Letter to the Community

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members,

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated many changes throughout the world, across the nation, and within our daily lives. As a “public good,” the education of our youth has not been spared the burden of having to adapt to this ever-changing landscape. With the sudden closure of private and public services throughout the state of New York, Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District educators and their students soon found themselves thrust into a remote distance-learning environment replete with all of the challenges associated with the delivery of instruction in an online format. Students, parents/guardians, faculty members, and administrators made the best of a difficult situation for the remainder of the academic year.

The Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District (F-M CSD) administered parent/guardian surveys in mid-June and early-July in order to ascertain feedback from the F-M community families. The survey that was administered in mid-June “looked in the rear-view mirror” and attempted to ascertain parent/guardian satisfaction with the district’s efforts to transform in-person instruction into a remote online format. There were more than 1,400 respondents to the first survey. The survey that was administered in early-July strived to “look ahead” in an effort to allow families to anticipate the numerous options that were being discussed during the regional task force meetings of the New York State Education Department. There were more than 2,100 respondents to the second survey.

As expected, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) guidance during a press briefing on July 13, 2020. The NYSDOH guidance stipulates that the F-M CSD must develop a reopening plan that incorporates provisions for the: (a) reopening of in-person instruction; (b) monitoring health conditions; (c) containment for positive and or presumed-positive cases; and (d) closure of schools in conjunction with local and state health departments. On July 16, 2020, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released guidance that required school districts to provide 89 mandatory assurances in the areas of: (1) communication and family engagement; (2) health and safety; (3) facilities maintenance; (4) child nutrition; (5) transportation; (6) social-emotional well-being; (7) school schedules; (8) attendance and chronic absenteeism; (9) technology and connectivity; (10) teaching and learning; (11) special education; (12) bilingual education and world languages; (13) teacher and principal evaluation systems; and (14) certification, incidental teaching, and substitute teaching.

In an effort to honor the obligations and assurances mandated by the NYSDOH and NYSED guidance documents, the F-M CSD held numerous planning workshops and advisory committee meetings with both internal and external stakeholder groups representing parents/guardians, students, educators, and medical professionals. The development of this reopening plan endeavored to merge the collective perspective from these stakeholders as well as the written feedback of the survey respondents with the requirements stipulated by the NYSDOH and NYSED guidance. While there was not a clear consensus for a particular model among the various stakeholder groups, it was self-evident that the greater F-M community had considered the many “risks” and “rewards” when comparing in-person instruction with a return to online learning For that reason and so many others, I am most grateful for all of the input and feedback from the greater F-M community throughout the entire process. Hornet Pride!

Craig J. Tice, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools