October 20, 2021
Dear Scarsdale School Community,
Today’s update will focus on some reminders around illness, absences, and return to school testing requirements, along with an update on our screening program.
Illnesses and Absences
We have received some questions and concerns over the past few days about students who are ill. The first concern is around students who are ill and need to stay home but do not want to fall behind in their learning. We believe strongly that if students are sick, they should be focusing on their health and well-being and not allow the stress of school work to interfere with their healing process. At the point when students are home and not feeling well, but can engage in some school work, students and parents should feel free to contact teachers for missed work, as they have always done in the past.
A second worry that has been expressed is that students may be coming into school when they are ill to avoid falling behind in classes, missing sporting events, and the like. With health and safety as a major priority, our teachers and nurses are on high alert for students who don't look or feel well. These students receive immediate attention and are evaluated to determine the best course of action (isolation, sent home, etc.).
We have asked students and parents to partner with the District around the health and safety of all by making sure that students remain at home if they are exhibiting symptoms associated with Covid-19 infection.
Since the start of the pandemic, the District procedure has been to require a PCR test to return to school if a student or faculty member experiences any symptoms associated with Covid-19. This procedure continues to be in place and will be for the foreseeable future. As the pandemic has continued, testing has become more readily available. However, depending on the vendor, some PCRs can take up to 5 days to return a result. We encourage all parents to utilize practitioners using rapid PCR testing technology to minimize the time students need to be out of school.
The federal government has allowed for individuals with a known exposure or symptoms associated with Covid-19 to receive free Covid-19 testing at a sponsored testing site or be exempted from copay at a practitioner accepting your health insurance. In and around Scarsdale, there are a number of private practitioners and urgent care facilities that provide rapid PCR testing and accept most major insurances. Our school nurses can help direct families to a testing facility if they are experiencing difficulty in finding one.
Covid-19 Screening Testing to Date
We have just completed our first round of District-wide Covid-19 testing and, out of the more than 1100 tests administered, we had no positive cases. We believe this is strong evidence that our risk mitigation efforts are working and that ill or contagious students are not coming to school and infecting others.
Reminder about this week’s testing
This week, voluntary screening is happening at the elementary schools and samples are due back tomorrow by 10 a.m. All tests should be returned in their original bags and placed in the drop boxes located at the safety monitor’s station. Please see Eric Rauschenbach’s email from October 18, 2021, for further details on this week's testing.
Dr. Thomas Hagerman
September 29, 2021
Dear Scarsdale Parents,
Today’s update will focus on our instructional plans for students placed in mandatory quarantine due to Covid-19.
Please Note: We continue to work with the Westchester County Covid-19 testing program and expect the parental consent email for testing to be sent out shortly. We will send a community update out once this has occurred.
Instructional Plan for Students in Mandatory Quarantine:
Students placed into a mandatory quarantine by the Westchester County Department of Health will be provided level-specific, quarantine instruction. While there are variations at each level, the common components are:
(1) classroom teacher contact, and
(2) virtual home tutoring for the duration of the quarantine
Please take note of these important points about tutoring:
- We will strive to schedule tutoring as soon as possible; however, it may take a little time to schedule the appropriate teacher/tutor and to establish contact with families. It is important to note that all students will be provided the full number of tutoring hours, even if that extends into the time a student returns to school.
- While direct classroom instruction is our preferred method for student learning and tutoring is not a replacement for that instruction, it is meant to be a support structure that helps students stay connected to what is happening in their classrooms when they cannot attend in person. This connection will ease the transition back to the classroom.
- In instances where a student is symptomatic AND in quarantine/isolation, the priority for that student should be on recovering and feeling healthy again, much like a more typical absence due to illness. As with all illnesses, our teachers are understanding of students recovering from COVID-related illness and will demonstrate flexibility when students return from quarantine, such as allowing students time to complete missed assignments and assessments.
A brief overview of plans for each level, as well as a complete description of procedures, are provided in the links below.
