality of our relationships. Nothing else works, no new tools or technical applications, no redesigned organizational chart. The solution is each other. If we can rely on one another, we can cope with almost anything [emphasis added]." Now more than ever these words ring true for all of us. Thank you for your support and patience as we continue to assist one another through these challenging times.
     
    Warm regards,
    Dr. Thomas Hagerman
     
     
    March 16th, 2020
    Standing outside the Michaelian Office Building, Westchester County Executive George Latimer declared a "State of Emergency" for the County. This will allow the County to take more expedient measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic currently facing our entire nation.
     
    The State of Emergency Declaration and subsequent Order reads:
     
    "All public and private schools situated in Westchester County shall be closed to all students and staff except for the performance of administrative, instructional, professional and classified staff functions as determined by each school or school district. Such functions may include the provision of meals as prescribed by law and subject to guidance by the New York State Department of Health and The New York State Education Department."

    Following consultation with all 44 school districts in Westchester and current guidance from New York State, the Order will take effect on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, through Tuesday, March 31. Included in his executive order is the closure of all schools for 14 (calendar) days. The intention of this closure is to help mitigate the spread of the virus in area schools. At present, this information is subject to change based upon ongoing updates. 

    Additionally, as the details of the State and Federal strategy addressing the coronavirus continue to emerge, their recommendations are likely to change. Therefore, families should prepare for the potential of longer school closures. In light of this unpredictability, we ask for your continued flexibility and patience. Moreover, information regarding any potential changes to this year's District calendar will be shared in the near future as soon as that guidance is provided to us from the appropriate State offices.  
     
    Please know that we remain dedicated to serving the educational needs of our students during this prolonged closure. While we recognize that distance learning is not a replacement for face-to-face instruction, it does provide an opportunity for students to continue to be engaged in their learning during this time of crisis.
     
    During the upcoming days and weeks, there will be an increase in both virtual synchronous interaction and recorded teacher lessons at all levels. Teachers experienced in this type of technology are starting this week. For those that are not as well-versed in distance learning applications, a series of online courses and technology tutorials are being offered, so that they may incorporate these elements into their planning and instruction. As we've described, our process is evolving as we navigate the complexities of access, current capacity, and guidance from the State. Please know that this on-going work reflects a thoughtful and thorough process that includes daily collaboration with teachers, principals, and specialists to identify needs, build skills, coordinate services, and align practices across levels. We continue to be dedicated to providing effective and meaningful virtual and hands-on learning for our students throughout this time. 
     
    E-learning is, of course, technology-dependent, and we are cognizant that while most families have personal technology devices in their homes, others do not have enough to facilitate parents and children working from home simultaneously. We have received a number of these requests already. An email, that will be sent to all parents, will include a link to request appropriate devices if needed. We hope to distribute these devices on Thursday. 
     
    We also recognize that students and families may need emotional assistance during this very difficult time. If you are experiencing anxiety or stress and you feel you need support, please call the Department of Community Mental Health office at (914) 995-1900. In addition, the District's mental health professionals are available to support your children. Counselors can be reached via email contacts found on our District webpage [click here] for each school.
     
    Lastly, today the Governor tasked schools with providing daycare for children of healthcare professionals and first responders, as well as providing food for any families in need during this crisis. The District is in the process of developing plans to accomplish these services.   
     
    As always, we sincerely appreciate your continued support and understanding. Together we will get through this challenging time due to the strength of our partnership as a school community and our deep and enduring commitment to the success of each of our students.  

    Morning Update: March 16th, 2020 

    Westchester County Executive George Latimer is expected to announce this afternoon that he will order a countywide closure of schools as part of declaring a State of Emergency in Westchester.

    Mr. Latimer held a conference call with superintendents this morning to finalize plans. At this time it is likely that all 44 school districts in Westchester County will close for two weeks, effective Wednesday, with the possibility of extended closures. 

    Most districts across the region closed schools today and tomorrow, and some have already announced that they will close for several weeks.

    Scarsdale School District is committed to keeping our community informed to the best of our ability in spite of rapidly changing and evolving information. We will send further details later today regarding the impending announcement and the subsequent decision about closure. Families can also continue to expect to hear from us throughout the week, Monday through Friday, via later afternoon/early evening updates.

    We wish everyone in our community the best of health and peace of mind to cope with this very difficult situation.

    March 13th, 2020

    While most of today’s update will focus on e-learning, we would first like to update you with regards to Middle School COVID-19 testing, communication with the Department of Health, and continued consideration of the reopening of school.

    The District has started to receive notice from staff and families about the results of their testing. At this time, all testing (aside from the original staff member) has been negative, and we are awaiting results from approximately half of the cases. The District is continuing to communicate with the DoH with regards to expediting the testing and gaining clarity on their recommendations for future steps. 

    Additionally, many families are understandably concerned about whether schools will be able to reopen next Thursday. At this time, we still plan to reopen on the 19th of March. However, we also know this plan is contingent on a number of factors that we don’t have answers to at this time. These factors include results of the outstanding COVID-19 testing, possible decisions by State and local government around regional closings, and considerations around the ability of staff and students to attend. We will be monitoring this throughout the weekend, and will provide an update based on what we learn on Monday, March 16th.

