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Potsdam Central School District

Superintendent of Schools

Joann Chambers, Superintendent

 

Dear Parents and Guardians:

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2020-2021 school year. Though the school year ahead will likely look very different from the past, all of us here at Potsdam Central are looking forward to serving you and your children in the year ahead. We believe that partnerships with our families and community are essential to our success, and we sincerely hope you are eager to work with us to provide a world-class education for all students.

The global pandemic has impacted every member of our school community. As a district, we were devastated when we had to close our doors in March. However, we also recognized how important it was for us to do our part to preserve the health and safety of our community. Overnight, our teachers worked hard to develop a remote learning program, while seeking creative ways to maintain positive relationships with our students and their families. We all had hoped September would see the return of normal school operations, and we looked forward to the day when we could welcome every child safely back to school. Unfortunately, we are going to need to be patient a while longer.

In July, the New York State Departments of Health and Education issued extensive guidance for school districts. This guidance was used to develop a comprehensive School Reopening Plan, which was submitted to the state on July 31st. Our plan can be viewed on our district website at www.potsdam.k12.ny.us. Given the strict social distancing guidelines required, we will not be able to have every student back in school five days a week in September. Our administrators have worked very hard to develop a plan to meet the diverse learning needs of all students while prioritizing health and safety and respecting the rights of parents who may choose to have their students continue to learn from home. 

A shared decision-making committee of administrators, teachers, non-instructional staff, and parents collaborated on the development of our plan. We conducted parent surveys and also provided opportunities for both parents and staff to submit questions. We have compiled and published a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) document that will continue to be updated. As we get closer to the start of the school year, building principals will be communicating directly with families so everyone knows what to expect when school resumes. We are looking at creative ways to conduct traditional events such as 5th Grade and Freshman Orientation, Meet the Teacher Night, Open House, and Report Card Night so our families can stay connected to school.

To help keep staff and students safe once we return to school, we respectfully ask the following of parents:

  1. Begin preparing your child now for the wearing of cloth face coverings. This will be required while students are on the bus and at school. Children take their cues from adults, so the more positive we can be about this important precaution, the more cooperative students will be.
  2. Familiarize yourself with common COVID-19 symptoms. Parents will need to screen children in the morning before school and not send them to school if they are exhibiting one or more symptoms. We will also be screening students for elevated temperatures once they arrive at school.

Whether children are learning at-home or in-school, our mission remains the same: To inspire, prepare and empower our students to lead fulfilled lives as compassionate, productive and engaged citizens. Please know we are committed to making the school year ahead a positive and productive one for your child. While planning for all the challenges faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including preparing for the reopening of school as well as any subsequent periods of school closure is paramount, we will be employing additional strategies to help us meet our goals.

First, we are planning to continue to nurture the physical and emotional well-being of all students and staff. This will include the implementation of restorative practices, an approach that focuses on giving every member of the school community voice and in building and maintaining a sense of community while teaching important social-emotional skills. We will continue to teach students to recognize character strengths in themselves and others through the Positivity Project. We will continue to practice viewing all human behavior through a trauma-sensitive lens. Finally, we will have difficult conversations around race and the impact systemic racism and implicit bias has on our students of color. 

Third, we will be providing professional development and time for collaboration so our staff can effectively engage all students in learning. We will leverage technology tools that will prepare students for the kind of world they will be entering after graduation, one which will require them to analyze, evaluate and synthesize information; connect with experts; advance their curiosity; and ignite their creativity as they collaborate to solve real-world problems and create and publish for authentic audiences. 

Third,  our teachers will work collaboratively to review the New York State Learning Standards and identify the priority standards that are prerequisites for future learning. We recognize that all students’ education was disrupted last school year, and we want to do all we can to help students get back on track. 

And, finally, we hope to engage families in supporting student learning. Never has it been so important that our students’ parents and caregivers are our partners. 

I know there are many challenges ahead for us all, with feelings of both anxiety and excitement for the school year ahead. I am confident, no matter what the future holds, we can help all students be successful this year by working together. If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at (315) 265-2000 x733 or via email at jchambers@potsdam.k12.ny.us.

 

Sincerely,

Joann Chambers
Superintendent of Schools