I am pleased to announce that after an extensive interview process that began with over 110 applicants, we welcome Jennifer Picco as the next Assistant Principal of Putnam Valley Elementary School. Ms. Picco will be assuming the position vacated by Tom Chickery who recently accepted the position of Middle School Assistant Principal in the Eastchester School District. We thank Mr. Chickery for his dedicated service to the Putnam Valley School District and wish him the best in his new position.
Ms. Picco joins our administrative team after serving in a variety of classroom teacher and teacher leadership positions within the Pleasantville School District. Most recently, Ms. Picco has served as a Curriculum Coordinator working closely with her administrative colleagues to align curriculum, analyze data, share instructional best practices, among many other professional learning opportunities. Ms. Picco holds certifications in Elementary (Pre K – 6), Students with Disabilities (B-2), Reading (K-12), TESOL, and an Internship Certification in School Building Leadership.
The interview committee was impressed by Ms. Picco’s energy and passion throughout the interview process. Ms. Picco brings many years of experience to Putnam Valley Elementary School and we are looking forward to her sharing that knowledge with her new colleagues.
Please join me in congratulating and welcoming Ms. Picco into her new role as Assistant Principal at Putnam Valley Elementary School. We anticipate Ms. Picco will formally assume the role effective October 25, 2021.
Reflecting on the return to school this week, I’m feeling tremendous pride and gratitude for our PV students and staff, and at the same time, I’m finding it difficult to comprehend that this Saturday, September 11, 2021, will mark the 20th anniversary of that tragic day. A day when everyone who is old enough to remember, can identify exactly where they stood as the events of that day unfolded. Personally, I was standing alongside a colleague at Putnam Valley High School; the feelings and emotions from that day are still so raw that they are difficult for me to discuss. It also warrants mention that not a single student, currently attending Putnam Valley Schools, was alive on September 11, 2001.
Despite all of the trauma that still surrounds the anniversary of September 11 each year, I want to take this opportunity to recognize the true heroes of that day. The courageous first responders who rushed toward danger to protect those they swore to serve, but never returned home to their own families. Those who spent weeks or months searching through the fallen rubble, without regard for their own personal health; only to find out years later the cost of that service.
While, in my lifetime, the country has never seemed as divided as it is today, I’ll always remember how we came together following the attacks of September 11 to support each other and our country through those most challenging times. I’m hopeful that our country will once again be able to reunite, this time without a national tragedy serving as the backdrop.
Many in our school community know someone who was lost that day or taken by the disease that consumed them following their service at the World Trade Center site. Twenty years feels like a lifetime ago for many of us and was in fact a lifetime ago for our students. This anniversary marks an important reminder for all of us to remember the heroes and victims of that fateful day.
Tomorrow, Putnam Valley will hold their annual 9/11 remembrance at Town Park beginning at 6 pm and Putnam County will hold a candlelight vigil in Carmel beginning at 7 pm (details).
As everyone begins to settle back into school during these first two interrupted weeks of instruction, I would like to take this opportunity to restate and clarify some information:
Remote vs Quarantined Instruction: These two terms have been used within a variety of communications and warrant clarification.
Remote instruction is typically used to describe what was offered last school year, when families could opt into virtual vs in-person instruction. As previously communicated, remote instruction is no longer an option this year (links to previous emails). This should not be confused with quarantined instruction which is our continued commitment to educate those students who are subject to mandatory quarantine.
Quarantined students should expect a blend of live virtual interactions supplemented with written assignments. Current NYS guidance on identifying close contacts and the issuance of the subsequent quarantine orders should drastically reduce the number of students quarantined this year.
Vaccinations: The Department of Health does not require vaccinated students to quarantine. Only students ages 12 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine. Students who are vaccinated can avoid quarantine by completing the brief questionnaire for our school nurses. All information will remain strictly confidential. Click Here for Form
Attendance: The district must continue to track and report the number of students physically in school each day. This will require us to mark quarantined students with an “excused absence”. This absence does not exclude your child from instruction and will not have any negative impact on the student.