    As for the school calendar and our required days of session (180, by law), there is really no change from what we previously shared with the community. As of now, we are planning on school being in session on April 6, April 13, and May 22. Even with today’s announcement from Governor Cuomo that the 180-day requirement may be suspended, it would still be dependent upon reclaiming planned vacation days. We will continue to monitor and report any new developments as they occur.

    Our Approach to e-Learning:

    Although not yet completely underway, we have been receiving some feedback on our approach to e-learning to date. It is important to note that we arrived at our current approach through careful consideration of the circumstances, assessment of our capabilities, beliefs about what can be meaningfully accomplished from a distance, and an understanding of what we know about appropriate uses of technology and the developmental stages of our learners. Below, each of these considerations is explained in more detail so that we can provide as much clarity as possible about how we arrived at this plan. 

    While some expect our approach to mirror college and university experiences with distance learning and/or professional work-from-home arrangements, educating K-12 students in a digital environment requires much different planning and preparation in that it must include specifically-designed, developmentally-appropriate curriculum, materials, and activities, based on using digital platforms (a novel experience for younger learners).  

    Since the beginning of this process, our approach has been focused on asynchronous (not simultaneous) learning due to the following considerations:

    • It is not feasible to maintain normal school schedules at home for most students and teachers which is necessary for synchronous learning; however, some teachers are creating “virtual office hours” and “live” check-ins.
    • Access to learning activities and assignments should account for the likelihood of competition for limited simultaneous access to technology resources within a family (i.e, devices, internet bandwidth).
    • The recognition that our teachers are balancing professional responsibilities along with the complexities of having to supervise their own children due to school closures.
    • The need for teacher creativity in methods of engagement with students due to the varying needs of students like age, ability, and specific curriculum, rather than a one platform fits all approach.

    As such, our teachers have been working diligently and collaborating to create online activities that are a continuation of where individual classes were in the curriculum and that support our students in moving their skills forward. These lessons and activities are designed to be completed independently, whenever possible. 

    As always, we are asking parents to partner with us throughout this plan to provide the resources, space, and encouragement for your children to engage in learning activities, complete assignments, and ask questions of their teachers, if they are unclear about expectations.

    Our commitment going forward is to continue to evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency, and plausibility of our current model. To that end, if our closure extends, we will be collecting feedback from our teachers, students, and families about both the challenges and successes of Scarsdale’s current e-learning approach. 

    It has been interesting to hear from our colleagues in districts throughout the region about their plans as school closures have grown exponentially. Many have expressed that they are modeling their own plans on what they have seen in Scarsdale. Further, we also learned that many districts are having to collectively bargain their expectations with teacher unions. From the beginning, the Scarsdale Teachers Association and its membership have collaboratively engaged with the District in this unique moment so their students can remain engaged in the work of the classroom, and has stepped up from the first moments of this crisis to develop meaningful learning experiences for students. It truly takes a Village, and we appreciate the wrap-around support!

    [The remainder is a recap from Wednesday’s update, but it contains important information, so please read, if you were not able to earlier.]

    Education Continuity Plan Supported by Technology

    The District offers a suite of online instructional tools that can be used to support remote instruction and communication. General instructional tools for communicating with students include online services like:

    • Google Drive with shared folders 
    • GSuite (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Classroom, Sites)
    • Gmail 
    • Schoolwires
    • Seesaw
    • Schoology

    Note: Keep in mind that Scarsdale Public Library online resources are available remotely and can be accessed by students who have a Scarsdale library card.

    Elementary:

    Platform: Faculty will use online tools, including Google Drive with shared folders, the GSuite (Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Classroom, Sites), Schoolwires, and Seesaw, for communicating with students. This includes the posting of assignments and general announcements.

    We recognize that providing e-learning at the elementary level has unique challenges, especially for our youngest students. Our classrooms are carefully designed learning spaces with immediate access to appropriate resources and technology. For that reason, we have been finalizing guidelines and curating resources that would best support meaningful, independent learning. Our hope is that our students will work to the best of their ability and with the resources already available to them at home. 

    This morning, classroom teachers participated in videoconference meetings by grade level with curriculum coordinators and District administration. Through these meetings, we guided teachers to provide students with daily independent activities in four core instructional areas: reading, writing, mathematics, and science (25-30 minutes in each). Social studies may be worked into reading and writing times. We have also encouraged teachers to use professional discretion in how the time is allocated. For example, if teachers feel that it is more appropriate to focus on one area more than others, based on their current curriculum sequence, they have been encouraged to do so. The key is that each class has the opportunity to do work that is meaningful and enhances student learning.

    In addition, activities will be provided in the areas of art, music, and (for upper elementary grades), Spanish. And while the formal eLearning has been scheduled to start on Monday, a select number of learning and enrichment activities and suggestions will be sent out tomorrow morning from the District as a way to prepare for Monday’s official start. 

    As Monday approaches, teachers and special education providers will be reaching out directly to families to provide direction and appropriate learning activities.

    Middle School:

    Platform: Faculty will use Schoology as the platform for communicating with students. This includes the posting of assignments and general announcements. 

    The Middle School faculty is committed to providing ongoing instruction for students during our closure. This commitment also extends to students who are in mandatory quarantine while school is open. We recognize that distance learning is not a replacement for face-to-face instruction, but it does provide an opportunity for students to be engaged and continue to learn while they are home.  

    The expectation is that each of the five subject-area classes will provide approximately 20-25 minutes of instruction per day. Because there are varying levels of support available at home, there will be flexibility regarding work completion and deadlines. Faculty may use Schoology to create assessments for students that gauge knowledge and understanding but these would not count towards the student’s overall grade average.

    Scarsdale High School:

    Platform: Faculty will use tools like Schoolwires, Google Classroom, Gmail and the GSuite for communicating with students. This includes the posting of assignments and general announcements.

    At the High School level, teachers will begin sending and posting information to students on Thursday and Friday this week. These materials are designed to provide enrichment, to activate previous learning, and to help students organize and plan their schedules for the days until school re-opens. As you know, the situation continues to be fluid, and the change in start date is a reflection of the dedication and flexibility of our teachers and staff, as well as their eagerness to engage with students during this disruption. 

    To that end, students should be checking their school email accounts as well as their teachers’ pages on Schoolwires (the school website), and Google Classroom. In the coming days, their teachers will indicate the primary means of communication and content delivery for each class. 

    We are doing our best to provide continuity of education during this difficult time. We recognize that distance learning cannot fully replace the learning experiences students and teachers have when they are in school. Please know that we will be making adaptations, as appropriate, to our plan in response to evolving situations and guidance from the State.

    March 12th, 2020

    We would like to start off again today by saying that we are thankful for our Scarsdale families' patience as we work through a host of complex issues related to a prolonged closure due to COVID-19. We attempt to craft these daily updates around the major questions and concerns that we continue to hear. Today's update will address our specific cleaning practices, social-emotional support related to our students' well-being, Special Education and ELL Services, and on-going calendar considerations.

    But first, we once again must reiterate that we strongly recommend social-distancing while our students are out of school. We implore our families to practice appropriate social-distancing and urge everyone to practice good germ hygiene. Preventative measures are only effective if we embrace and implement them as a community.

    Specific Cleaning Practices:
    We have been asked to detail some of the specifics regarding the deep cleaning of our schools.

    First, it is important to remember that cleaning and disinfecting our schools are a regular part of our custodial team's responsibilities. They have also been trained on all CDC and DoH guidelines for proper cleaning and disposal methods. The District has made disposable gloves and facemasks available for our custodial team to use, as well as the supplies needed to properly disinfect all areas. Moreover, all staff has been briefed on the products being used, any precautions that may need to be taken, along with reminders of proper practices like handwashing, limited touching of faces, covering for sneezes and coughs, and the like.
     
    The products being used for cleaning, include Morning Mist and Concrobium, which are hospital-grade, broad-spectrum disinfectants. Morning Mist comes in a trigger bottle that is sprayed onto surfaces and left to dwell (3-5 minutes) before wiping away. We're also using a diluted Morning Mist solution applied to surfaces with a rag. The wiping method is used for boards, handrails, and most other vertical surfaces. When applied this way, it is allowed to air dry. We also use a spray only method (no wiping away) on phones, light switches, and door hardware. We are using the Concrobium product in our atomizing foggers. This is a new product for the District. It's a "green," botanical-based liquid that can be fogged in a ULV fogger. We use this to supplement the use of Morning Mist and to apply disinfectant in hard to reach areas. With this product, we are able to "fog" entire spaces. Again, there is no wiping necessary, ensuring a long dwell time. The combination of the two products guarantees that everything in any given room is covered, including books, papers, equipment, floors, desks, ceilings, and the like.

    Social-Emotional Support:
    District administration has been coordinating with the PE teachers and psychologists to develop materials and guidance for parents on social-emotional and physical well-being during this closure. This was sent out on the elementary level today along with resource links and independent reading suggestions. 
     
    There will be a Middle School communication forthcoming that will provide specific information and resources on student wellness, social-emotional, and mental health issues. 
     
    Our High School Counseling Department has also been reaching out to High School students on issues ranging from SAT testing, to college visitations, to course enrollment for next year. We ask that students and parents reach out directly to their dean(s) for specific questions or concerns.
     
    The District has also been in touch with the Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service regarding our Youth Services project. The school-based social workers associated with the project are in contact with their students and families to offer support.   

    Special Education and Section 504 Services
    As our e-learning plan rolls out, Special Education providers will be reaching out directly to the families and students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and Section 504 plans. All direct and related service providers (LRC, speech, occupational/physical therapy, and counselors) have met and developed plans that include the following:
    • Appropriate skill-building work and/or differentiation of classroom teacher assignments;
    • Clear guidance on how to contact them in case of questions or concerns; and
    • Regular check-ins to consult on how to help children continue to improve their skills while at home.
    Initial individual communication started today and will continue through tomorrow and Monday.  We encourage all parents who have questions to reach out to any of their providers via email. Additionally, we are aware that a number of CSE and 504 meetings were postponed during this closing, these will be rescheduled when we return.  In the event of further closures, we will be developing a plan to complete these meetings virtually using technology. We truly appreciate the community's engagement and involvement!

    ELL (English Language Learner) Update:
    District administrators have met (virtually) with District-wide ELL teachers to coordinate the delivery of services. The teachers of English Language Learners will be directly reaching out to our ELL students to provide the following resources and supports:
    • Checks of understanding for classroom assignments;
    • Activities for practice and skill-building; and
    • Opportunities to connect in case of questions and concerns.

