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RCSD Community Update: 12/17/21

December 17, 2021

Dear RCSD Community,

All was well at the schools today. I want to thank the Rye PD for their increased presence and our school security team for being extra-visible which helped to calm jittery nerves. There was no threat to the Rye schools at any point, but I appreciate the support of our local law enforcement officials. 

The most effective way to act when hearing a rumor is to directly contact a school administrator (day or night) or the local police rather than to inquire or speculate on social media. I thank those parents and students who reached out directly to us both last night and today. We thoroughly investigate any and all concerns and work hand-in-hand with the Rye PD as we navigate these situations. The well-being and mental health of our young people is too important to leave to social media. 

COVID Surge

Regrettably, we are in the midst of yet another COVID surge. Across the country and around the globe, cases are rising and the virus is spreading with incredible speed and efficiency. Not being an epidemiologist, I have no idea whether we are seeing Delta, Omicron, or another variant of the illness here in Rye. Adults and children, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, are being diagnosed with COVID at an increased rate and, unfortunately, this has resulted in quarantines as we approach the winter recess. Our Test-to-Stay program has allowed quite a number of exposed students to remain in school with daily testing. While Test-to-Stay does not help a student who has a family member at home with COVID avoid quarantine, it has helped a significant number of students remain in school. 

Please stay vigilant and make safe choices - we will continue implementing our health and safety measures in schools and will do everything in our power to keep schools open for in-person learning. We are all in this together and while everyone wants to be past COVID and back to regular life, school and activities, we are clearly still in the midst of this pandemic.

Case Update

We have had 41 new cases of COVID in the District since my last update: seven were at RHS, 10 were at RMS, 13 were at Midland, four were at Milton, and seven were at Osborn School.  Eleven cases resulted in quarantines. As is reflective of the wider community, we are seeing an increase in both testing and positive results in the school community.

Booster Shots

I have been working to try to set up a booster shot clinic at our schools, so far to no avail. I’ll keep trying, but in the meantime, my contact at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla tells me they take walk-ins for adult boosters (and pediatric shots) Monday – Saturday, 8:00 a.m. - 6:45 p.m and Sunday 8:00 a.m - 12:00 p.m. The options are Pfizer or J&J; people that received a Moderna series can get a Pfizer booster. Health officials are strongly recommending boosters as a way to protect you, your family, and the community. 

Peer-to-Peer Program

This month, in partnership with the Rye Youth Council and RyeACT, Rye High School launched a student-led, evidence-based Peer to Peer (P2P) Depression Awareness program. Developed by the University of Michigan’s Eisenberg Family Depression Center, P2P empowers students to find creative ways to convey information about depression and depressive illnesses to their peers to reduce stigma, raise awareness, and encourage help-seeking when needed. 

As a result of the P2P program, we anticipate RHS students will be more confident in their ability to identify common signs of depression in themselves and their peers, and more likely to connect with appropriate in-school mental health support services. In addition, the program has been proven to help students feel more comfortable discussing mental health issues with their peers and less likely to keep it a secret if a friend is thinking about suicide.

The Rye HS P2P group includes 16 students, representing a variety of student clubs and groups, under the guidance of Faculty Mentors: Robyn Kaminer (RHS Health Education Teacher), Dr. Marisa Cuomo (RHS School Psychologist), and Jessica Torres (RYC Social Work Intern). Training and ongoing support for Peer 2 Peer are provided by U. Mich. Eisenberg Center staff, in collaboration with Rye Youth Council and RyeACT. 

Snow Days

On a lighter note, I recently made a video to help students and their parents understand how I make my snow day calls. You can watch it here: https://www.ryeschools.org/Page/2478

It never hurts to wear your pajamas inside out and sleep with a spoon under your pillow, just in case!

Sincerely, 

Eric Byrne, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools