Sept. 2, 2021
Dear PS 321 Families,
We’re very excited about beginning a new school year, and our staff is working hard to set up beautiful learning environments for your children. I want to give you some updates about this school year, and also to share with you a communication from the Chancellor’s office.
ARRIVAL & DISMISSAL, HEALTH SCREENERS, STAFF VACCINATION POLICY
This year we will have a regular school day, as we had pre-COVID. We will, however, maintain staggered arrival and dismissal times to allow all grades to safely line up for arrival and dismissal outside. As you know, grades K-2 hours will be 8:40-3:00; grades 3-5 will be 8:30-2:50. All children in grades 1-5 and in K-139, K-208, and K-214 will line up in and be dismissed from the back yard. Other K classes have specific line up places in front of the school that were outlined in your class placement letters. Note that for the first two days of school, all kindergarten classes begin at 9am in the back yard to allow parents to chat with teachers during this time.
We will have our Early Bird program available beginning September 20 from 7:30 am. Here is a LINK with more information about this program. In addition, Kids Orbit will be running a comprehensive afterschool program at PS 321 from 3:00-6:00. For more information: https://www.kidsorbit.org/
In all DOE schools, to enter the building children and adults will have to complete a health screener. It is very important that you do this before coming to school. Here is a LINK to download the screener. Hard copies will also be sent home. Children who do not have the screener will have to wait to be admitted into the yard/school.
All school staff and contracted vendors who work in the school building (such as Kids Orbit staff) must be vaccinated. School staff have until September 27 to get their first vaccine so all will be vaccinated by mid-October. Most of our staff is already vaccinated.
BREAKFAST AND LUNCH PROCEDURES AND CONSTRUCTION IN YARD
Because we are back to a full school day (rather than 2pm dismissal), we are going to have to handle lunch differently than we did last year. Our kindergarten classes will all eat in their own classrooms or outside, and each class will be supervised during lunch by a staff member (not the classroom teacher). Our goal is to have Kindergarten classes eat outside most days during the fall, weather permitting.
Grades 1-5 will eat inside and have recess outside as part of the lunch period. We will maintain social distancing of three feet, and we will not have children facing each other during lunch since they will be unmasked. In order to do this, we will be using three spaces for lunch for grades 1-5. There will be two or three classes assigned to the lunchroom; three or four to the gym; and two or three to the auditorium. In order to maintain social distancing we will have more staff than usual supervising lunch—six to eight staff members per grade. We are also working with Run4Fun again this year. In addition to the six to eight staff members who are with the children while they eat lunch and during recess, we will have two Run4Fun coaches in the backyard during recess. Although children will be able to use the whole yard during recess, we will not have games such as soccer where children tend to be very close to each other. Children and adults will continue to wear masks outside as well as inside.
Although I have submitted a request to have 2nd Street closed at lunchtime, I do not know if that request will be granted. I had submitted the same request last year and did not hear back for many months. If in fact we can use 2nd Street during lunchtime, then we will try to have classes eat outside in good weather. I doubt we will be authorized to do this right away though.
All children are eligible for free school breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, please enter and present your child’s health screen through the front doors between 8:00-8:25. Children will be supervised in the lunchroom during breakfast and then will go to their line up spots. Kindergarten and first grade students will be escorted to their classrooms or lineup spots.
Some of you have reached out about the construction in the back yard. We have been promised that this will be completed next week so that we will have the full yard available before children start school on September 13.
CLASS SIZE, SPECIALTY CLASSES, AND ENRICHMENTS
This year we have smaller class size than ever! Most of our classes are 23-24 students, with the largest ones being 25. This allows for social distancing of three feet, but is also wonderful in so many other ways in terms of allowing teachers to really know their students well and spend a lot of time interacting with small groups and partnerships.
We will be back to a more normal cluster/specialty program, where children will have a period a day where they are with another teacher for music, art, science, movement, physical education, technology or library. Your child’s teacher will let you know what specials they will have. In addition, we will have enrichment programs for each grade, funded by our amazing PTA (which is all of you). These enrichments feature a teaching artist/specialty teacher from an outside organization working with each class on the grade for one period a week for nine-twelve weeks. This year Kindergarten and First Grade will have a Creative Movement enrichment with Together in Dance. Second and Third grade will have Chess with Nick. Fourth and Fifth grade will have Improv with Freestyle Repertory Theater as well as a visual arts enrichment through Studio in a School. All of the grades have music with a DOE music teacher, and grades K-3 have visual arts with a DOE art teacher.
