August 6, 2021
Dear Hastings Families and Staff:
I am thrilled to be starting as Hasting’s Interim Superintendent. Besides immediately taking hold of the many wonderful challenges of this position, I am making time to meet with as many people as possible. I want to quickly become a well-informed member of this impressive school district and community. We have posted on the Website a more complete introduction: Superintendent's Office / Welcome Back to Hastings Families. You will see what I believe as an educational leader--simply put, intellectual rigor, compassion, connections, and joy.
I will be sharing regular updates as we move closer to the start of school. Today’s update focuses on a topic all of us had hoped would be in our rearview mirror: the intersection of COVID-19 and our children, teachers, and schools. Unfortunately, with the increased impact of the Delta Variant regionally and nationally, educators once again have to plan for a school year with COVID-19 as a dominant reality.
Let me stress, however, that we have learned a great deal over the past 18 months. As educators, we know how to provide a healthy and safe environment for our students, which fosters academic growth and social-emotional well-being. We will be sending at least weekly updates on how we will be managing COVID-19. We will share in each update What We Know Now and What We Are Working to Resolve.
What We Know Now
Hastings Will Be All In --
We will have a full return to in-person instruction for all students, grades K-12, this school year. We will be fully in-person all day, every day.
We will not be offering a Hybrid or Remote Learning option. The sole exception will be providing a limited Remote solution for those students required to quarantine due to documented exposure to a confirmed, positive case of COVID-19. (We will provide details on the nature of the Remote solution in subsequent updates.)
State & County Guidance --
As most know, we are highly dependent on state and county requirements and guidance, which is tied to requirements and guidance from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. COVID-19 is a public health and medical concern, requiring us as educators to work within the expertise provided by Federal, national, state, and county public health and medical authorities.
Late Wednesday, the NYS Department of Health announced that it would not be providing schools guidance on how to address COVID-19. Fortunately, we know that the NYS Education Department, as well as the Westchester County Department of Health, will be providing guidance in the coming week. We know that the guidance will be based on the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Regional School District Coordination --
We have learned in the past 18 months that school districts maximize positive impact for students and staff through close coordination and shared approaches. The good news for Hastings is that we have excellent relationships with Westchester County districts and especially with the Quad Village Districts. Superintendents from these districts have been meeting this week to coordinate plans for addressing COVID-19, and will have critical sessions early next week. We will be working closely with the guidance anticipated from the NYS Department of Education and Westchester County Department of Health to resolve specific plans for mitigating COVID-19 spread.
Drawing on the state, county, and regional guidance, Hastings’ Leadership Team is forging final plans. This week I worked with the Central Office administration and Building Leaders to clarify what must be resolved. I also have been in contact with teacher and staff leaders. We will continue to work together.
I expect that by next Friday an update will be ready on how we will handle a series of approaches to ensuring our schools are nurturing, supportive, healthy, and safe for all students and staff.
What We Are Working to Resolve
Here is a list of many of the approaches under review:
- Masks and Face Coverings
- Physical Distancing (Social Distancing)
- Vaccination Guidelines for Staff and Students
- Testing Guidelines for Staff and Students
- Quarantines and Contact Tracing
- Barriers in Classrooms, Lunch Rooms, and Public Spaces
- Lunch and Meal Procedures
- Hallway Signage and Flow Management
- Ventilation and Facility Cleaning/Disinfection
- Arrival & Dismissal
- Busing Procedures
- Building and District Visitors
In many cases, we will work with what has been laid out in the plans we developed late this past school year. Reviews and possible updates to these plans are necessary due to the shifting nature of COVID-19.
In closing, let me stress that I am optimistic that we will be able to provide each and every student a school year notable for a focus on academic growth, social-emotional well-being, and fostering joy. Thank you for your continued support of our schools and each other.
William S. McKersie, Ph.D.