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Superintendent's Corner


Superintendent's Update LiveStream

August 2020

Dear Royal Families:

After the challenging COVID-19 health crisis this past spring, my hope is that you have been enjoying a relaxing summer. Although these months may have looked different for many of us, it still brought happiness enjoying the warm weather outdoors and the local beauty of our Village. Recently, New York has been experiencing consistently low infection rates, which brings hope that our schools and lives can return to somewhat “normal” in the coming months. I remain confident that with diligence, New York  will continue to move in this positive direction.

There is a lot of mixed emotion from our families as the new school year approaches and we prepare to re-enter our buildings. Back to school this year is not a perfect scenario for any of us. The District thoughtfully considered the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department guidelines as we planned and prepared for our reopening. Although our physical buildings and procedures may look different, our students’ education and health remain our top priority. Regardless of these new procedures and protocols that may feel strange at first, the heart of our schools, our students and staff, are returning after a long time apart. The familiar, smiling faces of our school staff members will be welcoming your children back to our buildings with open arms. It will be a highly anticipated and joyful reunion! 

Please know that throughout the summer, our facilities, technology, clerical and administrative staff members have been working tirelessly to safely prepare for the opening of school on September 8 th . Our teachers and teaching assistants have been engaged in multiple professional development sessions and faculty meetings in anticipation of starting the year. Capital projects for security enhancements continued with vestibules completed at both our Elementary and Middle/High School buildings. All of us cannot wait to welcome our students back – our hallways have been empty for far too long. Enjoy what is left of the summer. We look forward to seeing everyone soon. 

Sincerely, 

Jessica Schmettan
Superintendent of Schools

July 31, 2020

Dear Royal Families,

I hope this letter finds you and your families healthy and enjoying the summer months.  Our leadership team has been hard at work planning for a safe reopening of our schools.  Thank you to our Reopening Committee members for their input and feedback throughout this process.  We would also like to thank our entire parent community who contacted us to share their experiences and concerns during the closure. All of your input was taken into consideration during our planning. 

Although our document is posted on our website, we expect our plan to be fluid and ever changing.  We will be awaiting Governor Cuomo’s final decision next week on reopening. We are committed to resuming in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year; recognizing that children learn best when they are in school. There is no substitute for a trained educator in the classroom. However, it is important that we prioritize the health and well-being of our students and staff. Therefore, all of our decisions will be made in compliance with guidance from the New York State Department of Health, New York State Education Department, and the Governor’s Office executive orders.

In preparing our reopening plan, we carefully considered group size limitations, availability of staff, social distancing requirements, and personal protective equipment. All of this was taken into consideration in order to best facilitate a safe return to school for our students and staff.  Based on our assessment of multiple factors, we will begin school for our High School and Middle School students in a hybrid instructional model. In the Elementary School, we will resume in-person instruction five days a week with strict social distancing requirements. In order to accommodate this model, the UPK and SEAL programs have been suspended for the 2020-2021 school year. Those staff members will be utilized in order to reduce class sizes and accommodate the return of all of our elementary students.  Details regarding these models can be found in our Reopening Plan.  All instructional models will be reassessed and refined with changing conditions.

The health and safety of our students and staff will require ongoing communication, collaboration, and patience from us all.  We recognize that we still have challenges ahead and many unknowns. We are committed to keeping you informed through our website, School Messenger, social media platforms, and video updates. 

Stay tuned this summer for additional information and surveys regarding your intentions for the 2020-2021 school year. 

Sincerely, 

Superintendent Schmettan

 

 

June 26, 2020

Dear Port Jefferson Families, Students and Staff,

It is hard to believe that today is the final day of the school year.  The past several months have been some of the most challenging and emotional times for our community and nation. The year 2020 has presented us with obstacles that seemed impossible to overcome. We shifted our entire educational system into a distance-learning model within weeks.  Information and restrictions regarding COVID-19 changed rapidly, forcing us to adapt and evolve in order to protect our health and the health of others.  When we needed our loved ones and friends the most, we were required to maintain social distancing. We recognized the extraordinary efforts of our first responders and essential workers who put their lives on the line for all of us each day during the critical height of the virus. Additionally, recent news events coupled with the pandemic had our students looking to the adults in their lives for answers and reassurance. 

