July 20, 2020
Dear PS 321 Families,
I very much hope that you are able to relax and enjoy summer, despite all the uncertainty and limitations.
I want to keep you up-to-date on where things stand right now in terms of plans for next year. Because of the nature of this crisis, things are changing rapidly, and although we have some tentative plans, nothing is definite yet. In addition to updates in this letter, I will also be holding a meeting to discuss this further and to answer questions as best I can. I anticipate that there will still be a lot that is unknown, but if you would like to connect, you can join my parent meeting on Wednesday, July 29 at 4pm via Microsoft Teams.
As you may have heard, the Chancellor announced that the current plan for New York City Public Schools is to return to school with a hybrid model in September. He presented possible options for elementary schools, Some schools are able to bring children into school half time; some a third of the time. I am pleased to report that should we have a hybrid model, it looks like we will be able to accommodate children in school half time. We had a choice of two models we could use.
We held a School Leadership Team (SLT) meeting last week and there was consensus on which model we would like to use. If we are in a hybrid model, we believe that the Chancellor’s preferred plan makes the most sense for us. That calls for children to be in school alternating days. One cohort would be in school every Tuesday and Thursday and alternating Mondays. The other cohort would be in school every Wednesday and Friday and alternating Mondays. Although we have to apply for this model and get it approved, since it is the Chancellor’s preferred model, we are assuming that if the DOE as a whole is able to use a hybrid model, this will be approved.
One of the things that we like about this model is that when children are in school, teachers can set them up for the next day when they will be learning at home. We envision these at-home learning days as including a combination of some on-line learning and some assignments that teachers will send home that will be done with pencil and paper, art materials, or manipulatives. We envision putting together packets of materials for students (including a baggie of math manipulatives, reading books, math workbooks, etc.) that they will bring back and forth between home and school.
Note that all families have the right to select an all-remote option if you do not feel comfortable sending your child into the school building. If you select the all-remote option, you will have an opportunity to revise that decision quarterly and have your child change to the hybrid model. I understand that there are lots of questions that remain about the all-remote option, some of the most significant being who will teach the all-remote students. Although at this point we believe it will be PS 321 teachers, there has been some talk of a more centrally managed remote learning option. As soon as we have definitive information, we will let you know. If you know that you do not want your child in the school building and so will definitely select the all-remote option, please do so as soon as possible. The deadline is August 7, but the sooner we have an idea of the numbers, the better able we will be to plan ahead. Here is the link for that application:
If you need additional information before deciding, I hope we will be able to provide you with that within the next week or two.
Although as of now the DOE is planning for hybrid instruction, the Chancellor is quite clear that this is tentative and that we need to be flexible. Governor Cuomo has said that he will make a decision the first week in August as to whether children will be able to go back into school buildings in New York City. If the Governor says we can, we will begin planning accordingly, knowing that should the number of cases of COVID-19 in New York City change before September, the plans for reopening could change as well.
Although we do understand that it would be helpful for parents to have information about which cohort your children will be in, we can’t start reorganizing classes until we have more information. We are committed to making sure that siblings are in the same cohort (so have the same at-school and at-home learning days). We will let you know which cohort your child is in by August 21. If we can get this information sooner we will, but with so much up in the air, we may not be able to.
Assuming that children are in school half time, we will be paying close attention to health and safety issues. Some of the protocols have been decided centrally, some are unique to PS 321, and some have not yet been decided. This is what we know at this point.
• Children will be socially distanced and will all be facing the same direction in classrooms.
• The DOE has given us space allocations indicating exactly how many people can be in each individual classroom. Depending on the room, we can have 11-13 children in a room with one adult. If we use the library, that can hold more children.
• All students and staff will wear masks throughout the day.
• We are fortunate to have two full –time nurses, and we assume we will continue to have them in the coming year. Our plan is to move the parent center that is now in front of the nurses’ office and to have both rooms be medical rooms.
• It is of course critical that sick children stay home. If a child exhibits symptoms while in school, they will be brought to the nurses’ office. Parents will be called and the child will be supervised in an isolation room until a parent picks them up. (This is a citywide directive and the isolation room will be separate from the medical rooms.)
• The custodial staff will do deep cleanings nightly with the use of electrostatic sprayers to be provided by the Department of Education.
• Bathrooms and high touch areas (door knobs for example) will be cleaned more frequently.
• The DOE will provide adequate cleaning and disinfection supplies to the school as well as to individual teachers.
• The filters on HVAC systems (the minischool has an HVAC system) will be upgraded. (I do not have more specifics on this yet.)
• Minischool windows have been modified so that they can open significantly more than they originally could.
• We will keep doors and windows open most of the time to allow for fresh air to come into classrooms.
• Drop off and pick up will be outside the building in designated, socially distanced areas. Parents will not bring children into the building.
• We will use at least 4 main building entrances and 2-3 minischool entrances and plan to stagger start/end times of school.
• We do not yet know what kinds of health checks will be made before staff and students enter the building.
• The PTA has purchased handwashing stations for all minischool classrooms and Room 207—these are classrooms that do not have sinks.
I understand that there are still many unanswered questions, and as soon as we get additional information, I will share it with you. I also know that the hybrid model (as well as the all-remote model) creates many problems for parents in terms of childcare. The Mayor announced last week that the City would offer childcare to 100,000 children when they are not in the school building. It is unclear who will be eligible for this childcare. In addition, we know that many PS 321 families are thinking about pooling resources and sharing childcare on at-home learning days. The PTA is setting up an online tool where families can reach out to other families about sharing childcare on at-home learning days. As soon as that is available we will let you know.
Our teachers and administrators are hard at work planning for various possible models for the fall. We learned a lot from the remote learning experiences this spring and we are working hard to provide the richest possible learning for children in both the hybrid and all-remote models.
Looking forward to meeting with many of you next Wednesday, July 29 at 4pm.