- Rye City School District
RCSD Back to School Community Update
Dear Rye Community,
I hope you have had a wonderful summer. We are looking forward to welcoming students, faculty, and staff back to schools and offices that we believe will look and feel very much as they did before COVID. Our first day of school for students is Wednesday, September 7. Teachers and staff will begin preparing for students on Thursday, September 1.
We recently received COVID-related health guidance from the New York State Department of Health reflecting new information from the CDC. The only guidance the State DOH is currently mandating relates to those persons who are COVID-positive. These individuals must still isolate for five days and wear a mask until day 10 after a positive test/appearance of symptoms. Below, please find key health-related and other information:
- School will be in-person, full-time, five days a week for all students. The District will not offer remote schooling or live-streaming of classes this year
- All fall athletics and extracurricular clubs and programs will run with no restrictions
- Morning supervision will once again be provided at elementary schools beginning at 8:15 a.m.
- We will continue to use outdoor spaces as much as possible, weather permitting
- No daily health screening is required, and no weekly health reminders will be sent
- No surveillance testing will be conducted, but COVID test kits will continue to be available at all schools and RCSD central offices at 555 Theodore Fremd Avenue
- No cohorting or social distancing is necessary
- Face masks are not required for students or staff but are recommended after returning from quarantine after testing COVID-positive
- COVID-positive individuals are required to isolate for five days after a positive test or appearance of symptoms, whichever came first, and wear a mask for an additional five days
- Students who are ill or isolating will be marked as absent and will have access to class and course materials via Google docs and given the opportunity to make up missed work upon return to school
- The Department of Health recommends that COVID-positive individuals should end isolation after a minimum of five days when they are fever free for 24 hours without use of medication and their symptoms are improving. They should continue to wear a mask through day 10 after a positive test/appearance of symptoms
- The Department of Health recommends that persons exposed to a COVID-positive individual should wear a mask for 10 days, and get tested at least five days after exposure or sooner if symptoms develop
School Opening Q&A Sessions
I recognize that parents/guardians may have questions about what the opening days of school will look like in the school district. I will be offering two Q&A sessions immediately prior to the beginning of school, one in-person and one remote:
- On Wednesday, August 31, from 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m., I will hold a parent “Walk & Talk” at the Rye High School/Middle School track. This will not be a speed walk; more like an amble
- On Tuesday, September 6, from 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., I am offering a Google Meet “Parent Check-In.” The link to join is: GOOGLE MEET LINK
Mental Health Support
The COVID pandemic has left an increase in anxiety and depression in its wake, particularly among school-aged children. We are committed to continuing to provide increased mental health support in all our schools and for the wider Rye community through parents and families. To support our youngest students, the District is excited to welcome Julie DeSimone, an elementary school counselor who will work with students grades 3-5 alongside Rosemarie Bracciodieta who already counsels students in grades K-2.
The District is in year two of a partnership with Effective School Solutions (ESS). ESS provides the District with two clinicians based at Rye High School and Rye Middle School. The ESS clinicians support students presenting with mild to moderate mental health challenges. This year, they will manage two new Therapeutic Support Services teacher assistants who will work with Middle and High School students with more significant mental health challenges and those students who are transitioning back to school after medical issues, such as a concussion, and who may need special school-related accommodations.
Finally, the District has partnered with Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) and the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health to create a satellite mental health clinic for District children and their families at 324 Midland Avenue on the Midland School campus. WJCS is the largest Westchester provider of community-based licensed outpatient services. We anticipate that the clinic will open later this fall. There will be much more information to share as we get closer to the opening of the clinic.
You may have noticed a fair amount of construction taking place at the school buildings over the summer months. The new secure entrances are almost complete at all five schools. What will this mean for visitors to the schools? When they arrive at any of the school buildings, visitors will first be buzzed into an enclosed vestibule where they will be greeted by security guards. Visitors must present an ID and be vetted by the guards before receiving a badge. They will then be “buzzed” into the building through the second set of doors.
Beginning in September, there will be a new entrance to Rye High School! The new entrance is through the Performing Arts Center. All students, faculty, staff, and visitors will use this entrance rather than the door adjacent to the Middle School parking lot. We know this is a big change and may take some getting used to - for all of us! Through some summer research, we did learn that the new entrance is actually the original entrance to RHS.
The third floor at the High School is complete and ready for use by The Academy at RHS, the alternative high school program for students in grades 11 and 12. A new elevator located behind the Performing Arts Center will enable access from the first to the third floors of the Rye High School for those students and faculty who need it for medical reasons.
The new RMS Innovation Lab (iLab), an exciting new instructional space on the first floor adjacent to the counseling suite, is almost ready for use. Ten rooms at RMS and several offices have received upgraded heating, cooling, and ventilation. The RMS facade is undergoing significant masonry work repair needed due to existing water damage. This work is ongoing but should have no impact on the entryway or parking lot.
The renovated elementary libraries are complete, and the new flexible space auditoriums at Osborn and Midland Schools are as well. Osborn School has had quite a bit of roof work done, and new windows have been installed in the first and second grade wings. Ten classrooms received upgraded heating, cooling, and ventilation as well as energy-efficient lighting. Midland School has new windows throughout the school. Both Milton and Midland School have been the recipients of some much-needed rewiring work which should make connectivity at both schools far better.
Safety and security remain top of mind for many of us. This summer the District worked with the Rye Police Department for training in and orientation to all of our school buildings. With some new officers on the force, it was a good time to provide additional opportunities to get to know the schools. In addition, the Rye PD was able to take advantage of some of the construction work taking place in the schools to hold some security drills over the summer. We thank the PD for their diligence and partnership in working to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe.
Over 100 members of our faculty and staff have taken advantage of professional development opportunities over the summer. Teachers and administrators attended a two-day SEL (Social Emotional Learning) Institute in late June designed to help them bring practical SEL tools into the classroom. These tools include welcoming rituals, inclusion activities, brain breaks, and effective transitions. A group of elementary school teachers began a year-long course focused on incorporating structured grammar lessons into their teaching. K-12 teachers took a class on digital classroom tools to help spur creativity in the classroom. Elementary teachers took a course on weaving fluency (the ability to read accurately with proper pace and expression) into daily reading instruction. At the end of August, another group of elementary teachers is taking a STEAM workshop exploring the District’s new makerspaces. They will learn how to use the spaces and how to design STEAM projects. Also in August, a group of K-12 teachers is starting a year-long course based on the What School Could Be educational resources platform to develop authentic assessments and curriculum that provide students with real-world challenges.
Sports and Extracurricular Activities
The District follows the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) guidelines with regard to interscholastic sports. All indications are that we will have a “typical” year, free of COVID-related restrictions. Fall JV and Varsity sports began on August 22, and football on August 20. Middle School modified sports will begin on September 12. Please check the Athletics Page of the District website for updates.
Extracurricular activities and clubs generally begin a few weeks after the start of school. Those also look to be free of restrictions at all levels.
Student Ambassador Program at RHS
Rye High School is launching a new student ambassador program this year. Sixty-two current RHS students have volunteered to serve as mentors to all incoming 9th grade students and the approximately 30 students who are new to RHS this year in grades 10-12. The ambassadors have all been paired with another student; each team will mentor between 10-12 students. The program kicks off with a welcome BBQ event on September 6. Thereafter, the mentors and mentees will meet regularly during community lunch to help the freshmen and new students acclimate to life in the High School.
COVID Test Kits
No message from me would be complete without an offering of free COVID tests as we continue to be recipients of the State’s excessive largesse in this quarter. Please, stop by the District office at 555 Theodore Fremd, Suite B101, and help yourself to the COVID tests in the front entryway. Beginning September 1, there will be boxes of test kits located outside each of the schools as well. Bring a bag, wheelbarrow, or pickup truck. We’re running out of storage space.
Enjoy the remainder of the summer!
Eric Byrne, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools