October 23, 2020
Dear Hastings Families,
On Tuesday, October 20, the Board of Education convened a Work Session for the purpose of listening to administrators and union leaders share feedback about the hybrid model, Flex Wednesday, and the prospect of phasing-in other grades to attend daily for the full day. The recording of the Zoom meeting is here. The administrators shared a great deal of information with the Board, which included feedback from faculty and staff. We are grateful for the depth and breadth of their presentations and deeply appreciative of their collective efforts to keep the Board informed.
The key summary points below were shared by administrators and represent the reason why the hybrid model, without Flex Wednesday, will be continued into November. Before the Thanksgiving recess, an update will be provided on plans for December. The summary points from Tuesday’s Board Work Session are as follows:
- Reduced student density within the hybrid model has contributed to our ability to maintain social distancing and remain open with the exception of the two positive COVID cases.
- Increased density would cause alarm among students, faculty, and staff because social distancing would not be possible with or without floor or desk partitions.
- Phasing in more grades will require more space to divide classes and maintain social distancing.
- There is little positive support for bringing all children back to school as we enter the fall and winter season. The hybrid model is still the safest model we can operate in at this time.
- The reason Bronxville can accommodate all students in grades K-8 has to do with how much space they have to split classes. In Chappaqua, they have enough space to split classes and hire more teachers. Across each building, we currently use our gymnasiums, cafeterias, the all-purpose room, auditoriums, and outdoor spaces to expand our footprint. Even if we hired more teachers, we still do not have additional space for these split classes.
Flex Wednesday has become a regular instructional day. Melissa Szymanski, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, explains in this letter in today’s Hastings Daily, what led to the cancellation of Flex Wednesday and how the Green and Gold cohorts at Farragut Middle School and Hastings High School will have three days of in-person instruction on rotating weeks for the rest of the school year.
While the regional COVID infection rate remains low, there are a few other concerning trends to consider:
- COVID cases continue to rise in Westchester County.
- In October, Westchester County reports 70 positive COVID cases per day. This number was 30-40 in August.
- As of this week, there are 1,033 active COVID cases in Westchester making this the first time since June 6th that Westchester hit 1,000 cases.
- Fifty-eight people have been hospitalized and there were six fatalities reported last week.
- Starting on Monday, some of the workforce in Westchester County Government offices will start working from home.
- Contact tracing has increased exponentially. Some districts report delays in staff and students being notified they must quarantine or self-isolate.
We want to preserve the ability of our schools to safely remain open and we realize the hardships facing families who must continue to coordinate childcare arrangements, different hybrid schedules, and work. We continue to appreciate your patience, flexibility, cooperation, and understanding.
Again, thank you, and have an enjoyable weekend.
Valerie Henning-Piedmonte, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools