On Jan. 22, Fayetteville-Manlius School District Superintendent Craig J. Tice sent the following letter via SchoolMessenger to Fayetteville-Manlius School District families. It has been re-posted to the front page of the district website (originally posted on Jan. 22) in the event families did not yet have the chance to review it.
Dear F-M families and staff,
As we prepare to enter the second half of the 2020-21 academic year, I find myself reflecting on our accomplishments since the start of this unprecedented school year.
Our staff has worked tirelessly and collaboratively to provide remote and in-person instruction, meals for our most vulnerable students and various social-emotional mental health supports for all children as we navigate educating in a global pandemic.
There have been bumps in the road, and there likely will be more. With a COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out, we are optimistic we will eventually “return to normal,” but we don’t know when that will be. Until then, we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our students and staff, listen to your concerns, solicit the guidance of medical and public health professionals and adjust our reopening plan to meet current circumstances.
I know this has at times been a frustrating year. Thank you for your patience, understanding and willingness to work with us in offering the best possible educational experience for all. I have been impressed with everyone’s ability to adapt as COVID-19 exposures have necessitated quarantines, and county, state and federal governments have issued mandates that directly affect how and when we deliver instruction.
We know some parents want their students to participate in in-person instruction while others do not: Our reopening plan allows for both. We have tried our best to give our families choices based on their needs and comfort levels. We have endeavored to be as flexible as possible in allowing our families to switch back-and-forth in between the different learning models.
In-person instruction for as many students as possible as often as possible is our goal, but we must balance that objective with direction from our local, state and federal governments and follow the health and safety protocols that help keep our schools as safe as possible. While we know some parents want all students in a particular grade level in school at the same time—particularly for our youngest students—we just do not have enough space to do so and meet the state requirement of six feet between student desks.
Like many school districts across the state, splitting our students into cohorts and offering a mix of in-person and remote learning opportunities is the best solution we can offer at this time to those families comfortable with sending their children into our buildings. We will continue to monitor updates from our government partners in case their directives change so we adjust accordingly.
The asymptomatic COVID-19 testing that the Onondaga County Health Department has conducted in our schools has yielded no positive cases. The safety protocols we have in place, such as wearing masks, staying socially distanced and frequent use of hand sanitizer and handwashing, are working. I am thankful our students and staff have embraced these measures to keep one another safe so that our school buildings can remain open.
Layered on top of the pandemic, our country is struggling with racial and social injustices, a contentious election and, most recently, an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol. Educators play a critical role in helping our country’s youngest citizens process and understand these events and sort through the onslaught of public information that is available to them through various news sources and social media.
It is incumbent on all of us to prepare our children to shift our society’s culture into one that is inclusive and balanced and one in which violence is never a solution when there is a lack of mutual understanding. Although school looks different this year, I am beyond thankful that we have been open and operational in order to help our students in these challenging times.
I look forward to the second half of the school year and know that if we continue to be supportive and respectful of each other and follow the proper health and safety protocols, our students will be the ones who will benefit the most. As you are no doubt aware, much of our ability to remain open for in-person learning depends upon our community’s actions outside of school.
Please continue to wear a mask any time you are outside of your home, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing and avoid large group gatherings. If you are returning from out-of-state travel, please do not return to school unless you have followed the requirements of the New York state’s COVID-19 travel order.
I am confident that our F-M community will emerge stronger, more resilient, and innovative as a result of the challenges we have endured together. If you have any specific questions or concerns, I encourage you to continue to reach out to me using our Let’s Talk portal, and please stay safe and healthy.
Craig J. Tice