Quarantine Orders: The current guidelines provided by the NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) identify a close contact in school buildings as an individual within 3 feet while masked or within 6 feet while unmasked. These measures pertain to both indoor and outdoor exposures. Students are seated at least 3 feet apart in most classrooms, so quarantines should be minimized. Vaccination status remains a determining factor if individuals need to quarantine following an exposure.
I will continue to share guidance as it is received from state and local officials and will ask for your understanding as we continue to send reminders about exercising great caution and keeping sick children home from school. We understand that this can be difficult and thank you for your partnership in keeping our community healthy and our school buildings open.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me, your building administrators, or your school nurse if we can answer any questions.
With open arms and smiling faces, we welcomed students back into our buildings. The energy has been restored to our buildings and our classrooms are again filled with students eager to learn alongside their peers. Our staff members rejoice in the fact that their classrooms once again resemble the student-centered learning environments of years past and not rows of desks, reminiscent of the “industrial model” of classroom spaces. Collectively, we are looking forward to a school year filled with academic rigor, student wellbeing, and a safe and healthy return to in-person learning.
The health and safety of our students and staff remain our highest priority. As we greeted students returning to school today, we witnessed universal compliance regarding the masking mandate issued by the NYSDOH and thank all of our families for their continued support. We remain confident that universal masking along with the other health and safety protocols we have in place will allow us to keep our building open and our students learning in our classrooms.
Our reopenings plans were designed around this year’s atypical school calendar and provide students and staff with an opportunity to safely and efficiently transition back into school. Everyone is eager to return to a more normal school schedule.
Please continue to play your part in helping to keep our schools open. Although there will no longer be a requirement to complete a student screening each morning, it is more important than ever to keep your child home if they are not feeling well and see your pediatrician or another medical professional. If your child was exposed to an individual who tested positive, please follow the appropriate quarantine guidelines and have your child tested. (reopening information including quarantine details) Together, we should be able to keep our schools safe and our students in class.
Excitement is building as we are only days away from welcoming our students back into our classrooms. Over the past several weeks we have had the opportunity to see many current students participate in our summer enrichment programs and welcomed our incoming Kindergarten students with our traditional bus run and classroom visit.
While the excitement we were feeling in June that COVID would soon be a thing of the past has been replaced by the recent surge in new cases driven by the Delta variant, we are accepting that COVID will, unfortunately, have an impact for at least the beginning of the school year.
To that effect, I wanted to provide you with some of our reopening plans for the upcoming school year. I would also like to thank my colleagues and the members of the district’s Re-entry Task Force for their input and feedback in the creation of plans that will allow us to safely reopen our buildings and welcome our students back.
Please understand that our reopening guidance is based on the information we have gathered as of today; in the event New York State issues new guidance it will supersede the current plans we are sharing today.
Vaccinations remain the most effective way to avoid contracting COVID and protect against severe illness if infected
Vaccination status will prevent quarantine, unless symptomatic
Anyone twelve years of age or older is eligible to receive the vaccination, and we do not yet have a timeline for when it will be available to all students
The Putnam Valley School District will partner with anyone who is eligible and seeking to be vaccinated
NYS announced that booster shots will soon be available
Governor Hochul has announced plans to pursue mandatory vaccinations for all school district staff
As per New York State Department of Health, face coverings will be mandatory for everyone while in school (vaccinated and unvaccinated)
Overwhelming guidance from the CDC and AAP along with information shared by the New York State Department of Education, Putnam County Health Department and our School Physician all agree that mask usage should be universal in schools
Considerations include: Health and Safety, Prevention/Reduction of Contact Tracing, Liability, and Prioritization of In-Person Learning
Monitor community transmission rates in hopes that universal masking will no longer be necessary and vaccination rates increase and community transmission rates decrease
Emphasis: Masks primarily control exhalation (protecting others), before inhalation (protecting self)
Face coverings are recommended, but not required outdoors
Recommendation is 3 feet of social distance between students while indoors and wearing a mask (unless distance does not allow for full return to in-person instruction, as per NYSED).