These tragic events disheartened us and reminded us that inequity still exists within our society. This realization weighed heavily on all of us.  The Port Jefferson School District has educated students on cultural diversity, civility, respect, and kindness. We strived to provide an educational environment that supports all students and their families regardless of their race or ethnicity.  When apprised of a situation, we addressed any form of insensitive behavior or speech towards any group of people. Simultaneously, we encouraged student voice, self-expression, promoted debate, and guided our students to pursue issues that resonate with them. However, we believe we can do more. The Board of Education and I are committed to educating our students on these critical issues of injustice in our world and will create actionable goals in the 2020-2021 school year. Our collective efforts at home, school and our community can help move our country forward.

As we prepare to end this school year, we are also focused on reopening plans for September. The District is creating a committee comprised of staff, teachers, administrators, parents and community members. This committee will carefully consider detailed plans regarding health and safety, instruction, and students’ social and emotional needs.  Although we are awaiting guidance from New York State Education Department and the New York State Department of Health, the District will share information with you as it becomes available. 

Lastly, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank our extended Port Jefferson family for the hard work and dedication you have exhibited during this remarkable time. We are stronger, more resilient, and will continue to grow and learn from these experiences. I am so proud of our Royal family for our perseverance and the shared belief that together we can accomplish anything. This same sense of community will guide us through the current climate of civil unrest and help us reopen our schools in the fall. 

To our graduates, we wish you congratulations and look forward to seeing you walk across the stage in August.  To our retirees or anyone leaving Port Jefferson, we wish you all the best in your next chapter. To all of our Royal family, be safe, stay well, and enjoy the beautiful days of summer. 

We look forward to seeing you all soon.

Sincerely,
Jessica Schmettan, Superintendent

 

April 30, 2020

Dear Parents & Community Members:

As I am sure you are aware, we are facing unprecedented challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Tragically, New York State is one of the hardest hit areas of the country. Governor Cuomo, during his daily briefings, outlines the many financial hardships our state is facing. This state budget challenge, if not resolved, could have a drastic impact on our school district’s state aid. Without federal financial aid, school districts have been advised to expect a reduction of up to twenty percent in state aid.

The twenty percent reduction that Governor Cuomo has discussed to our anticipated aid amounts to a three quarter of a million dollar loss in revenue to our District. As I am sure you are aware, Port Jefferson is in the third year of an eight year dramatic reassessment glide path from the LIPA & Town of Brookhaven power plant settlement. A further reduction to our budget would be catastrophic, just when our students and families will need us the most.

Our community needs the help of our elected officials more than ever. Attached you will find letters I sent this week to Senators Schumer & Gillibrand, and Representative Zeldin asking for immediate action to provide relief to state and local municipalities - including school districts. I am now asking for your help in contacting our elected officials and asking the same. I have included the contact information as well as a sample letter for your convenience. You may use the sample letter “as is” or draft your own. Since our budgets will have to be finalized by May 15th, I am requesting that your letters be sent as soon as possible.

I would also like to remind you to complete the 2020 Census. The Census is used to determine our state’s representation in Congress as well as how billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to states and communities. Now, more than ever, it is critical every member of our community is counted. You can complete the census online, by phone or by mail. More information is available at www.2020census.gov.

Thank you in advance for your understanding and continued support. Be well and stay safe.

Sincerely,
Jessica Schmettan, Superintendent

 

March 27, 2020

Dear Port Jefferson Families,

Thank you for your patience and support as we navigate through this challenging time. With changing information being provided by elected officials and representatives from the healthcare industry on a daily basis, we have continued to communicate the most up-to-date messages to our school community. We have been working collaboratively with our Board of Education, administrators, and teachers to plan for our distance learning opportunities for our students. The following letter hopes to clarify and outline expectations regarding the distance learning model that will be implemented on Monday, March 30, 2020.

