Dear Families,

It seems unreal that the summer is waning, and we are already at Labor Day Weekend! I hope that you and your children have had some great time to relax and enjoy each other’s company over the summer. Our staff members have all been back making our schools ready to receive our students next Thursday. The excitement in the air was palpable this week!

As I walked through buildings this week, I chatted with teachers who can’t wait to meet their new students. I saw beautifully arranged classrooms with bright displays, student desks assembled in collaborative groups, and gleaming supplies waiting to be used to create, design, discover and explore!  We have had orientation for our kindergarten, our formerly virtual students, and our 6th and 9th graders. They were happy, excited to be back, and talkative! In short, things looked NORMAL.

Outside, we are readying outdoor classroom space, PE space, lunch space, greenhouses, tents, and other areas where children can be maskless and free during the fall months. All of our building leaders are making outdoor time a priority for our students----which really is good during ALL times, not just during this pandemic. We have had lots of discussions over the past few years about maximizing the use of our beautiful outdoor environment; is there any other district on Long Island with a setting as beautiful as ours? COVID is just accelerating our plans for outdoor time, expanded play time, and building our environmental education program. Parents in grades Pre-K through 8 will soon hear their children talking about greenhouses!

We are continuing our partnership this year with Teachers' College at Columbia University, and will be introducing their reading program at the elementary school. Last year, we began the writing program, and we saw our students' writing grow in leaps and bounds. We are introducing new business electives, and a new medical assisting program in conjunction with Nassau BOCES. We will be profiling these and other new initiatives over the next few weeks on our website, and in my superintendent's blog. We will also beginning a new focus on nutrition and wellness, and will be expanding our new partnerships with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Jones Beach Nature Center. 

As you know, the State sent out some additional COVID guidance yesterday. Most of the news wasn’t “new,” but just to summarize some of the main additional points: 

1. We will be testing unvaccinated staff weekly and will be offering testing to families if they want it. More details will be sent home about that next week.
2. We would ask parents to please keep your children home if they are sick at all, and any child exhibiting symptoms of COVID must have a negative test (or confirmation by a physician of some other illness or chronic condition) before returning to school. (This is basically the same process as last year.)
3. We will continue to notify families if there is a positive case in the school, even if we do not have to quarantine anyone. 

The "great philosopher"  (at least according to my teenage daughter :-), Taylor Swift, said: “This is a new beginning, a new year. And things will change.” Things WILL change, for the better, and we are all determined to make this year a wonderful one for all of our children.  I know that our administrators, teachers, and staff can’t wait to see them!

Enjoy the rest of this long weekend!

Dr. Jennifer Gallagher
Superintendent of Schools