Ask the Superintendent (Updated Weekly)

Ask the Superintendent (updated weekly)

If you have any school concerns, you should first contact your child's teacher, then the building Principal, and if not resolved the Superintendent.

Most schools and educational sites in New York State opened the school year using a hybrid teaching model, according to figures released today by the State Education Department:

The breakdown is:

  • Hybrid – 3,903 schools (62.5%)
  • In-person – 1,262 schools (20.2%)
  • Remote – 1,077 schools (17.3%)

All 1,617 schools in New York City are using a hybrid model. Excluding New York City, the breakdown is:

  • Hybrid – 2,286 schools (49.4%)
  • In-person – 1,262 schools (27.3%)
  • Remote – 1,077 schools (23.3%)


FAQ September_2020 thru December 2020 click here to view

85. If Phase 4 of the Reopening Plan is implemented, what additional safeguards will the District put in place in our secondary schools to protect students and staff?

Answer:  The secondary schools would order desk shields.  Distancing and mask wearing would be strictly enforced.  As the weather becomes warmer, classes and lunch periods could use outdoor areas.  Plans are being created to re-route hallway traffic.

86. What will happen if Phase 4 is implemented and it results in a large spread of COVID-19 in the middle school or high school?

Answer:  If COVID-19 spreads in our secondary buildings as a result of Phase 4, infecting staff and students, the District would close that school or schools and go fully remote in order to do a thorough cleaning of the building.  Then the District would decide when to return to the former hybrid/remote schedule.

87. Why did the District choose to make Monday a day of remote instruction?

The administrators have found that Mondays often bring Friday and weekend COVID-19 cases.  Administrators often find themselves performing contact tracing and quarantining on Mondays.  If Monday is a full remote day, students and teachers would not risk further exposure.  A remote Monday presents a three-day break where students are not in the building.  The three days away from in person instruction is necessary to alleviate asymptomatic spread.  It gives opportunity to have a break of three days rather than a single day in the middle of the week.

On Monday mornings teachers would begin the day by contacting their full remote students and checking in with them before they begin live-streaming according to their daily schedule during abbreviated days.

If Monday becomes the remote day, Tuesday through Friday are four continuous days of in-person instruction without interruption.

AP exams, Regents exams and Grades 3-8 NYS Assessments still remain on the calendar.  Teachers are concerned with their students’ level of preparedness for these important exams.

88. Why was this model chosen?

The rational for a remote Monday is provided above.  Bringing the students in Tuesday through Friday brings an opportunity for four consecutive days of instruction.

89. When will the Phase 4 plan go into action?

The survey will close on Friday, January 15.  The Board will receive the results the same day it closes and then will have to determine a start date.  They hope to announce that date at the January 20 Board of Education meeting.

90. Why did the District wait until now to consider opening up the secondary schools four days per week?

Over the past five months, from August 2020, the District has put together phase plans to return to school and continue to return to in-person instruction.  We have monitored COVID rates within and around our District and community.  We moved from K-5 in-person instruction to K-6 and added rotating Wednesdays as part of a three-phase approach to increase in-person instruction.  As the school year made its way to the holiday break, we were directed to prepare for testing of at least 20% of staff and students if we were declared a Yellow Zone.  The rate of transmission prior to the holidays was just under 9%.  Our Community rate of transmission of COVID has continued to increase with no abatement, and our individual buildings have gone from a weekly report of one or two cases to daily multiple positive reports.  However, we have not seen internal rates close to the rates in the Community.  We intend, therefore, based on the survey input, and from our experience to date with maintaining a prudent plan and safe environment, to move to Phase 4 of our plans for instruction involving Grades 7-12. 

We will be proceeding to an in-person, four day a week schedule (Tuesday through Friday) starting March 1, for Grades 7-12.  This time frame allows us to make logistic changes in the building and add safety equipment to accommodate areas where we cannot provide full six-foot social distancing where there may be close working or interact occurrences (student to student or student to teacher).  Teachers will be reporting to the buildings on Mondays for full remote for all and to provide extra sessions with students during the school day, as they would in a normal setting.  This also provides a potential break in-between Friday to Tuesday to address positive reports to reduce the number of students and staff that would have to be quarantined.  (We follow Department of Health guidelines for contact tracing and quarantine.)  We are hopeful and positive that we will see reductions in transmission rates, we will be monitoring our community and in-building rates, and with your help and commitment to safe social distancing and masking, that we can avoid disruption to this plan.  We are also hopeful that as spring comes we will be able to move to a Phase 5 (five days per week) with your help and commitment to the COVID restrictions in your daily lives and homes.

We appreciate your cooperation and support in these difficult times.   

91. Was the District ever notified that it was deemed a yellow, orange or red zone by Governor Cuomo?

Mount Sinai has not been deemed a yellow, orange or red zone, at this point.

Last November, District administrators and nurses met frequently to plan the establishment of testing sites in each of our three buildings. Our nurses attended online training sessions in preparation for the testing of staff and students. Building administrators designed their individual sites and assigned personnel to various stations.

We wanted to be prepared just in case we became a designated zone. A number of districts were deemed yellow zones and were mandated to conduct testing within the district. I spoke with three of the superintendents who experienced the mandated testing and they shared suggestions.

Suddenly the winter break arrived and we have not heard a thing. No one from the Governor’s office has ever indicated that becoming a yellow, orange or red zone has become a thing of the past. Some districts are still holding their breath.

Then the Governor began speaking about school districts having the ability to self-test. A number of local districts communicated with the Governor’s office and indicated that they would like to test their own staff and students. No one has received a reply yet, and the Governor’s office has not sent testing kits to those who wanted to test. The pivot to vaccinations left this zone designation idea in the dust. We have not received word if zone designating is over or if it will continue. We are waiting and frustrated, like the community.

We want to thank those parents and those staff members who signed up and volunteered to be tested. We easily hit the 20% mark in each building.

92. What were the results of the parent survey regarding Phase 4 reopening plans for grades 7-12?

Survey results

93. Are high risk sports going to be permitted in Suffolk County? Must the athletes be tested? Who will do the testing?

Click here to read Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's plan to allow for resumption of high-risk high school sports.

  • In order for the “high risk” sports to return, athletes will need to be tested once per week. The first testing must be done prior to the first contest. The first round of testing must be completed by 2/8/21.
  • The Mount Sinai School District must enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with Suffolk County for the provision of COVID-19 testing at local schools for higher risk sports and recreational activities.
  • Athletes must have their parent or guardian sign a Consent to Test form.
  • Athletes will need to complete daily health attestations.
  • All Athletes will need to complete the Suffolk County Champion of the Community Pledge Form.
  • The districts insurance company must meet the requirements set forth in the MOA.
  • In addition: Section XI will not run late winter 7/8 sports (girls’ basketball and wrestling). Middle school sports will begin on 3/22/21, in an effort to help with athletic testing, space issues and implementing the new system.