Superintendent

Fall 2020

Dear Sackets Harbor Central School Community,

The purpose of this article is to provide our school community with news, updates, and to share all of the wonderful things happening here at Sackets Harbor Central School District.    

I am so pleased to share that the first few months of our school year have gone rather well, all things considered.  Our faculty, staff, and students have adjusted so well to the new routines and expectations.  I cannot even begin to describe how proud I am of everyone in our school community for making our reopening a success.  As I write this article, we have been in session for eight weeks and I am so grateful for each day we get to be together in-person.  Has it been challenging and stressful, at times?  Of course.  But, it’s also been so refreshing to have our students, teachers, and staff back in our school building.  We have posted a video on our District’s Facebook page which shows what the typical school day looks like amidst a pandemic.  As you will see, it’s not so bad.      

We continue to work closely with Public Health to share information and encourage safe and healthy choices by all in our school community.  In early October, I shared with the school community a decision-making flowchart which provides the requirements for student and employee attendance.  I have included these charts in this edition for your reference.  We are very lucky that we have not yet had a positive case of COVID-19 this 2020-2021 school year but we are ready to respond to that possibility.  I attribute that to the good decisions that our families, students, and employees are making in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.  Please continue to limit travel to countries or states on the advisory list and if you need to, please follow the required quarantine procedures.  Please note, the New York State COVID-19 Travel Advisory is updated daily and can be accessed here: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory.  I ask that all members of our school community continue to implement safe and healthy practices such as being aware of how the virus spreads, wash/sanitize hands regularly, wear a face covering when social distance cannot be maintained, and be aware of your own health and symptoms.  It is truly up to all of us to keep our school doors open and I am so thankful to work with all of you towards that common goal.    

Until things settle, our normal school activities and events may need to look different.  Sadly, our 13th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony will not be held in person this year.  However, that doesn’t mean we aren’t planning on honoring our veterans this year. Please be on the lookout for a tribute compiled by Sackets Harbor students and staff honoring our past and present military members in true Sackets Harbor style! 

As much as I don’t want to remind you that winter weather is right around the corner, the cold and snow looms near.  This is the perfect time of year to finalize your winter/emergency plans should the need arise for a delayed opening, closure, or early dismissal due to inclement weather or emergency situations.  There are some significant changes you need to be aware of regarding District procedures for delays or closures.  This 2020-2021 school year, because of the shortened school day and staggered arrival and dismissal schedules for elementary and secondary, we may resort to either a one-hour or a two-hour delay depending on the weather and/or snow removal/clean-up needs.  There is also the possibility that I may direct our elementary students to report for in-person learning but direct secondary students to remain home to learn virtually, especially if we have a two-hour delay.  Be sure to pay close attention to the direction given in my notice to the community.      

The second change pertains to a major shift in how the District will handle snow days.  As part of the State Education Department’s ongoing efforts to provide districts with flexibility in meeting local needs during the pandemic, they have established a one-year pilot to enable school districts to pivot to virtual instruction to provide continuity of instruction on what would otherwise be a day of school closure due to a snow emergency.  This pilot is in effect for the 2020-2021 school year only, after which the State Education Department will review the outcome and determine whether to continue this flexibility in subsequent school years.  This year we will be prepared to pivot quickly to virtual learning on these closure days and provide students with continued learning opportunities.  Don’t fret.  There will still be time for sleeping in and playing in the snow!  Teachers may post recordings or supplemental activities into GoogleClassroom or Seesaw for students that support learning objectives.  Attendance for students will continue to happen on all virtual days for in district classes.  If we are closed due to weather no buses will run and students will not attend BOCES programs.  Students are reminded to take computers home each night with winter weather moving in.  It is our desire to work with our families to ensure that any closure days we have this 2020-2021 school year incorporate opportunities for continued growth and learning.  We welcome any and all feedback on this pilot program.     

As always, all parents/guardians should receive a notification from Sackets Harbor Central School in the event of a delay, early dismissal, cancellation, or closure.  If you do not receive the notification via email, text, or phone call, please contact the school to have this rectified.  All weather related notifications are also shared via our Facebook Page, with local radio stations, and with Newzjunky (www.newzjunky.com).  You can visit any of these sites to get the latest information on school closures, delays, cancellations, or early dismissals.  These decisions are not always easy but they are always made, first and foremost, on the basis of safety.   I thank you in advance for your support and understanding with this process.

The Board of Education, administration, faculty and staff have been very focused on wrapping up Phase 3 of our Capital Improvement Project.  Many of the changes are expected to improve our operating efficiencies as well as enhance the safety and aesthetics of our building and grounds.  We are so thankful to our school community for allowing these improvements to move forward.  Please visit our school website to see the month-by-month breakdown of work completed. 

We are wrapping up tax season, monitoring our current budget and working on the start of the 2021-2022 budget.  We would like to share thanks with Margaret Kelly, School District Tax Collector, for continuing to do a wonderful job ensuring a smooth and efficient collection process.  The District and Village of Sackets Harbor again supported a shared-municipal agreement to have tax collection take place in Village Offices.  This has allowed for increased hours and a stable location for our residents.  Thanks to the Village leadership for their continued support of this agreement.

Finally, we remain hopeful that the federal and state governments will come through with stimulus to ensure that public school districts receive the school aid they were promised and built their budgets upon.  The financial uncertainty we are facing is unlike anything ever experienced by the District.  We built, and our community approved, our school budget using the figures provided by the State.  Currently, the State has held back 20% of our promised State aid amid the state’s fiscal woes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are fearful that the delay in payments from the state might become a permanent cut. Couple this with the additional funds needed to safely reopening during a pandemic and one can understand how this hole in our fiscal plan has proved to be challenging.  In response, the District has instituted a spending freeze and only permits essential purchases needed for health, safety, and critical operations.  We have lobbied with our federal and state representatives and we remain hopeful and optimistic that they will come through for our children.  

We are living through unusual and challenging times.  The COVID-19 pandemic has people feeling stressed and concerned.  That is why it is so important to focus on noticing and being thankful for what is valuable and meaningful to you.  As we embark on this holiday season, be sure to stop and think about all you have to be thankful for.  It helps us to persevere through these troubling times.  Be on the lookout for a special video entitled, Patriots Persevere which will be released Thanksgiving week.  I, for one, am so thankful to work in such an amazing school community with so many wonderful people and am grateful for each day we get to be with our students.    

Warmest Wishes,

Jennifer L. Gaffney

 

 




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