“Sayville Strong” Despite Soggy First Day September 10, 2020
September 10, 2020
“Be still, sad heart! and cease repining / Behind the clouds is the sun still shining / thy fate is the common fate of all / Into each life some rain must fall / Some days must be dark and dreary.” Longfellow
This “unprecedented” year of 2020 has been doing its best to make history. For the first time in recent memory, Sayville School’s First Day of School not only experienced “some rain,” but a super soaker. However, the deluge couldn’t dampen everyone’s feelings of excitement about returning after a six-month absence.
Sayville Administrators, faculty and staff wearing their Sayville Strides T-shirts with the uplifting message “You Got This/We Got You” were delighted to meet their new students and welcome back familiar faces behind colorful masks. In turn, many of the Sayville students who returned to in-school learning environments expressed they were happy to be back.
While some families had wanted their children to be remote learners, these students have also been encouraged to remain connected with their school community after their At-Home learning sessions end by participating in virtual school events, after-school clubs and activities (which at the elementary level are all virtual this year) and stay alert for all school and district mailings.
As with every School District in New York State, Sayville is adhering closely to all COVID-19 restrictions that affect the learning environments. Sayville has posted on its website both a comprehensive Reopening Plan, which outlines all procedures that are in place for the fall, and FAQs to help the entire Sayville School Community understand these changes—including wearing face masks, new social-distancing spaces, hygiene procedures, air circulation upgrades, technology enhancements, and rigorous cleaning regimens. Prior to opening day, Sayville School District had hosted Zoom meetings for the staff and community to ensure everyone was informed about the back-to-school plan.
Guidance from NYSDOH and NYSED has consistently focused on providing in-person instruction, wherever health and safety procedures can be maintained. Some of the most obvious changes this Fall, however, have affected Sayville’s secondary students. Both Sayville Middle School and High School will be following the A-Day, B-Day hybrid model due to social distancing restrictions. The District developed this plan to maintain adequate social distancing while providing a cohesive instructional environment for all secondary students. On Wednesday mornings, secondary students will follow a truncated schedule during which they will virtually meet with their teachers and other classmates. On Wednesday afternoons, Sayville faculty will engage in targeted professional development and planning time to enhance in-person and virtual-learning opportunities for their students.
While a hybrid model had been considered at the elementary level, the District was successful in achieving the high standards set forth by State guidelines to provide in-person instruction within the social distancing parameters. Classrooms and repurposed teaching areas that conformed to the six-foot restrictions—measured from child to child within each desk—have been utilized to enable all students to return to in-person learning.
“The joy to see our students come through the door was indescribable,” Sayville Superintendent Dr. John Stimmel remarked about the First-Day opening. “The students were awesome” in demonstrating that they understood the new protocols and “the teachers and staff were prepared” to guide their students through all the changes.
“Clearly it is not business as usual,” Sayville Superintendent Dr. John Stimmel had commented earlier. “I do not have the answer to every question that will arise, but the District’s priorities are simple. Look out for the health and safety of each other and reconnect with our students and each other…. No one knows all that will happen in the coming weeks. Will in-person instruction last for months, days, weeks, or God willing, the full year? No one can say. What I do know is that every conversation, encounter, lesson where we engage with our students is priceless.
“If our pandemic experience has taught us anything, it is this: the profound truth that technology cannot ever replace the relationship between teachers and students or students and their classmates. We are social beings. We learn together.”