Please click on the level-specific link below to review the relevant plan.
As with other classroom-specific questions or concerns, please contact your child’s classroom teacher, counselor, or dean, respectively.
Dr. Thomas Hagerman
September 18, 2021
Dear Scarsdale Community,
Today’s communication is to provide an update on an incident that happened yesterday after a SHS Football game.
Last night, our Scarsdale Football team played an away game against Arlington High School on their football field. After the game, as the crowds were dispersing, a fight broke out among the Arlington students in the main parking lot (away from the field where the game was played). The fight resulted in the stabbing and tragic death of a 16-year-old Arlington student and the arrest of a former Arlington student. This incident did not involve any Scarsdale players or spectators.
After the game, our football students and their coaches remained on the playing field until they boarded the buses to return home. It is unclear if our students were aware that a fight had broken out or that police were arriving to intervene (since our students were across campus from the incident). When our students boarded the buses, the bus drivers were directed to exit the Arlington campus away from the incident area. Our football players may have learned about the fight and stabbing on their way home or after arriving home.
Although our students were not directly involved in the situation, incidents like this can be difficult to understand and process. Therefore, we will have staffing available for any students (or parents) who want to discuss or debrief this situation, starting on Monday at the High School.
Consistent with our Safety, Security, and Emergency Management protocols, we will debrief this incident during our next Safety Committee Meeting and review the procedures for our sports teams when they are competing off-campus.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family who lost their child in this terrible act of violence as well as the entire Arlington community.
With a heavy heart,
Dr. Thomas Hagerman
September 14, 2021
Dear Scarsdale Community,
Today’s communication is to provide updates on outdoor elementary school lunches; Westchester County’s updated quarantine practices; and a new, Westchester County Covid-19 testing program that will begin in our schools within the next two weeks.
Elementary Outdoor Lunch:
In an effort to minimize the risk of Covid-19 spread and resulting quarantine, we will be instituting outdoor lunches in all elementary schools as spaces allow. These plans will be implemented starting on Monday, September 20, 2021. On good weather days, we will maximize the number of students outdoors for both lunch and recess, understanding that each building will utilize somewhat different approaches due to their unique, physical footprints.
There will still be a need for indoor lunch on inclement weather days, and these will continue to follow the practices that are currently in place. Note: the risk of quarantine does remain for close contacts if there is a positive case identified.
Each elementary school will be sending out additional information and details regarding specifics for each school site later this week.
Westchester County Updated Quarantine Practices:
This weekend Westchester County adjusted its guidelines for quarantine. The County is no longer using Proximate Contact (more than 6 feet, but in the same room for an extended period) as a reason for quarantine. Moving forward, only individuals who are 6 feet or less from a positive case (for more than 15 minutes over a 24 hour period) will need to be quarantined.
Please see the updated FAQ for more details on contact tracing and quarantine.
Westchester County Covid-19 Testing Within Scarsdale Schools:
Scarsdale Public Schools is pleased to announce that we will be partnering with Westchester County Department of Health’s testing partners Mount Sinai Health System and C-19 Safety First to offer a free COVID-19 screening testing program.
The County program is expected to start within the next two weeks and provide the District with resources to test a sizable segment of our school population each week. The program relies on two testing strategies:
- Voluntary weekly testing of up to 20% of all students, teachers, and staff with special focus on our unvaccinated populations; and
- Mandated testing of all unvaccinated staff and student-athletes
The program will use non-invasive, self-collected saliva samples that are suitable for all ages. Samples will be processed using accurate and reliable PCR analysis to identify positive cases.
Later this week, the District will send a survey to all families and staff to request consent for testing and a release for Mt. Sinai to share the results with the District. All students, teachers, and staff are highly encouraged to participate in this program.
Also, for those observing, G’mar Chatima Tovah.
