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End of the Year Letter

June 26, 2020

Dear Washingtonville Community:

The unimaginable challenges set in motion by the pandemic three months ago have emerged as the test of our lifetimes as educators, parents, students, and as a nation. Difficult times have a way of highlighting and intensifying inequities across communities, and ours is no different.

At the closing of the most extraordinary of school years, we are called to listen, evaluate, and prepare to meet new and enduring challenges with greater intention and effectiveness.

Recognizing that no amount of planning could have readied us for the abrupt, months-long closure of our schools, I am humbled to acknowledge the many small and steady acts of extraordinary courage, dedication, and care I have witnessed among us throughout this crisis.

By rallying together and giving your best to your school community, you made a multitude of obstacles more manageable and allowed us to reorder our priorities along the way to persevere in our mission. 

We recognized early on that this would be an uphill learning journey for all of us, so we began by focusing on basics. One of our first priorities was to ensure that all our students had access to two meals a day and were ready to learn. With the help of our essential workers, we were able to meet the need of serving breakfast and lunch meals to an average of 300 students a day. From June 29 - August 28, the District's Food for Kids Program will provide meals at our five distribution sites from 11:00 am-12:00 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week.  For those parents and guardians who are considered essential workers and need childcare during the summer months please visit our District website for more information.

While our District has long been invested in technology-integrated learning and online tools, they could not account for the challenges of switching to home-based learning overnight. Nor could they respond to student- and family-specific needs, or make-up for inequities in terms of access and learning supports in the home setting.

Ready or not, parents were called to take an active role in their children's daily learning, especially at the early elementary level. Collaboration and teamwork between faculty, students and families made a real difference, but barriers remained for parents working full-time, families with limited or no computer and internet access, our special needs students and English Language Learners, and varying levels of familiarity with available learning tools and resources.  

With that in mind, we want to express our deepest gratitude to all our teachers, students and parents for their good-faith efforts, creativity and perseverance through these perplexing times. We also want to recognize the indispensable support and tireless contributions from our technology and professional development teams.

When in-person connections were removed from the daily learning experience, everyone grieved the loss in different ways. Concerned over the social-emotional impact on students and families, school administrators, counselors and teachers worked together to reimagine ways of connecting and supporting them.

In every respect we know there is much work to be done and we are bracing for it, even as we seek to balance and align our fiscal sustainability with our students' needs and interests.

We also want to thank every parent, student and teacher who filled out our online remote learning survey. Whether you expressed appreciation or frustration, your feedback will inform our work in the months ahead, from professional development to curriculum mapping, and learning supports to communication strategies.

As we begin the summer, so begins the work of our District Task Force teams. These teams  involve teachers, students, parents, administration, Board of Education members, and community members.  Over the next few weeks our teams will continue to meet, working to formulate plans for several different scenarios for our September school opening.  When complete, these plans will be submitted to the State for approval. The decision to reopen in September is not solely up to the District but also involves public health and safety and is subject to official guidance from the CDC, the Governor's Office, New York State Department of Health, and NYSED.  Unfortunately, a definite decision on what our September will look like may not be made until mid-August. As we wait for and continue to follow official guidance for school reopening and recovery plans, we will rally around our resolve to implement more equitable learning experiences for all students and keep you informed of our progress.

 

I would like to close with a warm shout out to our Class of 2020! We commend you for your show of resilience in recent months, and we celebrate your many achievements and contributions to your school community over the years. We wish you much success and fulfillment with your future plans, and know you will make us all proud.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Larry Washington                         

Superintendent of Schools