Dear Putnam Valley Community:

I really wish that this message was not marred by the fact that we had another positive case at the Elementary School that resulted in an early dismissal, but I guess that speaks to the struggle that we are enduring each day. I am hopeful today’s events will not take away from the message of positivity and appreciation that is linked below.

It is hard to believe it was twelve weeks ago when we returned to school for in-person instruction. While the journey had some bumps in the road and has left many overwhelmed and exhausted, the fact that we were able to successfully complete this journey together deserves acknowledgment and celebration. Nobody knows what the future may hold but one thing is certain, the time we have been able to keep our school opened is irreplaceable for our students, staff, and parents. Despite all of the challenges, our teachers overcame obstacles to ensure that learning continued for all, students tuned out the outside world and engaged in both in-person and remote learning, and parents found a way to balance their personal and professional needs to support their child’s education. It has not been an easy twelve weeks for anyone, but it has certainly been a productive twelve weeks for all.

Giving Thanks:  As we approach Thanksgiving, it is inevitable that we all take some time to reflect on that for which we are most thankful. While everyone, including myself, is thankful for the most important things in life like family and health, there is much to be thankful for in Putnam Valley as well. I am thankful to work alongside the most dedicated professionals I have had the privilege to know. I am thankful for our teachers who have completed countless hours of planning and preparation to simultaneously support in-person and remote learners; for refusing to give up or accept the notion that the students in their class this year will have a lesser experience than years past. I am thankful for our custodial, technology, and food services staff that continue to provide essential services every day to keep our buildings open, our instruction continuing, and our students nourished. I am thankful for all of our support staff in our offices and classrooms for taking on a multitude of new responsibilities without losing any old ones and for being the first to volunteer to do whatever is needed to support our students and staff.  Finally, I am thankful for my administrative colleagues for their tireless work to not only keep schools safe and open but for supporting our students and staff to make sure that the learning continued. I am thankful to be part of such an amazing school district and to be serving a town that has done so much for me and my family over the years.

Calendar Change:  Although we are just approaching the Thanksgiving break, I want to make everyone aware of a calendar change before the holiday break in December. After speaking with the Board of Education, we have decided to switch December 21, 22, & 23 to remote only instructional days. While we recognize this will place an additional burden on families, it will also provide all students and staff with a full two-week period of time without the risk of additional exposure or contact tracing. Instruction will continue during those days as normally scheduled only in a remote fashion.

Travel Restrictions and Gatherings:  As a reminder, NYSED has released new guidelines related to travel outside of those states that are contiguous to New York State, details can be found here: NYS Travel Restrictions. Please continue to be diligent in following the guidelines provided by our public health officials during the Thanksgiving break. Our actions over this long weekend will have a profound impact on our ability to keep our schools open for the next month.

Looking Ahead:  While there remains uncertainty regarding our short and long-term outlook, we are again requesting that everyone be prepared for potential shifts between in-person and remote instruction. We are monitoring the potential of being identified by the New York State Department of Health as a microcluster. More information on this designation can be found here:  NYS Microcluster Information. We are continuing to make progress on establishing the ability to test students and staff in school in the event we are identified by NYS as a Yellow Zone. However, more work needs to be done including receiving consent from each family prior to commencing any testing program.

I am hopeful that everyone will find some time to rest and rejuvenate over the Thanksgiving break. We know that many traditions may be altered this year, but I hope that everyone still finds a way to safely enjoy the break and finds time to reflect on all that we are thankful for, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Thank you.

Dr. Jeremy Luft
Superintendent of Schools