Dr. Thomas Hagerman
August 19, 2021
Dear Scarsdale Schools’ Community,
We are excited to welcome all students back on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, for full-time, in-person instruction. When school reopens, the District will continue to follow national and State, along with best practices, as part of our multi-layered, risk mitigation plan. We are confident that these efforts will maximize safe learning and work environments for our students, employees, and their families.
Our comprehensive 2021-2022 Covid-19 Risk Mitigation Plan will be available on our District’s website this evening and can be accessed by clicking here. It will be reviewed and updated as health metrics change and new or additional guidance becomes available.
Key points of the District’s Plan, including current guidance, information about communication, and major mitigation efforts, are outlined below. While this will give a good overview of what the coming year will look like, we encourage you to read the plan in its entirety. In addition, we will be presenting the Plan this evening at the Board of Education Meeting, starting at 5:30 in the District Office (masks required), and live-streamed here.
Covid- 19 Guidance for the 2021-22 School Year:
The District will maintain safety protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the New York State Education Department (NYSED); the Westchester County Department of Health (WCDOH), and the District’s Chief Medical Officer/Physician.
The NYSED and WCDOH have advised school districts to follow CDC and AAP guidelines and work in conjunction with their district’s medical officer for the opening of schools regarding Covid-19 protocols:
- NYSED Health and Safety Guide for the 2021-2022 School Year
- CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools
- AAP COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools
If Covid-19 transmission levels rise and official guidance warrants further risk mitigation, our schools are prepared for contingencies such as increasing physical distancing to minimize transmission, requiring Covid-19 surveillance testing, and/or preparing to pivot to hybrid or remote instruction (if required by State or County authorities).
If Covid-19 transmission levels decline and official guidance allows risk mitigation reductions, our schools are also prepared to remove masking and other Covid-19 risk mitigation efforts.
Communication/Family and Community Engagement:
The District remains committed to providing the Scarsdale Schools’ community with information on a regular and ongoing basis and providing opportunities for feedback. To that end, the District will provide regular, written community updates monthly. Additionally, the District will provide opportunities for questions and feedback throughout the year as conditions and metrics change. School-specific information and logistics will also be shared by respective school administrators, and student-related questions should be addressed to their home schools.
At this time, New York State has not reestablished reporting on the State “Report Card”; however, the District is prepared to comply with all State reporting requirements for Covid-19. In the absence of a State Dashboard, the District will report Covid-19 cases at Board of Education meetings and via community updates.
Key Points of 2021-22 Covid-19 Risk Mitigation Plan:
- Schools will be fully open for all students beginning Wednesday, September 1, 2021. Class schedules and educational programs will return to pre-pandemic norms. The District will not offer hybrid or remote learning options unless required by the State.
- The health and safety of our school community remain the highest priority for the District.
- The wellness and social-emotional well-being of our students and staff remain a significant priority. The District continues to work with our District psychologists, clinicians, and counselors to monitor, assess, and intervene in order to best support our students’ social and emotional well-being. Additionally, the District has provided targeted professional development for our staff around social-emotional learning and interventions.
- Masks will not be required outside, but masking during large outdoor gatherings/activities may be required.
- District staff will be required to participate in weekly testing for Covid-19 unless they are vaccinated. Optional testing for students will be offered and unvaccinated student-athletes will be required to test in order to participate in sports.
- Physical distancing of 3 feet (when possible) will be used in classrooms and other instructional areas.
- Lunch will be served in traditional and non-traditional spaces using 6 feet physical distancing wherever possible (while maintaining the regular school schedule for students). Outdoor spaces and tents at the Middle and High schools will be available and utilized for outdoor activities.
- Classes for special area subjects will utilize specific procedures and protocols to address health and safety while shifting towards more typical instruction.
- Students who are at risk of not achieving State Learning Standards will continue to be entitled to receive Academic Intervention Services.
- All sports will practice and compete during their traditional seasons throughout the 2021-22 school year, subject to New York State, CDC, and AAP guidance. Student-athletes and their families will receive updated information specific to their season(s) and sport(s) as it becomes available.
- The District will continue with enhanced Cleaning and Disinfection Protocols consistent with CDC guidance. The District will also continue to follow the Scarsdale Schools Ventilation Plan developed last year for the 2021-2022 school year.
- Busing will return to a regular schedule and operate on regular routes. Masks on buses will be mandatory. A return to more normal busing levels should also ease traffic in and around each of our schools.
- Fully vaccinated individuals are not subject to quarantine for exposure at this time.
- Daily Attestations will no longer be required; however, students and staff who feel ill must not come to school.
- The District will limit non-essential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations during school instructional times. Masks and health screening questionnaires will be required for all essential visitors in order to enter the building.
- Any instances of Covid-19 infection will be reported to the WCDOH and contact tracing will be conducted immediately.
Over the next few days, you will be hearing more site-specific information and details from your principals. If you have student- or schedule- specific questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to your children’s schools directly.
With school just around the corner, we are all looking forward to a safe, productive, and learning-filled year ahead!
Dr. Thomas Hagerman
Superintendent of Schools
August 10, 2021
Dear Scarsdale Schools' Community,
I hope this email finds you all healthy, happy and enjoying the best this season has to offer.
As we look forward to opening our schools in the weeks ahead, our planning efforts have and continue to focus on maintaining a safe and healthy environment for our students, educators, and their families. Since the State of Emergency has been rescinded for New York, much of the previous State guidance has expired, and will not be updated or extended.
According to the NYS Commissioner of Education, Dr. Betty Rosa, the New York State Education Department will be providing schools with new guidance this week. She has also indicated that it will rely heavily on updated CDC guidance.
In the meantime and in the absence of updated guidance from the Governor’s Office and the New York State Department of Health, we will continue to rely on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to guide our preparation for the coming school year. The following preliminary decisions have been reached in consultation with our District Physician:
- All students are expected to attend school in person, five days a week. We will be utilizing our schools’ regular, pre-pandemic schedules. These schedules can be found in the student handbook for each building.
- Hybrid instruction will not be used this year.
- Remote/Virtual instruction will be employed only in emergent situations if/when a full class is required to quarantine/isolate, or if the State or County closes our schools due to a severe outbreak.
- Activities, extracurriculars, and athletics are scheduled to proceed according to pre-pandemic practices. Health and safety protocols to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19 are being finalized in accordance with CDC guidance for schools. The AAP guidance will also be used to inform our work for youth sports and physical activity. The protocols will be posted on the Scarsdale High School Athletics website and communicated to participants and their families as they are completed.
- Per CDC guidance, all individuals will be expected to wear face coverings/masks while inside District facilities and on District transportation, regardless of vaccination status, starting at the beginning of the school year. This is the same practice as last school year. Masks will not be required outdoors, although unvaccinated individuals will be encouraged to wear them at all times.
- Standard health/safety mitigation strategies from last year will continue into the year ahead, including cleaning/disinfecting protocols; physical distancing, to the extent possible; handwashing and respiratory hygiene; contact tracing; and the like.
- The Scarsdale Public Schools will also continue to seek out and offer vaccination opportunities/information and COVID-19 screening testing.
Today’s update is intended to provide a very broad overview of our planning processes to date. We recognize that there are likely many logistical questions that remain unanswered. We will provide additional updates prior to the start of school as the Department of Education guidelines are provided and our own plans are finalized. We will also be providing a Back-to-School update next week at a Board of Education Meeting on August 19th at 5:30 p.m.
While this year will continue to be a little different than the past (with risk mitigation efforts in place to keep everyone safe and healthy), we look forward to welcoming back all our students and to providing them with a meaningful and rewarding educational experience in the year ahead.
Enjoy the remaining weeks of summer.