Beginning Monday, teachers will be providing one lesson per day for each of their classes. Lessons may vary in content and approach depending on the subject being taught. Teachers will host synchronous and/or asynchronous instructional activities. Lessons will be posted daily or through the use of a weekly calendar; individual teachers will be communicating with parents in regard to their preferred method of posting the assigned lessons. In addition, there will be “office hours” where parents and students can contact their teachers for assistance. Please recognize that nothing can replace the experience your children have in our schools. Distance learning will never be able to exactly replicate a traditional schedule for your children. As we venture into this new reality, we thank you for your continued support and flexibility. We will work collaboratively to continually reassess our plans and adjust as necessary.

A drafted schedule has been created to help manage this type of learning, recognizing the tremendous difficulty this scenario presents for many of our families (working from home while children are engaged in learning). We understand this schedule may not work for every family, but it is our attempt to ensure students in multiple courses are not overburdened during the same time frame. A copy of the schedule for each of the buildings is attached to this correspondence. Please contact your building principal with any questions pertaining to the schedule and class assignments.

As the third quarter draws to an end for the middle school and high school students, there may be some concerns about grades due to the closure. Administrators and teachers have been working together and agreed to extend the third quarter by two weeks so that students can submit their work. Currently, the third quarter is due to end on Friday, April 3, 2020; our plan extends the third quarter until Friday, April 17, 2020. The fourth quarter will begin on Monday, April 20, 2020. We are still awaiting a decision from the State with regards to the Regents exams, and as soon as we have more information, we will share that information with you.

Today, Governor Cuomo announced that school closure is extended to April 15, 2020. Given this new timeline, distance learning will be suspended on Thursday, April 9, 2020 and Friday, April 10, 2020 for religious observances. Please continually check the Port Jefferson School District website and Facebook page for additional changes to our scheduled calendar events. We also have added a Frequently Asked Questions page to our District website providing specific information with regards to Driver Education, the Parent Portal, AP Exams and other pertinent information. This page will also be continually updated as we receive information.

Our students' well-being is always a priority and we want to encourage you to reach out to your building support staff and principal to assist you during this trying time. Students may not always express their fears or anxiety; however, should you notice a change in their behavior, let us know.  We are here for you. We are in this together.

Jessica Schmettan
Superintendent


March 15, 2020

Dear Port Jefferson Families,
As you may have heard, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has ordered all Suffolk Schools closed for a period of two weeks . This means Port Jefferson Schools will be closed through March 27, 2020 and resume March 30, 2020. Staff will report as scheduled for a conference day on March 16.

As you know this is a rapidly changing situation that will be reassessed during the closure. We expect calendar changes and may need to be in session during the previously scheduled spring break . All to be determined.

Remember this closure is to protect the public’s health. It is not designed for vacation or gatherings. We recommend you practice the CDC guidelines for social distancing.

We know these are challenging times for our families. Our school community is here to help. Look for regular updates on our social media platforms and our website. We will get through together .

Jessica Schmettan
Superintendent

 

March 2020

Dear Port Jefferson Families,

On behalf of the Board of Education and myself, I am updating you with the latest information regarding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the preparations we have in place in the Port Jefferson School District.

Our primary focus is the health, safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and community.  We have been closely monitoring information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Suffolk County Department of Health.  In addition to those online resources, we have maintained updated information through the following venues:

  • On Tuesday, March 3rd, I attended a workshop with New York State Department of Health in Albany where the focus was the COVID-19.
  • On Wednesday, March 4th, a few of my staff members attended with me a Suffolk County School Superintendents Association meeting on the COVID-19.  Present at this meeting were the Suffolk County Department of Health, the Police Department, and Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services.  Guidance was given on best practices and resources to address the concerns and issues associated with this virus.
  • On Thursday March 5th, I met with my Administrative team to update them with all current information and addressed the procedures and protocols for the staff.
  • On Thursday, I also met with the School District Safety Committee which is made up of staff and our community partners (Village of Port Jefferson & Fire Department).

Principals will hold faculty meetings in all three schools to update the staff.  These meetings will discuss the signs and symptoms of the COVID-19 virus and basic procedures to stop the spread of germs. Our nursing staff has already been instructed on protocol should a student or staff member appear symptomatic. 

All classrooms have hand-sanitizing stations or handwashing sinks. In addition to our regular custodial cleaning protocols, the following additional precautionary steps are being taken:

  • Desktops are being disinfected nightly.
  • Computers and keyboards are being disinfected multiple times a day.
  • All common touch surfaces such as door handles, bathroom faucets, and stairwell handrails are being wiped down multiple times a day.
  • Athletic equipment will be sterilized each day.
  • High touch areas on buses on are being disinfected by Suffolk Transportation Drivers.

Although at this time we do not have any confirmed cases in our area, arrangements are being made in the event we are forced to close schools.  Should the District receive word of any cases, or additional guidance from county, state and federal health professionals, we will certainly share that with our staff, students, parents and residents.  Please know the District takes direction regarding health matters from local health departments and the CDC, and will continue to keep communication lines open as we monitor the situation.  

We remain sensitive to implicit biases that may be associated with the virus.  All members of our school community have the right to be safe, valued, educated and respected.  Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Jessica Schmettan
Superintendent of Schools

 

February 2020

Dear Parent/Guardian & Community Members:

Due to the growing media coverage and concerns people may have regarding Coronavirus (2019-nCOoV), we are sharing the following information that has been provided to us by the NYS Department of Health and the NYS Department of Education:

A new coronavirus called 2019 Novel (new) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first found in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.  This virus had not been found in humans before.  This coronavirus can lead to fever, cough and trouble breathing or shortness of breath.  There are thousands of diagnosed cases in China and new cases being diagnosed in a number of countries including the United States.

What do we know?
Since this virus is very new, health authorities continue to carefully watch how this virus spreads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working hard to learn as much as possible about this new virus, so that we can better understand how it spreads and causes illness. The CDC considers this virus to be a serious public health concern. Based on current information the CDC recommends avoiding travel to China. Updated travel information related to 2019‚ÄźnCoV can be found at 
https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/warning/novel-coronavirus-china

How Does 2019 Novel (New) Coronavirus Spread?
Health experts believe the virus probably spreads from animals to humans and from person to person. It’s not clear yet how easily the virus spreads from person-to-person. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov) is not currently a concern for the general public and is not actively circulating among New Yorkers at this time. Therefore, there is no need to cancel school or social events, and there is no need for students or school staff to wear surgical masks at school.

Prevention
There are currently no vaccines available to protect against this virus. The New York State Department of Health (DOH) recommends the following ways to minimize the spread of all respiratory viruses, including 2019-nCoV:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol- based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash. 
  • Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 
  • CDC recommends that travelers avoid all travel to China.

 
Symptoms
Information to date suggests that 2019-nCoV causes mild-to-moderate illness and symptoms like the flu, including fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Are visitors from China being screened?
Yes, as of February 2nd new screening protocols are conducted for individuals entering the US from China at designated airports. 
PreK-12 schools may have students who attend school and have traveled to various areas in Asia, including China. Students should not be excluded from school or any school activities based on race, country of origin, or recent travel (or a family member’s recent travel), including to any part of China. Schools may only exclude a student if a local health department informs the school that a student must comply with a quarantine order or the student is symptomatic of a communicable or infectious disease pursuant to Education Law §906.

Important Health Information for Those Who Have Recently Traveled to Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and Experience Symptoms
 
If you recently traveled to Wuhan, China and feel sick with fever, cough or trouble breathing; OR you develop symptoms within 14 days of traveling there, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Call ahead and tell them about your travel and symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Stay home, except for seeking medical care.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Contact your local health department.

This is an emerging, rapidly changing situation. For questions, please contact your local department of health or the NYS DOH Novel Coronavirus hotline at 1-888-364-3065.

We encourage you to keep up to date about 2019-nCoV, its treatment and prevention by visiting the following websites:

Additional Resources:
CDC’s dedicated 2019-nCoV website at https://www.cdc.gov/nCoV.
NYSDOH’s dedicated 2019-nCoV website at https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/
NYSDOH directory of local health departments https://www.health.ny.gov/contact/contact_information/
New York State Center for School Health website at http://www.schoolhealthny.com

Please know that since this is an ever-changing situation, we will keep you updated via our website and social media as soon as any new information is shared with us.

Sincerely,

Jessica Schmettan
Superintendent of Schools

Friday, September 25, 2020