Outdoor mask use is recommended but not required at this time
6 feet of distance is recommended between students and unvaccinated adults
Cohorting is recommended when possible to limit potential exposure
Social distancing should be maximized when students are unmasked (lunch, band, etc).
Weekly staff testing program planned for upcoming school year
New York State announced that schools will now be required to weekly test unvaccinated staff
Student testing remains optional, parent permission must be obtained
Extracurricular sports and activities may result in additional testing requirements
Screening testing is recommended for students in areas with substantial or high community transmission.
District is looking to partner with outside agencies to help facilitate testing
Our School Nurses have been instrumental in supporting this work
Daily Screeners and Temperature Checks are no longer recommended
Concerted efforts must continue to advise the entire school community to keep symptomatic or exposed individuals home
Efforts will be made to promote making the right choice instead of monitoring daily email compliance
Regular hand washing
Contact Tracing/Quarantine Orders:
Awaiting additional information from NYS regarding contact tracing, we will follow the guidance below.
Students: 3 feet (if masks are properly worn by all), otherwise as determined by case investigation
Staff: 6 foot radius around infected person
Time exposure: 10 minutes over 24 hours (cumulative, may be changed to 15 min by NYS)
Vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine unless symptomatic
Recommends testing between days 3-5
Unvaccinated individuals must quarantine
Student quarantines will be rare in typical classroom settings (3ft and a mask, avoids quarantine)
Our HVAC system remains highly efficient and utilizes Merv-13 filters
Maximization of fresh air intake (HVAC & Windows)
Transportation: No social distancing, windows open, masks required
Cleaning/Disinfection: Daily cleaning of all spaces continue
De-emphasis on surface transmission
Wipe down of high touch surfaces will continue
Desk cleaner available if requested
All-remote instruction will not be available this year, all students are encouraged to attend in-person; homeschooling remains the other option
Instruction of quarantined students remains our responsibility
How do we best educate quarantined students over short periods of time?
Buildings are working on plans to best support teachers and students
Shift thinking from remote learning to quarantined instruction
Different expectations, No pre-planning, Small number of students, Short periods of time, Teacher flexibility (asynchronous vs synchronous), Additional staff support, Etc
Students who are otherwise home sick or on vacation would not qualify for remote instruction; teacher-determined resources will be provided as in years past
Athletics & Music Education:
Close contact sports and indoor sports are particularly risky.
Similar risks may exist for music education and performances, such as band, choir, and theater.
Masks are required indoors for all student-athletes, regardless of vaccination status
Students should refrain from these activities when they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and should be tested
Strongly encourage COVID-19 screening testing for student-athletes, students participating in music education, or other activities with elevated risk
We plan to offer a full athletic program, all student-athletes, especially those who participate in “high-risk” sports are encouraged to be vaccinated
Along with the health and safety precautions that will be in place when school reopens next week, we remain committed to providing a safe, supportive, and rigorous learning environment for all students.
Thank you for your continued partnership to keep our students safely in school and our buildings open. Adherence to the guidelines above, specifically the requirement to keep sick children at home, will help allow our students to benefit from in-person instruction.
In light of rising COVID cases in our community and throughout the region, coupled with the higher transmission rate of the Delta variant, we are strongly encouraging all students who are scheduled to attend any of our summer programs to wear a mask while indoors. We want to do everything we can to keep our students and staff healthy and safe.
Putnam Valley Central School District, in partnership with our families and community, commits to our mission to ensure that all students are engaged in a challenging, student-focused educational program, understand and assume their responsibility for life-long learning, work to achieve their personal best, and become productive citizens in a diverse global society. We are proud of what we have accomplished over the years to live up to this mission statement; we have a long standing tradition of serving all students and embracing our cultural differences. We also recognize that prioritizing the aims of our mission and vision is ongoing work and that we benefit when the community shares feedback and ideas to help us see where we could further grow and learn.
This year, the New York State Department of Education Board of Regents “launched an initiative to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in schools across New York State. The Board expects that all school districts will develop policies that advance diversity, equity and inclusion – and that they implement such policies with fidelity and urgency” (www.nysed.gov, 2021). PVCSD has drafted a policy that has been shared with the community and will continue to be revised based on input from the community.