Dr. Thomas Hagerman
July 28, 2021
Dear Scarsdale Schools’ Community,
We hope everyone is enjoying the summer and finding time for much-needed rest and rejuvenation. The purpose of this update is two-fold: (1) to recognize the wonderful work done in our Summer SPARK program, and (2) to provide you with what we currently know regarding guidance for schools, and what we anticipate the start of school will look like.
Friday marked the culmination of the Summer Project-based Academic Retreat for Kids (SPARK) program. Over 300 rising first through sixth-grade students participated in our three-week program held at Fox Meadow and Greenacres schools. The essential question posed to students in the program asked, “As responsible citizens of our local and global communities, how can we apply our learning to help make our community and the world a better place?”
In response, students demonstrated their critical and creative thinking as they worked on a variety of hands-on interdisciplinary activities, including researching and designing a garden for Greenacres, examining how to protect endangered species, designing an animal shelter for local pets, how to encourage greater use of solar energy and composting, and how to improve life in Scarsdale and attract new families to our community.
Student engagement and enthusiasm were on display throughout this exciting program. The program was conceived by the Superintendent and his Cabinet, funded by the Board of Education, and designed and coordinated by Kristina Beck, Trish Iasiello, Edgar McIntosh, and William Yang, with support from faculty at Columbia Teachers College. Sessions were led by some of Scarsdale’s exceptional staff, along with expert guest speakers. We would like to recognize and thank all of these individuals who made this program a wonderful experience for our student participants.
Planning for the ‘21-’22 School Year:
As many of you likely know, the State has not yet provided updated guidance for the start of school in the fall. They have indicated that they will be providing such guidance, but a timeline has not yet been given.
At this time, we expect all start and end times and academic schedules to return to our traditional (pre-pandemic) formats. Additionally, we anticipate that after-school programs will commence as they have in the past. Finally, Governor Cuomo has indicated that there will no longer be a virtual option for students, and we are planning accordingly.
Masks and Distancing:
Requirements pertaining to masks and social distancing continue to be uncertain aspects of our planning process. This summer, the NYSDOH provided guidance for summer school programs that made masks optional for vaccinated adults and for all students regardless of vaccination status. This guidance was specifically targeted for summer school programs, and the NYSDOH promised additional guidance for fall. These changes were made while keeping all other school guidance in place, including 3-foot distancing. While this was encouraging, it was done prior to the more recent surge of cases and breakthrough infections caused by the Delta variant. Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced revised guidance for K-12 schools, recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC recommended the same yesterday. We know the NYSDOH has taken direction from these sources in the past, but as of now, the State has not developed new guidance for schools. We will follow the guidance that is issued with respect to the 2021-22 school year.
Vaccination and Testing:
Requiring vaccination for students and staff is a topic that is currently being debated on both the national and state levels. Regarding students, New York State has always legislated vaccine requirements for students attending school. As a public school district, we do not have the authority to require vaccines above and beyond what the law requires. Similarly, given the compulsory nature of schooling, testing can not be a requirement for attendance in school without a State mandate. During the school year, our approach to vaccination and testing of students will be consistent with that which we are authorized to enact.
Regarding our faculty and staff, while the District does have the authority to require either vaccination or Covid-19 testing, such a change in practice would be considered a condition of employment and subject to negotiation with each of the District’s bargaining units. Both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have announced plans to work with their respective unions to implement a vaccine or testing requirement. We anticipate working with all of our bargaining units around these issues as well.
Visitors and Use of Facilities:
At this time, we expect to reopen our facilities to outside groups contingent on their ability to follow the forthcoming NYSDOH guidance for schools. Similarly, the visitor policy will be dependent on the forthcoming guidance. It is our hope to be able to reopen our buildings to visitors in some capacity.
While we are still waiting for official guidance, we are confident that the fall will look much more like a traditional school year, and our students will be able to participate in the vast majority of their activities and academic experiences that they enjoyed prior to the pandemic.
We will continue to provide additional information as more information becomes available to us.
Until then, enjoy the remaining weeks of summer still ahead.
Dr. Thomas Hagerman