    Calendar Considerations:
    If nothing else changes (and that's a big "if" right now), we do expect to have to recover three days of session. Right now, we anticipate recommending April 6, April 13, and May 22 for the makeup days. While inconvenient, this avoids holding school during the Passover holiday. This is subject to change based on guidance from the NYS Department of Education. We expect updates on this within the next few days.


    We are currently discussing the best way to handle K-2 parent-teacher conferences, and hope to provide an update tomorrow on a path forward. The same holds true for the issuance of report cards.
     
    Finally, there is no word as of yet from NYSED regarding the ELA assessments planned for the end of March. Leaders within the County have expressed the need for contingencies, and we hope to learn something in the near future.

     

    March 11th, 2020

    The District continues to recommend social-distancing while our students are out of school.  Scarsdale is home to many citizens who are more vulnerable to COVID-19; reports of students gathering in large numbers and some posting their disregard for the risks associated with the current outbreak have reached the administration. While the District doesn't control what happens outside of school, we implore families to practice appropriate social-distancing and keep student and adult interactions to small groups and for everyone to practice good germ hygiene. Preventative measures are only effective if we embrace and implement them as a community.

    The remainder of today’s update will focus on eLearning opportunities for students. First, we would like to say that we are thankful for our Scarsdale families’ patience and support as we finalize our eLearning plan that is developmentally appropriate, meaningful, and responsive to the needs of our K-12 students. We are also thankful to our collaborative educators and administrators, who have been expertly mobilizing to respond to the educational needs during this unique and challenging time.  

    Education Continuity Plan Supported by Technology

    The District offers a suite of online instructional tools that can be used to support remote instruction and communication. General instructional tools for communicating with students include online services like:

    • Google Drive with shared folders 
    • GSuite (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Classroom, Sites)
    • Gmail 
    • Schoolwires
    • Seesaw
    • Schoology

    Note: Keep in mind that Scarsdale Public Library online resources are available remotely and can be accessed by students who have a Scarsdale library card.

    Elementary:

    Platform: Faculty will use online tools, including Google Drive with shared folders, the GSuite (Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Classroom, Sites), Schoolwires, and Seesaw, for communicating with students. This includes the posting of assignments and general announcements.

    We recognize that providing e-learning at the elementary level has unique challenges, especially for our youngest students. Our classrooms are carefully designed learning spaces with immediate access to appropriate resources and technology. For that reason, we have been finalizing guidelines and curating resources that would best support meaningful, independent learning. Our hope is that our students will work to the best of their ability and with the resources already available to them at home. 

    This morning, classroom teachers participated in videoconference meetings by grade level with curriculum coordinators and District administration. Through these meetings, we guided teachers to provide students with daily independent activities in four core instructional areas: reading, writing, mathematics, and science (25-30 minutes in each). Social studies may be worked into reading and writing times. We have also encouraged teachers to use professional discretion in how the time is allocated. For example, if teachers feel that it is more appropriate to focus on one area more than others, based on their current curriculum sequence, they have been encouraged to do so. The key is that each class has the opportunity to do work that is meaningful and enhances student learning.

    In addition, activities will be provided in the areas of art, music, and (for upper elementary grades), Spanish. And while the formal eLearning has been scheduled to start on Monday, a select number of learning and enrichment activities and suggestions will be sent out tomorrow morning from the District as a way to prepare for Monday’s official start. 

    As Monday approaches, teachers and special education providers will be reaching out directly to families to provide direction and appropriate learning activities.

    Middle School:

    Platform: Faculty will use Schoology as the platform for communicating with students. This includes the posting of assignments and general announcements. 

    The Middle School faculty is committed to providing ongoing instruction for students during our closure. This commitment also extends to students who are in mandatory quarantine while school is open. We recognize that distance learning is not a replacement for face-to-face instruction, but it does provide an opportunity for students to be engaged and continue to learn while they are home.  

    The expectation is that each of the five subject-area classes will provide approximately 20-25 minutes of instruction per day. Because there are varying levels of support available at home, there will be flexibility regarding work completion and deadlines. Faculty may use Schoology to create assessments for students that gauge knowledge and understanding but these would not count towards the student’s overall grade average.

    Scarsdale High School:

    Platform: Faculty will use tools like Schoolwires, Google Classroom, Gmail and the GSuite for communicating with students. This includes the posting of assignments and general announcements.

    At the High School level, teachers will begin sending and posting information to students on Thursday and Friday this week. These materials are designed to provide enrichment, to activate previous learning, and to help students organize and plan their schedules for the days until school re-opens. As you know, the situation continues to be fluid, and the change in start date is a reflection of the dedication and flexibility of our teachers and staff, as well as their eagerness to engage with students during this disruption. 

    To that end, students should be checking their school email accounts as well as their teachers’ pages on Schoolwires (the school website), and Google Classroom. In the coming days, their teachers will indicate the primary means of communication and content delivery for each class. 

    We are doing our best to provide continuity of education during this difficult time. We recognize that distance learning cannot fully replace the learning experiences students and teachers have when they are in school. Please know that we will be making adaptations, as appropriate, to our plan in response to evolving situations and guidance from the State. 

     

    Important Information from the Department of Health

    March 10th, 2020

    Yesterday, the NYS Department of Health (NYS DoH) and the NYS Department of Education issued further guidance to schools. In it, they state, “that early, broad and sustained community containment strategies are effective in reducing the spread of the virus. These community containment interventions are scalable and flexible so that local public health and education authorities can use these tools based on the local situation.” The school closure, suspension of meetings and activities, and precautions against gathering that we have urged reflect our use of some of the interventions available to us to make every attempt to reduce disease transmission and associated illness during this outbreak. The goal, of course, is the regular resumption of school on Thursday, March 19.