COMMUNITY BUILDING AND TRANSITIONING BACK TO SCHOOL
As I’ve said in previous communications, we understand that for some kids who have been learning remotely, this is a big transition. All teachers will spend a lot of time early in the year (and throughout the year) on community building, helping children make friends, and paying attending to kids’ social emotional development. Our experience last year with children who transitioned to being in school after learning remotely was very reassuring.
In addition to our classroom teachers and paraprofessionals, our guidance counselors, intervention teachers, and administrators will work to support the children as they begin the school year. Many children start the new school year without a lot of friends in their class but most quickly adapt and make new friends, and our teachers place a heavy emphasis on helping to facilitate this.
One of the things that parents can do to help ease the transition is to gradually adjust your children’s bedtime if they have been staying up late during the summer. Getting a good night’s sleep is extremely helpful to children.
ADDITIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
We know that safety is a top concern during this continued time of COVID and the Delta variant. All children and adults must wear masks at all times except when eating. This is essential and we ask that you make sure your child has a mask that fits him or her well. We also ask that you be extra cautious about keeping children home if they exhibit any signs of illness. We are trying very hard NOT to have to quarantine classes. However, if a class is exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID, that class has to quarantine for 10 days from date of exposure. In the case of a classroom closure, the teacher teaches the class remotely, with synchronous as well as asynchronous instruction. All classes will have Google Classrooms to facilitate this. Children who were at PS 321 last year have the same log in information and will be attached to their new classrooms. New children will be getting their log in information within the next few weeks.
In a case where an individual child has to quarantine due to exposure outside of the school, he or she will be given some asynchronous assignments on the Google Classroom. We are working out details of this policy right now as teachers who are teaching the rest of the class in person can’t be responsible for posting asynchronous work. We will have some grade-wide work available for your child to complete this kind of a quarantine.
In the case of more than four positive COVID cases within a seven day period, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) will investigate to determine if there is widespread transmission within the school. The school will remain open during the investigation. If the DOHMH determines that there is widespread in-school transmission, the school will close and all students will move to remote learning for 10 days.
The DOE COVID testing policy this year is to test 10% of the students (randomly selected) every other week. It is very important that parents complete the COVID Consent for Testing Form. Even if you completed one last year, you must complete a new one this year. You can access the consent form in your NYC Schools Account or download the form at schools.nyc.gov/covidtesting. Please try to complete this form before September 13.
If any individuals show signs of COVID, they can only return to school if:
- They test negative and have been fever free for 24 hours without the use of medication and overall symptoms are improving.
- They test positive, have isolated for 10 days, and are fever free for 24 hours without the use of medication and overall symptoms are improving.
All schools must report COVID cases to the DOE COVID Response Situation Room, as we did last year. When we report this, we also report all close contacts we are aware of and the DOE and DOHMH follows up with close contacts.
Our classrooms are well ventilated. All have windows that open as well as two HEPA air purifiers purchased by the DOE. There is hand sanitizer in every classroom, and the custodial staff cleans “high touch” areas such as doorknobs throughout the day. Each class is thoroughly cleaned at the end of the day.
We are very fortunate to have two full-time school nurses, Melissa Casey and Anyelina Genao-Deo.
EMERGENCY CONTACT CARDS AND MEDICAL ACCOMMODATION FORMS
Now that we are using Operoo and doing as much as we can digitally rather than on paper, we are using electronic “Blue Cards” which are the DOE emergency contact cards. Even though you may have given a lot of contact information to the classroom teacher, we ask that you update your emergency card. You will be receiving an email from Operoo tomorrow asking you do to do this.
If your child needs medical accommodations such as an inhaler or epipen for allergies, you need to complete a medical accommodation form. Please email Melissa Casey, one of our nurses, at Mcasey@ps321.info to get the form. Or, go to this LINK.
The PTA and the Administration invite new families to a “New Family Breakfast” outside at 9am on Tuesday, 9/21. On Wednesday, 9/22, at 5pm we will hold our first PTA meeting on Zoom. This will be a chance to hear from me about the beginning of the school year and to learn about volunteer opportunities through the PTA. Then on Friday, 9/24, we will have a “Welcome Back Pot Luck” in the back yard from 4:30-6:30.
During the last week in September, all of our classroom teachers will hold “Curriculum Conferences” on Zoom where they will talk about their plans for the year. Curriculum conferences for grades K-2 will be held on Tuesday, 9/28 at 7pm. The conferences for grades 3-5 will be held on Thursday, 9/30 at 7pm. Your child’s teacher will give you log on information.
If you haven’t yet signed up for the “Tuesday Bulletin,” please use this link to do so. Every Tuesday you will get an email update about important school events and policies. I also encourage you to check out our PS 321 website at www.ps321.org.
I feel so fortunate to be part of such an amazing community and look forward to working collaboratively with families during this upcoming school year! See you on September 13.