To that end, we are engaging stakeholders from our faculty, our parents, and our students in moving forward to ensure our practices and policies support all learners and celebrate all of our differences. On August 26, we are offering a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Parent Engagement opportunity. We aim to gather a representative group of our school district parents who will participate in these conversations and provide input that will help support our District’s DEI work. From this workgroup, two parent representatives will be identified and invited to join the District DEI committee to represent the parent voices. The purpose of our district DEI Committee is to ensure our school policies and practices continue to engage and support all of our students and embrace our diversity as a community.
We would like to invite parents who are interested in attending our parent meeting on August 26 at 5pm in the High School Library to please complete the questionnaire below. In an effort to maintain a safe environment for all in regard to COVID-19, we may need to limit the number of parent participants. We are committed to engaging a representative group of parents in this work.
If you are interested in this parent workshop, please complete the form linked below by August 9. Participants will be notified and receive a calendar invite to join the meeting in person. Virtual participation in this meeting will not be available.
I hope this message finds you well and you are enjoying your summer. Our buildings are busy with summer school programs, facilities projects, and we are preparing for the return of students in September. Here are some mid-summer updates:
Congratulations to our first-ever IB Diploma recipients! Our High School was authorized as an International Baccalaureate School in 2019, and this year we proudly celebrate our first-ever IB Diploma recipients. The fact that all 16 of the inaugural diploma candidates met the rigorous requirements necessary to earn the globally recognized diploma is extraordinary. A tremendous achievement. Congratulations to all our students and to all of our staff who guided them along the way. (see picture below)
Summer Programs – Our traditional extended year program and ENL academy are up and running and all of the students involved are enjoying the experience. Our High School Summer Enrichment program has held several sessions which have been well attended and have received very positive feedback from the students involved. Summer enrichment programs at the Middle School and Elementary School are scheduled to begin later this summer.
Facilities Work – The second phase of the voter approved facilities project is well underway at the Middle School. Crews have completed the demolition phase and have begun the process of building the new bathrooms. The Middle School gym floor is also in the process of being resurfaced. Our exceptional buildings and grounds staff are hard at work completing their extensive summer cleaning while moving furniture and returning many of our classrooms to their typical environment for learning.
2021-2022 School Year – While work began several months ago, planning for a return to school, there are certainly many questions that remain. I’ll summarize what we know to date and what we are anticipating; with the understanding that everything is subject to change once we receive guidance from New York State.
Return of Students: As previously communicated, all buildings are planning for a full return of students to our classrooms. Classroom furniture is being returned to our instructional spaces and rows of desks are being removed. We anticipate welcoming back all students to full time in-person instruction this fall.
Remote Learning: Unless otherwise required by NYS, Putnam Valley will not be offering a remote instruction option for students. Families have the option to enroll their child(ren) in “homeschooling” if they decide to not send them into school for instruction.
Contact Tracing/Quarantine Orders: We anticipate that contact tracing and quarantine orders will continue next school year for those individuals who are not vaccinated. Individuals who are identified as a contact of an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be required to quarantine. We are awaiting more specific guidance from NYS regarding who is identified as a contact and how long they must quarantine.
Vaccinations: We do not anticipate vaccinations will be required (for those eligible) this school year. However, vaccinations remain the most effective way to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 and the associated quarantine orders. Individuals still have time to become fully vaccinated before the opening of school. There is no official timeline for when individuals under the age of 12 will be eligible to receive the vaccine.
Mask Wearing: Although we are awaiting updated guidance from NYS regarding face coverings, all of the recent guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) coupled with the resurgence of COVID-19 (Delta Variant) point toward masks being required when schools reopen. We will continue to monitor this topic for the remainder of the summer and will provide updated information as it becomes available.
Opening Days: The official start to the 2021-2022 school year is Thursday, September 2, although some buildings will be offering a staggered start to the school year. As a reminder, schools will be closed: Monday, September 6 for Labor Day and Tuesday & Wednesday, September 7 & 8 for Rosh Hashanah.
Elementary School: All Students (September 2 & 3)
Middle School: Grade 5 & 6 Students Only (September 2), All Students (September 3).