    Unfortunately, earlier today the Governor announced the need for a “containment zone” in New Rochelle, indicating that more aggressive steps were necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. While details and specifics about the enforcement of this “zone” are still not clear, we do know the containment area is in close proximity to the Scarsdale School District and reinforces the recommendations given to us by the County Department of Health. When more information is released, we will assess the potential impact this action may have on our community.  

    Additionally, the District was informed earlier that the County Department of Health (DoH) has identified and reached out to all close contacts of the affected faculty member. From our understanding, neither the Butler 7 students nor the larger faculty will be contacted by the DoH at this time. That leaves a total of 36 faculty, students, and parents who have been asked to quarantine for 14 days, starting from March 4, the date of their last contact with the affected staff member. All 36 have either already been tested, or will be tested for COVID-19 over the coming days. While we hope that each testing result is negative, it is possible that one or more could prove positive. That outcome would require additional testing and investigation. Given that possibility, we are continuing to recommend that our families take precautions to limit their interactions and practice the social distancing explained in our previous communication(s). Please understand that District Administration and the faculty are operating under the same recommendations.

    We understand that community members may want additional information and/or have continued questions, and some have questioned the cancellation of planned Board and public meetings. Given the guidance and restrictions we have received, the District feels strongly that any public meetings, including Board meetings, would run counter to these recommendations. As an alternate, the District and building administration are working diligently to answer any questions which are received via email. We are also making sure that frequently expressed questions and concerns are addressed in our wider communications. We strongly encourage the community to continue to contact us via email with any questions or concerns, and follow our regular updates for responses.

    Finally, planning for e-learning is well underway. The Curriculum Office is currently coordinating with building administration, department chairs, and curriculum leadership to finalize a plan (by grade and school levels) to engage students and families in distance learning opportunities. While the anticipated official start of e-learning is Monday, March 16th, educators across the District are mobilizing to provide resources and direction to students by this Thursday, March 12th. More detailed information will be communicated in tomorrow’s update.

    We thank you for your continued patience in this difficult time, and ask that you continue to follow the guidance we have provided along with any recommendations offered by our local and State governments.

    Please stay tuned in the days ahead for more information regarding the following areas:

    • Saturday’s SAT Testing
    • ELA State Testing
    • Parent/Teacher Conferences scheduled on March 19th for grades K-2
    • Elementary Report Cards and Middle School Mid-Quarter Progress Reports
       

    March 9th, 2020

    First and foremost, we would like to thank our students, staff, and parents for their continued patience and understanding. This extended closure is a difficult time for all, and we know there are many questions and concerns still out there. We have and will continue to use this as a platform to address as many of these issues as possible.

    Since our communication last night the District has continued to work with the Department of Health (DoH) officials and with Administration on the three priorities of health and safety, deep cleaning/disinfection, and continuation of learning for students. Many questions have surfaced with regard to this closure, and we are doing our best to respond to those inquiries.  

    Health and Safety:

    • All students and staff who had close contact with the affected faculty member have now been contacted by the District. Additionally, those names and their contact information have been provided to the Westchester County DoH, at their request. 
    • The DoH is in the process of contacting those people. The District has advised them that they will likely be told to self-quarantine and provided them with guidance to follow until they are contacted by DoH.
    • In addition to those who came into close contact, the faculty member also attended a faculty meeting and spent a short time in the cafeteria during Butler 7 lunch. Out of an abundance of caution, the DoH has asked us to provide the names of all faculty in attendance at the meeting and all students in Butler 7. We ask that these groups maintain social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations until told otherwise by the DoH. 
    • We are asking all of our families to maintain social distancing practices during this school closure.  These include: 
      • Limiting playdates/get-togethers and certainly any larger gatherings of students or students and adults;
      • Not having students provide babysitting services to other students; and
      • Not scheduling practices for sports teams or meetings for any clubs.

    Cleaning:

    • We have completed cleaning in the Middle and High Schools and are currently disinfecting all of our other school buildings.
    • Transportation is also deep cleaning all buses and other District vehicles.
    • Special attention is being paid to any areas where the affected faculty member may have been.

    Continuity of Education:

    • The District recognizes that the education that normally occurs in a classroom cannot be replicated at home. Therefore, e-learning will focus on ensuring students have the ability to practice and hone their skills and participate in educationally beneficial activities during any closure.
    • Teachers are planning and developing plans for Monday’s role out of e-learning.
    • There will be communication from specific schools later this week to provide specifics.
    • The District is working to make sure that the work students receive while out of school is appropriate and valuable.  
    • During this intervening week, we would encourage students to spend time engaging in passion-driven learning activities and use the time to engage in reading for pleasure.

    Other Questions:

    • We are starting to work toward anticipating the potential impact this closure may have on the school calendar, testing, and the end of the school year. Obviously, some changes won’t be up to us, but to the State. In the meantime, it is not unreasonable to begin to anticipate that we might need to use some of the remaining vacation days to make up for lost instructional time. As per the calendar, “In the event make-up school days are needed, the District schools will use, in the following order: Friday, May 22nd, Monday, April 13th, Thursday, April 9th, Wednesday, April 8th.” We will notify the community as soon as possible if the use of such days is necessary.
    • All lunch orders will be automatically canceled while school is out of session, no action on the part of parents is required.

    The District will continue to work with all of our partners to take any additional steps needed and keep the community informed through this platform.  We encourage you to look at the links below for the latest information on quarantine procedures and COVID-19 testing from the New York State Department of Health. As always we encourage you to reach out if you have any further questions.

    Important Information from the Department of Health

    Coronavirus Update: March 8th, 2020

    This evening the District was informed that a faculty member at the Middle School tested positive today for COVID-19. The District is working with the Department of Health (DoH) to discuss the full extent of precautions that we should be taking. We have spoken with the Westchester County Health Commissioner this evening, and she recommended that we close our schools in an abundance of caution and take additional remedial measures as outlined below. Therefore, we will be closing all District schools from March 9-18, 2020, for continued cleaning, progress monitoring, and social-distancing. 

    The impacted faculty member is exhibiting mild illness, and the District's response is designed to demonstrate vigilance and recognition of individuals who may be immuno-compromised. The DoH indicates that individuals of primary concern would be those who experienced direct, close contact with the affected faculty member. 

     We are approaching this closure with the following priorities:

    • The first priority is the health and safety of those potentially impacted. We are already working with DoH Officials to contact any families who DoH officials feel need to be notified and given guidance for further actions. This communication will be ongoing and is likely to take time to complete, please understand that the Administration and DoH are working as fast as possible, but we must make sure that the information provided to families is correct. 
    • Our second priority is to complete the thorough disinfection of all buildings, so as to minimize the possibility of contamination in our instructional spaces, common spaces, offices, etc.
    • Our third priority is to complete the development of systems and plans for continued instruction so that our faculty is ready to engage in e-learning starting Monday, March 16.

    We recognize that this news will be concerning to many of our students and families. We ask that medical questions be directed to your family doctor/healthcare provider. Although staff will not be reporting to District buildings, principals and Central Office administrators will be available through email, and we will make every attempt to address your questions and concerns, as time allows.

    Please note that a District-wide closure means all school-activities, meetings, and events, including sports, PTC events, etc. are canceled. We do not have any information on the makeup of any of these activities at this point. This will be communicated when, and if, these activities are rescheduled.

     
    Please stay tuned for updates as the next weeks unfold. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this difficult time.
     
    Important Information from the Department of Health
    • DOH Website

    • DOH Hotline and Phone Numbers:

      • People under self-quarantine or exposure to known case, call (866) 588-0195

      • NYS Department of Health COVID-19 Hotline (888) 364-3065

      • Westchester County COVID-19 Information Call 211

     

    Additional Resources

     
     

    March 7th, 2020

    Throughout last night and today, the District has been communicating with the Department of Health and received word that the initial determination regarding a Scarsdale Youth Hockey Association (SYHA) team was changed. The team members who played on the same SYHA team as the student who tested positive will be asked to quarantine for 14 days from their last encounter with the player. At this time, there are no students or staff in the Scarsdale Schools who have tested positive for COVID-19. The School District will work with the families involved to support them in any way possible. The Department of Health has given the families specific guidance as to how to implement these quarantines and how the rest of the family should travel and participate in day-to-day activities. The families will need the support of our entire community to help them through this time. We ask that all members of our community respect these families' privacy and encourage their children to do the same.  

    We understand that cleaning is an essential component of containing the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. It should be noted that Scarsdale’s “flu season” cleaning practices have been in place since prior to the February break and were enhanced on February 27th.  These enhancements include daily disinfection of high-touch surfaces and bathrooms, and a regular twice-weekly disinfection schedule for all surfaces in each building. Additionally, given the current developments, the custodial staff has begun a thorough cleaning and disinfection of both the Middle and High Schools and all activities scheduled to take place in District buildings will be canceled Sunday, March 8, 2020, in order to complete this work.

    At this time, Scarsdale Schools plan to open on Monday with a regular schedule.  As always, the Administration will be monitoring the situation throughout the weekend and will communicate if there are any changes.  

    The coming weeks will undoubtedly bring additional cases of COVID-19 to our region and additional quarantines, some of which will impact our schools.  We will continue to work with the Department of Health to safeguard student safety, operating from the position that health and safety are always the District’s top priorities, guiding every decision. Beyond this, we are also dedicated to supporting our community by maintaining routines and providing as much normalcy as possible to our students and families.

     

     

    March 6th, 2020

    Afternoon Update

    Good Afternoon Scarsdale Families,

    First, in reference to our morning message, we have received word from the County Department of Health that the students involved with the Scarsdale Youth Hockey League have been advised they are not subject to quarantine and should return to their normal activities.  We appreciate the cooperation of the Scarsdale Youth Hockey League, our students, and their families. 

    Based on both what we know and what remains unknown about the current coronavirus outbreak, and the evolving nature of the situation in Westchester County, we have decided to cancel the regional Science Olympiad competition at Scarsdale Middle School scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday, March 7, 2020). The anticipated attendance at the event (in excess of 1,000 people) and broad spread of participants from throughout the region has caused us to conclude that there would likely be an increased level of risk posed to attendees and the larger community.  While we regret the disruption and the impact it will have on all the teams who have worked extremely hard to prepare for this event, we must place the health and safety of all our communities first.

    The decision to cancel the Science Olympiad should not be interpreted as a signal about other events. The number of anticipated attendees, as well as the number of locations they were coming from, make this a unique event. We will continue to consider the potential risks associated with all of our planned activities on a case-by-case basis within the context of information available as the situation continues to unfold.

    Decisions related to short- or long- term school closures are dependent upon the fact pattern in our school community, as well as the advice of State and local health officials.  While the District is not planning any school closures at this time, today, representative groups of teachers and administrators met to develop plans in case of an extended closure. It is important to note that we believe that the best educational environment is the classroom setting, though some type of e-learning may be necessary in limited circumstances to practice and hone skills, engage students in independent reading and research, and extend prior learning. Expectations for e-learning must also be appropriate and reasonable for students, teachers, and students’ families. As the plan for continuity of education becomes more solidified, we will share additional information with the community.  

    Finally, as we work our way through the day-by-day, hour-by-hour decisions and actions that we are undertaking to keep the Scarsdale Schools community safe during this difficult time, we ask everyone to pause for a brief moment to catch our collective breath, and reflect on the word “community.” The Scarsdale Schools community has always been a place of inclusion, respect, and kindness. It is up to all of us to make sure that these values we cherish are preserved through the tumult, and in the midst of the understandable anxiety that sometimes clouds our vision. Together, we can work through any challenges that lie ahead, and look forward to a return to normalcy down the road.

     

    Morning Update

    Rumors of a confirmed COVID-19 case involving a Scarsdale student are unfounded. Last evening, the District received information about the Scarsdale Youth Hockey League. It has been reported that there is a presumptive positive case of COVID-19 involving a student in another district, who participates with Scarsdale students, although this has not yet been confirmed by the Department of Health. The impacted Scarsdale youth hockey families are in direct contact with the County Health Department and their family doctors. These students are not attending school today.  

    The District has been in direct contact with the families and has encouraged them to follow all Department of Health guidance and act with an abundance of caution. At this point, the Department of Health has not rendered a decision with regards to quarantine to our knowledge. The District will continue to work in concert with the Department of Health and the families as the situation unfolds.  

    Schools are operating as normal, and we are continuing the enhanced cleaning procedures that have been in place including the disinfection of all of our buildings on a regular basis. The coming days may bring more news of cases close to home. Know that we will continue to follow up on any concerns in conjunction with the Health Department, and will generate regular updates to the community.

    Individuals and groups throughout our community have been vigilant about notifying the District with their concerns. Some of that information has been extremely helpful and enabled accelerated information gathering and communication, and some have been inaccurate. As District and school leaders, we encourage you to continue sharing information you may encounter, but we also urge you to resist jumping to conclusions in the absence of factual or verified information.

     

     

    March 5th, 2020

    The past 24 hours have brought a number of new Coronavirus cases to lower Westchester along with some school closures. Upwards of 1000 people have now been placed on self-quarantine (by DoH) and more cases are expected in the future. Unfortunately, this has been accompanied by rumors about whether families are under quarantine and judgements about whether families should or should not be. 

    Two public school districts have closed for deep cleaning due to varying degrees of contact to people associated with cases of COVID-19. This was done independently of the DoH. Additionally, three private schools in Westchester have also closed due to confirmed cases of students with COVID-19. These closings were done with guidance from the DoH. While this may be alarming to our full school community, we must also be thoughtful and measured in our responses.

    At this time, the District is not planning to close schools or cancel after school activities, including field trips. This decision is based on the current situation and on the conversations with State and local authorities. Additionally, the District continues to follow up with any families who have questions or concerns regarding contact with Coronavirus, ensuring that they are following up with their family physicians or the Department of Health, as appropriate, and that they are following all guidance they receive. As of this time, the District does not have knowledge of any students who are under self-quarantine.

    Along with over 70 other school administrators, the District participated this morning on a call with the New York State Departments of Health and Education about the COVID-19 outbreak.  The conversation covered a wide range of issues, including quarantine procedures, cleaning procedures, and school/activity limitations/cancellation. The conversation supplied some guidance which is worthy of sharing with our school community:

    Quarantine:

    • At this time, the State Department of Health, in conjunction with Westchester County, is self-quarantining all people who have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
    • The County and State Departments of Health are informing schools if staff or students are part of a quarantine.  
    • There are no quarantines in effect for people who have had contact with the people who are self-quarantined, including family members.
    • School districts were reminded that they do not have the authority to restrict those not under quarantine from school.  Only the State or local departments of Health have that authority.

    Cleaning Procedures:

    • Written guidance was provided on cleaning procedures to all districts in New York State.  
    • School districts must still abide by regulations regarding chemicals used in schools unless specifically addressed in the new guidance.

    School/Activity Cancelations:

    • At this time, the departments of Health and Education are not recommending school closures, unless advised by the Department of Health.
    • There is a recommendation to curtail international travel for students sponsored by schools, and we are adhering to this advice.
    • There is ongoing discussion about the use of preemptive school and large group activity cancelation in the future.

    Since the beginning of this outbreak, the District has been developing contingency plans and working with its partners to address the concerns of students, parents, staff, and community members.  Today the Administrative Council met to discuss District response to date on the Coronavirus and plan for future contingencies:

    Cleaning:

    • We verified our cleaning procedures are in-line with State Guidance
    • All principals were briefed on and discussed the current cleaning procedures and how to assure continued regular disinfection.   
    • The District is planning for contingencies regarding the availability of supplies and manpower.

    Absences:

    • We will continue to treat absences with compassion and empathy.  
    • Any student who is absent for medical reasons or quarantine related to Coronavirus (there are currently none in the District), or any student whose physician is recommending absence due to underlying medical reasons will be treated as an excused absence.  
    • Any children absent, by family choice, due to concern about Coronavirus will count as an unexcused absence, but the District will not impose any penalty on students.  
    • In the case of unexcused absences arrangements cannot be made for daily lessons to be sent home, but teachers will work with students to catch up once they return to school.

    Communications:

    • There will be continued daily updates will be posted on the school website until the situation becomes more normalized
    • The District is developing an FAQ for common Coronavirus questions regarding school topics
    • Plans for remote communications are in place for staff, parents, and administrators if there is a need to close schools.

    Planning for Educational Continuity, if closures are needed:

    • Groups of elementary, middle, and high school teachers are meeting tomorrow to develop specific plans regarding educational continuity.
    • These teams will be working with the recognition that the education that normally occurs in a classroom cannot be replicated at home. Therefore, the planning will focus on ensuring students have the ability to practice and hone their skills, and participate in educationally beneficial activities during any closure.

    The District will continue to monitor the situation, consult relevant guidance, and inform the community of changes.  It is important to note that for many, school provides normalcy and predictability, particularly in times of fear and instability. Each day, we engage your children in a warm, nurturing, challenging environment. We intend to proceed in this fashion unless and until the situation demands a change.  In the meantime, we ask families to continue to help their children process the current situation in honest and developmentally appropriate ways. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. 

     

    March 4th, 2020

    Additional cases of COVID-19 have been identified in New Rochelle today. The County has taken steps to quarantine people who had contact with the originally identified case. We have been informed by the State Health Department that the school will not receive notification of the people who are quarantined due to privacy laws.  There are most likely community members who may be affected by these quarantines. We encourage all families to abide by the Department of Health recommendations and contact your children’s school for support.

    Today, the District and Village met to discuss coordination of efforts and plan the upcoming joint Board dinner prior to the regular Board of Education meeting on Monday, March 9th. The Coronavirus will be a major topic of discussion during this meeting. The District is continuing to monitor the situation and any guidance from government agencies. 

    Several parents and staff have brought up confusion over the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Under normal operating conditions, our schools do not supply or encourage the use of these products. The District can use these sanitizers with the permission of our school physician. As such, we are allowing and encouraging staff and students to bring and use their own hand sanitizers. The District has placed orders for hand sanitizer but given the current situation, we are unsure of how much of the product we can obtain or on what timeline. The District will supply as our ability to obtain these products allow. We ask that if you are sending younger children in with these products you instruct them in their proper use and impress upon them the need to use it appropriately.  

    At this time, there are no plans for cancellation of either school, local trips, or extracurricular activities however, the situation is rapidly unfolding and the District is revisiting these questions on a daily basis. 

    March 3rd, 2020

    Earlier today there was a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Westchester and it is suspected that this is the first case of community transmission in New York State. The person identified is not a resident of Scarsdale. Two private schools in Westchester have closed which are suspected to have a connection to the person in question. These schools have students from all over the county including Scarsdale. The District is investigating any links between these schools and our students, and is working with our transportation department to ensure that any vehicles that transport students to these schools are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before further use. Additionally, the transportation department will regularly disinfect all District buses.

    Monitoring:

    The District continues to:

    • Monitor and seek guidance from relevant agencies with regards to Coronavirus.
    • Follow up with any residents or staff who we know have traveled to affected areas.
    • Follow up with any residents or staff who have concerns about District response.


    Cleaning/Germ Hygiene:

    • The District continues to follow our flu season protocols for cleaning with include enhanced cleaning of solid surfaces, common areas, bathrooms, and classrooms.  There is daily disinfection of doorknobs, phones, light switches, and faucets. This enhanced cleaning will continue indefinitely.
    • Teachers and staff have been instructed to encourage students to wash hands and practice good germ hygiene especially before and after eating and after restroom use.
    • Additional signage is being hung throughout our schools to remind students about proper germ hygiene and handwashing.
    • Please keep children who are feeling sick at home and seek medical attention if they are experiencing any of the symptoms related to COVID 19 (Novel Coronavirus).  These symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and aches and pains.


    What can you do as families:

    • Encourage your children to use good germ hygiene, wash hands, and encourage them to remind their friends to do the same.
    • Answer any questions your children ask honestly with age-appropriate language and reassure them that the adults are doing everything they can to make sure they are safe.
    • Remind children to respect the privacy of their peers and their families and that using Coronavirus as a subject of humor is not appropriate.
    • Be calm in front of children and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” when they ask questions that don’t have easy answers.
    • Try to reduce the spread of rumors by getting information from reputable sources and checking with local or school officials before passing partial or inaccurate information along.

    The District will continue to work with the community to protect our students. Our best chance to limit the spread of this virus is for us to work together through clear and accurate communication, effective hygienic practice, and following the guidelines set out by our local health officials.  


    Resources

    Coronavirus Information from the CDC

     

    Previous communication to families:

    February 26th update

    February 24th update

    January 30th update