On Oct. 2, Fayetteville-Manlius School District Superintendent Craig J. Tice sent the following letter to Fayetteville Elementary School families and staff.
Dear Fayetteville Elementary Families and Staff,
As we prepare to enter our second month of instruction, I am reflecting on the events of the past week.
First of all, I want to thank our Fayetteville Elementary families for their patience and flexibility as we shifted to remote learning. I know the change may have posed a child care issue for some families, but the health and safety of all our students and staff members is paramount and so pausing our in-person instruction was necessary. My thoughts have been with our staff members who contracted COVID-19, and I hope they are on their way to a full recovery.
We have been, and will continue to, give everything we have and more to ensuring our students and staff feel safe and secure while within our walls. We take seriously the local, state and federal health and safety guidance on mask wearing and social distancing. The perception that a recent syracuse.com article may have given our community that our staff members contracted COVID-19 while engaging in social activities at school simply is not true. The reporter referenced that “Onondaga County health officials” were quoted as saying staff members contracted the virus through “social interactions on school grounds.” Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the source of the quote was not even from someone in the Onondaga County Department of Health but rather attributed to Justin T. Sayles, the Research and Communications Director for Onondaga County.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Sayles used the term “social interactions” to describe the exchanges between our staff members. They were not gathering for social purposes. They interacted to perform their jobs. They were not having large group meetings in close quarters. Please know that we use Google Meet for those activities. While small groups of two to three people did meet to discuss students, it is our understanding that they wore masks and were socially distanced. Going forward, we will be making sure that even when small groups gather, that they are meeting in spaces that exceed the square-footage recommendations of health experts.
Finally, I want to thank building principal Eileen Lux and all of her staff members for their dedication to our students and their families and their profession. Teaching and working in schools during a pandemic is not easy. It’s not easy navigating and exploring new ways to engage students while continuing to provide the academic rigor that our families and community expect. And it’s not easy to work in an environment where masks and face shields, partitions and social distancing constantly remind us of the threat of COVID-19. I know this takes a toll on our mental health. I want our staff members to know that they are not alone if they are feeling stressed or anxious. Media coverage is expected in this time of uncertainty, but it is important to remember that these articles may lead to either clarity or confusion. The purpose of this letter is to provide some clarity on these recent events.
I have always been proud of the dedication, work ethic, creativity and compassion of our staff, and that feeling of pride has only grown during these challenging times. We are all doing our best, and we need to continue to care for and support one another.
Our reopening plan is available on our website, and it details our health and safety protocols. Please reach out to me or your building principal if you have questions or concerns about the procedures we are following. Our goal is for everyone to feel as comfortable as possible with the choices they have made for the 2020-21 school year.
Craig J. Tice, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District