High School: Grade 9 & 10 Students Only (September 2), Grade 11 & 12 Students Only (September 3).
I am pleased to announce that after an extensive interview process, we anticipate the appointment of David Kantrowitz as the next Director of Physical Education, Athletics, and Health Services for the Putnam Valley School District during our Board of Education Meeting on July 1. Mr. Kantrowitz will be assuming the position vacated by Brian Burrow who recently accepted the position of High School Assistant Principal in the Minisink Valley School District. We thank Mr. Burrow for his dedicated service to the Putnam Valley School District and wish him the best in his new position.
Mr. Kantrowitz joins our administrative team after serving as the Director of Athletics, Health, and Physical Education at the Bronx Studio School. Mr. Kantrowitz has also served as a Health and Physical Education Teacher for eight years and most recently participated in the Assistant Principal Bench program and served as the Building Response Team Leader.
The interview committee was impressed by Mr. Kantrowitz’s passion for education and athletics; particularly his emphasis on working cohesively with community organizations to build strong programs that begin at the youth level. Mr. Kantrowitz shared his vision for an athletic program that is focused on academic achievement, personal development, high expectations, and the establishment of a supportive culture for all student athletes.
We welcome Mr. Kantrowitz to the Putnam Valley School District. We anticipate that Mr. Kantrowitz will officially begin at Putnam Valley on July 6. We would like to thank all of the district staff and community members who participated in the extensive interview process.
Goodbyes & Hellos: I would like to extend my gratitude and appreciation for the many years of dedicated service Jenette Mistretta and Brian Burrow have provided the Putnam Valley School District. We are also saying goodbye to several teachers, support staff, and members of our Transportation Department. We wish them only the best in retirement or as they pursue their future endeavors. This is also an opportunity to welcome Jackie Levine, Director of Curriculum and Instruction. We anticipate appointing David Kantrowitz as our next Director of Physical Education, Athletics, and Health Services during the next board meeting. We look forward to opportunities for you to meet the new members of our administrative team. \
Looking Ahead: The Putnam Valley School District is moving ahead with our plans to fully reopen all of our schools for full time, in-person instruction this fall. Unless we are otherwise required by NYS, hybrid or all remote instruction will not be available to students. We know that our staff has the greatest impact on student learning when those students are physically present within our classrooms.
End of Year Thoughts:
It is hard to believe all that has transpired over the past year. I personally struggle to remember what life and work were like pre-COVID; I am sure that many of you feel the same. Like all life-changing events of this magnitude, we must allow time to pass before we can accurately reflect back on what was learned.
While this reflection process may take years, there are some important things we can identify and recognize today:
How the Putnam Valley community rallied to support each other during these difficult times.
The thought and effort our teachers put into the planning and execution of both in-person and hybrid instruction.
Our support staff focused on the social and emotional needs of all students and staff.
The efforts of our custodial staff to keep our buildings clean, sanitized, and open.
Our own “healthcare hero” school nurses, helping keep each of us healthy and safe in school How the members of our Technology Department helped support our transition into hybrid and remote learning for students, staff, and parents.
Most importantly, the fact that our students persevered and found a way to continue learning. There is so much to recognize and celebrate in the Putnam Valley Schools.
As we approach the much-needed summer break, plans are already underway for next school year. Teachers and support staff members will be involved in a wide range of professional learning opportunities throughout the summer. Our buildings are being prepared to welcome back ALL of our students this fall with classrooms transformed back into the innovative learning environments they were before COVID. It will be interesting to see which aspects of our learning over the past year will continue with us into the future.
It is my hope that the summer break provides everyone with time to rest, reflect, and rejuvenate; it has been one exhausting year. Take the time you need to reconcile all that has happened, but leave with a sense of pride for all you were able to do. We are all a little bit better and stronger after last year. I am looking forward to seeing all the amazing things that will continue to happen within the Putnam Valley School District next year.
(check out Putnam Valley CSD on Facebook and Twitter for more pictures)
Sincerely, Dr. Jeremy Luft
Superintendent of Schools